I normally take pictures of older, wooden barns. They have a classic look even when in disrepair. This newer structure caught my eye a few days ago. I think it is the shiny blue roof that makes it stand out enough to be photo worthy.
Today marks ten years since I last drank alcohol. I didn’t write that sentence with pride, it is just a fact. It is an anniversary that I chose to share with people. Some people who read this blog are friends, but most are people whom I have never met. Some people know this story and some don’t. Let me give you a brief background before I tell you briefly of the ten years after that drink.
I had been a light drinker from college to the time I lived and worked in Auburn. A busted romance tipped me into the heavy drinking column and bourbon became my best friend. I moved past that phase, but alcohol by then was an almost daily ritual. Years passed, I met and married Cindy, and while I drank after work most days, I thought that I had it under control. Then my dad got sick and eventually died. While I didn’t think that it affected my drinking or my work, I’ve come to realize that I built up a lot of anger and regret surrounding his death. Adding to that, my job was the pits. I had worked for the State more than twenty-five years and had reached a point high enough that politics affected almost everything that I did. I came to hate it. I started many mornings having a drink or three just to help me go in. Of course, that didn’t work or even help matters. That brought me to the last drink ten years ago. It was the last of many drinks that morning and I was arrested and tossed into a drunk tank before I ever got to work.
Actually I was put in a holding cell with a self-proclaimed paranoid schizophrenic. All that I wanted to do was sleep, and all he wanted to do was talk. And he talked for fourteen straight hours. He talked about hunting, Arbor Day, the Kennedy assassinations, television, the United Nations, beef stew, and I don’t know how many other topics. He weaved his narrative into one long, monologue in which each topic led to the next. In his mind they were all part of one story. At one point he was droning on and I was able to start to nod off. He raised his voice then and said, “Ah, my hypnosis is working. I can put anyone to sleep and give them commands. Why one time…” And off he went on another nonsensical tangent. I felt like I was being punished before I ever saw a judge.
After Cindy bailed me out, things started moving rapidly. That day I was given a pre-deprivation hearing in front of the agency’s HR head and the person who would ostensibly decide my fate. Needless to say, they decided to put me on 30 days unpaid leave pending termination. While on leave a few things happened. Since I was fully vested in my retirement plan, I filled out the paperwork to get my pension. I had my day in court, and then a couple of days in jail. I lost my driver’s license for a year. I went through a course of counseling. I took a part time job while I waited for my first retirement check.
I was ashamed because I had lost my job, that I had spent time in jail, and that I had let down my family and friends. For the rest of it, I have no regrets. In a short time I came to realize that losing the job was the best thing that had happened to me in many years. I learned that Cindy would stand by me and continue to love me despite the way I had screwed up our life. Some people whom I used to work with in Indianapolis avoided me from that time on, but my true friends stayed with me. My counselor, Dr. Paul Kitley, helped me realize some things about myself that I had been ignoring. My part time job brought new friends into my life; some have become very dear friends.
Do I miss drinking? Not really. I’ve had many opportunities to drink, but I’ve never been inclined to buy a bottle or even take a sip. It doesn’t bother me to be around other people who are drinking unless they are loud, obnoxious drunks. Surprisingly, the only times that I think about having a drink is on a hot day after I’ve cut the grass, and sometimes when a character in a TV drama pours themselves a drink. Cold water soothes me just as well as cold beer on a hot day, and as for TV…well they are obviously drinking Scotch, and I don’t like Scotch. In the past ten years I’ve never been tempted by drink enough to do anything about it.
So I’m celebrating this ten year anniversary not because I stopped drinking, but because it was like turning back the clock to a happier part of my life. I’m celebrating love of family, true friends, and new friends. I hope that you can celebrate with me.