We ended the last segment of Steve C.’s story with: After Vietnam I remember sitting at a hometown bar watching television and seeing anti-war riots, people burning their draft cards and others calling us baby killers.
Something happened to me, it was like this: It was like a bad ball in the pit of my stomach. And, I was constantly consuming a food that made it grow. That ball was made of hatred, anger and rage; the food that made it grow was alcohol and drugs! I soon learned to shove all my feelings deep inside where that cancer lived and then acted as if, it wasn’t there.
At first, alcohol and drugs seemed to anesthetize those raw emotions, but the more I tried to numb them, the bigger that ball got and the more alcohol and dope it took to find relief. My orders finally came and I was assigned to Ft. Carson, Colorado. Although that geographical change helped me escape the restless, irritable and discontent feelings being caused by civilians, I took my anger, rage, self-pity and festering emotions with me to Ft. Carson.
After I arrived there I clearly remember standing in formation waiting for an inspection of our barracks and uniforms. The sergeant of our platoon was an old World War II lifer who took great pleasure in telling Vietnam guys, “Just because you’ve been to Vietnam, doesn’t matter shit to me because it’s my job to make sure you stay miserable.”
Not long after that I went AWOL and spent many nights in downtown Colorado Springs drinking, carousing and looking for women. Colorado Springs was a GI town and not much fun, but eventually a friend clued me in about another town, Pueblo Colorado. That friend and I started making nightly trips to Pueblo and that’s where my alcohol and drug abuse really started to flourish. I met my wife at one of those nightclubs, she was of Spanish decent and most of her family was against us seeing each other. But, I persisted, and at that time, she didn’t understand the extent of my alcohol addiction. That is, until the bar fights started breaking out and I was usually the cause of them. Bar Brawls seemed a perfect way to vent my pent-up rage, frustration and anger, at something or somebody, but they were only part of my delusional thinking. I was going AWOL frequently and frequently found myself in the stockade (jail); on one occasion I went AWOL the same day they let me out.
I married Louise, my current and only wife, just after being released from the Ft. Carson stockade. It took about another year before the U.S. Army decided I was of no further use to them and they gave me an “undesirable discharge.” I found myself living in a strange state, booted out of the Army for alcohol addiction, not wanting anything whatsoever to do with God and married to a devout Catholic who no longer wanted anything to do with drugs or alcohol? I didn’t have any usable talents, education or skills, there was one job at Dana Corporation that taught me some skill, it lasted 6 and a half years, but then my alcoholism caught up with me and I once again bounced from job to job, and took whatever I could get.
My wife was five months pregnant when we married and she refused to go in bars with me. But, that didn’t slow my alcoholism and the more I drank and drugged, the worse our lives got. My oldest daughter was born December 29, 1969, with congenital cataracts and after many surgical procedures, it was determined that she would forever remain legally blind. Memories of Agent Orange surfaced in my mind and I silently wondered if it might’ve had something to do with her birth defects? Guilt, remorse and shame became constant companions. My daughter qualified for Social Security benefits and so I used her benefits to help subsidize my alcoholism.
My daughter had a rough time for quite awhile. After she grew up, married and divorced twice, she finally found Al-Anon, and she has found a new life. There is a glow of serenity and joy on her face today. And I’m not like I was back then either. Through working the 12-Steps of A.A., I’ve finally come to understand that God loves me, and that I don’t need to hate anybody anymore like I did in those days. I’m willing to talk about those bad years, in the hopes that someone out there will read this that is just like I used to be. And you’re not a good guy or a nice guy, and you don’t want to be, but that is perfectly all right. Because if A.A. worked for somebody as angry as I was, it can work for you too.