My name is Malcolm and I am an alcoholic.
I have always considered myself an excellent driver, given that my grandfather owned a driving school and from the age of sixteen I had full access to the driving school cars whenever I wanted. I was apprenticed as a motor mechanic and it wasn’t long before I had taken over the maintenance and repair of his fleet of cars, so virtually unlimited access and petrol were quid pro quo for the work I did on his fleet.
Fortunately, poppa was a good driving instructor, also I have a healthy sense of self preservation and could vividly picture being hurt or killed in a wreck. This coupled with the fact that if I got caught driving without a license my joy riding days would be over, the upshot was that I was a good, careful driver who didn’t break the law and obeyed the rules of the road.
I also learned heavy drinking as an apprentice but never really had the money to indulge in more than a couple of bottles of beer or wine over a weekend, however in hindsight I realise that I always drank differently from other people. In the first place I had to drink until it was all finished and I had to connive at getting the lions share. Kind of like splitting a bottle with your friend and agreeing to have the bottom half but insisting on drinking first. The objective of my drinking was not to enjoy, but to get as hammered as possible in the prevailing time and alcohol stock permitting.
Fast forward five years, I have qualified as a motor mechanic, I have received a National Technical Certificate in auto-mechanics with cum laude in maths and science, I am married with a 5 month old baby, been promoted to service advisor at a local car manufacturer, and bluffed my way onto a technician trainee program, with my employer paying for the full ride at our local Technikon. In retrospect I had everything a young man could possibly want, after all, I was a student on a campus full of younger people, parties, study groups and other social activities, I had a company sponsored car, a reasonable salary. What more could I possibly want? And of course, I drank. A lot.
After I scraped through my first year of studies I attended a year end party with all my college friends and proceeded to get totally wasted, to the point where my friends suggested I may want to go home. Anyway, I got into the company’s car and proceeded to drive home. In my fuddled state, as it turns out, I lost my bearings and was driving the wrong way up a one-way street.
The motorbike cop who stopped me was not impressed when I drunkenly toppled out of the car and in a loud voice proceeded to instruct him on my rights and question him on his authority to stop me, “didn’t he realise that I was a very important person”. I remember at some point wanting to hit him in the face but couldn’t because he hadn’t taken off his crash helmet. I only remember snatches of the rest of the evening, I know I was thrown in the back of a police van protesting vociferously at their right to drive my company car. They drove my car home and told my wife that I had been arrested.
I remember being taken to the district surgeon for blood tests where I was, to say the least, uncooperative, when told to walk the line on the floor, I sat on the floor. When told to touch the point of my nose with my index finger, I scratched my arse with my index finger. When they tried to take blood, I was so difficult that I was left with a bruise on the inside of my arm, stretching from my shoulder nearly to my wrist.
After that we arrived at the charge office where I was charged with drunken driving, but my resistance was not yet crushed. The on duty police were sleepy as it was already well after midnight and the traffic officer was concentrating on completing the charge sheet, so I walked out of the charge office, out of the police station and off down the street, when the traffic cop finally caught up with me he told me he would like to F… me up, at which point I had the bright idea that if he beat me up I could play the victim and be exonerated. I was locked up in a cell for a couple of hours and when they came to fetch me at daybreak my wife and baby girl were in the charge office to bail me out. I was hungover and deeply ashamed.
I appeared in court, paid a stiff fine and had my driver’s license revoked for a year, I was so self-righteous that I didn’t drive my lease car while my license was revoked, preferring to hitch lifts to Technikon like a bohemian. Had I learned from my experience and acknowledged that my actions and moral behaviour were deficient in the extreme, I may have saved myself years of self-made difficulties. As it was I tried to minimise the damage and shame caused to my family and glorify my behaviour in my arrest and incarceration, many were the beers I was bought for my story.
Fast forward again another fourteen years, I now have two children, I have bought and lost two homes and live in a rented flat, I have no savings and am debt ridden, I am overweight, regularly suffer black-outs during which I insist on driving, putting my family’s lives and others at stake, I have the most horrific hangovers vomiting pure bile and can often not go to work, or go reeking of alcohol. In short, a wreck. I am in a highly paid managerial post, the latest in a line of high paying jobs which I left just short of getting into trouble for my behaviour. I have wrecked three cars and lied my way out of trouble each time, I have been arrested paralytic drunk at a local hotel when I couldn’t find my wife’s car and tried to report it stolen. I am a souse who is one step short of becoming incontinent in public. And then I approached AA.
Travel forward to the present, I am now nearly sixty-five and have just celebrated my twenty fifth year of sobriety, I have avoided alcohol in all its forms and never knowingly had it in food or even medicine ever since. I have been blessed with an illustrious career and travelled internationally for business, been involved in exciting projects and gained a wealth of interesting knowledge. I have never wrecked another car and recently sold my home in an upmarket residential suburb.
I was shown a lifestyle in AA which allows me to display dignity, respect and forgiveness in the face of adversity, I was shown to display courage and strength to change myself where my morals or motives were lacking, and wisdom in judging my behaviour and motives.
During my time in AA I heard a person share that he had blacked out from a work party, drove home killing a mother of two on a pedestrian crossing, he had apparently ignored the traffic signal giving her the right of way. He only started remembering from when he was being arrested for vehicular manslaughter, he had killed someone, and he couldn’t remember how, or even that he was driving. His life was completely ruined, he lost everything, and I remember that he said the only people who didn’t judge him were his friends in AA. It was only then that I fully understood the heartbreak and tragedy I had escaped in consequence for my behaviour and to realise the full magnificence of the alcohol-free lifestyle I was given at no cost.
Do I have regrets? Sure! I could maybe have had a better career, but my single biggest regret is not finding my way into Alcoholics Anonymous when I was twenty instead of when I was forty.
My advice to you, if you have had any motorcar related issues involving alcohol, consider yourself at risk of a miserable life where you could lose much of what you hold dear, and find your way to an AA meeting. If it’s not for you, no harm no foul, you’ve got nothing to lose but at least you will know where to come if, and when you’re ready.
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