This week’s HTYH is a continuation of Dave’s story: I suffered from a hundred forms of fear, fear of being less than others, fear of financial insecurity, fear of what my peers thought, fear of the police, fear of the IRS, fear of my wife’s lawyer, fear that I wouldn’t be invited back, fear of my boss. I’d be in my office and my boss would walk by and I’d asked him, “How are you, Don?” He ignored me so, I asked him again and when he didn’t answer the second time my mind went to work: I’ll bet he didn’t like the report I turned in yesterday.

I heard another alcoholic say that alcoholism is like a pyramid of negative thoughts. I later asked him what he meant and he said that alcoholism is like an upside down pyramid and our brain is at the pinnacle on the bottom. All day long bad thoughts and fear of what might happen fill the top part of the upside down pyramid. My first thought was that my boss didn’t like the report I gave him yesterday. My second thought was that we had a 2:00PM meeting and he was going to fire me. My third thought was the unemployment office would deny my unemployment; my fourth thought was the bank would repossess my house. My fifth thought was that my wife and kids would leave me but if anybody asked, “How are you doing Dave?” I’d reply, “Fine.” By the time I got home at night the pressure and fear was so great that only lots of alcohol and a few Valium could relieve the self-imposed fear and agony and I’d drink and take pills until I urinated on myself—but I was fine.

One morning before I got into the shower, I noticed a pimple on my leg and I scratched at it. After the shower I noticed it had a red circle around it. My mind began to race, “It wasn’t there last night, I’ll be that’s a tumor and my next thought was that it was cancer. The doctors would cut my leg off. I’d have to get a prosthesis my boss would fire me, my wife and kids would leave me, so I hurried to the doctor—I didn’t want him to cut my leg off. The doctor came in looked at the pimple. It was almost gone and he told me that I’d be fine. What a relief, I thought that I was going to lose my leg.

Another time I experienced a pyramid of thoughts, except this time I was in the shower humming a country western tune. My life was going pretty good right then, and the longer I sang the more magnificent my voice sounded and by the time I got out of the shower I was wondering where I could get a tour bus. I was going to form a band and go on tour—I would, of course be the lead singer. I thought that I sounded pretty good and with a little practice I could put together a band, go to Nashville, get an agent, a tour bus and go on tour. Is this what the book of Alcoholics Anonymous meant when it said we alcoholics have a magic magnifying mind?

When I drank my first Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, for the first time ever, I really felt fine. I could talk to the girls, dance and be the life of the party. When I walked in that bar I felt insecure and out of place but after that first beer I was fine—my insecurity was suddenly transformed into confidence. I could tell jokes and people laughed and I didn’t care about that exam that was coming up because I felt fine. I didn’t care what happened in my past I was here. I had arrived and give me another beer. For the next 22 years I chased that good feeling, but the harder I chased it, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find it, and I ended up drunk. I never got back to the wonderful feeling that I experienced after that first beer and the pills stopped working too.

John Barleycorn

The phantom writer of the column "Here's to Your Health". This writer is an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and therefore must maintain anonymity. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer