I took my last drink 32 years ago. Hard to believe I’ve reached that many years of continuous sobriety.
If you’d asked me the day before I stopped drinking whether I had an alcohol problem, I would have said No. Mainly because I didn’t think I did. What I had was an alcohol solution. When I took a drink, I was no longer the bespectacled kid who scored in the 99th percentile on a bunch of national tests. Instead, I became the cool guy with the long hair and the rebel attitude.
Alcohol solved so many adolescent problems for me: I could dance (badly), make people laugh, and I even became something of a Casanova. No way did I ever see it as a problem, and almost no one called me out on my habit.
But I say almost, because there was one person I vaguely recollect saying something at a party. The conversation went something like this:
Non-drunk person: “Boy, you really like to drink, don’t you?”
Me: “I’m a writer. Writers drink.”
And with that, I took another one.
I had writer heroes: Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway.
There were musical heroes, too: Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin. Yeah, I was that guy.
Once I sobered up that icy Connecticut day in February, 1989, I still had no idea there was a problem. As soon as I stopped, though, I sure found out. Detoxing at home without medication was no fun. Afterwards, I felt like I couldn’t function at all.
I’d just finished grad school, yet couldn’t read a full paragraph without losing my sense of what the words meant.
Everywhere I went, I felt like someone had stripped off all of my skin and a chill wind was blowing on my exposed nerve ends.
Learning to live without my “solution” was like learning to live without your dominant hand…like the main character I ultimately created in Brothers’ Hand, my first novel.
“And The Years Went Rolling By…”
So what does all this have to do with my most recent book, Whizzers?
A few people have asked me some personal questions relating to my own work, and I’m afraid my answers have often been vague at best. “There are autobiographical elements to certain characters here and there, but it’s really fiction.” That kind of thing.
It’s always hard for any of us to see ourselves objectively, but there’s a connection, for sure. If Brothers’ Hand was metaphorical, Whizzers is much closer to autobiographical.
When I launched the novel in 2019, I had no idea it would hit #9 on an Amazon Hot List. Today I celebrate 32 years of sobriety, but my own story is far from over: I’ve got a lot of work left to do and more stories to tell.
The fictional version of me in Whizzers gets to go back in time to bring comfort to others, mainly other alcoholics and addicts. It’s still fiction, though. In reality, I can only hope the book helps someone—even if only as entertainment, a respite from their own reality.
I’m not someone who’s reached the level of fame where I think I have an audience for a memoir or autobiography. But if my life in recovery has taught me anything, it’s that my primary purpose here is to help others, one way or another. And in some ways, that’s what Whizzers is all about.
For that, I am truly grateful.