Actually, it was 31. I just thought I would begin with a little Beatles magic.
On a Friday night, 31 years ago, April 15, 1983, I drank two 16 ounce cans of Ballantine Ale in the kitchen of my younger sister’s apartment just before midnight. The next day, a windy, cool Massachusetts Saturday in April, I ran 28 times around the track at Stoneham High School, there all by myself, and after the 14th time around a heard someone say, “I’m an alcoholic”. That someone was me, the only person there.
Almost exactly 24 hours earlier I had been sitting in a staff training at the Drug and Alcohol Resource Program in Stoneham, newly funded by the state and ready to begin serving kids and families with outreach, education, and counseling services. I had been hired to provide outreach to area high schools — I had been hired a couple of months earlier because of my years of experience working with adolescents, certainly not due to any understanding of addiction – and was sitting in on a training by a guy telling us how to effectively work with junior high school aged kids. But that is not how the training went for me. As I sat there listening it felt like every word being said was directed solely to me, every word about only me, it felt like I was the only one in the room. While there were no blinding flashes of light, no visions out of the corner of my eyes of angels hovering up near the ceiling, I guess I can say that it was an “aha” moment for me. A pretty big one.
The rest of that afternoon and night is a blur, I have no recollection of where I was or what I was doing. But I was in my sister’s kitchen drinking the two 16 ounce Ballantines at 11:30. The next day it was my turn to cover the office, but after a couple of hours I locked up and went up to the track and my seven-mile run and my three and a half mile proclamation to myself – “I’m an alcoholic”. That Saturday night I poured the other two Ballantine Ales still in the refrigerator down the drain of my sister’s sink. I was 34 years old, my life’s collections were two trash bags of things in my buddy’s cellar in Medford, I had an old used car, no money in the bank, very few people I was still hanging out with, and I was about to take my first steps down an entirely new path. Two days later, on a Monday night after work, I was on another seven-mile run, this around the Mystic Lake, with my friend Bob, in whose cellar were my life collections. At the end of the run I asked him if he knew how to get to a church in Somerville, because there was one of those meetings there Wednesday night.
Bob loved me as a friend and with a smile on his face he told me how to get there. I went on Wednesday night, and now 31 years have come and gone. I haven’t had to take a drink, or pour one down the sink, in all that time. Not one.
Getting back to The Beatles, I did have a lonely heart then. But not anymore.