I used to be a raging alcoholic. If you told me twenty-nine 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’s 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 had dozens of people reach out to me with their story of hopelessness. This is a post for them.
Beyond surrendering, I have had nothing to do with my life changing the way it has. I got lucky. This isn’t a personal accomplishment. It’s a testament that when you are willing to show faith, amazing 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. Twenty-nine years ago today.
On August 3, 1991, I heard the voice of God.
I was 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, fell to my knees, and heard a voice that said, “My son you have another chance.”
I don’t know how long I was on my knees out 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 from the voice of God 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 56 in a few days is a miracle. A real 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.
Twenty-nine 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. I trust God today. And by His 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 started this day off the way I’ve started every day for the past twenty-nine 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. Sober.