HALF OF A SHORT STORY
OF A LONG LIFE
OF A LONG LIFE
My Brevard, N.C., music camp experience was the best summer of my life, 1952. Dear Uncle Al sent me $25 checks, labeled "cig money". Uncle Kenneth flew down there to hear a concert, and had a picture taken with Thor Johnson (and me!). CSO conductor Thor Johnson had scholarshipped me there for eight weeks--and I came home to join (in October) the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. That first year my contract contained a "rider", that if a certain sick (violinist) member would return, I'd have to leave...but he died, and I had the job for nine more years, until I quit under my own drunken duress of fear and paranoia. Heaven forbid! Someone might find out I have another drink after others have "called it a night".
I should never have resigned (summer of 1961), but in hindsight, it was probably for the best. My drinking and insanity had many years earlier progressed to uncontrollable levels, and that strange mystical illness we all know so well--the physical craving teamed up with that mental compulsion, or obsession, along with spiritual aridness.
Anyway, I felt "more comfortable" working in a bar surrounded by all my special pretty and colorfully-labeled friends: Bond and Lillard, Old Ky Tavern, Old GrandDad, Forrester, Overholt Rye, Early times, Echo Springs, Jack Daniels, Smirnoff, etc., etc. I knew them all so well...and loved them all so well. They did for me what even God could not do, since I had not asked Him--made all my troubles and problems vanish, in that magical way.
After a time (thirteen MORE years!), all these beautifully-labeled friends began to turn against me, so that even those few times I *wanted* to stop, I simply could not, no matter how sick I became.
In Naples Florida (c1968), at age 35, I had suffered through a year of phlebitis. I recall taking coumadin pills in the hospital, then--when nurse had left the room--getting out of bed to retrieve my friendly vodka bottle for my morning fix. When the clots began moving in the direction of my heart, a surgeon removed those long-diseased veins from both my legs. At that time, the docs discovered that I had weathered two heart attacks--and had drank myself right through it all.
Five years of total abuse of self yet remained, before I sat in my first recovery group, and slowly blubbered out loud, like the idiot I had become, "What should I do? Please, someone, can you tell me what to do?"
That it was the greatest moment of my life, more certain now I cannot be...that God brought me to that place...and the people there finally brought me back to God. And that's a whole other story. Thank you for reading this, and please pray for me now!