This is the beginning of Larry’s story: I come from the land of southern hospitality. All I ever wanted from this world was to be accepted and treated like a real person. The old timers in AA promised that if I stuck with this program, I could walk down the street with dignity and look people in the eye, no matter where I lived. I used to live in Arkansas until the day I looked around and realized that everybody was carrying an AK 47 except me. Soon after that, my wife and I moved to Mississippi. There are 82 counties in Mississippi and all that’s required to be a true Mississippian is to get drunk at least once in every county–I qualified.

I came from a small southern town and I didn’t like the way I was raised. We were very poor and I had to wear hand-me-downs. You might say what’s so terrible about that a lot of us wore hand-me-downs, but these hand-me-downs came from three older sisters. I was ashamed of my home, family and my parents. The rest of the family was happy and the only thing that made it dysfunctional was me. We didn’t have indoor plumbing or running water and I was ashamed of everything about my home—especially my parents.

It wasn’t until I came to AA and worked a 4th and 5th step with my sponsor that I began to understand that I came from tremendous dedicated parents who loved and cared for their children. My perception was so wrong for all of those years, and it took years in AA to understand how good my childhood really was, but all I could think about was how to escape it.

I have three older sisters and two younger brothers and we were Southern Baptists. We were so Southern Baptist that we even prayed for the heathen Catholics, but that’s not what made me an alcoholic. I was baptized in a creek behind the church, but nothing changed in my life. I had some good things in life, but in my mind there was never enough, I always wanted more.

My dad only had an eighth grade education, but he was a disciplinarian who had some rules, one of which was that all of his children had to carry at least a “C” average in school. Another rule was that all of his children were going to graduate from high school. I discovered that I had some athletic ability and I decided to use that as my ticket to escape from home. My dad had another rule too and if we wanted to play sports or be in the band or do anything extra we had to be on the honor roll. So, I was on the honor roll all through high school. When I graduated from high school, Mississippi University offered me a scholarship in football and basketball. I signed up for that scholarship knowing that I would still have to work a job to help pay my way through Old Miss-the country club of the south.

Since alcohol was against our religion, we didn’t smoke tobacco or drink alcohol in our home, but when I got to Old Miss, I had a burning desire to know all about alcohol. I believed the person that I wanted to become should know about alcohol. I got with some of the older guys on campus and we drove to Memphis, Arkansas where we could buy liquor. We went into a liquor store and I didn’t know the difference between beers, wine or hard liquor, but my eyes fell upon a bottle of Morgan David wine. We went back to the car and I put some ice in a paper cup and poured that wine over it and drank it. I can remember to this day exactly how that wine made me feel when I drank it. It did something for me that nothing before had ever done and I wanted more. I had arrived.
To be continued…

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