This weeks HTYH is a continuation of Larry’s story: I can remember to this moment how I felt after I took that first drink of wine. It burned a little and I shivered, got flushed all over, my toes curled up and my stomach felt like I had swallowed an umbrella and it opened up. I knew that wine was doing something for me that had never been done before. I poured some more and before the end of the evening, I exhibited all the classic symptoms of alcoholism–they were already present in my life. Thirty years later when I finally got to Alcoholics Anonymous I learned that men and women drink alcohol because they like the effect produced by alcohol.

In Chapter three of the Big Book it says alcoholics are men and women who have lost their ability to control their drinking. It doesn’t say how you lost it, or when you lost it, it simply says that we lost the ability to control our drinking and we will never again regain the ability to control it, anymore than a person who has lost their arms or legs. That first night, I blacked out, got in trouble and passed out. From the first time I drank it, I didn’t have the ability to control my intake of alcohol. Thirty years later whenever I drank alcohol the same things were still happening. I drank alcohol, blacked out, got into trouble and I passed out.

I was 17 years old when I took my first drink of alcohol, but I’d never heard of Alcoholics Anonymous. I bounced back pretty quick back then and I made a decision that I could drink alcohol if I only drank a certain amount, but thirty years later I was still trying to figure out what that certain amount was? That’s probably the reason I’m in AA today. I had a great college career at Old Miss, but I didn’t learn much because we had a great football team and didn’t have to attend many classes to graduate. In those days we played both offense and defense and we were the best team in the Southwest Conference. In 11 games we scored 327 points and only gave up 21. We went to three bowl games, the Sugar Bowl once and the Gator Bowl twice. I had a lot of good people around me and I made All-American and dated two Miss Americas in the process.

After I graduated from Old Miss in 1960 and my phone started ringing and it was this thing called pro football. The Baltimore Colts called and said they had drafted me, and some NY teams and the new American Football League said the same thing? They all came to Austin, Mississippi and started piling money on the table for a signing bonus. When they got to a thousand dollars, I’d never before seen a thousand dollars in one pile in my entire life. I signed a contract and took off for NY to play pro football. If you’re an alcoholic like me and you don’t like the way they serve alcohol where you’re at, or if it isn’t strong enough, or it isn’t fast enough or they stop serving to soon you should move to NY City. When this country boy left Mississippi and moved to NY City it was a real shock. There’s a bar on every corner and even the restaurants are bars that serve liquor. To qualify as a restaurant in NY City all you need on the menu is Slim Jim’s, crackers and lots of booze.

For the next 13 years, I pursued a career that I could never have dreamed of–I was the starting right line backer for the New York Jets football team for 13 years. We had a great time and there were some funny things that happened. We drank a lot of beer and whiskey when we weren’t playing football, drinking was our second job. I remember one time when we played the Chicago Bears we had a wide receiver from Texas named Don Maynard. Dick Butkus looked across the line at Maynard and said, “Maynard if you come across my end of the line I’ll bite your head off.” Maynard looked back at him and said, “Butkus if you bite my head off you’ll have more brains in your stomach than you have in your head.” 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