Health & Exercise


This week’s HTYH is a continuation of Larry’s story:

I was in jail and every inmate in there was full of advice and I was not an exception. I told them the things they needed to do to straighten out their lives but it never crossed my mind that I was in jail too. I could see their lives were a mess, but I failed to see my own life was a mess. Everybody in there claimed to be innocent and we couldn’t figure out why society locked up so many innocent people? I saw a group of inmates in the corner and I was immediately attracted to them because they had cigarettes and I didn’t. I decided to bum a smoke and join the conversation by telling them how dumb the Memphis cops were for locking up an ex-NFL linebacker and Super Bowl champion. I got a lot of legal advice in jail and it seemed almost everybody in there was a jailhouse lawyer. Some of them said they were going to leave town when they got out because the Memphis cops were getting too tough on people who drink alcohol. I asked them where they were going and they said Little Rock, Arkansas. I asked them how they were going to get there and they said they would hitchhike. I asked them how long that would take and they said a week to 10 days.

I went back to the bench that I slept on the night before and I don’t know what happened but my life was shown to me—it was like watching a VCR movie. I saw myself as a child and saw everything that had happened since then. I saw my college days and how I had misused my education. I saw my football career and all of the opportunities I missed because of King Alcohol. For the first time I saw the truth, that there was a connection between alcohol and my problems. I then knew that alcohol was at the root of all my problems. The Big Book calls that a moment of truth, but I knew I would drink alcohol again even though I didn’t want to. Alcohol had me and I couldn’t escape it without help. When we get to the point I did, we must either surrender our will to God or die. When I played for the Jets we began and ended every game with the Lord’s Prayer but the only prayer I said was God let us win this game or when I was in jail I asked God to get me out. Every time I got out of jail, I headed for the nearest gin joint.

After that vision in the jailhouse I began to pray. I could not bargain with God any longer, I had to surrender, surrender to win—what a concept. Until that moment I never knew that I was a real alcoholic and I began to pray, I said, “God please help me.”

I got a bail bondsman like everybody else and got out of jail. I went home and admitted to my wife that I had a drinking problem. She wasn’t going to Alanon then but today, she’s a black belt Alanon.

She told me there were people all over town who would help me, but she couldn’t. The AA program of action began in 1935 when one drunk talked to another and so it is today our message is carried from one drunk to another. All that we have to do is to get and stay sober and become willing to do a few simple daily actions, read The Big Book, get a sponsor, go to meetings and help other people. I have come to believe that we were given fee-will and we can use it anyway we want, but if it is not in harmony with God’s plan for us we will remain restless, irritable and discontented and we will likely drink again.

I didn’t know what to do, but my wife couldn’t help me because she’s not an alcoholic. Those of us who are alcoholic can carry the message to other alcoholics not by giving them sage advice or sending them to church, but we can help them because we’ve been there and done that. People especially newly sobered alcoholics, judge us by our actions and not our grand intensions. They do what they see us doing and the first thing we must do is to get and stay sober. We don’t lecture or give them advice we simply tell them our story.

One Monday morning I called my wife at work and told her that she must not have heard me because I needed help.  She said, “I already told you once that there are people all over town who will help you, but I can’t. 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