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A Gas Truck Through Hell

Thumper, Saudi Arabia

My name is Thumper. I am an alcoholic.

My purpose today is to share my experience: how it was, what happened, and how it is now.
The goal is that my story will give you some strength, some hope, along with an occasional smile.
Let me start with a brief bio.
I am an American expatriate currently working in Saudi Arabia for over two years. I have been working in the training and development field since getting started while spending 20 years in the military.
I have been married to a very tolerant wife for over 38 years; have three fantastic grown daughters, and a fabulous group of 9 grandchildren.
So, how it was and what happened. Lets begin there.
I had my first taste of alcohol at about 7 years old. I would sneak tastes of beer and whiskey when my parents were engrossed in TV or out of the room. I would get a little tipsy. They thought it was… “cute”.
By 10, I was waiting for them to go to sleep so I could sneak out of my room, grab a beer and fill a coffee cup with whiskey. I would go back into my room, sip, shudder, repeat until the room would spin.
I was in 7th grade when I made a batch of homemade wine in my closet. I was still drunk when I got to school, cussed out the band teacher and puked all over the school’s Vice Principal. Mom was not happy.
I will spare you my teenage years going to high school in the 70’s. After all, this talk is supposed to be about alcohol. Needless to say, I discovered my drug of choice was, “more”.
I got my nickname, “Thumper” when “Bambi” was re-released in 1975. I couldn’t keep my leg still while sitting in class; you guess the reason. A teacher called me that once and it stuck. Pounding down beer and thumping on sports jocks didn’t help. He’s tattooed on my body now.
I joined the military right out of high school and became a seasoned professional alcoholic in no time.
As an aircraft mechanic working with nuclear weapons during the week, it was expected that you were either at, or were hosting, a total blackout weekend.
I tried to control my drinking at keggers by keeping track of how many times I filled my 32-ounce mug by putting a mark on it with a grease pencil. Refilling it at the halfway point didn’t count.
I married my high school sweetheart a year into my service. Her saying, “I do” has become my biggest guilt. If you decide to take a trip through hell driving a gas truck, don’t pick up hitchhikers.
I left active duty after 10 years with no alcohol related incidents and went into the reserves so I could finish my degree. By this time, my girls were approaching 11, 12 and 13.
After my degree was finished, I picked right up where I left off and was running and gunning all over again, this time at high speed.
My wife was not going to have it this time. If I couldn’t control myself, she was going to do it for me. You can guess what that led to. She put me on a short leash. I chewed through it.
She figured if she controlled the money, I couldn’t drink. I did anyway. I funded my compulsion by going into work at night and stealing money out of the coffee fund cans. Powerless. Unmanageable.
At the end of her rope, it was treatment or else. The child support alone would kill me, not to mention her half of my retirement. A 28-day vacation paid for by the company. I can do that.
I went to the designated treatment center for the intake the day after polishing off what vodka I had left in the house. Easy peasy; they would ask me a bunch of questions, give me a couple of days to get it together and I would check in.
Not quite.
We showed up. They called me back, my wife got up, and they said, “Just him. Please wait here.”
I went in, they asked me a bunch of questions about my drinking history, I spun it way down, and she said, “I’m done, are you?” “I guess so.” I said. “When do I come back and check in?”
“As long as it takes to kiss your wife good-bye.”
I have nothing against inpatient treatment centers. For some it works. For me, it did not. Maybe it was because the insurance stopped paying after 15 days and we couldn’t or wouldn’t pay it out of pocket for me to finish.
Maybe it was because one of my group members decided to jump off a one-story deck to go get some beer, breaking both legs.
Or maybe, it was because I was not, in fact, “done” yet. At least I had been introduced to AA, and walked out with a Big Book.
Fast-forward 10 years. Three DUIs, two outpatient gigs, cuffed, stuffed and jailed even more. Months strung together with meetings and sponsors only to relapse again. My daughter fired me for drinking on the job. The only job I could get. We lost our house. Something had to change. Everything had to change. And it did.
We moved. I got sober. I stayed sober. No meetings, no sponsor, no program. I proved I could do it.
I needed a real job with real money. I got a call from a recruiter. She asked me if I was still interested in a job I had applied for months ago and forgot about. I said yes. She asked if I could be in Texas in three days. I said yes. Interview, offer extended, offer accepted.
I was feeling a little sketchy by now. Kinda wanting to have another run. Saudi Arabia is just what I need now. Alcohol is illegal; this will be an easy long stretch coupled with the 9 months I had already. The lack of availability will do the trick. Being alone won’t hurt either.
I checked in at the ticket counter. They gave me business class tickets. Told me where the lounge was. What the heck, I was hungry and had never been in an airline lounge before. Surely they had food ………
It took me no longer than 6 minutes to convince myself that all this free booze was a sign. I needed, no I deserved, one last go at it before I hit the land of sand.
I managed to keep it together, pace yourself I said, it’s been awhile. I got up to the boarding gate and got in the business class line when they called me up to the desk. Crap, busted. Had I drank that much?
“We would like to offer you a seat in First Class if that’s ok.” I knew what First Class was all about. “Absolutely.” It was another confirmation of the previous “sign”.
I missed my flight out of Germany. Passed out in the First Class lounge. I had to contact my new employer, make up some excuse. I was going to be late for my 1st day. There was the real sign.
By some miracle, I made it.
I was picked up by my new group leader at the airport. We drove about an hour to my company furnished house. On the trip in, he said I had the next two days off to turn around from the jet lag. We would drop my stuff off and go to his place to relax a bit.
As soon as I got in and sat down, he offered me some homemade beer and a glass of the locally made hard stuff, 200 percent grain alcohol. This is not what I was expecting. We talked. I took one home for the road, stumbled into bed and crashed.
What you need to know is that companies have expatriate camps that are separated, fenced off from the “outside”. It’s the same for some US military bases. Alcohol is illegal, but tolerated inside the camps. Historically, it is what keeps us here.
My disease had progressed without drinking alcohol for 9 months. I was as sick as I would have been had I never stopped. I kept at it for about 3 months, and then my life became unmanageable, again. I was kicked out of the “boys club”, was even cut off by the local supplier.
I quit again. I put another 27 months together, one day at a time, without help. Finding friends of Bill W. to meet or fellowship with in Saudi Arabia is next to impossible. It’s just not done. Too risky.
Same story. Different airport. Another relapse happened on the way back after Christmas.
What it’s like now.
In a word, FANTASTIC. I owe this partially to finding e-AA online. It has become my AA Lifeline. If you are here by invitation and have decided you want what we have, click the “Get Help Now” link. It’s monitored by our Trusted Servants 24/7. We will gladly help you dance “the Road of Happy Destiny.
I have a meeting almost every day that I can attend in my time zone. I have a support system backed by great people. I have an absolute super mall filled with tools to get and keep me sober.
I came into e-AA with my sober hair on fire. I was in as many chat room meetings as I could be in. I added myself to all the lists, bugged the Trusted Servants for service work. Almost burned the house down. “Easy Does It” they said. Good advice. Breathe…..
I begged for a sponsor. They just didn’t pick one at random. They paid attention to my story, my needs, and contacted a man that might fit. He reached out to me, we shared our history, and it is a perfect fit.
Let me close with this.
Believing I was in control almost got me dead. Believing in a power greater than myself has brought me life.
It has been said our alcoholism is a double-edged sword, an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind. If you were allergic to pollen, what would possibly cause you to willingly keep walking into a flower shop and smelling the roses? By definition, insanity.
Only a spiritual surgeon can remove the obsession tumor. Going to the AA gym and working out with a trainer can help you recover from that operation.
“If you can't see a Higher Power yet, at least remember he's not in your mirror.” There are lots of sayings reminding us that we are not in charge of our recovery (and life), and this is yet another.
I must turn my life and will over to the care of a Higher Power. This "turning over" is consistent with anyone's philosophy, spiritual or not. It just means that you are going to commit to follow suggestions that work to keep you sober.
We cannot continue to run the show. By running the show, we got ourselves in trouble. By running the show, we became under the control of alcohol.
My ego is the problem when I start playing the role of a Higher Power. Part of me being and staying sober is curbing that ego.
Remember, you are not in charge. Follow (G)ood (O)rderly (D)irection.


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