They Stopped in Time
“All the joys of retirement lay ahead for the movie publicist. Safely pensioned, with no job to protect, at last he could drink as he pleased.”
Teet’s date of sobriety, according to one source, was December 1970. He was 75 at the time his story was written.
Raised in Kansas, which was dry, he did not start drinking until he had finished college, done a stint on newspapers, married, become a father, and been in movie studio publicity two years.
At age thirty-two, and unaccustomed to drinking, he was assigned to keep media guests happy at a Halloween party given by a major star. At the party he got drunk and threw up, and felt disgraced and humiliated. He vowed never to be embarrassed like that again, and though he continued to drink, he did it with caution when in public. Most of his heavy drinking was at home. (Not all hidden drunks, he points out, are housewives.)
He retired at sixty-eight, after forty years in public relations for Paramount Studios. He had successfully hidden his alcoholism until he retired. He had never lost a days work because of drinking; never been warned about his drinking; had not lost his wife or family; had not lost his driver’s license; had never been in jail or a barroom fight. He had managed to protect and maintain an image of respectability.
Now retired he was free to drink as much as he wanted. He lived with his wife who was a heart patient.
Teet pointed out that: “So long as a retiree woos his bottle at home, he stays out of public trouble. But for him, financial security or even affluence can be a tragedy.”
When Teet retired he said he would never be bored because he wanted to write novels, articles, short stories, and scripts on which he had copious notes. Creativity at the typewriter would keep him busy and alert, he thought.
He managed to sell a few things, but his writing career could be summed up in the couplet “Alcohol gave me wings to fly/And then it took away the sky.”
One day he remembered a line from an Alan Ladd movie, Shane, on which he had worked. “The trouble is, old man, you’ve lived too long.”
Crises were emerging rapidly as he approached his seventieth birthday. Death seemed the only way out. But first he had to empty the upper cupboard full of empties so that they would not be found after his death. His sick wife, who didn’t know the extent of his drinking, woke and caught him at it. She gasped and he feared she was having another heart attack.
This caused him to go into action. That evening he poured out the truth to her, admitting he was an alcoholic, and telling her that he would go to A.A. He attended his first A.A. meeting two nights later and never took another drink.
One advantage of those forty years as a movie press agent was that he had worked so long in a profession where fakery, deceit, and untruths are tools of the trade, he instantly recognized honesty when he heard it, from the mouths of A.A. members.
He had said he would not be bored in retirement. He was not. A.A. kept his retirement years full. Not long before he wrote his story he lunched with another retired publicist who was close to tears in describing his boredom. Teet could not help thinking “You poor guy. I feel so sorry for you. You’re not an alcoholic. You can never know the pure joy of recovery within the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.”
Teet died on June 26, 1992.