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My Eyes Opened

Geoffrey T., Illinois

I'm Geoffrey alcoholic

At age 14, unlike a lot of alkies, I still had not had my first drink. Like so many alkies, both of my parents were acute alcoholics and very cruel.

At 14 I was crawling out of a window thinking I was running away from my last beating. After a summer on the lam, I was adopted by a couple in Roswell N.M. They took me in and all I had to do is go to school, stay out of trouble and a few chores now and then No beatings, nothing like that. For the first time I realized what a "normal" family lived like. That was my junior year of high school. My senior year my "adopted father" was transferred to Denver, Colorado and, of course, we all went, too. Another terrific year. I even got to play football.

Toward the end of the year I didn't really know what I was going to do when I got out of school. Due to previous years of poor education I didn't have the GPA for college and didn't really have any skills. One day the Marine Corps recruiter came to my high school - dressed in dress blues. All the girls fell over dead! Right then and there I knew what I wanted to do. I couldn't get to the recruiting office fast enough. I signed up for four years so I could get some schooling out of it. After Basic and Advanced Infantry they sent me to electronics school for two years.

When I graduated my first duty was overseas. Unfortunately, the year was 1968 and there was a war going on. I was sent to an outpost on the very north border of the DMZ that looked right at North Viet Nam to the north and Laos to the East. It was called Khe Sanh. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time because I got there just in time for the Tet offensive of '68. Khe Sanh was the most fought-over outpost of the entire war. It was at this time I was captured. I won't get into the torture, I don't like Rambo war stories. I will say I was one of the very few, of those where I was taken, that managed to escape.

When I got back to the US and was "Fit for duty" they ask me what I wanted to do. I told them "Sir, I want to go home, go to school, marry a pretty girl, and live normal." Two weeks later I was on a plane going home, with strict instructions not to wear my uniform. I will never forget, I had no civilian clothes - so I had to wear my uniform in front of a row of people spitting on me at the airport. I went back to the people who had taken me in, expecting a big welcome. I found that he had run off with another woman and left her alone with three kids. She offered me my old room so I could go to school and I took her up on it.

I went to school days and bartended at night to help ends meet. I then went through a terrific stage of life. I had always wanted to be in sales - I thought it was exciting and challenging. I had several jobs and finally landed in pharmaceutical sales, which was my goal. I got better and better.

Oh . . . I almost forgot, after two years nature took its course and "that woman" and I got married and I had an instant family, We celebrate 38 years together this year. We went on many exotic trips and cruises - all on the company. We bought a hot air balloon and competed with it. We lived the good life (normal life I had always wanted). Then I started getting nightmares. I had no idea where they came from - the war was long behind me. My idea of a cure was to have a "few more" drinks, just before I went to bed. Then it got worse and I would get up in the middle of the night and have a few more. Then it got to be, when my wife fell asleep, I would go down in the basement, where I had my office, and pull out my bottle until just before her alarm went off. This was fairly easy to accomplish because I traveled most of the time anyway. My territory was N. Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Alaska. On the road - No problem.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, then the flashbacks started during the day A flashback is just that, it takes you right back to a certain point, depending on the severity. The difference between that and a nightmare is you can see it, hear it, smell it, taste it. It takes you out of the realm of reality and makes it very dangerous to drive. My answer was more liquor, only this time during the day. In my trunk I would have a bottle of vodka as well as a bottle of Scope mouthwash, which I mixed and drank during the day. It did not take long for me to lose everything. Jobs, balloon, house, absolutely everything.

I went to every shrink in the phone book. They still did not have a name for PTSD -- didn't know what it was at the VA. I was part of an experiment and they gave me ECT (shock) treatment. They strapped me to a gurney for a year, once a week, and fried my brain. After the year they found it did "nothing" for the PTSD, but I lost all my long term memory, and my short term memory, as well. I drank even more. I sat at home cursing God. How could he have done this to me after getting me through pure hell - then allowing me to taste the good life, and now this? There were times when I had a bottle in one hand and a gun in the other, but was too chicken to pull the trigger.

My wife who was in Al-Anon would drag me to AA meetings drunk or sober. One day a gentleman sat beside me and we began talking. I think I was on something and was babbling. He gave me his Big Book and said, "I want you to read something, and I want you to read it every day for two weeks" (I had told him I had no memory). I thought, "Here we go again. Another Big Book thumper trying to 'cure' me. What's he going to do that others have tried?"

He told me to go to the "back" of the book to page 449. "449? Hell, I haven't got through the first 128, what's with 449?" That was the part about acceptance. A bolt of lightning did not come down and strike me but my eyes did open. I did as he said and read it every day and started to understand. He became my sponsor and even though he is in a different state today, he is still my sponsor, via phone "about" every day.

That was eight years ago.

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