Monday, June 21, 2010

A whale of a project

My dad and I have been working on editing his book, Alki, After the Drunkalog, together since 2003. Without me, he'd been working on it on and off for at least 10 years. It's definitely a whale of a tale :)

I just finished a fact-checking stage in the editing process, and as I read the last page before finishing I realized how powerful his story and his words really are. Maybe I'm prejudiced because he's my dad and his story is part of my history, but I know that my dad has a powerful, mostly beneficial, effect on people. I write 'mostly' kind of tongue-in-cheek because my dad, while always coming from a place of kindness and fairness, can be quite honest and blunt with people, and for those who aren't used to being talked to that way, it can be not so nice.

So, in honor of my dad and the perfect timing of Father's Day (which was yesterday, I know), I'd like to share the beginning and the end of "Drunkalog" - the first part of my dad's magnum opus that is his life story.

*Note: I'm changing names, including my dad's, just to protect anonymity. You'll see why.


Thank you, Dave. My name is Butch and I'm an alcoholic. Today is my second anniversary of sobriety in AA. I'd like to tell you what my life was like, what happened, and what it is like now. Please bear with me if I bounce from story to story because my life has been really scattered.
I'll begin by saying that I am a loyal member of the CIA. That is, the Catholic Irish Alcoholics. My mother's father, my mother, and her brother and sister all died from alcoholism. My father sobered up after 31 hospitalizations. Two of my older brothers preceded me into AA. If it wasn't for an intervention by my father and my brother Chris in 1962, I'd be dead now. I sincerely believe God protects fools and drunks because I'm here as living proof. "John Barleycorn," the booze, is an equal-opportunity demon who has no respect for money, education, power, sex, social status, or nationality.
My first drunk was in my mother's belly. She walked around intoxicated for the first six months she was pregnant with me. Our family was living in her parent's home in Boston because she had left my father after I was conceived. Occasionally, her sister or brother would haul her off to a drying-out center outside of Boston called Drop-Kick Murphy's. The story told to me later was that she'd sober up for a couple of days and then dive back into the bottle. Finally she went so far downhill physically and mentally that my uncle Richard, her brother, forcibly put her into the psych ward at the Cardinal O'Connell House of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Brighton Center. When I was born there in September 1939, I had the shakes, little resistance to respiratory illness, and could not tolerate milk. But at least I was sober.


In a way, what has happened to me the last three years is a miracle, but it is a miracle with rough edges. I have learned to love and accept who I am. I have learned to forgive others and myself. I have a spiritual life now and am actually a recovering as well as a practicing Catholic. I have been granted the grace of sobriety today. I have been open to being a vessel of hope for other suffering alkis by carrying the message as Step 12 suggests. The Step meetings have taught me a new way to live that is alcohol free and filled with love and compassion. The meetings have also given me a forum to share my strength and hope with others through talking about what my life was like, what happened, and what it is like now. In my heart of hearts, I will always be grateful to the Blessed Mother and the AA program for saving me from prison, an insane asylum, a broken body, or an early death.
This brings me to the end of my story. All I can say is that I am a grateful 24-year-old alki. I don't know what will happen next in my life, but I do know that this program has given me the spiritual and mental tools to stay on my feet no matter what life challenges me with so that I don't have to drink. If anything I've said is helpful to you, please use it and to hell with the rest. To "Nick Romano" I say, "I want to live slow, die old, and still have a good-looking corpse."
Stay sober today and keep coming back. AA works. Thank you for letting me share my story with you.

And there we have it, readers. I'm happy to be a part of this project with my dad. He's one interesting, amazing person whose story packs quite a punch. Happy Father's Day, Dad. Now let's finish this thing :)

*Note: Nick Romano is the main character from the book Knock On Any Door by Willard Motley. He was one of my dad's heroes when he was younger. His other heroes included John Wayne and his older brother "Chris," who taught him some tricks to get booze, skip school and win in a fight. Romano's famous line is: "Live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse."