18. When I was growing up, 18 was the age of adulthood. You could go to war, you could vote, and most important to me was that I could legally drink.
I started drinking when I was 13. My first drunk was on a pint of J&B Scotch that I stole from my parents. The next five years, I tried just about every beer that was available and Boones Farm wine. For 99 cents, Boones Farm tasted good and got a person drunk.
From 13 to 18, I never really had a problem obtaining alcohol. The easiest way was giving money to someone you knew who was of legal age and have them buy it for you. If that didn't work, then you would hang around the liquor store waiting for someone to walk in. You would catch them before they went in and asked if they would buy you some booze. Nine times out of ten, they would take your money and get your merchandise.
Every year, in the back of my mind I knew I was closer to buying alcohol legally. No more need to hide in parks, drinking with friends. There would be no need to hide alcohol in the garage or anywhere else.
When I turned 18, I ate my dinner, had a piece of cake, opened some gifts and went to the local bar. The bartender asked for my ID and then asked what I wanted. A frosty mug of Budweiser was my first legal drink. I sat at the end of the bar and as more people realized it was my birthday, the more free drinks I got. For me, I felt like a king. This was Heaven.
The last thing that I imagined after that first night was that drinking would become my whole life for the next 18 years. Amazing isn't it? My first legal drink was when I was 18, then 18 years later I would surrender to being an alcoholic.
Now on Labor Day weekend of 2012, I will be celebrating my 18th anniversary of being alcohol free. It is still a miracle in my mind that I have this much time with sobriety. When I quit, I couldn't even imagine living without a drink for 18 minutes let alone 18 years.
The first 18 were going to grade school, then high school. It was being a runt and being bullied. And it was growing up in hell. My escape was sports. When I graduated I left for college with a scholarship to play football. I never played... it was time to start the next 18.
Alcohol... it helped kill the pain. It stopped me from feeling and brought about some crazy codependent actions. Getting married to a very needy lady. Those 18 years made me a good businessman when I started dealing drugs. And it made me homeless, hitch-hiking around the country.
It ended after a suicide attempt and realizing that I could no longer drink and live.
The last 18, brought me a divorce and a new marriage and another divorce. All again because of my codependent ways. Trying so hard to fix what was broken. It brought about poetry and writing three books. It made me realize that I don't need to be in a relationship... it will happen when the time is right, I don't need to force it.
It brought speaking engagements locally and nationally and now even in the educational world... and it has broaden my horizons with international travel. It brought back a passion to learn with accredited courses to improve my own self-worth.
Yes, 18 has been a magical number in my life. I ran away, died, and was born again. Miracles can happen. Miracles will happen, if we are patient and trust in our Higher Power. Thank you God for giving me a second chance and making the most of it.
I'm Dave and I'm an alcoholic and by the Grace of God, I've been sober for 18 years...