G: I’m here with Todd, and we’re talking about his fight with alcoholism. Todd, can you tell us a little bit about the circumstances with respect to your marriage just before you decided to give up alcohol?
T: Well, my wife and I were drinking buddies. We were very close when we were drinking. But my wife decided I drank too much. She could control it more than I. She’d stop, and I drank beer until it was gone. Twelve, fourteen, sixteen—I drank beer until there was no more. She didn’t like that. I would get intoxicated and take it out on the kids and her—kind of a black-out situation; I’d wake up in the morning and they’d be mad at me and I didn’t know why. My daughter was 16 and she wanted my wife to divorce me and my wife was threatening divorce.
G: So when your wife finally left, what effect did that have on your drinking?
T: Just like any alcoholic would say, “Now I can drink like I’ve always wanted to. So I’d get my 30-pack and my Jack Daniels and plop myself down on the couch in front of the TV and drink myself to sleep. I’d nod off and wake up with the beer spilled in my lap. I was just a pathetic mess. All I cared about was drinking. Then my son came to visit. He was twelve. He liked me because I didn’t make him vacuum the floor or do the dishes.
G: Drinking-wise what was it like when your son was living with you?
T: He would say, “Daddy, you want a beer?” He’d see my beer was almost empty and say, “Daddy, you want another beer?” It was just pathetic. Once we were driving someplace and he saw I had one eye shut so I could see where I was going cause I was seeing double and he said, “Daddy, why are you driving with one eye shut?” and I suddenly realized I was endangering not only myself but everybody in the public and I was especially endangering my son.
One morning I woke up and started down to the package store to buy more. I rolled across the railroad tracks and I felt sick. I just felt terrible, and I told myself, “You know, I’m sick. I’m not going to drink today. I’m going to go home and I’m going to spend this day with my son. We’re going to drive someplace and do something and I’m not going to be endangering him when I’m driving. We’re going to go walk around a park or we’re going to do something with the dogs. I’m not going to get drunk.” I turned around and I went home. I went upstairs and I realized I was powerless over alcohol.
G: Well, except on that day you were able to turn it down.
T: That day I was powerless but I realized I needed God in my life. I’d gone to enough AA meetings to know I’d reached my point of no return and the only way I was going to get out of it was I needed God in my life. So I went to my bedroom, and I dropped on my knees and I surrendered myself. I basically started to plead with God, “Take away this obsession from me. Please relieve me of this disease. Give me freedom from this monkey on my back. Forgive me for what I’ve done. Please take this away from me so I can start to live again.” I cried my eyes out for half an hour or better asking for forgiveness, telling God I would repent, and wouldn’t drink another drop if he’d take away the obsession. And now it’s been four years since I’ve had a drink.
G: So what happened the next day?
T: The next day I got up to do the same thing. It was automatic. What, was I crazy? I’m going to go get some more beer and a fifth. Not even thinking about how I fell on my knees the day before. How soon we forget. I went down and got over the railroad tracks. Somehow, someway, the devil on one shoulder, the Holy Spirit on the other, I don’t know, I just said, “I feel sick again; I don’t want to do this again. I want to have as good a day as I had yesterday with my son. Just for today I’m going to go home and have another good day like this.” So I turned around and went home, and I think we went to a couple of movies that day.
G: So that was two days in a row.
T: And then I started to feel like, wow, that’s pretty good, but I woke up and went across those railroad tracks for about five days before I finally didn’t go out in the car and just stayed home. I was a mess. I was driven to go down there but held back by the Spirit and really was torn. Every day I did this I went back to the house and got back down on my knees and asked for the scourge to be lifted, this desire for alcohol to be taken from me. You know, it was lifted from me for that day. I’d feel good, but the next morning I’d wake up and I’d have this urge for it again and I’d have to pray again for the urge to be lifted from me. God was listening because he would lift that urge from me that day, for that few minutes maybe, for that hour. If I felt the urge come back I dropped on my knees and asked him to lift that obsession from me again. For that time frame he would. Sometimes it was for an hour and I’d have to do that again. Sometimes it was for half a day and I’d do that again.
I was taught through AA that you have to. AA is a wonderful thing, but it will only work if you have a Higher Power working with you. The Higher Power and AA are like braiding themselves together to hold you with a rope. I was building my rope. I was building my way back to where I could be sober again. I was suffering, I was really suffering just like any of them.
My son would say, “Daddy, you’re doing really good. You haven’t had a beer in 5 days, Daddy. I like you a lot better this way, Daddy. You don’t fall asleep as much. We can do things together now instead of just stay home.” That was bolstering me. Then he’d say, “Daddy, are you going to go to an AA meeting tonight? You need to go every night.” There were meetings every night downtown that I’d go to except Friday. I’d take Friday night off and spend time with my son. He knew Friday night was the night I’d take off. So he was involved with me and he would come in and see me pray and he’d walk back out. He knew. I said I was “talking to God and asking him for strength, son. You want to come with me and ask God for strength?” He didn’t want to do that, but he’d give me the privacy of doing that.
G: And you didn’t take any drinks during that time.
T: No, I haven’t had a drink for 4 years.
G: That’s a great accomplishment and you can really thank God for the help and strength he’s given you.
T: Every day I kneel on my knees. I thank God for freedom from drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.