These words (or their approximation) are among the last I would have ever expected myself to utter. But there I was. Sitting in my first AA meeting. My head swimming and my guts churning; the old familiar sensation of my body demanding a spicy bloody marry. Or 4. But it was not to be. No, an hour before my mind had been made, and I'm not the sort of man to fuck around. So now let us time travel as best we can to around 12 hours into the past, and examine the chain of events leading up to my sitting in a room full of strangers with the most unfamiliar of sensations...a tear welling up in my left eye.
I was invited out to a bar by my soon to be business partner. Of course only a drink or maybe two. There was alot to do the next day, and getting ripped was not on the agenda, only a light social engagement with some friends.
As the rum flowed things began to take their predictably unpredictable turn for the catastrophic. At some point towards the end of the evening the world began getting fuzzy...then it just went away. As it so often does.
I can't tell you with any exact detail the events of that night, only what I was able to piece together from text messages I received from people so pissed off they wouldn't even speak to me directly.
I came to in the cabin of a tuna boat. I was naked. Still drunk. And as I staggered around looking for my shorts, at a total loss as to how I got there. The last thing I remembered clearly was ordering another round at the Dead Animal Bar. I could manage to dredge up a few blurry snap shots from the recesses of my mind: the meat rack of a strip club with a hideous looking meth head rolling around naked on the stage, hearing someone yelling about a phone, chugging a mysterious gin and tonic that tasted like shit. None of it had any context, and I couldn't find my phone.
I discovered my partner to be's truck in the drive way of the house the tuna boat was docked at. But no partner to be seen. Inside was my phone containing a whole slough of angry text messages. They were confusing and I was still too drunk to make any sense of them. I stumbled back to the boat and sat on the transom to assimilate exactly what was going on. The sun was blinding me as I scanned the bulk of the messages. It wasn't good. Apparently my exploits the night before included but were by no means limited to: getting kicked out of a strip club for being too friendly with a dancer, being involved with a stolen cell phone (which still makes no sense to me), stealing my partner's truck and running it up and down the overseas highway in a blacked out stupor, and having the police called on me no less than 3 times. One of which by my would be partner and another by the friend I was crashing with.
Just like that, in the wake of a respectively typical night out, I had destroyed absolutely everything I had going for me here. I had no place to stay, no partner to go into business with, no friends, no resources, and the truly fucked up thing about it all? I couldn't even understand why...it was, after all, just another night.
And this is when I had my moment of clarity. "Holy shit. This is rock bottom..."
Indeed it was. And I hit it so hard I didn't even bounce.
On the front porch I found my 2 small leather bags which held my earthly belongings and started walking. I was still drunk and not sure where I was going, but I knew one thing for sure: My drinking days were over, this was the end of my rope.
The sun was blazing overhead, and my body was screaming at me to replace the booze it was sweating out in the heat, when I came to the public library. I walked in and pulled out my laptop to look up the local AA hall, praying it wasn't too far. The website had a phone number listed in the head line, so I dialed it and walked outside to smoke while I asked a stranger how to go about not drinking. While it rang I looked up and sure as shit there it was, right across the parking lot. I could have put a rock through it's window from the library steps.
I grabbed my stuff and sat outside until the next meeting started.
I didn't know what to say, so I didn't say much of anything. I just sat and listened. And after the meeting was over I sat outside and waited for the next one. And then the next one. I felt like shit, and in the bathroom mirror I saw nothing but a death mask of myself. After the last meeting of the day it occurred to me that I would need a place to sleep, and luckily right behind the meeting hall was an abandoned house. I tried every door to find them locked. The place was buttoned up tight. In the back yard I found and old shed. The door was open and inside I found it to be filthy with rat feces every where and the back wall rotten to the point of half of it missing entirely.
I spend the next week going through the DT's on the floor of that abandoned shed. Alone, without so much as a blanket for comfort. Tortured with horrifying hallucinations,the few hours a night I could manage to sleep were filled with twisted nightmares, chasing the rats out with screams and pounding my fists on the plywood floor, feeling the ants crawling on my arms that didn't exist. I made 3 meetings a day without fail. They were my anchor. Without them I was lost. I could no longer see any future with or without drinking, my only redemption was within those walls with the strangers who had been where I was and had seen what I was seeing.
On my 11th day of sobriety a senior member of AA discovered me in the shed and called the police. After a moment he cancelled the call but informed me that if I were caught there again I would be going to jail. And so I slept outside. With concrete for a mattress and a dirty shirt for a pillow, I was robbed of the only shelter I could find. I still made 3 meetings a day.
After 2 weeks in the program I was able to buy an old truck, to serve as transportation and shelter until I could improve my means ever further. After 2 nights of sleeping in the parking lot of the public library next to the meeting hall, a sheriff was kind enough to inform me if I was seen sleeping in my truck or using the library's internet after hours I would go to jail. And so every night I would park in seemingly unpatrolled lots and neighborhoods for a few hours at a time, then get up and park somewhere else. Constantly on the dodge in my truck I couldn't afford to register, trying to sleep without going to jail. I still made 3 meetings a day.
At the time of this writing I have 25 days clean and sober. I'm still averaging 3 meetings a day, though I am busier getting my shit together now, so I can't make them all.
Today I bought a sail boat. She is 27 feet long with an 8 1/2 foot beam and a twin keel. She needs alot of work, but I'm just the man for the job. As she is moored a few hundred yards off shore I have also acquired a 10 foot zodiac with a 2 horse motor to shuttle back and forth to land when ever I need to, and fish when ever I am hungry or the mood strikes me.
As things stand I am reinventing myself. Learning how to live all over again. And learning also who my real friends are. I waited until I had a full week sober to tell anyone what was happening, and the responses of overwhelming support have left me baffled. From offers of monetary assistance to shelter to advise to simply telling me they are proud. It's nearly more than I can write about.
My plans are to gain a toe hold in the commercial fishing industry here (stick to what you know, right?), and explore the salvage diving on my own. I still have no money, and how I will be able to make the repairs to my sail boat or begin salvage diving remains to be seen. But one thing I have learned in this last month is without the drunken fog clouding my mind and body, I have no limits. One day at a time I will put my shit together. And it will be a magnificent achievement.
Am I done traveling you might ask? My answer would be a resounding NO. With my sobriety in it's infancy, for now I must focus on other things, but soon...soon I will return to the Road. With a clear head and even stronger back, with far more to look forward to than the next stretch of highway ahead of me. For now I heal and I build.