Well, I’ve been sober 36 years today. 36 years. Like yesterday, I remember wakin’ up on the drunk tank floor of some Orange County, CA. town, lookin’ up just in time to see a sheriff’s deputy lookin’ down at me.
He said, “I’m the cop who arrested you. Yeah, I pulled round the corner and there you were w/ your forehead square on the barrel of the home owner’s shotgun…..I was tempted to keep on drivin’ and not come back till the trigger was pulled because, just like a rabid dog, death’s the only cure….Then I thought about the guy w/ the gun. I thought, ‘Do i really want to add to his suffering?’……..So I stopped and did my job.”
Yeah, he did his job. Saved my life and saved the home owner a couple of shells. A good night’s work for any officer of the law. I mean, he could’ve just finished his shift, filed his paperwork and bid me, “So long, piece of shit.” He didn’t have to make a tank stop just to tell me the ugly truth about myself. He was a cop for Christ’s sake not a goddamn, bleedin’ heart social worker. He might’ve just been doin’ his job that night but, that mornin’, he went above and beyond.
That image of me as rabid dog troubled my mind till my uncle posted bail, through my three days of tremors and sweats, and the image still haunted as I stood before the judge. However, as soon as he started reading my charges, “Public Intoxication, Creating a Public Disturbance w/ Violence, Assault/Battery, Resisting Arrest w/ Violence…” I went from rabid dog to cornered animal and started lookin’ hard for a route of escape.
Before the judge could ask me to enter a plea, I was comin’ up w/ an excuse. “I’d have to say I’m guilty your honor. But, it’s not what it looks like….” And I started tellin’ him what I had told many judges in other Southern California counties (this was 1977 and, though most police stations had computers, the network between counties was almost non-existant). I told him, “Yeah, I had way too much to drink. I was at my cousin’s goin’ overseas party and I got carried away. It’s a one time thing and it…”
“Sir,” the judge interrupted holding up what looked to be a print out of several pages. “Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider what you’re about to say…before you say it? Before I tell you what Riverside has to say about you?”
I reconsidered and said, “Guilty, your honor.”
Then he went through this spiel about how I was an alcoholic and not a criminal but, since mandatory and voluntary attendance at AA meetings, out-patient counseling had not seemed to work (his honor sure knew a lot about me and my drinkin’ problem), he sentenced me to “no less than 3 months, no longer than a year” incarceration at the local (my name for it) treatment prison.
Well, all I heard was a year and I was goin’ to be given only 24 hours to report so I had to think fast, I had to do something. So I said, “My dad is very sick in Florida and I have to go see him before he dies.”
“You have a plane ticket?”
“A bus ticket (I must’ve bought one while blacked out) and it’s marked ‘no refund.'”
“Let’s see it.” I handed it to the bailiff and he handed it to the judge. After thorough inspection, the judge handed ticket back to bailiff who handed it back to me.
“You got 2 weeks to take care of your business w/ your dad and report to rehab.”
“If you don’t report, a bench warrant will be issued and we will bring you back. Do you understand?”
“We will find you and bring you back.”
I signed some papers promising to report for treatment, someone said my uncle’s bail money would be returned to him and I walked out of the courthouse a free man.
The next morning I was on the bus to Florida. My dad, The Old Man, wasn’t dyin’. He was sober, accordin’ to my brother, sober and goin’ to A.A. The son of a bitch wasn’t dyin’, I just wished he was. Wished it so hard I convinced the judge to give me time to get out of town, hide and never come back.
And I didn’t go back. But, since I wasn’t any good at living life on the lam, I humbled myself and asked that bastard, The Old Man for help. He made a phone call. And, eventually, I turned myself in and was admitted to a “treatment prison” in Florida.
I’ve been sober ever since. But, lately, I have to tell ya, I’ve been as itchy and wantin’ to run as I was on that September day in 1977 in court, standin’ before the judge. And, because I am restless, irritable and discontent despite my gratitude and love for the countless folks who have helped me, I am goin’ to have to dig deep into my spiritual, emotional, mental and material/physical life and turn what’s wrong (and something’s wrong) over to the solution.