This week’s HTYH is a continuation of Tim T’s story: I had a bad attitude, that’s what it said on my third grade report card; Timmy doesn’t play well with others. I got arrested a lot; I wasn’t a violent criminal, but rather a stupid criminal. I got arrested for stupid things. I got arrested for things like verbal assault on a police officer. Once in Parma, OH, I was arrested for obscene-finger-language to a police officer. I just got arrested a lot.
I was at an A.A. meeting early in sobriety and a friend named Vic stood up and said, “I’ve been arrested 53 times.” Vic is older than me and his arrests were probably thirty-years before mine, but what he said really hit home. We can hear something 99 times in A.A., and then on the 100th time we finally get it; it’s what we call an “A-Ha,” moment.
When Vic said, “I wasn’t a good criminal I was arrested 53 times!” I picked up on that right away because I probably had been arrested more times than him. The only thing I was good at was getting caught. The time I was charged with verbally assaulting a police officer I represented myself. I figured since I had watched a lot of Perry Mason episodes on TV, I could represent myself. I cross-examined the police officer and gave a great closing argument, I thought, but I was a failure as an attorney too.
In 1975 I stood before a Judge in Cleveland, OH. He sentenced me to 20-40 years in the OH State Penitentiary. I heard my mother crying at the back of the courtroom but I was relieved to be off the street again. My mother believed my sentence didn’t fit the crime but I knew there was nothing that judge could do to me that could hurt me anymore than I had already hurt myself. That judge didn’t realize that he could do nothing to punish me as much as I had already punished myself. I was ready to go anywhere that I thought might perhaps protect me from myself.
In 1976 the laws changed and my sentence was reduced from 20-40 to 1-10 years and three years later they sent me home. When I got home from prison my wife, motorcycle, cheap jewelry and other meager possessions were gone. I did nothing for the next two months but drink alcohol; I crawled inside a bottle of alcohol, blacked out, passed out, and never drew a sober breath. Not once did I crawl into a bottle to escape from other people; I was hiding from me. I knew what I was, an ex-con, a shiftless unemployable ne’er-do-well bum, an ex-son, ex-brother, ex-husband, and a full-time loser. I had totally failed at everything I ever attempted in my whole life. But if I was drunk enough, I didn’t have to look at me.
Finally an acquaintance showed up and said he wouldn’t allow me to go on like that. He said, “You’re out of prison and it’s time to start living again, you’re coming with me.” He almost physically removed me from where I was and took me to the flats in Cleveland. That was before the do-gooder politicians changed them. Back then we went to the flats to get stinking drunk. There were no micro-breweries or flowery tourist traps and we drank shots of Jim Beam with Pabst Blue Ribbon chasers. The floors in those bars at the flats were smelly and wet. We were deep in the bag at a place called Pirates Cove when a girl walked past me. She smiled at me, I smiled right back and she soon became my “second” future ex-wife. Not long after we met, she became what is called the plaintiff; I’m always the defendant. One of my goals is to be the defendant at least once before I die. Let me tell you about my second ex-wife. When she moved in with me she brought with her honesty, purity and unselfishness but when she left, four years later the only thing she took with her was alcoholism and it stripped everything from her that was decent. To be continued…