I used to be a raging alcoholic. If you told me thirty-one years ago that one day I’d have everything I ever dreamed of, I’d have called you a liar. This is not to say that my life today is perfect. Far from it. But that’s ok. Compared with my life before I stopped drinking, it is amazing. My life before was miserable. I was literally at the bottom. Homeless. Suicidal. Then I heard the voice, and everything changed. I only share this because somewhere out there someone else is hopeless. I know. Since originally publishing the post below in 2009, I’ve probably had more than 100 people reach out to me with their story of hopelessness. This is a post for them. You see, beyond surrendering, I have had nothing to do with my life changing the way it has. I got lucky. For me, this isn’t a personal accomplishment. It’s a testament that when you are willing to show faith, remarkable things happen.
I am so blessed today and yes, I’ve received everything I ever dreamed of. All because I haven’t had a drink since the day I was given another chance. Thirty-one years ago today.
On August 3, 1991, I heard the voice of God.
I woke up that day in the bowels of the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City hung over from the day before, was about to load up on more booze, and had planned on stepping in front of a train to end my miserable life.
But for some reason, on this day, the package store in Hell’s Kitchen that I frequented often decided to ask me for an ID. For a six-pack of beer. Three days before my 27th birthday. I didn’t have a valid ID, however, as I’d lost my license years before to a DUI and had succumbed to a nomadic lifestyle– living in and around NYC with no family, no friends, no money, and no proper ID to buy alcohol.
I stormed out of the store cursing the manager, and when I stepped into the sunlight–I was blinded. Literally. I shut my eyes and a voice in my head said, “My son you have another chance.” I fell to my knees.
I don’t know how long I was on my knees in front of that package store, but when I finally stood my face was soaked in tears. The ultimate surrender, as it turned out.
I no longer wanted to die. Those six words resounded in my head. I felt … new – after a decade of feeling worn.
It was early afternoon and I somehow found my way to a bed at a rooming house in NJ where I was weeks late on my rent. The manager let me in anyway, and I slept till the middle of the next day.
I’ll spare you the gory details of my life before that point, but let me sum it up this way – from the time I was 17 until three days before my 27th birthday, I drank alcoholically and suffered the consequences. I honestly believed I’d be dead by the time I was 30, and had even explored early check out a couple times.
My lost decade was an enlightening disaster that continues to shape the man I am today. The fact that I turn 58 in a few days is a miracle.
A true miracle.
I know I’m probably losing some of you here because … everyone drinks. Right? Especially people in advertising. And especially writers. But I assure you, I’m fine with abstinence. I drank enough over those ten years to satisfy most anyone for their lifetime. If you’re out there thinking “He can’t hold his liquor,” that’s just silly. I could hold my liquor. A lot of it. More than you. And that was the problem. As for anyone who thinks I fear alcohol, wrong again. My wife drinks. Hell, I buy her wine. You see, not everyone has DNA that turns them into monsters when they drink. I don’t fear alcohol, I respect it. Finally, for anyone who thinks I’m a religious nut because I heard the voice of God in my head, I’m not. It’s true that I hit my knees every day giving thanks for a new chance in life, but I don’t push agendas. I’m just a guy who caught a break. By the grace of God, I have been delivered from the bondage of alcoholism. Other people in my family weren’t as lucky.
Thirty-one years ago God said to me, “My son, you have another chance.” Boy, was He right. I’ve since learned that God is no dummy. As much as I try to control how things should be in my life, my knowledge about what’s best for me amounts to something like a pimple on God’s ass. Before my epiphany, I couldn’t stop drinking. Once I surrendered, the desire to drink was lifted. And so every day, I simply let go. I trust God today. And by Her grace, I don’t drink. That’s it. I’m no angel. And my reward for showing faith is living a life that’s more beautiful than I ever imagined–albeit with its daily challenges just like everyone else. Only, I don’t drink to overcome them anymore. I have learned to accept what I can’t change – and let those things go.
I started this day off the way I’ve started every day for the past thirty-one years–by rolling from my bed onto my knees to say a simple prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I lost my desire to drink a long time ago. But I think about not drinking every day.