Tuesday was seventeen years.

By fall of ’97 it was ugly. Greased by alcohol, my world had spiraled inexorably downward, shrinking in isolation. My father was gone; my brother didn’t speak to me. My son was at school and of the girls–while Jamie was older/driving/steadfast, The Jersey GIrl’s bear hug on Stacy was making things rough. Alone I was — playing the victim —not yet seeing what I couldn’t yet see. Blaming others for my every wrong turn, little did I know I was actually the luckiest man in the world. I’d hit a bottom; all I had to do was stop digging. Indeed, I had been given the gift of desperation.

The last drink? Seventeen years ago this Monday. Exactly. Which makes October 14 (in recovery parlance) my “sobriety date”. And yes, while we still take things one day at a time, some twenty-four hours remain special. Like October 14. Anniversaries remind me of what was, what lays out there if I take my eye off the ball, and best yet: how grateful I am.

There was a time I’d waken each morning groaning “Oh God, another day.” That was then. These days — and for some time now — I open the same eyes and with the same words exclaim “Oh God, another day!”

6:30 AM Carrie woke me, and as she rewrapped her covers to watch “Morning Joe” I jumped in the shower, downed her brewed coffee then checked online mail. The world awaited.

7:13 A text from Bruce H, whom I met in The Rooms. (He was the one that taught me how honesty without compassion is just brutality).

8:13 I heard from Dan K. A relatively young “old-timer”, he now shares
what he’s learned operating a rehab facility . A few years back
Dan’d spend a week or two per month here. Now he pretty much splits time between his home in West Virginia and his work in D.C. I’m guessing he was in our nation’s capital this week, (as I’m not so
certain The Mountain State has internet yet).

9:34 Alice emailed. Never misses. Residing now somewhere in Florida, her contribution here lives on. For years the “point person” at a local temple, she more than anyone else is responsible for that shul’s opening its doors to multiple meetings per week.

As usual I ‘d hit the office running. There was mail to be read, calls to be made, and oh yes — at the appropriate hour — Aunt Helen to call. Why she wanted to drive to the bank that day I didn’t get. She didn’t want to go shopping, mind you; she just wanted to withdraw money for the NEXT time she goes shopping. (Ah, but I don’t “got to take her” as my sponsor reminds. Rather: I “get to take her”).

“Aunt Helen, I have to be in Chardon at 1. Can we go tomorrow instead?”
(I wasn’t groveling, but I was Eddie Haskelling).
“Please call me on your way back,” she said warmly. “We shall see.”
(Gracious, she was. ‘Must be something about turning 100 that slows one down).

10:15 Frank H! Younger than me (he is), but was there when I showed up, and he’s kept on pedaling. ‘Though we’d met in The Rooms,
our friendship flourished, really, as I studied his gentlemanly manner playing Hold “Em on Sundays. ‘Haven’t seen him much these past years. We’re just running different routes. But he remembered… somehow… and reached out.

Burnside phoned as I drove out east. Frankly, it’s amazing we bonded. Politically speaking he makes Fenton look like Wieder… and Pittsburgh bred, he raised his kids Detroit. As such, his blood runs either black and yellow or maize and blue, depending on the day of the weekend. Oh, and no one really thought he’d stay. Seven years he hit, just this month. Smart money was on the “under”.

I called my aunt as I head back west. It rang from Route 44 to Route 306.

“Bruce,” she opened with, “We can go tomorrow.”
“Great, I said. “I will call you middle of the day.”
(There was a pregnant pause).
“One more thing…can you just stop for soup?”

Between the pickup at Issi’s Kosher Restaurant and the drop off at The House On The Rue Bogart, I called my sponsor. A talk was needed… nothing earth-shattering …. needed share. (That’s what we do in the rooms: share). A problem SHARED, they taught me, is a problem cut in half.

Approaching Chez Leimsieder my phone rang once more: Joe K. He whose anniversary date is Halloween. It was Brother Joe that once personally ushered me through the administrative chambers of the major hospital in town. It had demanded serious cash to look at my heart, but he pushed back. Without warning he took a check from his pocket and called their bluff. “Here’s $1,000.00” he said. “That ought to get him an appointment.” (They didn’t take his money, but hesitated, then booked my procedure. It mattered not. I will never forget it). Joe, by the way, has a colorful side. Not only is he more anal retentive than say… my Aunt Helen… but his middle initials are O.C.D.

6:50 PM Nearly twelve hours after he started my day, Brother Bruce rose to greet me at our 7PM Men’s Discussion. (Program guys hug more than Mandels kiss).

8:00 Home again. Home to Carrie and dinner and bed.

We watched NCIS, Olbermann and Pardon The Interruption (all on tape), ultimately falling asleep in sync after Letterman’s monologue …wrapped in the same blanket from whence she’d watch “Morning Joe” the next morning….and together we’d be thinking “OH GOD, ANOTHER DAY!!!”

4 Responses to “AT SEVENTEEN”

  1. Marc says:

    Congrats B Great accomplishment

  2. bob snyder says:

    Proud to call you my friend, great accomplishment

  3. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Ed. Note: The reality is, Brothers Marc and Bob…I had little to do with it. I just listened to the people that told me what to do—
    Like being at the schoolyard back in the day. Someone like Fromin would tell you to “Hold the ball this way…one finger on the seam…and it will curve”. Those of us who did what we were told threw curve balls. No more, no less.

    Or when they said “Listen, schmuck, if you hold the grain on the bat a certain way when you hit the ball the bat will crack…” Some guys still refused to hold the bat the right way.
    —————-But thanks.

  4. Stacy says:

    You make me proud!

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