Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) American Poet
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) American Poet
It is often said an alcoholic remembers his first drink and his last drunk. If he does not remember his last drunk he has not had it yet
March 1960 was an easy time to remember. The first part of the month we had record snowfall in KY, the second half was unseasonably warm weather. Our preparations for tobacco seedbeds had been delayed because of the snow. It is my belief on March 24th we working on the farm in some way to prepare for our next season’s tobacco crop. Each day on my father farm was started at 6 AM by milking 13 cows and it was ended at 6 PM doing the same thing. The 24th was no different. The work on the farm was not really on my mind that day. I was having difficulty with my girlfriend and I was feeling rejected, jealous and sad.
I left the barn after we had milked the cows that PM, went to the house, took a shower, got in the car, and drove north to my friend’s home (friend from early childhood). I told him I was going to get drunk. He never agreed or disagreed, he just got in the car and we drove to Horse Cave. We drove to what had been the Black Elementary School, purchased 1/2 pint of some rot gut bourbon made somewhere in KY. We stopped at the southwest corner of US HWY 31W & KY HWY 218 and I purchased a Nihi orange. We drove east on HWY 218, about the time we past the stockyards I took my first drink of alcohol. My memory of this is vivid, all the bad feeling of that day were gone within seconds. I was no longer shy, no feeling of inadequacy, and no worry of what others thought. I was in control. I wandered why I had been told by my parents to stay away of alcohol. They had lied to me. My friend and I drove to Magnolia on HWY 31E. I was a cheerful lad that night. We drank all the alcohol I had. I said we, but mostly I. Later that night some other guys had some gin and they offered it to me. I finished it off.
We drove to my friend’s house, he had been driving my father’s car, now came the real test to drive my father’s car 4 miles drunk. I started out and had to stop at Claude Shivley’s home to vomit. Vague recollections tell me that happen again before I got home. The hour was about 12 midnight, I slipped into the house and into bed as silently as possible as not to raise any suspicions. I got up had breakfast as best I could. Then went off to milk cows. One memory of the work stays with me. We would let in three cows in the milking area. Mother, daddy, and I would milk one each, and then we would let out the three and repeat the procedure until finished. That morning I finishing milking one first. Mother and daddy had not finished theirs’. I went over to set on a bucket of cow feed. As I prepared to sit my drunkenness was still with me and I was not focused as I sit and almost lost my balance. I made a covenant with myself that I would never drink alcohol again. How could I have ever deceived myself like that?
I belong to an international fellowship that believes alcoholism can only be contained via spiritual means. A few principles must be followed to recover from alcoholism. One of those principles is honestly. I had the honor to speak at one of these International Conventions. The topic was Honestly and Recovery. This is the story I told to explain that recovery cannot occur unless we are honest.
Another reason I am posting this story is a form of remission for transgressions
The day was June 30, 1968 Sunday morning, my wife, 3 year old son and I met my cousin, his wife and 11 year old daughter in Munfordville, KY on the northwest corner of the Courthouse square. Our meeting was to get together and go to New Orleans, LA for a week vacation. This vacation was very uneventful except that I intended to do some serious drinking. As thing would happen I had very little opportunity to engage in such behavior. In New Orleans we stayed out of town on a major highway and in back of the motel there was a bar and I would sneak off and drink a few shots. We went on a night tour and visited a few night spots but drinks were to expensive to get into any serious drinking. All had a good time and we headed home on July 4 driving from New Orleans to Nashville. We arrived at the motel late afternoon. I slipped off and got a few drinks at the bar. The other three attempted to shame me for spending so much for alcohol. so I stopped to be agreeable. We left the next morning (Saturday 7/6/1968) for Magnolia. arriving around noon.
The following may not be considered connected to the aforementioned, but I do. The following events describe how alcoholic recovery cannot take place while dishonestly exist. Soon after arriving home, My wife and son went to her mother’s, without telling anyone I was leaving, I went to Hodgenville, picked up my friend, continue on to New Haven and there I started drinking as I intended while in New Orleans. We stayed at the Sherwood Inn until about 8:00 o’clock. I had drank too much alcohol to drive so my friend drove to his house. Now I had too figure out how to get from Hodgenville to Magnolia under the influence of much alcohol. Well I started out with good intentions to drive carefully. I made it to the Lincoln Farm when I was stopped by two Hodgenville City Policemen. Both considered me too drunk too drive, so I was place in squad car. I was asked if it was ok if one of the Officers too drive my car. I conceded.
Sometime during this procedure, I was asked, “Did I work for the uniform company on the other end of town”. I replied, “I did.” then one of the officers said, Well, we can let you go if you get us some uniforms”. I was confused as to weather it was in jest or serious, but I knew if it was serious I would be in more trouble than I already was if I agreed to such endeavor, so I stated loudly. “Oh hell no.” No other conversation was had with the officers and I until they stopped at the Shell Gasoline station downtown. I saw a large brand new black Buick, but had no thought of who it was or what the policemen were talking the persons in the Buick about. The one of the Officers came to me and said, the people in the Buick were going to take me and my car home and they were going to let me go, and please do not do this again.
The occupants of the Buick was the furniture store owner, his wife and the parents of a good friend of mine.
I have no idea when I got home, but nobody was there. I made a couple of calls and found out my wife and son was down in Hart County with my parents. After a night of much hand wringing, I got up when my wife and son came home ready to commit to anything, but most of all I promised I would never drink again. In my own heart this was not an empty promise. I could see how alcohol was taking hold of me and I really wanted no part of it.
The dishonest behavior began in just a few weeks when the Chief of Police in Hodgenville ask me, “ Did those officers try to bribe me”. I answered quickly, “No they did not’. For the life of me i do not understand why i did not say, “ Yes in jest”. But my own guilt would not let me.
The lies continue. sometime in September of that same year, I was called to be on the Grand Jury for Larue County. Well guess what, the officer that drove me back to the Shell Station was the subject of a request for an indictment by the District Attorney. As I remember the Policeman followed the local chiropractor home from the American Legion Club, when the good doctor did not stop the nut started shooting at him. A felony as I was told. When I bring this to consciousness I think I should have stayed out of the voting because of his and my past experiences.
Now comes the real dishonesty. Sometimes in December that year (17th I think) I went to the dentist in Hodgenville. A very painful deal. I was worried about what it would be like after the novocain wore off. I ask the dentist about that and he said, “Drink a glass of wine”. I left his office went to Magnolia and got my checkbook, 8 miles, and drove straight to New Haven and purchased 1/2 gallon of wine. This started a course of 7 years of very painful alcoholism, along with mental institutions, psychiatrists, and a treatment center.
This behavior is alcoholism at it’s worst and there is no explanation for it, but the the following text out of the literature of our fellowship uses gives some guidance.
Pg 24 of BB
The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.
An alcoholic has only two concerns, to drink or not to drink. If he choses not to drink all is well, but he choses to drink he still has two problems. jail or asylum if alive or death. If he goes jail or asylum all is well he will be well cared for, but if he dies he continues to have two worries. Should he go to heaven or will he go to hell. No problem if he goes to heaven, but If goes to hell, where in hell will he get his next drink.
Greensburg, KY July 11, 1976
English Author, Critic, & Lexicographer (1709 – 1784)
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ Research On Death and Dying found that people who are dying experience the following:
The alcoholic gives up the drink in this fashion:
The alcoholic gives up the drink in this fashion:
Then maybe, acceptance
Hopefully we do not parade our wisdom, give advice, exhibit our despair.
For some of us:
“Always carry the message, and use words if necessary.”
Weirdharold tells all about 55 days in 1975 & 1976. This is the initial stage of my discovery of a way stop drinking and recover from alcoholism.
My family and I moved to Minnesota in 1973, but this was the first Christmas we had decided to spend there. We were living in the little prairie town that supported the agriculture industry. This was a typical two bar Minnesota town, Municipal Liquor Store and the American Legion Club.
December 22, 1975 was an uneventful day at work. Management was to work until 5:00 PM, but that day we left 4:30 PM and we went to the American Legion Club. My memory of that day is vague until this hour. I do not remember being angry at work, but I sure remember being mad at the bar. I ordered a double shot of bourbon and water chaser, then another, and soon thereafter another. I noted as I drank my anger did not dissipate.
Sometime after the third drink the phone rang in the little bar. It was my wife, wanting the car. We had been a one-car family since that May. I left the bar going to my home six blocks away. My anger was elevated. I may have expressed verbally but I do not think I was vicious at that time. My wife wanted to go to a larger town to Christmas shop. I told her to let me out at the other bar, Municipal Liquor Store.
As the years have passed about this memory, I always compare the difference of the way the alcohol took away all my bad feelings in 1960. This did not happen in 1975. I believe this tells us something about the progression of alcoholism as an illness.
Back to that night, I arrived at the bar somewhere between 5:30 PM and 6:00 PM. When I left is unknown to me, but I assume it was around closing, 1:00 AM. This was a night of obnoxious alcoholic drinking. I remember falling off bar stool? Commode? I do not know what because my memories are vague or do not exist. I have some fuzzy memories of a conversation with the Police Chief. My next memory is my 10-year-old son waking me while I was in bed. That was about 9:30 AM on 12/23/1975
I awoke with all my clothes from the night before including cowboy boots. My son said. ” Chris (my boss) wants you on the phone”. I got up in a state of fear because of the blackout. I had never had a blackout where geography changed.
I cleaned up a little, but did not change clothes, and went to work. I smelled like a drunk. The day was very uneventful. I had had worse hangovers. I did speak several times to wife to throw my hat in door and find out what I did during the blackout, during one of the telephone calls she told me she had talked to an alcohol and drug counselor, and asked me if I would be interested in talking to him. I was very glad to lay my problem in his hands. I had seen 3 psychiatrists and been in a mental hospital for 50 days, I was ready to investigate anything to help the emotional anguish.
The 23rd of December was the last day of scheduled work until January 5th 1976. All the staff was going up to the Municipal Liquor Store (same place I was the night before). I did not leave the factory when the others did. The payroll had to be finished and two ladies had to finish the paper work for all to be paid. I was not needed but I stayed to chat with the cutting room payroll clerk.
I have no idea how long I stayed there at work but I left the factory, went and joined my coworkers at Municipal Liquor Store. They seem to have had a few drinks and were very jovial. My hangover was still very apparent so I ordered a Bloody Mary, “Hair of the Dog”. The waitress brought the drink and set it in front of me. I sat and stared at the drink. All the while I was considering how I felt and I was sure not part of the jovial attitude going on about me. Soon I got up and walked out of the bar and went home.
To this day that was the last drink I have purchased for myself and I never touched it. My last drink was sometime the night before. I do know the barmaid had started watering down my drinks.
Upon arriving home I was expecting an augment, however the greeting was rather bland. Later, my wife threw the checkbook on the bed in front of me and said, “There is the checkbook, you can do as you wish with the money, Tony and I will fend for ourselves. You make most of the money so do as you will.” This statement took me a back a little.
My entire life, I had never been responsible for my own financial affairs, but I also had much resentment for my wife handling of these matters.
Our conversation changed to my wife’s visit to the alcohol and drug counselor. He had suggested that I call him at home when I got home from work. I did and set up a meeting in his office. The appointment was 10:00 AM Christmas Eve 1975.
I remember him asking me if I thought I might be an alcoholic. I replied, “I do not think I am, but no way in hell can I stop drinking”. He said quickly, “If you wanna stop drinking go to the fellowship of which I am a member. Of course it is your choice to drink or not to drink, it is up to you.” You may not have the same job, nor the same wife, but you can drink if you wish.” This was the strangest conversation I have ever had. He said if I wanted to stop drinking he had a way, but did not have to unless I wanted to. Now all I had heard in the past 16 years, you MUST stop drinking, but I could not. He suggested that maybe I should go to an inpatient treatment center.
I said I would go but not until the 29th after I had taken my son to a NFL playoff game between Dallas vs. Minnesota. We attended the game and it was a memorable one, “the Hail Mary Pass” by Roger Staubach.
On the 29th I entered the treatment center without much memory of it. I was in the center for about 13 days when I began having serious mental health problems. On the 15th day I was taken to a hospital in Minneapolis, MN. I stayed interned there for 23 days when I went back to the alcohol treatment program, then 9 days in the alcohol and drug treatment center and I went home on Friday February 13, 1976.
One noteworthy item happened while I was in the mental health center, which should be brought forth. A psychiatrist, Dr. Bauer, treated me. He was my 4th is a series of 20 psychiatrists. We were in a small psychiatric examination room when he stated very flatly, “Harold, I can treat your depression, but you will have to go to your fellowship meetings to treat your alcoholism.”
Our spiritual state is conditional upon the manner that we are willing to carry the message and practice these principles in all our affairs. The physical practice of these principles makes our message seen, heard, and felt in a loving manner. When this is accomplished we are at one with God and our fellow man, then our spiritual affliction is laid aside.