During the recent Talkington Foundation dinner social event – held at the Civic in Neosho – “Jim,” a person in the audience who is in Alcoholics Anonymous and has been for some time, opted to talk to the Neosho Daily News about his journey from alcoholism to being sober.
Can you tell the readers the story of your addiction?
I started drinking about 17 and like everyone, I did it to play. But addiction is rampant in my family and within a very short period of time, I was addicted and drank for the next 20 years, seriously. I was in the military, got a lot of trouble in the military, got out, had good jobs, lost them because of the addiction. I had moved, got divorced, lost custody of my kids, just a lot of negative consequences and I never attributed to alcohol because I was raised in it. I saw it, it was familiar, and nobody said you shouldn’t do that, because everybody was doing what I was doing. It actually took me moving away, I was born and raised in California and it actually took me moving away and getting into a totally different environment to where I was able to realize that I had an issue and get some help.
You have some family members that you have not seen in years, correct?
I have not met my grandchildren. I have a grandchild 21 years old that I have never met. I have three daughters who don’t have anything to do with me because of my addictions. I wasn’t violent with them, I just wasn’t a father, I wasn’t available to them, and I was always drunk.
How many years have you been sober?
Thirty years. I got sober in July 1982.
How hard was it and was it a leap of faith to say, “that is it, I am tired of drinking?” What actually kind of turned you around?
I have had a couple of heart attacks because of drugs and alcohol, I survived them and really I got to the point where it just didn’t work anymore. I could drink and I didn’t get the relief that I was looking for. I drank that way for years, probably four or five years and finally I accepted that this is not going to work, I am going to die and I need to try something different.
You have been through AA and actually you still go to AA, right?
Why do you still go to AA if you have been sober for so many years?
Page 2 of 2 - It is something that I learned real early on is that there was somebody there when I went and I want to be there when somebody else comes in. It is a “pass it on” type thing that somebody was there to listen to me and I want to be there if somebody needs listened to.
You have been sober for 30 years. How hard is it to go into a grocery store or benefit event that serves alcohol or a convenience store and see liquor out?
It is a state of mind. I am done. It is not like I crave it or I think about it or “oh I wish that I could.” No, I drank more than my share. I don’t crave it. As a matter of fact, I used to shop in a grocery store, and I followed my routine, my wife and I would go into shop, we always got our vegetables, fruit and so on and so forth, then we would move on, and I never paid any attention. We shopped there for three years before I noticed that at the end of the fruit table, there was a 40-foot section of beer and I never noticed it. I don’t have any cravings or urges or anything like that.