Thirty five years ago today, I had my last drink of alcohol. Not the biggest deal in the world, right? Well, in my case, I was in jail. I don’t exactly remember my actual last drink, but two of “Atlanta’s Finest” believed I was drunk enough to take to jail. We had a disagreement about that, and when I came to… I made a note to myself not to argue (or fight) with police (again), — and also that they are very sensitive about being called names, (jeez, talk about sensitive.)
It may sound a little goofy, but I had an actual ‘spiritual-experience’ while I was in jail, (that particular time,) and discovered Alcoholics Anonymous, when I sobered up enough to get there. End of story, right? – Well maybe the rest of the story might enlighten you, or someone you know. At the depth of my alcoholism, I drank twelve ounces of vodka every two hours. (Oops… was that a ‘typo’?) Nah, you read it right, 12 ounces of vodka. Now, you may not know this, but it takes the liver about an hour to process an ounce of alcohol (ethanol.) So how in the world could I drink 12 ounces every two hours, right? – With great difficulty. — When one is perpetually drunk like that, it’s hard to actually FIND a liquor store… One of the things I admire about alcoholics is their tenacity. It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s negative tenacity, – but their ability to “stay the course”, even when jail is a likely outcome, is remarkable.
Let me share with you some of the interesting statistics of alcoholism – 80% don’t ‘make it’. “Huh – 80% don’t get sober, you mean?” – Nope, let me put it another way, 80% don’t live. Think about that, what if there was a disease out there that was 80% fatal? Would that get your attention? Well, there is… its called alcoholism. I can’t tell you how many times over the years when a friend of mine told me about their alcoholic loved one, and gave me their drinking-statistics. A LOT of those times I said, “Are you close to this person?” The answer was mostly ‘yes’. – And I said in reply, (no joke), “You might want to pay a personal visit to them, it could be that they have a 50/50 chance of not making it.” – “They’ll be fine, I’m sure… they always have been in the past,” was the frequent reply. How many, many times did I hear that the loved one had subsequently passed away. I’m not talking about elderly people here; I’m talking about 24 year olds, 33 year olds, 45 year olds… People who had a disease with an 80% fatality rate.
Check this out… the medical profession loses over 500 doctors a year due to alcohol and drug related deaths. – Or this… 30% of airline pilots take off drunk, covered up by their fellow flight attendants. (Think about that the next time you’re sitting on the runway.) You can’t imagine the carnage that active alcoholism has left in its wake. I have a dear friend in Omaha, whose only son was WALKING ON THE SIDEWALK, and a drunk-driver ran up onto the sidewalk and killed him. TO THIS DAY… he still grieves for his son. More statistics? – Cops are operating “under the influence”, and covered up by fellow officers and staff… fire-fighters, ‘first-responders’, teachers, taxicab drivers, I even heard of one OB-GYN doc who dropped a baby he was delivering. Chilling stories all…
For an alcoholic to be sober even ONE day is a miracle to me. I couldn’t stay sober 15 minutes, (seriously.) – In AA, we celebrate various milestones of sobriety. For instance, if one can stay sober 30 days, he/she gets a chit, (an engraved poker chip) commemorating their first thirty days of sobriety. To this very day… and I’m 35 years sober…. I STILL remember my 30-day chip the most, – and am the most proud of it. Trust me… neither me, nor my friends, nor the Atlanta Police Department EVER believed I could go 30 days without a drink of alcohol.
Alcoholism was so bad for me that I actually had to put some kind of cloth, (I used a flimsy towel) in my left hand, and drape the other end of the cloth over my neck to my right hand, and then grip my favorite glass, and PULL on the towel to raise the glass up to my lips to drink. It wasn’t that I was too weak to lift the glass… it was that I shook too much and would spill the precious alcohol as I brought it up to my lips. That shaking was a perpetual situation. It took me 90 days after my last drink to finally lose the ‘shakes’. Did I see snakes and spiders and stuff? – Oh yeah, and guess what… they’re REAL… Not actually real, but to the alcoholic’s mind… they were absolutely real. (shiver).
So what happened, right? – Well… I got sober… I got my 90-day sobriety chip, it was like the Medal of Honor to me… I got my six-months chip, (I still have it), I got my 9 months chip… (Are you kidding me??) And finally the grandest day of all for an alcoholic, my first anniversary. We actually call it a ‘birthday’ in AA because we really feel that we are re-born… Yeah, we may have had a ‘natal’ birthday, but oftentimes that is an accident, or at least a mild surprise. – When you get to your first birthday in AA, it really IS a miraculous birth. We had an 80% chance of not making it. — 80%, — it STILL amazes me that any alcoholic ever gets sober.
Let me tell you a little bit about my AA sponsor…. His name was Dal K. and he was 43 years sober when I met him. He was a veritable icon in Atlanta AA-circles, and I proudly asked him to be my sponsor. He proudly declined. I asked him again, several times. “No, no, no, no, no…” was his typical answer to me. But if I’m anything, I’m persistent. I told him flat out, “You might as well make it easy on yourself, because you ARE going to be my sponsor, I want to get sober, and that’s the bottom line.” He reluctantly agreed.
Here’s a description of Dal… He looked remarkably like George Burns. He was in his 70s when I met him, weighed about 120 pounds, and stood about 5 feet, four inches tall. Not much, huh… Well, let me tell you a little more about Mister ‘K’, — He started the first AA group in California… what that means is he ‘came to’ while drooling on a Saturday Evening Post article about a new organization founded to treat alcoholics; it was called “Alcoholics Anonymous”, and was written by a guy named Bill W. and a medical doctor named “Doctor Bob”.
Dal read (blearily, because he was drunk at the time) the article and stated to his fellow drunk, ‘Frenchy’, that maybe they could get sober with the aid of the article. The article listed the 12 Steps of Recovery, so Dal, Frenchy, and several other of their alcoholic buds started “The California Club”, right there on the dusty sidewalks of “off-Los Angeles.” – They actually took turns watching each other, four hours on, four hours off… each member took a turn. Lo and behold, 30 days later, they were all sober… and then they went out to recruit other likely candidates to their unique organization.
When I met Dal, he was living in Atlanta, with relatives, and had left the California Club. But here’s the thing, the still-active California Club got in touch with Dal and asked him if he would like to come back and be a ‘guest-speaker’ at one of their meetings. As you can imagine, Dal agreed, and they sent him an airline ticket. When they announced to the club, that the founder of the club, Dal K. was coming back, they suggested that everyone let the club know on how many people would attend that ‘open meeting.’
Let me digress a bit and tell you that every alcoholic (drunk or sober) affects (statistically) about 14 other people. Dal not only started the AA club, he also started the “Al-Anon” club, the “Al-a-Teen” club, the “Businessmen’s AA club” the “You-name-it” club. Dal K. reached out and touched, in a profound way, a TON of people. In the end, the California Club actually rented a local community college’s football stadium… thousands and thousands of people showed up. – That’s the power of Alcoholics Anonymous and what one bleary-eyed drunk, drooling on a tossed-aside magazine on a sidewalk in Los Angeles can do.
As for me, well… remarkably, I made it ‘one more year’ (WITH THE GRACE OF GOD), and I’m pretty happy about it. Is my story unique? Is Dal’s story unique?? Not really, you would be surprised at how many of the people you encounter in your day-to-day lives have been positively affected by AA, NA, and all the rest of the 12-step programs.
It’s a remarkable thing that I stayed sober even one day. There are family members, and friends (the police too) — and ahem, a couple of convenient-stores who lent me some money one time, — who never believed I would make it. So am I thirty five years sober? — Nah, not really…. Today, I am just ONE-DAY sober, I just stacked them up over the years. – Congratulate me if you will… but more importantly, tell your alcoholic friends, family, and associates about the wonderful world or AA… You have my permission to use my FULL name… Tom Adair, 702-884-6341, – 8209 Soaring Owl Ave. Las Vegas, NV 89129… The reason I say it so boldly is that I’m STILL in the business of carrying the message to other alcoholics… If you, or someone you know, want to get in touch with me regarding alcoholism… do it… I dare you.
“Happy Birfday to me… Happy Birfday to me…” Hey, I’m glad to sober and alive…