From tape found in Mel and Mac’s things
Gary Friend AA 3-15-97
If you wonder why I’m doing this, I have three grown children in Missouri that want to hear their dad’s story. And (unknown) called and asked if I would tape this as they only have one AA meeting there a week and he is going to be there two or three months. I won’t tape anybody else, ill tape me and let it go at that. Other person telling Gary not to bang his fingers into the podium or they won’t be able to hear him.
My story is not a whole lot different than a whole lotta people, but my story is the way I had to live it. And when I am doing my story I am not speaking for anyone else in this room and not saying anybody else in this room did what I needed to do to get sober the way I did.
They tell me that when I was about two years old that I was very ill, and my mother was giving me hot toddies. And she asked an uncle of mine one day to go into town and get a pint of whiskey so she could fix me a hot toddie. And uncle Orin told her that he didn’t think I had the croup, he thought I was a damn drunk. I do remember at 10 years of age, I had an older half brother home on leave from the navy and he had a little girl that was six years younger than I am and he was giving Jennifer drinks out of his beer can. And I decided that since Jennifer could have those and she was younger than me that I should have that too. It took me about two hours of bugging my mother for her to agree to let me have some of that. And she told me before she gave it to me that I would not like the taste because it tastes just like it smelled and that was like rotten eggs. And I had to tell mom that I thought she was wrong. That it tasted good to me. And her immediate reaction was oh my god no I’ve got another Shorty on my hands. That was her brother that died of alcoholism. I didn’t drink again until I was about 14 or 15. My mother died about three weeks after I turned 14. And somewhere between 14 and 15 I found a source. And I had very few days from 15 to 30 that you could have checked my blood and I wouldn’t have failed the blood test for alcohol content. I managed, by the time I was 17, to have drank my way out of a scholastic scholarship to college after I dropped out of high school and entered the army. One of the reasons I went in the army was some of the older boys from home had been to fort latterwroth (?) and they told me on base I could buy all the beer I wanted I didn’t have to be 21. And the army gave me the option to go on a career or Germany and I chose Germany. In September of 1960 I hit Germany and I had found heaven on earth. Because they didn’t ask me whether I was 21 or not all the wanted to know was did I have the money and was I tall enough to put it up on the bar. By the time I was 19 I’d done one hitch and reenlisted for another and when they (unknown) much I’d drank my way out of that and was discharged on an undesirable discharge. At 20 I was in L. A. because all the hillbilly’s in Missouri knew the pot of gold was in L. A. in a period of about 21 months there I was sentenced to 16 months, six, four, and another six months for public intoxication. And after my third sentence this judge suggested I attend an AA meeting, this was 1963. Might have been the spring of 64. And I attended at the union gospel mission in downtown Los Angeles. And I said well I’d go check it out. And I did. And I’ve heard many times here when I walked in there was a bunch of old men with white beards bald heads toothless they’d lost families, jobs, careers, and I hadn’t lost any of that and besides they were old. You know I knew they had one foot on the banana peel and the other on the grave and I didn’t belong there. Now that I look back at it I wasn’t old enough to have lost all the things they had lost. You know I’d never been married, I’d never owned a new car, I’d never had a high paying job so how the hell could I have lost it? You know? But at that time I wanted to go on and drink. And I did that so… I finally got married in November of 64 and I did 2 years of the hardest time I’ve ever done in my life because I’d go to bars and I didn’t drink. In that two years time I got one of those really good jobs made route sales supervisor falls (?) area st. Louis Missouri. I had about 1800 accounts and I was 23 years old. By the time I was 28 that was gone. And by the time I was 29 my first wife and four children were gone. And I can remember at the time Dee and I were splitting up I was talking to a friend of my by the name of Max not more than two or three weeks before that on a Friday night we were sitting in one of these roadhouses in southern Missouri just soppin up suds. And he said something to me about Dee and the kid’s and I said look if it wasn’t for her and them damn kid’s I wouldn’t have to be here drinkin anyhow man they make me nervous that’s why I have to get out of there and come down here and drink. It wasn’t more than two weeks after we split I was back in the same place with Max again. I’m sittin there and I’ve got tears runnin down my cheeks and drunk on my butt and he says what’s the matter with you? And I said you know that darn woman left me and took my kid’s away from me and that’s the reason why I gotta be here tonight drinkin. I didn’t know consciously that I was an alcoholic until I was 31 years old. 30 years old – 73 whatever. And I had drifted off down into Florida and I had picked fruit and I had saved some money and when fruit season ended I went on a drunk a real drunk. I came to at a bar in Jacksonville Florida with a shot of wine and a glass of beer in front of me and I didn’t recognize the guy that was lookin back at me in the mirror. I had no Idea who he was. My hair was probably down to my shoulders. I weighed about 105 pounds. And was scared for the first time in my life. And I asked this nice bartender to please call detox. And he said no no I am not gonna call detox for you. Cuz you’re the kinda guy that will go for three days get to feeling better and be back in here bugging me again. If you wanna go to detox here are the directions walk your butt over there. I walked to detox, they didn’t let me stay three days they kept me six. And during that time they were looking for places for me to go and in Jacksonville at that time they had a very good halfway house program going they had several halfway houses. To be in these halfway houses you had to become a cloId you couldn’t just sit there and draw a welfare check or draw food stamps you had to go out and get a job and pay your rent and buy your food. I opted for the Salvation Army men’s center because I didn’t think I was capable of going out and working yet. I was that physically and mentally exhausted. They talk about the incomprehensible immortalization I don’t know if that’s what it was or whether it was incomprehensively physically depleted whatever it was I was whipped. I went to the Salvation Army and there was a lady there by the name of Melanie. And they told me that I had to see this person because she was the personal director. And that she would do an interview with me. And I said that’s cool. And we got about 5 minutes into this interview and she said I can’t stand you. And I said uh excuse me? She said I mean you stink so bad I can’t stand you. I said lady I’ve taken a shower six days in a row. She said when did you change clothes the last time? And I couldn’t remember when the last time was I’d changed clothes. She said get your butt upstairs, take a shower, change clothes then come back and talk to me. Well they agreed to take me into their program and they put me to answering telephones which was a bad mistake for her. We had a brigadier there that was a practical joker from the get go. All I can remember of him is in profile he made me think of Alfred Hitchcock every time I saw him. A wonderful man. I heard Melanie one day, and when she would time me she had to have her back turned to my desk. And I had this little black horse, little black plastic horse, bout that big, and I decided it would be fun if I could run over and drop this thing over her shoulder onto the typewriter keys and watch it trot across the typewriter keys. Well she immediately threw all the papers on her desk all over the office. And by the time she got her composure back I was back at my desk on the telephone being a good little boy. Rick just happened to be coming across the main entrance which was about the size of this room and she jumped all over poor rick about if you want these reports on time you’ve got to quit playing your silly games, I’m telling you trickster I’ve had enough of your stuff. I’m sitting there eating this up; I done got away with this slick you know? The other person working the phones finally says you know rick I really shouldn’t help you out, as much stuff as you’ve pulled on me but he didn’t do it this time Gary did. And then I got my lecture. And I don’t know where this woman lost her mind at but somehow over the next few months she got insane enough to marry me. And within thirty days of us being married I decided it would be fun to drink again. I’d been sober for seven or eight months and I came up these stairs about like these steps right out here where we were living at walked in the door and told her that my name wasn’t Gary that my name was tom and that she would damn well call me that and if she didn’t like it she damn well knew what to do about it and when I said jump she would jump and I wanted to know how many hoops she could jump through and how quick. And I made a trip down the stairs. Much to her surprise I landed on my feet at the bottom of the stairs. And I came back up the stairs again and I went back down the stairs again and I landed on my feet. The third trip down I didn’t land on my feet. And when I woke up the next morning I wanted to know which bar I got in the fight in. Cuz it felt like somebody had tap-danced all over my back, I was so damn sore I couldn’t hardly wiggle. She’s the one that tap-danced on my back. And for some reason she managed to put up with this for a little over 6 years. Me going in and out. I finally managed to get about four years of consecutive sobriety. And we had these friends their names was Shirley and Joe Castner and Shirley and Joe woke up on thanksgiving day Joe walked in and told Shirley he was moving out he was going back to California. And New Year’s Eve we went over to their place for a party, and I decided that one little beer wouldn’t hurt me. I could have one beer since it was New Years Eve. And I didn’t sober up again till sometime in 81. That was New Years Eve of 1980. One of the things that happened to us during our Jacksonville days was they were really pushing antabuse down there. So I agreed to go on antabuse. And Melanie thought that they had found a magical thing for me because that way I couldn’t get angry about something or upset about something and just go down and drink. I had to wait for this antabuse to get out of my system. Well they were wrong. I found out I could go chug a lug a beer first thing in the morning and go heave for about ten minutes then I could go ahead and drink the rest of the day. Antabuse never did do what it was supposed to. So I drank right on top of the antabuse for I can’t tell you how long I drank on antabuse. I came out here; I left Jacksonville, in March of 1980. And I got here in November because I was busy working and drinking my way across the country. Got out here and went to the salvation army and when I was there, I was there four or five months, I didn’t drink, I wasn’t sober but I didn’t drink, and I was over here one weekend and this gal that I’d become acquainted with made me mad and me and the valley terror had our first meeting. And I continued to drink then till probably November of 81 – no I got out of treatment in November of 81 – about July of 81. When they sent me to treatment in 81 I wanted to go out to king county treatment center out in maple valley Washington. And detox told me I couldn’t go out there. I had to go to what’s called extended care unit. Extended care unit was set up to be a warehouse. To get into extended care unit you had to have been in at least five prior treatment centers. You had to have been in detox at least three times in the past thirty days. You were supposed to be at least forty years old but I was thirty eight. They took me, and I had to commit for a minimum of 120 days and they could extend me at their discretion. There were people there that had been there two and three years. That’s where I first got to meet the true wet brains at. While I was there, my sole intention when I went into that treatment center, was to get my 120 days, get out of that treatment center, get my first welfare check, grab me two half gallons of wine, a pound of bologna and a loaf of bread and grab a freight train southbound. But there was this bunch of people that kept coming out there bugging me. They came from serenity hall in Renton. I mean these jokers didn’t let me have a minute’s peace. And I had a counselor, damn him, he stayed on my back. He looked worse that a man trying to make a bronk buck the way he rode me. I even went to the director of the treatment center and said look man you either gotta get Bruce off my case or I’m outta here. Well you go on outta here; we’ll just have the police pick you up. You can go out of king county ain't no problem. So I decided that maybe Bruce wasn’t such a bad guy after all. About 60 days into that 120 the guy that had been chairing the in house meeting was being discharged. And that’s where I learned about the AA railway. I went down to the normal meeting on Saturday night and I thought everything was real cool and they were gonna nominate a new chairperson. I said well that’s cool man I wonder who that’s gonna be? And some dummy said Gary F. And some dummy said ill second that and everybody said aye. So I spent the last 60 days in treatment chairing that meeting. Not only did they do that, they jerked my butt outta that treatment center. They give me a pass they took me to EDI in Burien. Miracle hall over in Fremont in Seattle, down to serenity hall, and they had me co-chair meetings in all these places. By the time I got outta there I wasn’t thinking about two damn gallons of wine anymore, I don’t know what these jokers done to me but they sure screwed my thinking up. I was about 5 years and two months sober – sober about 4 years of it. And I moved to Renton, from Renton to north Seattle, and I didn’t, and by this time I had got another real good job that I had worked for six months – physical distribution manager, for a company in Kirkland. And I decided I didn’t have enough time in my busy work schedule and my busy family schedule to schedule an AA meeting. Now what I always had the time for in my busy work schedules and my busy family schedules was time to schedule the bar. I never had any problems figuring out how to get to the bar. So I quit going to meetings and I was due to go down and meet my third wife we’d been married about 6 or 7 years at the iron horse café right across from the Kingdome we used to go there before the mariners game. And I decided yeah I can have a couple of beers before I go to the game man if you go to the baseball game you’re supposed to drink. That was in august or September of 86. Maybe later than that, what I do know is from that episode of drinking, on the 21st day of December 1987 and the only reason why I remember that date is because I got the paperwork from Harborview hospital, is I walked into the public’s tavern in the international district of Seattle at six o’clock in the morning. They had a bartender there called babe, in fact she even had a bracelet that said babe on it, about 60 years old, an absolute delight, and I asked for a double vodka on the rocks which was my normal 6 o’clock in the morning wake up. And she told me she wasn’t gonna serve me. She said you’re sick. And I said look man we all know I’m sick, give me my damn double vodka and I won’t be sick anymore ok? She says no Gary I mean you are ill. I am I’m real ill that’s why I need my double vodka so quit giving me a hard time and just give me my drink. We argued back and forth like this for a bout twenty minutes and she finally drug this mirror out of her purse and she said take a look in this mirror what do you see? I see the handsomest guy that ever walked through the international district what the devil do you think I see? She says no dummy pay attention to the color of the skin. And I go what is your problem today? She says man you look like an oversize lemon from head to toe. I said that’s no big deal man, it will be ok, just give me my double vodka ill leave peacefully. She said no no I’m not, you go your butt up to Harborview hospital to the emergency room and if you get to come back here today, I’ll buy your drinks all day long. Well that sounded like a real good deal to me cuz I knew I’d be back here and it was gonna cost her a whole bunch of money because she was giving me such a hard time. Well I got outta Harborview six weeks later. And I was about three and a half months in a rest home. They came to me on Christmas Eve and wanted all my families’ phone numbers. And I asked this dr what he needed my families’ phone numbers for I was 44 years old I was a big boy I could handle this thing myself. And he says because we don’t think you’re gonna see New Years Eve. We do not expect you to leave this hospital alive. I said I see. I said I’ll tell you what, don’t get in any hurry to call the grave digger and the undertaker cuz I ain’t goin nowhere cuz we haven’t even started to fight yet. And he says but you don’t realize how i'll you are. I said you don’t realize how damn stubborn I am either do you? And he said Gary I’m telling you with what you have done to your body you can’t survive. And I says well maybe I can’t but it will be after the fight. And there were many times over the next three or four months when I began to think he was right. That I wasn’t going to survive. I was 56 inches around, when they made it around my belly button I was 56 inches. My ankles measured 15 inches in diameter. I couldn’t even keep ice cream down the first three or four weeks I was in there. And I couldn’t get rid of the toxins. Asides they called it, backed up because of the liver not functioning. My bellyribbon (?) count was 26 point 4not point 264 26 point 4. Normal range is like point 02 to point 04. Today dr (Buck) here runs a panel on me every three months and all my liver functions show completely normal. That’s what it took for me to get here folks. You know I heard a young man in here the other day questioning whether he was an alcoholic because he hadn’t been to skid row and because he’d never slept in a cardboard box. And I had to tell him that not everybody had to go to skid row and not everybody had to sleep in a cardboard box that there skid row might be a mansion with a hundred dollar a yard carpets in it with two rolls Royce’s sittin out there in the driveway – that was their cardboard box and their gutter when they reached their bottom it didn’t really make any difference. You guys have been there are more alcoholic than I am. I said no no no no there is no degrees to this that I can see folks you either are or you aren’t it doesn’t make any difference. Some of us drank a little longer than others. Some of us drank a little heavier than others. But that doesn’t determine wither you are an alcoholic or not. What determines whether you are an alcoholic or not is whether you can stop after the first drink or not and the effect it had on you when you were intoxicated. That’s what determines whether you are an alcoholic or not. I can’t walk up to anyone in this room and tell them they are an alcoholic. They gotta make that decision. Whatever it takes for them to make that decision. What I am thrilled of is in the 24 years that I have been coming in and out of this program I’ve seen the bottom come up way up and I’ve seen the age come way down for entry. It thrills me no end to see some of these people haven’t even turned 21 yet with two and three and four year’s sobriety. And knowing they’re not gonna have to go through this crap and praying to god every day that they can keep their sobriety. You know that’s the other difference, between my other times in this program and now, I would talk about a higher power and I’d work the steps and I’d come to meetings my higher power was either a dollar bill or the next relationship or the next job or the next car during all the times I was in and out of here until December of 87 I never worked the spiritual part of it. Never. Not honestly. Today I don’t have a higher power, I have God. Its real simple to me. I heard a man from Sequim say it the other day he said my higher power is not an abstract, it’s not a doorknob, and it’s not a windowpane, its God. And that’s just the way I feel about it I don’t mean everybody else has to have that concept, nobody else has to have that concept, that’s what works for this alcoholic. It keeps me sober and that’s all I care about. You know I care about other people going out of here, I’d love to see the guys I go out to see at the jail every Tuesday night, and I’d love to see every one of 'em here the day they get out of jail. In the four months I’ve been going out there I’ve seen one of them. I’ve seen one of them. I’ll keep going back. They’re out there playing the victim of felony. Never been arrested for a felony and I’ve probably done two and a half three years locked up just on drunk and disorderly conduct, loitering, when they had those kind of laws which they don’t have today.
After that the tape ended and never got flipped over