Seventh Month Slip
FOURTEEN years of age, when I should have been at home
under the supervision of my parents, I was in the United
States army serving a one year enlistment. I found myself
with a bunch of men none too good for a fourteen year
old kid who passed easily for eighteen. I transferred
my hero-worshipping to these men of the world. I suppose
the worst damage done in that year in the army barracks
was the development of an almost unconscious admiration
for their apparently jolly sort of living.
Once out of uniform
I went to Mexico where I worked for an oil company. Here
I learned to take on a good cargo of beer and hold it.
Later I rode the range in the Texas cow country and often
went to town with the boys to "whoop it up on payday."
By the time I returned to my home in the middle west I
had learned several patterns of living, to say nothing
of a cock-sure attitude that I needed no advice from anyone.
The next ten years
are sketchy. During this time I married and established
my own home and everything was lovely for a time. Soon
I was having a good time getting around the law in speakeasies.
Oh yes, I outsmarted our national laws but I was not quite
successful in evading the old moral law.
I was working for
a large industrial concern and had been promoted to a
supervisional job. In spite of big
Seven Month Slip
I was for three or four years able to be on the job the
next morning. Then gradually the hangovers became more
persistent and I found myself not only needing a few shots
of liquor before I could go to work at all, but finally
found it advisable to stay at home and sober up by the
taper-off method. My bosses tried to give me some good
advice. When that didn't help they tried more drastic
measures, laying me off without pay. They covered up my
too frequent absences many times in order to keep them
from the attention of the higher officials in the company.
My attitude was that
I could handle my liquor whenever I wanted to go about
it seriously, and I considered my absences no worse than
those of other employees and officials who were getting
away with murder in their drinking.
One does not have
to use his imagination much to realize that this sort
of drinking is hard on the matrimonial relationship. After
proving myself neither faithful nor capable of being temperate,
my wife left me and obtained a judicial separation. This
gave me a really good excuse to get drunk.
In the years 1933
and 1934 I was fired several times, but always got my
job back on my promises to do better. On the last occasion
I was reduced to the labor gang on the plant. I made a
terrific effort to stay sober and prove myself capable
of better things. I succeeded pretty well and one day
I was called into the production chief's office and told
I had met with the approval of the executive department
and to be ready to start on a better job.
good news seemed to justify a mild celebration with a
few beers. Exactly four days later I reported for work
only to find that they too knew about the "mild" celebration
and that they decided to check me out altogether. After
a time I went back and was assigned to one of the hardest
jobs in the factory. I was in bad shape physically and
after six months of this, I quit, going on a drunk with
my last pay check.
Then I began to find
that the friends with whom I had been drinking for some
time seemed to disappear. This made me resentful and I
found myself many times feeling that everybody was against
me. Bootleg joints became my hangouts. I sold my books,
car, and even clothing in order to buy a few drinks.
I am certain that
my family kept me from gravitating to flophouses and gutters.
I am eternally thankful to them that they never threw
me out or refused me help when I was drinking. Of course,
I didn't appreciate their kindness then, and I began to
stay away from home on protracted drinking spells.
Somehow my family
heard of two men in town who had found a way to quit drinking.
They suggested that I contact these men but I retorted
"If I can't handle my liquor with my own will power then
I had better jump over the viaduct."
Another of my usual
drinking spells came on. I drank for about ten days with
no food except coffee before I was sick enough to start
the battle back to sobriety with the accompanying shakes,
night sweats, jittery nerves, and horrible dreams. This
time I felt that I really needed some help. I told my
Seven Month Slip
call the doctor who was the center of the little group
of former drinkers. She did.
I allowed myself to
be taken to a hospital where I took several days for my
head to clear and my nerves to settle. Then, one day I
had a couple of visitors, one man from New York and the
other a local attorney. During our conversation I learned
that they had been as bad as myself in this drinking,
and that they had found relief and had been able to make
a come-back. Later they went into more detail and put
it to me very straight that I'd have to give over my desires
and attitudes to a power higher than myself which would
give me new desires and attitudes.
Here was religion
put to me in a different way and presented by three past-masters
in liquor guzzling. On the strength of their stories I
decided to give it a try. And it worked, as long as I
allowed it to do so.
After a year of learning
new ways of living, new attitudes and desires, I became
self-confident and then careless. I suppose you would
say I got to feeling too sure of myself and Zowie! First
it was beer on Saturday nights and then it was a fine
drunk. I knew exactly what I had done to bring myself
to this old grief. I had tried to handle my life on the
strength of my own ideas and plans instead of looking
to God for the inspiration and the strength.
But I didn't do anything
about it. I thought "to hell with everybody. I'm going
to do as I please." So I floundered around for seven months
refusing help from any quarter. But one day I volunteered
to take another drunk on a trip to sober him up. When
we got back
town we were both drunk and went to a hotel to sober up.
Then I began to reason the thing out. I had been a sober,
happy man for a year, living decently and trying to follow
the will of God. Now I was unshaven, unkept, ill-looking,
bleary-eyed. I decided then and there and went back to
my friends who offered me help and who never lectured
me on my seven month failure.
But that was a long
time ago. I don't say now that I can do anything. I only
know that as long as I seek God's help to the best of
my ability, just so long will liquor never bother me.
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