Gary's Story: Anger Fueled With Alcohol

I Made a Decision to Surrender

Chairs in a circle
N.A. Meeting Schedules for Maryland. © Getty Images

I was brought up in an alcoholic household. My mother was a nightclub singer and hostess for a renowned tennis club. Her love was Seagram Seven on the rocks.

She was always bringing drunks over to the house and as a kid, I remember vividly picking many of her friends up off the floor. I also remember a lot of the drama which unfolded when my parents would argue constantly.

My room was next to the living room so I heard a lot.

My parents would entertain a lot. The sound and noises emanating from drunks would permeate the walls going into my room. It was always very loud.

At the age of 16, my dad died from a lingering liver disease which ate away his physique and dignity. He had been a world's tennis professional, having won the Wimbledon tournament back in the mid-thirties. Here was a world-class athlete and my hero who happened to die in his prime.

I was shattered and angry. I drank over this for many years, hating the world for being so cruel. My anger was fueled by alcohol. In high school, I managed to get good grades. Sometimes I would drink before, during, or after school. I was a functional drunk and a periodic drinker at that.

Kid in a Candy Store

I left home at 18, quit college, got a job in the hotel business, and got married. My drinking was escalating but I still managed to function and work daily. When I was promoted to hotel manager, the perks of the job would often include wining and dining guests.

This was tantamount to a kid in a candy store. I felt like I had a key-to-the-city! Drinking was becoming an almost daily ritual. My disease was truly progressing but my denial was firmly in place.

By the third year of marriage, we had two sons. My wife, Marilyn, would often become the target of my anger and unhappiness.

I found myself creating situations in order to justify my drinking. I was good at verbal abuse and could turn anything into an argument for the sake of conflict.

Uncontrollable Anger

She complained that I was always coming home late at night, smelling of booze. She wondered where all the money had gone. I had already accumulated much debt and was spending a lot on booze.

My uncontrollable anger was scaring the family. The pressures of trying to raise a family were taking a toll on both of us. The wife demanded that I get treatment for alcoholism but I refused.

She finally threatened divorce which prompted me to stop drinking for the sake of our marriage. I didn't need any help, however, from any person, organization, or doctor. I went to a few AA meetings just to appease her but I would become sober on my own willpower (too stubborn to ask for help)

Pure Willpower

For almost a year, I was sober on pure willpower. This, I learned later in life, was my indoctrination to being a "dry drunk".

During that year my marriage had improved. I really felt that I could better manage my drinking this time around. I would prove it to her. I would switch from vodka to beer and just "cut back." Farewell to sobriety.

Six months into my relapse, it was farewell to the marriage. Divorce proceedings had started.

Spiritually Bankrupt

In a last ditch effort to reconcile, my wife and I agreed to take a geographic. She agreed to move the family to Lake Tahoe and start over. I promised I would stop drinking. I quit my job of eight years and we moved. On our second day in Tahoe, she left me a note on a paper plate saying that she had taken the kids back to San Diego.

She later admitted that it was a ploy to get me a thousand miles away from her. It also provided her the opportunity to continue her relationship with someone else she had been seeing during our marriage.

I was mentally, physically, and spiritually bankrupt. I remember walking along Highway 50 and wanting to hurl my body in front of traffic. By the grace of God, I went to a phone booth and found an AA meeting instead.

Dark Moments

The fellowship helped me get through those dark moments and I soon returned back to San Diego after having sold the wedding ring to provide gas money.

Back in San Diego without a job or home, I moved in with mom. A few months later, I had unbelievable fate. I ran into my first girlfriend, Judy, who I hadn't seen in over ten years. She was visiting her mom for the holidays and we just "bumped" into each other. Judy was living in Idaho at the time and had been in a sour relationship.

We started seeing each other again. I was still drinking, but I thought I could handle this relationship and drinking differently. Judy agreed to stay in San Diego with me and end her other relationship. We rented an office and moved in together. We eventually upgraded to an apartment.

An Instant Family

Soon thereafter, my ex-wife decided to move to Lake Tahoe with her boyfriend and left the kids with us. Judy now had an "instant family" with all the pressures of motherhood transferred to her. Along with these demands, Judy was experiencing my temper fueled with alcohol.

She was beginning to experience a household wrought by alcoholism. When I was in a rage, I would become verbally abusive and start destroying the house. Everyone was afraid of me when I was raging.

The Insanity Continued

There were also times when I would vacillate between my ex-wife and Judy. I would break-up the relationship with Judy and go back to Marilyn and vice versa. The insanity continued. My disease was taking over and I was going to lose everything once again.

The trust I had established with Judy was diminishing. I realized that my pattern was continuing. My life was unmanageable. Unless I made a decision to change, my life would continue to face perpetual disaster.

My last drunk was in the summer of 1980. I went to pick-up Judy at work. She had to stay later than usual so I meandered over to a nearby liquor store. The clerk would not allow me to write a check for a bottle of beer so I became belligerent.

I Wanted Change

The police were called three times that night to remove me from the store. The third time they arrested me. Judy convinced them to release me. My last drunk was not particularly earth-shattering but it represented a culmination of everything that had transpired before in my life.

My attitude, anger, and other assorted character defects were constantly re-surfacing. I was truly sick and tired of being sick and tired. I wanted to change.

Judy was also pregnant at the time and I desperately wanted to make a better life for my new family. We set a marriage date for October. I made a decision to surrender to the disease of alcoholism that summer prior to our marriage.

Shut Up and Listen

I was willing to go to any lengths to get sobriety and did what the fellowship advised me to do -- shut up and listen. I could easily identify with others in the program and liked the fact that they were not pressuring me to quit. They convinced me that all I could handle was a day at a time.

I soon learned that I had to accept a power greater than myself to restore me to sanity. I was ready to accept the program. Everyone in AA kept telling me that things would get better.

'Hooked" on A.A.

I spent the first few years in AA burying myself in service work. This proved to be invaluable for me because it ensured my going to meetings on a regular basis. I would make coffee, get literature, and became secretary of the biggest speaker's meeting in San Diego.

I had new friends and a new way of living. I felt for the first time that I actually "fit in" and "belonged" to this group. AA bumper stickers and serenity prayers adorned every possession. I was truly "hooked" on AA! I was truly making progress.

I continue to make progress today with over 17 years of sobriety -- all a day at a time. I still find that getting involved in the program is the best way to keep sober.

A Family Disease

When I bought a computer recently for the first time, I discovered IRC and the AA channels. This medium is not only helping me keep sober on a daily basis but also helping me do some valuable twelve step work by giving back what was given to me. I attend my regular home group every Friday night.

Judy and I now have three children. Presently, one of our biggest challenges is helping our kids become aware of this "family disease." My 19-year-old son is also a recovering alcoholic/addict and has two years of sobriety thanks to this program. He had spent a year in a live-in rehab and now attends AA regularly.

My teenage daughter is still struggling with drug abuse and is our newest challenge. The task is far from over as I have two smaller children coming up the ranks. This disease of alcoholism is too cunning, baffling, and powerful to let me ever take a rest or sit on my laurels for too long. The daily battle of this disease is still very much alive in our household. It never stops but there is always hope.

-- Gary

Continue Reading