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I Know

I Know

I knew pretty early on that I did not drink like everyone else. I can’t explain exactly what that means - I think that statement either makes total sense to someone or means nothing at all. For me, I just knew alcohol affected me differently than everyone else.


Somewhere between high school and my first attempt at college, I became a drunk. It didn’t happen all at once….it was a slow process….it just kind of became who I was….and who people knew me as….it was the Joel that people liked….I thought.


I was a pretty good drunk, fun to be around….didn’t cause too much trouble. Sure, I made some bad decisions….but could chalk most of them up to “this will be a great story some day”.


In 1990, after a less than average attempt at college, I joined the Army as an artilleryman. I spent the next two years in Germany playing a critical role in helping to end the cold war….and drinking to excess. Once America was safe from nuclear weapons, I took a job as a busboy at Three Dollar Café in Atlanta for a while….the restaurant / bar industry is perfect for folks like me….cash, free drinks, free food….free mornings to sleep off the night before. Since I did not have a car at the time, I dated many of the waitresses and they would drive me to and from work each day. I had accepted that my current employment busing tables was as good as it was going to get….and I was kind of ok with that. I had everything I needed….I had somehow stumbled upon employment utopia for this alcoholic.


At this point, if you knew me….you knew there was a problem. I now felt more comfortable in my own skin when I was drinking than when I wasn’t….the excitement of going to get beer, going to the bar….finding someone who would drink with me….planning the next drink….that became the buzz. My greatest happiness was in that split second right before I took a drink….the actual drinking….never really produced anything great.


With the best intentions, my father decided it was a good idea if I got a job at the company where he had worked for the previous 20 years. As a parent, I now understand wanting to do anything and everything to help your child....but this is actually a perfect example of how the people around the alcoholic tend to get sicker and sicker as the alcoholic’s disease progresses. There was simply no way this wasn’t going to end badly for my father. Only love is that blind.


My father pulled some favors and got me a job as a mail clerk. I worked in a room with about 6 or 7 women....and that’s where I met Carolyn. Carolyn was about 15 years older than me, very proud, very well kept and very funny. We connected almost instantly. I was probably there less than a month when Carolyn approached me and said “I know and whenever you want to talk about it, I’ll be happy to talk about it with you.” Again, everyone around me this did not come as a surprise. Of course, I disregarded her invitation. Over the next few months Carolyn would periodically say, “ I know and when you want to talk about it, I’m here.”


I now believe that people come into your life for various reasons....some stay, some go and some move through very quickly....but if you’re open to it....if you let them....they can impact your life in great ways.


In early 1994, I walked into the office as I did every morning....a little hung over, maybe wearing the same clothes I wore the day before and smelling of cigarettes and the previous night. Again, Carolyn started in with the “I know....” but on this particular morning we began to talk about it. Carolyn asked “do your parents know”....”of course they do” I said. “Do you friends know?” she asked....” of course, they’re doing it with me” I replied. “How long have you known?” she inquired.....”just about all of my life” I said. And then there was a long dramatic pause and she asked one final question....”Well, when do I get to meet him?” Slightly puzzled, I responded, “ come again?” Carolyn rephrased her question....”When do I get to meet your boyfriend?.........still somewhat confused I said “ what....what are you talking about....I’m not gay....I’m an alcoholic”


We both laughed....


....and then this woman that I barely knew, had little in common with and no real relationship with of any kind said the words that would ultimately change the direction of my life. In the simplest words that she knew I could understand, Carolyn said “if you are an alcoholic, stop drinking and get help.” Two distinct and separate actions....stop drinking....and get help.

I have not had a drink since that day....April 19, 1994.


Thank you Carolyn....I love you.


Stay Tuned....or Don't

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