IDRC Class (07-30-04)
(Thoughts While Waiting)

by John A. Tuttle (07-30-04)

The events leading up to my arrest for DUI on Nov 24, 2003 tell a poignant tale of what can happen when alcohol is the primary focus of ones life. Having been an alcoholic since the early 70's, the dividing line between drunkenness and sobriety had become so blurred by late November, 2003 that I truly didn't know what it meant to be sober. Like the thousands of days before it, the 24th started out with a drink, and by the early afternoon I needed a nap. Upon awakening, I attended to some business, aided by strong black coffee and a bowl of instant mush. By early evening, when my girlfriend arrived, I had decided to take her to dinner. Knowing I wasn't fit to drive, I gave her the keys and we went to the Olive Garden, where we enjoyed what would be my last meal with alcohol. Halfway home, she stopped at a WaWa to get some cigarettes, and, for reasons that were later clear to me, I elected to get behind the wheel even though I knew I was too drunk to drive. A few minutes later I lost control of the car on a wet road and wrapped the vehicle around a tree.

Amazingly*, we were only slightly injured, but I understood at that moment that life would never really be the same again. After waking up the next morning, I realized I had a serious decision to make: to drink or not to drink. It wasn't an easy choice. So, although I felt undeserving, I prayed for guidance. The answer to my prayer was swift and stern. I was told in no uncertain terms that I had been given my last chance, and that should I choose to ignore it, I was on my own for the rest of what would surely be my miserable life. As I wept by the side of my bed and promised to stop drinking forever, I began to feel a fear I had never known. A fear of heading in a direction from which there was no turning back. Unsure of how to proceed or what to do next, I prayed some more, and again the answer came back as quickly as the question was asked. "Git rid of every drop of alcohol in the house." Over the next hour or so, I searched the house and one by one I opened and emptied every bottle and can of alcohol. With tears in my eyes, I watched as hundreds of dollars worth of booze flowed down the drain. The smell of alcohol permeated the kitchen and the temptation to have just one last drink played on my mind. However, I had made a promise and been given an ultimatum, and the fear that I would be on my own forever, should I break my promise, kept me from falling prey to the temptation.

Since that fateful day, much has changed in my life. To say that it is 'better' doesn't begin to scratch the surface. To say I feel like a new man sounds old and trite because to me it goes much deeper than that. The reality is that I've come to understand that I actually had no life of my own prior to Nov. 24th, 2003. My life belonged to alcohol and I was merely along for the bumpy ride. Shortly after sobering up, I started to establish some personal goals. The first was to get to the next possible AA meeting in the hopes of staying sober. The second was to start trying to figure out who I really was and what I would do with the rest of my life. The third was to get out of debt and pay off my mortgage as soon as possible. The fourth was to attempt to mend some of the many bridges (repair the relationships) I had broken over the past three decades.

Just over eight months have passed since I had my last drink, and life looks brighter than I ever imagined possible. My business has grown by 54%, all of my debts are paid, and in less than ten years the mortgage will be paid in full. Though I no longer attend AA meetings, I continue to follow the basic rules of the twelve-step program. I have rediscovered my love for composing music and writing poetry, and I now share my gifts with the rest of the World via the Internet. Basically speaking, the direction of my life is shown to me everyday by the Lord, and I do not question where He leads me. As might be evident from this brief exposť, I have started writing about my life in the hope that someone else will benefit from hearing about my experiences with alcohol.

Much about my life is missing from this exposť, and in time the full truth will be known. Over the past ten years, all of my 'everyday' friends have died or been killed, and it's clear to me now that all of their deaths can be attributed in one way or another to their chosen lifestyle. For precisely that reason, I made the conscious choice to change once and for all*. I truly believe that I've been given one last chance and I am taking it wholeheartedly.

Naturally, I could easily blame all of my misfortune on events over which I had no control. As a child of alcoholic and drug addicted parents, an alcoholic grandfather who tried unsuccessfully to hide his serious problem from 'us children', and numerous other relatives who obviously enjoyed drinking at every family gathering, I accepted alcohol as a normal part of living at a very early age. By the age of eleven, I was stealing nips here and there, smoking cigarettes, which was also considered acceptable, and getting into trouble with the law for various misdeeds. As a Viet Nam veteran, I can directly correlate the beginning of my 'everyday' drinking problem to the 3-1/4 years I spent in and out of that country. Also, being a part of an unpopular war didn't help, and by the time I was twenty I was well on my way to becoming a full-blown alcoholic. However, at that time, no one seemed to care too much about how much a person drank as long as they were able to do their job. And the notion that drinking and driving was a potentially deadly combination had yet to become fully recognized and accepted by society. Frankly, my problem at that time had more to do with speeding than driving under the influence, even though it was the booze that reduced my sense of reason to the point that I didn't care about speeding.

All-in-all, I'm fairly amazed that I'm still alive. I've lost count of the close calls I've had in the past 35 years. My feeling today is that every experience has had a specific purpose and that each one was a lesson of some sort. My purpose over the coming months and years is to examine each of those experiences and write about what I should have realized or learned.

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This web page was put up on the Internet on March 10, 2004. I am John A. Tuttle, a recovering alcoholic/drug addict. I have been clean and sober since November 24, 2003, the day after I crashed my pretty white 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis into a tree at about 70 mph. Had it not been for the Grace of God, my passenger and I would have been killed instantly. It is my sincere hope that these true stories will help other people avoid the horrors I have experienced as a result of drugs and alcohol.

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