10 years ago I was skidding towards bottom in a brownstone apartment, just off Second Avenue on East 78th Street in Manhattan.
There was no job to go to every day. There were no more friends to hang out with. I have zero recollection of that time now, except this:
The quiet time never lasted long. If I'd bothered to look at a clock it would've said 4:30 a.m. The neighborhood bars had closed, the last of the other drunks had wandered off into the early morning, and the garbage trucks and birds hadn't started yet.
That time was my time of the day. The only time my mind got any respite from it's own insanity.
It would last all of 15 minutes. That's when the birds would start. I never knew what they were so happy about. Didn't they know that winter was coming? Then the "bang/clang/crash" of New York City's Waste Management trucks would start. They didn't even pretend to be quiet. They were up, dammit, and the rest of us could like it or lump it.
I might've drifted into another blackout around 5:30 or so, and come out of the liquor induced coma again, just in time to join Katie, Matt, Anne and Al for breakfast (another swig of scotch).
I can't begin to describe it now, but try to imagine Hell. That's where I was. In Hell. All of my own creation.
Sober people have a saying to the effect that "religion is for people who are afraid of going to Hell... spirituality is for people who've already been there." I'm pretty spiritual today. But not then. There may have been a God out there, but he sure didn't give a rat's patootie about me.
That poor, pathetic, falling down drunk needed help badly, but would've refused it had it been offered. Things were just "fine" thankyewverymuch. "Fine" by the way is an acronym. It stands for "F*cked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional".
It seems absurd, now, that I was surrounded by sobriety in New York, if I'd only reached out for it. I thought that I was the only hopeless drunk in town and that no one had ever felt like I felt.
Of course I would never have agreed to even look for others like me. Not then. I hadn't lost enough yet (ring any bells? I mentioned this in my piece on King George yesterday). No, I still had some more to lose. More money, more sanity (not that there was much left) and what few friends I had left in my life. So I did!
Yes, there was a miracle. I woke up in a jail cell on a Sunday morning in Hightstown, New Jersey, on March 8, 1998. How I got from that apartment to that jail cell is a topic for another day, but suffice it to say, it worked. I'd been nailed on a drunk-driving charge the night before and when the enormity of that offense hit me, I knew the "party was over."
I found what I was looking for two days later, when I walked into a 12-Step meeting and realized that the "Mother Ship" had returned to Earth to pick me up. But I wasn't particularly happy about it. In fact, I was pretty miserable for a couple of years.
But, slowly, I changed. My outlook changed. My feelings changed. How I felt about all the awful things in my past that I used to drink over changed, too.
Today I am one of those most annoying of all God's creatures, a Shiny Happy Person, especially first thing in the morning. Little Ronnie Sunshine. (Although, if you value your life, don't ever call me "Ronnie" to my face).
I've learned lots of things in sobriety, one of which is, that happiness is an inside job, but it also is quite contagious. Remember that old saw, "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"? Well, that works both ways.
When Ronnie's happy, seems like Everbody's happy!
And just for today, I am extremely happy.