This is a story that I like, but I have never revised. This is nothing more than an old rough draft that is still in need of much revision. Feedback is welcome — I thought that if I posted my sstory in its rough form, that perhaps I might be inspired to resume my work on it, and give it a good polishing.
Haze of Glory
I saw the sunlight through my eyelids so I knew it was morning. I slept in the alley behind the Piggly Wiggly with my back propped up against the wall. My long hair and mustache were matted with drool and vomit. I looked around my and saw the two empty pints of vodka I drank the night before. I realized I was tightly gripping another and was relieved to find a good corner left to give me a little relief from the shakes. I took the last swig and tossed the bottle. I always hate the overwhelming feeling of guilt I get when I start to sober up a little bit. My ex-wife is driving our daughter down to Florida this weekend where she’s goin to grad school. They shouldn’t have to be makin the trip alone. I pulled a picture of my daughter out of my wallet. In it she’s about six or seven and the way she’s posed she looks like she’s getting ready to report the news.
“This is Nicole Hawkins reporting for Kid News.”
That picture always makes me smile, ya know? But Nicole just graduated from college a couple of weeks ago. She’s a pretty girl with honey blond hair and big brown cow-eyes like mine. My sister Donna used to tell me I had cow-eyes. Nicole is athletic like me too. I played football all through school. Nicole is a figure skater.
“Shit,” I thought. “I gotta get a drink. Damn. It’s Sunday.”
Liquor stores are closed on Sunday in Oklahoma. As usual, I bought a pint to save for Sunday, but I drank it. I felt around in the pockets of my wranglers to see if I had enough money for a six pack of beer. I knew I desperately needed to eat, but I needed a drink a lot worse. Eating was futile anyway. The longer I chewed the bigger food got in my mouth. Swallowing food is next to impossible. And no way could I keep it down. I was so sick that even my eyelashes hurt.
I decided not to waste my change on piss water. Beer didn’t even have enough alcohol to make me mad. I had just enough change for a 64 ounce bottle of Dollar Store listo. I paid the cashier for the mouthwash and went back to my spot and lit a cigarette. I must’ve puked a gallon. My gut convulsed and I heaved uncontrollably—partly from the alcohol poisoning and partly from the thought of drinking the listo. I started gagging wildly from the pit of my stomach all the way up through my esophagus and the puke shot out of my mouth and nose like a polluted water fountain at the thought what I was about to do. Stomach acid burned my nostrils and tears poured from my red, swollen eyes. After a few minutes I composed myself enough to crack open the listo and I swallowed about half the bottle in a single chug. That shit is so god awful I had to swig as much as I could in one gulp just to get it over with. The terrible concoction I just deliberately ingested hit my stomach like a sledge hammer. My stomach started convulsing violently again. My body rejected the listo, but I had to force myself to keep it down. The wretched sensation in my body made me want to shit, puke or die, but I didn’t know which. I had to keep it down. Easiness came over me after several agonizing moments, and I knew relief was at hand. A toxic liquid current flowed through my veins and eased the nagging demon that tortured my soul until I gave my body what it demanded.
I was 45 years old by the time I ended up drinking listo behind the Piggly Wiggly in Tulsa. I tried to stand up, but I just kept falling back down, so finally just gave up and lay there face down, taking up six feet and four inches of alley space from my size 12 hiking boots to my Dallas Cowboy cap that waited beside me like a loyal friend to go back on my head. In a stupor I had visions and thoughts of my life.
I heard my sister Donna’s best friend Laurie calling me. I was fourteen years old and in the ninth grade during the fall of 1976. Donna and Laurie pulled Donna’s 69 Cougar up beside me as I walked down Melrose Lane in Oklahoma City. I was coming home from football practice. “Hey Bubba! Hop in! Let’s go for a ride!.” Donna said. She opened her door and pulled her seat forward and motioned for me to get in the backseat. Laurie was rolling a joint. Jethro Tull’s Locomotive Breath was blasting over the speakers. Donna was two years older than me and I thought she was so cool. She was tall and pretty with long blond hair. All the boys in school wanted to go out with her and the girls all wanted to be friends with her. I didn’t know where I fit in yet, but I sure did look up to my sister back then. I crawled into the backseat of Donna’s Cougar and I smoked my first joint. It was also Donna who gave me my first hit of acid and my first shot of heroin. Donna went to prison when she was in her thirties for forging checks to get money for drugs. Oh, and her friend Laurie died of a drug overdose back in high school.
Getting high gave me a sense of confidence I hadn’t had before. I felt cool. I was making friends and I finally felt like I fit in somewhere. I was having fun too. When I was high I felt like there was an amusement park in my head.
Popeye and Popov
Dad was an alcoholic. He quit drinking on his own when he was in his late forties and never touched another drop. I always thought that’s the way it would be for me too. That one day I would just quit like Dad did. I always looked up to dad. He was kind of like my hero I guess. Dad never did take shit off of nobody. One time at his work he got pissed off at his boss and he reared back and thrust his hands forward and shoved his boss’s desk over! I was home alone one afternoon and didn’t have any pot so I decided to improvise. I started lookin around for Dad’s stash and I found a fifth of Popov vodka hidden way back in the coat closet behind some Christmas paper and my sister’s old Mystery Date game. I poured myself a good glassful and replaced what I took from the bottle with water. If Dad noticed, he never said anything about it. I sat on the couch in the living room and drank vodka while I watched Brutus and Popeye duke it out over Olive Oyl on our family’s old 19 inch color portable. My first taste of alcohol gave me the sweetest sense of peace I had ever known. Smoking pot was great, but for me alcohol was exactly what I had been looking for all along. I know people say alcohol and drugs are different, but they’re not. Alcohol is the king of drugs. “
My Wife and Daughter
I was married once. Carly and I met in high school. But the first time I ever saw her was when we were both about nine or ten years old at her dad’s filling station. I was with my mom when she pulled in there to get gas. A pretty barefoot girl in cut-off jeans and dirty feet pumped the gas and she must have made an impression because I never did forget her. When Carly and I did start dating I noticed that she bit her fingernails and I said something about it. A couple of weeks later her nails were growing out and polished and she keeps them nice to this day. That’s when I knew she loved me. I called her my Cinnamon girl cause she had the most gorgeous soft long cinnamon brown hair and these hypnotic emerald green eyes. We got married after graduation. Carly straightened up when she found out she was pregnant. She quit everything. Cigarettes, drugs, drinking—and after that her life was all about the baby. I didn’t change though. But I fell in love with my baby girl the day she was born. It was a frozen December that year and Carly and I lived in Medicine Park, Oklahoma. The roads and everything were iced over. Wouldn’t you know that would be the night Carly would go into labor? Her water broke and she woke me cause she thought she peed the bed.
“David! Wake up! I think I peed the bed!”
I didn’t even have gas in the car. The whole village was frozen over and I knocked on every door until I finally found someone who would give us a ride to the hospital. Yeah, in those days I believed I had a good life ahead of me. No one noticed that I slipped out of the hospital and made a quick dash to the liquor store for a pint of vodka. This damned addiction had such a hold on me that I chose it over my own daughter.
The jailer said.
I pried my eyes open and looked around, realizing I was in jail. Sick as hell I raised up from the bunk. “Yeah.” “Get up. You have to go before the judge.” I managed to crawl off of my bunk and follow the jailer to the booking room to see the judge. I didn’t remember getting arrested, but whatever I was charged with, I’m sure I did it. I’d been in jail hundreds of times and I knew the drill. Somehow, I had always managed to avoid being charged with a felony, but I have been in city and county jails from Lawton to Claremore. Judge Parrish presided. “Hawkins, when are you gonna cut out all of this nonsense? I’m getting kind of tired of seeing you in my courtroom.” “I plan to quit sir. I’m getting too old for this.” “Yes you are. I don’t think I have ever seen the same person come through my courtroom as many times as you have. I don’t want to see you anymore.” “Yes sir.” “You’re charged with public intoxication. How do you plead?” “No contest.” “$750 fine. You can pay the cashier at the court clerk’s office or sit the fine out in jail at five dollars a day. Send in Ronnie Johnson.” He told the jailer as I was dismissed back to my cell. I crawled back into my bunk and went to sleep. I knew I’d make trustee in a day or two and that would earn me $80 a day toward my fine. I’d be out in less than two weeks.
Most Likely To Succeed
I was voted most likely to succeed in high school. I’ve always been an over achiever to compensate for my shortcomings. It’s the typical behavior of an alcoholic to be exceptional in whatever we do in hopes that no one will notice our faults. Fooling counselors and the otherpatients in treatment was easy for me. I’d been to treatment so many times I could run the program myself. I always knew I was going to drink as soon as I got out, but I still fooled everyone. I remember a time in group when one of the younger patients had something to say. “When I first got here, all I wanted to do was leave. But Hawk saw me sitting in a corner by myself and he reached out to me. He encouraged me not to give up. He told me I could make it if I would give it a chance. I just wanted to say Thanks Hawk. You’re all right, man.”
Guilt and Shame
Guilt and Shame raged inside of me like cancer. Hate and alienation from loved ones happens as a result of the disease of alcoholism. If I had another disease, like pancreatic cancer or something my loved ones would be surrounding me, right? But alcoholism makes me do things that makes me feel guilty and ashamed and makes my family ashamed of me. I honestly don’t mean to do such terrible things, but they just happen. I have a lot of guilt because I was not there to raise my daughter. I always loved her and planned to take care of her. But I couldn’t stop doing what I was doing and she grew up so fast. My wife is the one who had to work and she took such good care of Nicole. I remember a rare time when I was at home alone with Nicole and the police came to pick me up on a warrant. “You’re not taking me anywhere until I get someone here to take care of my daughter.” I said. The police waited until my mom could get there to take my daughter. But it was only one of the countless times my little girl suffered the shame of watching her daddy being carted off to jail in handcuffs.
Taste of Sobriety
“You have to leave Hawk. The only thing you ever do is drink. And if you’re not drinking you’re tryin to find a way to get a drink. I’m not doin this anymore.” Carly said. I was 44 years old and sick to death of the way I was living my life.
“Just give me a chance. I’ll stop. I won’t do it anymore. If I do, then I’ll leave.”
Carly looked at me with an expression of disbelief.
“You do whatever the hell you want Hawk. I don’t give a damn. Drink. Don’t drink. Whatever you want. Just leave me the hell alone.”
“Just listen to me. Please. I need a ride to treatment in Watonga. I don’t know anyone else who can take me there. Even if you don’t want anything else to do with me, please will you take me to treatment?”
“Sure.” She said. “You wanna go right now?”
“I have an appointment for April 5.”
“Stop wasting my time, Hawk! That’s a week from now. By then you’ll be working on you’re next bunch of empty promises and lies.”
“This time is different Carly. I swear. I don’t want to do this anymore. The pint I drank today really was the last one. I can’t get into Watonga any sooner or I would. But I have already made up my mind not to drink anymore and I’m not going too.”
Carly did drive me to Watonga and I stayed sober for six months. It was the best six months of my life. I started my own cleaning business and was very successful. I built a large savings account got, my driver license, bought a car, and paid off old fines. I put as much effort into being sober as I ever did into drinking and I was good at it. In fact, I had been so good I decided to reward myself, so one night six months sober; I bought a pint to drink while I watched a pre-season Dallas Cowboys football game.
The Last Drink
I needed to get a grip. “I’m David Hawkins. It’s Sunday June 15, 2008. I’m 45 years old and I’m drunk off my ass. I’m behind the Piggly Wiggly on Admiral in Tulsa.” I was starting to sober up. I passed out. “We need an ambulance out here.” The police were called when a guy from Piggly Wiggly brought out some trash. I had drunk myself unconscious before, but this time was different. I wasn’t unconscious, but I couldn’t tell anyone that I knew what was going on.
“Hey buddy! Wake up! I need to know if you can hear me.”
The paramedic was tapping on my face, but it felt numb like it does when you go to the dentist.
“I can hear you. I’m awake.” I thought, but the words wouldn’t come out.
“I can’t get a response.” The paramedic said. “Let’s load him up.”
At the emergency room charcoal was pumped in my stomach and mouthwash was pumped out. I drifted in and out of consciousness but I pretty much knew what was going on. After a few hours I finally talked to a doctor.
“Is your name David Hawkins?”
“I’m Dr. Walker.”
“You know what happened. You damn near killed yourself drinking mouthwash and vodka. Your pancreas is shot which you probably already know. Chances are if you drink again you probably won’t survive. You need to stay here in the hospital because of your pancreatitis. You can’t have anything by mouth until we can get you stabilized. I’ll get you ready to move upstairs.”
The doctor was right. I had known for years that I had pancreatitis. I just didn’t really believe it was as bad as they all made it sound. I stayed in the hospital and got myself dried out. Then I borrowed a few dollars from a nurse and I left.
The bells above the door jingled to let the clerk know he had a customer.
“I’ll have a pint of 100 proof Tvarskey.”
I ducked along the side of the liquor store and cracked open the red cap. I guzzled the whole pint in one swallow like it was Kool-aid. I sat on the ground and pulled out my favorite picture of Nicole from my wallet. I stared at it for a long time both laughing and crying.
“This is Nicole Hawkins reporting for Kid News.”