When I turned 27 years old, I stood at the edge of a cliff. It would be three more years before I sobered up, and the time between the worst of my addiction and my surprising salvation was to be hell on Earth. I started breaking down with tremendous strides, both physically and mentally. My pace back then was a handle of vodka a day. I did, however, manage to keep working, though looking back, I don’t know how. My boss (who I’m still friends with today, go figure) was either oddly sympathetic or just didn’t care. In any case what was required of me, I accomplished for the most part, so repercussions were rare. Since I was a one-man crew and no one else relied on me showing up, I would often blow off my duties in favor of staying home and getting hammered. Putting off my workload was rather easy since it required no sacrifice (other than broken expectations) on the part of the customer, so this “logic” justified my ever-increasing incompetence.
During this period I was sent north to scrub and wax a TJ Maxx in Fort Collins, one of many such similar trips. I usually felt like garbage, but this night was especially tough. After being left alone to my duties I decided to call a hotline looking for help, mental help, and all they did was repeatedly ask me if I was going to hurt myself. I said no several times, but they were persistent with the question. They ultimately asked me if there was anything in the store I could hurt myself with, which startled me. I remember saying I suppose I could take a running start with my head down at a brick wall. When I told them that, they called the police department. Luckily the front doors were locked with just a turn bolt inside (they normally were keyed on both sides) and after talking for a couple of minutes through the glass, I reluctantly let them in. They didn’t officially arrest me, but they did shuttle me to the station after contacting the store manager.
I had acting normal down to a science even when I was falling over inside, and they were surprised to meet with someone who was outwardly, quite calm and stable. I passed a breathalyzer so there was nothing they could charge me with. We talked about my issues but little else came of the incident. They were kind, and after a few hours they brought me back to my truck and I drove home. Looking back these days, I understand why the cops were called. The person on the other end of the phone could not act unless I was a danger to myself, so they played the script they had. I disagreed with their motives, but to them they were warranted.
The horrors of the days to come couldn’t have been described by Dante’. My trips to the bathroom were always a bloody mess, literally. The first time I turned the toilet red I almost passed out from the sheer sight of it. The second time, I didn’t care. My urine was consistently pink, and I could spit blood. Nose bleeds were common too. My bouts of dipteral tremens were exceedingly common, and blackouts, once something I had sidestepped, became the norm. How I managed to live through those times could only be described as astonishing. How I got out was miraculous.
Today I celebrate my 27th year in recovery. Twenty-seven years ago I was a liability to anyone who knew me, and truthfully, to most people I met casually as well. On the 28th of July in 1995 I took my last drink and have been actively in front of my demons since. I have so many things to be grateful for these days and constant practice of this attitude feeds both continued resolve and a life of abundance. There’s nothing on earth I would trade my journey for.
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood
Daniel, Congratulations on 27 years. They say the hardest thing to do is get another day. I just want to thank you for your writing. It is an absolute inspiration to me and I use bits and pieces of some of your work in a lot of the topics I speak about in AA meetings. We are both on the same path. You at 27 years today, I am at 2 years today. I was only 47 years late getting to my first AA meeting. Congratulations again on your sobriety and your writing.
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It feels weird, doesn’t it? Knowing that we were so self-destructive and now so self-constructive. It breaks the heart to see those wallowing in the same bog of ego-based slime we were drowning in. Every word they scream is blame based, and none are just a straightforward version of “help.” I grew up rolling my eyes at the oft quoted philosophy that the best we can do is lead by example, but it’s all too true. We cannot actually help someone who isn’t reaching out, but just like my sponsor told me many times, “don’t let knowing that stop you from trying anyway”. It’s the serenity prayer, over and over. Keep your hand available and someone might change their mind and take it. That’s the 12th step all the way. Glad you’ve got two years. I broke down sobbing on my third. It seemed so surrealistic to be clean and still that close to what was almost death by my own actions.
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