Friday, November 20, 2009


The year I would first go to AA. I knew almost from my first drink (when I was 14) that I was an alcoholic. But it was really getting to be a problem when I was 21.

I was going to bars, quite frequently. I loved, loved, loved bars. The seedier the better. Sometimes I would go out with friends and meet them at bars they liked. I couldn't get the concept of getting all dressed up to drink. One time, in one of these bars, I walked into the women's restroom and saw a couple of young women touching up their fingernail polish at the sink - and I KNEW I was in the wrong place!

I liked redneck bars and old man bars. I liked bars with great old music on the juke box - like "For the Good Times" by Ray Price. (I just found a version by Al Green that I love) I still had my job and I liked it. They liked me to and it was a good thing, because I had a little bit of a problem with attendance. When I was there I was great, but I had a problem getting there.

Because I was an alcoholic, once I took alcohol into my body, I had no idea what was going to happen to me. It might be that I would have five or six beers at home and go to bed. I would get up in the morning, feel great and go to work. I might drink the six beers and decide I really need to go to the bar. Once at the bar, I might run into a great friend and we might drink shots and stay there until closing - which I believe was 4 a.m. Or I might decide to go home with someone. Or I might pass out in the bar, or in my car. I might not be able to get to work the next day.

On Good Friday of 1973, I went to the bar with my best friend (this was almost always a recipe for disaster, she was an alcoholic just like me). We went to the old man bar in my old town. I loved that bar. She insisted we go to the young man's bar down the street. So we did. We got quite drunk. She found a ride home with someone else. At about 2 a.m., I smelled something burning, turned around and found that it was my hip length hair! I dipped it in my beer. And noticed that a group of men were laughing - they had set my hair on fire. I confronted them and found that their ringleader needed a "good talking to." Luckily not much of it actually burned. But does this sound like the beginning of a romance to you? No? Well, I guess it did to me.

I came out of the blackout sometime on Saturday afternoon driving his porsche across the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He was passed out in the passenger seat. After a little trip to the east coast, I called in sick to work on Monday and flew back to Chicago. We had a romance for a few months. He had a great job and was very very handsome. He was a worse drunk than me, and I even found it scary!

By July, I was in an AA meeting because I kept doing things that scared me and got me into trouble.

But in AA, I was greeted by people who had truly been to the depths of despair, and I knew I hadn't. I know I was welcomed warmly. I know that I was invited to peoples' homes. I know that I even went on a 12 step call! (I was, after all, sober more than a day!) I think I stuck around for a weekend. There was a man who told me what I probably wanted to hear and I hung on his words for the next 11 years. 1. You are too young. 2. You have not hit bottom.

But I left AA feeling so hopeless. I knew I had a terrible problem, but I didn't know what to do about it. So, I just drank.

I think it was in 1973 that I decided I needed to make more money, so I got a job at the Post Office of all places. I lasted 9 months. I was a window clerk and it was truly a horrible job. Whenever someone talks about "going postal" I really understand. I am unclear about exactly when this 9 months was. I know that when I started looking for another job and someone called my old boss for a reference, he hopped in his car, drove to the Post Office, lined up at my window and asked me if I wanted my old job back - with a hefty raise! Heck Yes!!!

By the end of 1973, I was 22 years old. I loved being 22. I had long straight hair still. I had a beautiful wardrobe - and some debt from it. I remember when that Porsche guy saw my closet, he asked me if my ex-husband was a millionaire! I had a pretty apartment with a lot of my original art hanging in it. There were some good things about this time, but what I remember most are the mornings - with the fear and remorse. What a way to spend your youth!


Lou said...

Now I know where your "wisdom" comes from! I'm lovin' your escapades.

♥Shann♥ said...

wow! we are such interesting people!

wendy said...

"I couldn't get the concept of getting all dressed up to drink"

you are telling the story of my late adolescence and college.

thanks. have a great weekend.

Mary LA said...

Yes, I remember those mornings, that scared shaky feeling -- and not all the clothes or lovers or academic achievements or glamorous trips could make up for the feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Mary LA

Anonymous said...

It is a shame. The mornings and the fear and remorse. You are so right. I still get sick to my stomach when I see footage of Charles and Diana's wedding. And there it is, time stamped and dated. I will never forget the morning I woke up and that was on TV. Now instead of being totally disgusted with that person that I was, I can understand her, and have some compassion, and be so grateful that I have found another way, a much better way to live! Thanks for sharing this Mary.

Ed G. said...

At that time, I was drinking, well, wherever I was. I was a rising star in my own mind who had those same mornings of doubt, confusion and shame you describe.

Thanx for writing this.

Blessings and aloha...

Pam said...

Yes to the old bars. I was an ice house drinker, with juke boxes playing Hank Williams and cornmeal on the wooden floor to make the dancing easy. I never needed money to drink in those places, it always flowed.
I'm diggin' your escapes too!!!!

Scott W said...

I was sitting in the lobby of a dorm at Murray State University, we were stoned out of our minds watching Mickey Mouse Club. I was clicking my Bic lighter and listening to the gas when someone started beating the side of my head. I had caught my afro on fire and not known it!

Madison said...

Most girls won't fall for the light your hair on fire pick up line. I am really enjoying reading about these years, with a little sadness for the loss. Since all this helped you to become who you are today, I don't feel bad smiling while I read.

Anonymous said...

The euphoria found in AA is a million times better then any drink or drug.

Just Another Sober Guy said...

I can totally relate to the 'not knowing' what would happen once alcohol was consumed. Those were some crazy days for me early on and some truly sick days near the end.