Here’s To Your Health is a continuation of Dennis’ story: I was a third shift prison guard at a psych-ward when the inmates complained and filed a grievance against me for keeping them awake at night. They claimed I was chasing rats and trying to kill things they couldn’t see?
My wife had an uncle named Big Dan who had been a town drunk until he joined A.A., got sober and started working at a university. Although I decided to quit on my own as fate had it, Dan showed up at my door just as I was coming out of another black-out. I said, “Come on in Dan and make yourself at home.” He did, he took off his shoes, laid down on my couch and went to sleep. I went outside to see if my car was wrecked again and when I looked in Dan’s car, I saw a tattered old Big Book on his seat along with some A.A. pamphlets. After I went back in the house I woke up Dan and asked him to tell me about this thing called alcoholism. He talked, without a breath, for two or three hours and then he asked, “If I dial a number will you talk to them? I said, “Big Dan, if you’ll stop talking, I will!”
Dan put me in contact with another black man named James. James was a strange guy, well-groomed, nice haircut, suit, shined tan shoes, red tie and a grey striped shirt; he talked freely about his alcoholism. James asked several questions and, I passed A.A.’s test for chronic alcoholism with flying colors. I wasn’t used to talking to somebody like him, instead of lecturing or preaching about “my” alcoholism, he talked about “his” alcoholism. I was used to talking about other people but not about me. After a short while I wanted out of there, but James said, “Wait a minute, if you’re going to get sober you’ll need to read this book and he gave me a Big Book.”
On my second attempt out the door he said, “Wait a minute.” This time, I thought he wanted money so I reached in my pocket, but he said, “There’s no dues or fees for A.A. membership.” Instead he asked, “Do you think your wife and kids would come in for counseling?” I knew my wife Libra couldn’t wait to get down there and tell them about my drinking. My kids were five and seven at the time and I didn’t want them or Libra down there blabbing about my drinking! I didn’t tell my wife and kids about the counseling because you can’t trust kids to lie at that age and Libra was insane with anger, Lord only knows what she might say about me?
Libra went straight to Alanon and the following Monday night; the fight started. She said, “Dennis, I’m going to Alanon tonight, you watch the kids. You’re their father and it’s time you took a turn watching them.” I smarted off and while she was in her room crying, I got in my car and eased on out the driveway.
The next Monday she mentioned Alanon again. I smarted off, but this time she said not a word, she got in her car and left. I sensed that I was losing control and I knew it when she came home from one of those darned Alanon meetings and said she was going to an Alanon retreat with Connie. I said, “Libra, we can’t afford it.” She said, “Dennis, I’ve been living with you so long that, I can’t afford not to go.” She got back in her car and drove off? A while later she said, “Dennis, I’m going to an Alanon conference at White Oak.” I said, “Libra, we can’t afford it.” She said, “Because of you and your drinking, I can’t afford not to go.” By that time a bankruptcy judge had garnisheed my wages and money was tight, and Libra was blowing it on Alanon conventions. I really resented her for that.
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