No Words Needed – Grapevine Article February 2022 by Larry K.

I’m told that my grandfather was an alcoholic. The disease appears to have skipped a generation, as my father, an only child, did not drink. But alcoholism found me.

Today, having just passed 20 years of sobriety in AA, I have had some time to think about the issue of alcoholism and my family. Three of my five children were in the home during my crisis years of drinking. For a long time I had been a quiet, solitary drinker at home. Then tragedy struck. My wife of 25 years, Mari, was diagnosed with melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer, and was told she had 90 days to live. 

Fear gripped all our hearts, and as a family we dealt with it in different ways. I coped by diving into the bottle with abandon. If I could just get far enough away from the problem, I thought, it would not hurt as much. Mari stretched 90 days into three years filled with dramatic ups and downs as the disease took its toll on her body. In my mind and body, alcohol quietly replaced the God of my understanding. I became more and more withdrawn. My time was increasingly spent chasing the false “peace” that alcohol provided.  

My reclusive behavior touched my children in negative ways. My middle son developed a deep resentment toward me that has lasted to this day. His brother seemed unfazed by the situation. My youngest son, James, was most dramatically affected.

As my alcoholism progressed, I didn’t have the wherewithal to see the damage alcohol was wreaking in my life, let alone comprehend what was happening in my sons’ lives. Being caught up in self-centered, selfish grief, my behavior was sending the message to my sons that their dad was disengaged, and indeed I was. Truth be told, I wanted out. I was at a point where I could not live with alcohol, and I could not live without it. I quietly wondered how much of the drink I would need to pour down my throat so that I’d not wake up the next morning.

I had done things and hurt others and myself to such an extent that the only “cure” was to die or get well. I was dead emotionally, morally and spiritually. I no longer recognized the man in the mirror. A year after Mari’s passing, I reached my bottom and entered AA.

With the help of my friends in AA and with God, my sanity was restored and I started on the road to recovery. I made amends to my sons, some of which were well-received and some not. But the deeper problems caused in my sons’ lives were yet to surface.

After graduating from high school, James went to trade school and took a job nearby. During that time, he racked up two DUIs and was jailed twice as a result of his drinking. In his anger toward me, he would not call me for help. He called on friends to post bail. His anger was playing out in his actions and in his drinking. He was following a path that I had blazed. I knew this would not turn out well if he continued to drink.

After moving 600 miles away, James continued to have trouble with drinking and the law. Then he moved closer to home, but left a bench warrant for his arrest in another state.  One night he was stopped for speeding and the state trooper saw the warrant and arrested him. His bail was set at $10,000. It was all the money I could scrape together, but I did it and bailed him out. Since James was not legally able to drive, I got his truck out of the pound and drove him to his home. 

I think he expected all hell to break loose on that ride, but I held my peace. My sponsor and I had talked about how best to handle the situation before I left. As we drove home, I knew what James was experiencing, that moment when God is speaking to the heart of the alcoholic and he stands at the crossroads between death and life. In retrospect, it’s amazing how different I’ve learned to act as a result of working the AA Steps. 

James broke the silence by saying, “Dad, this is not me.” 

“I know,” I said and let it drop. The rest of the trip was in silence, a time of introspection both for James and for me. I prayed the Serenity Prayer with hope and with deep conviction. I prayed that God would do for James what he had done for me in AA. 

When we got to his home, I asked James if he would like to join me at an AA meeting. He said he would pass so I went alone—again without reprimand—praying that God would touch his heart. 

Halfway through that meeting James entered the room and sat in the circle. He asked if he could speak and the group consented. He introduced himself and then openly stated that he thought he might be alcoholic. The group shifted focus to a First Step meeting on the spot, and there began James’s sober journey.

Now, seven years after that first meeting, James and I enjoy a special bond. We share something that was given to us by AA and is God-centered. There is a peace in our relationship that’s deep and abiding.  A peace that only God could create.

James is now a father of a little boy and a little girl. His sobriety is intact and, truly, he’s a much better father than I ever was. For that I’m so grateful.

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