Out of the Madness
I was like a miner with a pickaxe. I had to burrow down deep into my mind just to find the answer to a question as simple as, “How are you?”
The whiskey, wine and drugs of the ’60s had removed all the usual signposts, paths, clues and history I used to define myself. My data banks were fried from the cultural and chemical overload our generation was subjected to.
Aware that I should know the answer to the question and that I had once known it, I located many words that seemed right for the answer. But even with words ready, I still felt like I was answering a strange multiple choice test and could not figure out which was the right answer.
“How are you?” concerned people would ask me repeatedly. They couldn’t see the incredible amount of strenuous work I was doing to try to answer. Nothing, not a word, came out.
My hippie husband would help me get dressed and sit me in a corner on the floor of the place we lived in then. Since our generation had an authority aversion, taking me to a doctor or hospital was out of the question. I was sure I was gone forever. My feeble attempt at slicing my wrists resulted in someone finding a band-aid. I was lost in a living coma, every day seeming to last an eternity.
Then one afternoon, another hippie passed me a half-filled bottle of bourbon—100 proof. The fire sloshed down my throat and burned the madness right out of me. My first love, alcohol, saved me the minute we met up again. The next day, I drank a whole bottle and the next and the next until I finally knew the answer to that question: “I’m fine!”
I was determined to get away from all these hippies, so I moved to California. There I discovered wine for $1.49 per gallon. I had changed my address and changed the label on the liquor bottle—but I didn’t change me.
Alcohol was my comfort, my savior, my confidence, my power, my medicine, my solution to all life could present me with, even seeming insanity. It worked for me every time until, like a bad lover, it turned on me.
The night of my last drunk I was in my kitchen. I had achieved success in the corporate world, had a career, attaché case, expense account and a very small world of three people I drank with. I couldn’t get drunk and I couldn’t get sober. Surely, I was living in a kind of purgatory. Alcohol no longer worked for me and I was blessed with that moment of clarity we all get. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it had me; I did not have it. I said the alcoholic prayer that works every time, “God, help me.”
The next day I went where my doctor, back when I was 19, had told me to go. I went to AA. And it has worked for me ever since. AA has done for me everything alcohol promised to do. It’s been many years now. I’m happy beyond my wildest dreams.