On top of everything else, I started my drinking career during that time of my life. I found that alcohol would temporarily numb my emotional pain. I began working at the Howard Johnson Restaurant, attached to a 410-room hotel located near Walt Disney World. Along with the restaurant, we had a little bar. One of my duties was to close the restaurant and bar. I would drink with the bartender after work, and then go out with the restaurant staff. This meant I got home around 1:30-2:30am—not very good for a new marriage.
I was becoming what I hated about the monster from my childhood. I was not physically abusive, but I was emotionally and verbally abusive to my wife. I treated her unkindly. I was coming home late from bars, just as Bob had. My drinking got worse and my behavior followed suit. After only a year or so, my wife served me divorce papers. I signed them.
Now I had broken both of my childhood vows: that I would never get a divorce and I would never drink alcohol. I had wanted to avoid causing others the pain that I had experienced. Unfortunately, I had let that pain from the past creep into my present, and it was trying to ruin my future.
After the divorce, my drinking escalated. I eventually left the restaurant business and became a stockbroker. It took three attempts to pass the brokerage exam, but I thought if I could just be a stockbroker, I could make enough money to buy happiness. I was about to go through another door that would lead me to nowhere.
I remember my first day at work: driving into the parking lot in my 1977 faded blue Chevy Nova with no air conditioning, wearing a double-breasted gray suit. I was sweating profusely on the hot Florida day, after a one-hour drive from Davenport to Altatamonte Springs. I was finally a stockbroker, but still had no money. When you’re driving an old piece-of-junk car into a parking lot passing by Corvettes, Mercedes, Porches, and Jaguars, you feel a little out of your league. However, I had come too far to give up.
After working in that office for a while, I was let go because I failed to bring in any new accounts. Once again, my dreams were shattered and I felt like a failure in life. Luckily, after a short period of time, one of the brokers called me and asked me to work for him as his assistant. I accepted.
When that broker was promoted to an office manager position in Jacksonville, Florida, he asked me to go with him. I moved to Jacksonville, where my drinking and partying increased. My life was going nowhere. I made a little money but drank most of it away. In the end, I had nothing to show for it. I was up for a change of scenery when an offer came for me to move to Santa Barbara, California. I thought if I moved, maybe things would change and I would be able to get somewhere in life. Unfortunately, the only thing that I got ahead in was my alcohol consumption.
One night, after drinking all day, I went out to the Santa Barbara College campus to party with the college students at a late night bar. On my way home, I was pulled over for drinking and driving. I failed the sobriety test. I had to go to court, where I received a conviction for driving under the influence. This was very shameful for me. Naturally, I began drinking even more
I met a woman in California, and after some time, we were married. It was my second marriage, and her third. Not a good recipe for success. We both had so many issues from our past. My drinking was getting worse and worse. After several separations, she finally filed for divorce. I signed the papers, effectively doing what I had sworn I would never do, yet again.
I quit the stockbroker business and became a car sales representative instead. It seemed like I failed at everything in life. I was growing tired of California, and Kim, my stepbrother, offered to let me move in with him back in Davenport, Florida. I jumped at the chance, leaving California without looking back.
In Florida, I continued in car sales, and continued with drinking. Then one night, on the way home from partying late, I was pulled over and given a sobriety test which I once again failed. I went to court where the judge asked me if I had ever been convicted of drinking and driving. I confessed that I had been convicted in California. The prosecuting attorney changed the charge from a first offender to a second offender. I was penalized with the revocation of my driver’s license for five years, mandatory relapse prevention classes, and mandatory AA meetings three times a week for one year, along with monthly probation visits and a whole lot of fines.
When I heard this, I felt like I was going to pass out. The situation got even worse when the judge, in his royal robes, sentenced me to ten days in jail. I was taken directly to the courtroom holding cell. Afterward, I was handcuffed and put into leg irons, with ten other jailbirds. We were transported to the Orange County jail, which housed approximately three- thousand other inmates.
Within two or three days, after getting over the initial shock of being locked up, I actually felt a sense of peace. I went from a life of constant confusion to a life of regular eating, sleeping, and schedules. It was a temporary break from reality. This one door that I walked through, unwillingly, changed my life forever. Sometimes our choices lead us places out of our control. Even in the midst of all this, God was still watching over me.
Something wonderful happened after going to a few AA meetings. I realized that I did, in fact, have a drinking problem, and on July 15, 1992, I stopped drinking. With the help of God, I have not had a drink of alcohol for the past twenty two years.
Excerpt from: “Journey to the Center of the Heart” One man’s journey from hell to paradise. by John Miller