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The Night I Stopped

When I finally meet my Higher Power, the first question I will ask shall be, “Can you explain the bottom thing??”

One of the most debated, most controversial, least understood concepts in all of recovery. When folks in recovery talk about “knowing only a little”, what causes day 1 to happen is first and foremost. Why are some in and out, in and out, while others, like me, quit and never look back without the thought of a drink or a drug is truly baffling. Also in the baffling category is that some folks can literally trip over their cat or pass out while gassing up their car or “speak gibberish” one afternoon and come to the conclusion they need help while others, like me, need to get arrested 31 times, roll 3 cars over, and trash a marriage or two.

Many people wonder why alcoholics and addicts get edgy just before their anniversary. “Isn’t that the best day of your life??” they ask. Well, it is, but by definition the day or days just before your anniversary are usually filled remembrances of at least regret or tragedy. Think about the man who got sober the night after he ran over somebody in a drunken blackout. That is an extreme example but you get the idea.

Now inside the fellowships, the phrasing always is when someone relapses or will not choose sobriety that they are “not ready” yet. It is tough to understand that just because someone is locked up in their closet drinking from early morning until night while their liver fails and their kids do not go to school that they

“aren’t ready yet.”

On the flip side, when someone has never had an encounter with the law nor a real negative consequence due to their alcohol and drug use, they are immediately distrusted. Inside of fellowships you will hear the ugly question, “Are you sure they’re one of us??” No, you should never take someone’s “inventory”. However, alcoholics and addicts are being discussed. These are people who really do not like being told what to do.

Talk to 100 alcoholics and addicts and you will get 100 stories. You will hear phrases like “was finally tired of being sick and tired” or “was driven to my knees on such and such a date” or “I knew it was finally over.” The commonality is almost nothing because the definition of those things belongs to the alcoholic/addict themselves. While relapses are easy to predict, bottoms are impossible. Understanding them is always beyond the tools that we have as humans. You cannot force them – yet it seems there are methods that work better than others. The next day, those same methods seem to have been formed in an illusionary world that no longer exists.

In just a little bit, I will provide the story, told for the first time in public, of how I got sober. I do this because someone reading this might be on the edge and/or someone reading this might know someone on the edge. I also tell it because 11 years later, I still don’t understand parts of it. Literally 1000’s of folks in rehabs and fellowships have heard it. With the development of a new recovery center on the way and me starting to become a “community leader” in multiple places, maybe it is time to lift the veil a tad.

Every time I 12 step someone, i.e. lead them to a detox or a rehab or a meeting for the first time ever or since the last relapse, what happened in my own life flashes before me. Let that 12 step call happen anywhere around September 23rd and the movie in my head, thanks photographic memory, moves real slow.

That is not all. When I am part of an alcoholic’s or addict’s story at the time of desperation, I always cry. Sometimes at the moment I bring them to the health facility, sometimes a day later, sometimes the next time I see them. I cry because I know there are addicts and alcoholics who desperately need to bottom on a daily basis and may never make it. I cry because it is the only way I can handle all the emotion. I cry because I know how blessed I was in my own story. My Higher Power spared me from making a choice and surrendering. He took that all away from me and for that I am forever grateful.

Sometimes I get asked why I spend so much time doing 12 step and other outreach work. Simply stated, it is a healthy fear. I have never had to think about a lot of things that trip up others on a daily basis. The “obsession” was removed the night the magic words came out of my mouth. Relapse has never even been a thought. I do not want that to change.

The morning of September 23rd, 2002 was like any other. Well, like any other when the day will start with a meeting between yourself, your lawyer, the State Police and the FBI. There was some foolishness that I had been a part of in Lincoln. As was always the case, my 30th lifetime arrest would result in a small fine and 6 months on probation. (Later, this incident would be known as the first domino to fall leading to John Oster’s suicide.)

What I did not know was the State Police and the FBI were already looking at Lincoln and wanted to know about my drunken rant/threat filled political escapade so they asked for a meeting. The meeting was scheduled for noon at the Reef, which is now Busker’s.

Being the good alcoholic I was at the time, I got there an hour early, sat with my lawyer and ordered a my usual opening round – a mind eraser with a jack and coke. My lawyer asks, “Just what the fuck are you doing?? You’re about to meet the state police and the FBI.”

The insanity of the disease kicks in. “I got this . . . . “

So they show up, we order calamari, drink more, lots more. I spend most of the meeting half answering questions about motives. I’m really not in the mood to give away that the whole thing was designed as a trap for the police chief, Robert Kells, so a lawsuit could be filed against him. That lawsuit would force him to give up his Senate seat which some friends of mine in the Hispanic Community thought they could grab.

The plan was easy enough – call some public officials and suggest they start talking to the grand jury that was already in place. Problem was, I went out drinking for 8 hours, chasing strippers and college girls as I was known to do, before making the calls on the drive home. Instead of humble suggestions that would cause Kells to overreact, I went off on bizarre rants about “political blood running from Town Hall.” Needless to say, I did not want to get into all of that with the Staties and the FBI guys. (Have I told you the FBI badge presentation is the coolest thing in the world??)

After 3 hours of me drinking and all of us eating, they wanted to wrap it up. Then, something that would ever change my life happened. “Hey Bobby, have you heard stories about so and so being mobbed up??” (This person is a friend of mine and has been really good to me so I will not print their name.)

To this day, I have no idea whether this was intentional or not. I did not know whether they would check if I would run to them or they thought they were warning me or what they had in mind. I do know what reaction in produced.

In my drinking and drugging days, I woke up with 4 basic goals:

1. Without engaging in prostitution, sleep with as many women, in multiple numbers if the opportunity presents itself, as possible.

2. Make as much money as possible.

3. Amass power so when I get in trouble for chasing 1 or 2, I can get out of it.

4. Get as drunk and as high, without using weed – a desperate silly drug for loafers, as humanly possible without dying. There was a scoreboard in the sky and every day it was my job to fill it up with numbers. Whoever can add 1 and 2 together and come up with the highest number wins. Because I was banking the kind of numbers I was in the timeshare days, not to mention political side cash, my girlfriend at the time – later to be my second wife, looked the other way.

So now I have this piece of information. The question becomes how do I use it to satisfy one of the four goals?? This is a question that will obviously require cocaine. I would spend the next 9-10 hours going from bar to bar, with my dealer meeting me every ninety minutes or so, drinking and doing coke. My last bar of the night was Griswold’s. Somehow I walked out of there with a bottle of vodka – not even something I drank. I would finish it on the way home.

When I arrived at the house, my girlfriend was waiting for me like she always did. She asked me about the meeting and my day. Pretty normal stuff. Most nights I was not home until 3 am. I would get home at 3, sleep until 8, shower, go to work and then start doing crack before every sales presentation to get through the day. When the sales day was over, I would hit the bar and drink until the bar closed or I went to an after-hours party. Get home about 3 and the cycle would begin again.

So we are discussing whatever I could discuss and suddenly I brought up the notion of $3,000. What was I going to do with $3000 at that hour?? I have no idea. But I needed it, badly. Now my girlfriend was being very patient explaining why I cannot have $3,000. Even though we had much more than that, the ATM would only give us $400 and we would have to get the rest at the bank during the day. The answer was rational, I was not.

I kept going on and on about the $3,000. She kept explaining it just could not happen. I started to get angry. My voice started to get louder. It soon became clear that she was not going to help me get the $3000. I was getting angrier and angrier. She was not helping. Didn’t she understand?? I earned it, why can’t I have it. The anger continued to build. Finally, I realized that she would not give me the money. I needed a way to get help and persuade her. I was getting angrier and angrier as the conversation went on. When I hit a breaking point . . .

I called 911.

I thought I explained in very clear terms to the 911 operator why I needed the $3000 and how my girlfriend was obstructing. I thought I asked very nicely for their help with regards to this situation. Later, I would hear the tape. You cannot understand a single word I said.

At this point, I went out to the front of the house to wait for the 911 people. All the 911 folks know is that some unintelligible drunk has called them. So they call back.

My girlfriend at the time knew that I was on probation and another arrest means I am going to prison or at least we are going to spend a Hell of a lot of money to keep me from going. She will try to keep the cops from coming.

As I look back through the window, I can see her on the phone. That has to be the 911 people. They won’t come, I won’t get my money. I can’t let this happen.

So I charge back into the house, pull a Dick Van Dyke and trip over the ottoman. This causes me to slide down the hall into her. I knock the phone out of her hand.

When the cops do arrive, they see the phone on the floor smashed in a million pieces, her on the floor, me on the floor on top of her still screaming about $3000.

They arrest me. On the way out of the house, the cops start saying things like, “Christ Bobby, what the fuck – you didn’t give us any choice – couldn’t you be smarter than that??” All the cops in town knew I was a good guy but a horrible drunk – see the incident where I pushed the 200 pound door up the basement steps out of the bulkhead, danced around it like a goofball, and sliced my leg open in the process requiring stiches. The cops that were there that night in the White Horse Tavern Parking lot still laugh about that one.

I never show up cops, ever. Police Chiefs I screw with because they are political animals. Line cops have the hardest jobs on the planet. Even in the Fall River days when I had a few who hated me – dealing a little crack might do that – I never talked back to a line officer.

So when the cops were giving me this speech, in my head I was saying, “Ok, no big deal. Get arrested all the time. Call dad, maybe he goes to the golf course and finds a judge, pay off one of my friends, call in a favor, do whatever I have to do and I will be drinking at Asterisk’s when I get out of court around 1 tomorrow.” I would never embarrass an officer by saying those words out loud.

So, we get to the police station and they’re taking my picture and finger printing me and the whole booking thing which by this point was trey dull. The police officers are still rolling with the “Bobby, what the hell – you’re going to prison, no way out of it now.”

In my head I was saying, “Ok, no big deal. Get arrested all the time. Call dad, maybe he goes to the golf course and finds a judge, pay off one of my friends, call in a favor, do whatever I have to do and I will be drinking at Asterisk’s when I get out of court around 1 tomorrow.”

So I’m in the cell for a while planning my tomorrow. Finally, I get my turn to make a phone call. Let’s go over it one more time: Ok, no big deal. Get arrested all the time. Call dad, maybe he goes to the golf course and finds a judge, pay off one of my friends, call in a favor, do whatever I have to do and I will be drinking at Asterisk’s when I get out of court around 1 tomorrow.

I get the phone in my hand, I call my dad, and I hear myself say, “Yeah dad, it’s me. Yeah, I’m in trouble again. No, I’m not going to do anything. You’re not going to do anything. Yeah, it means I’m going to prison. No, that’s how it is. I’m going to take full accountability this time.”

At the time, I had no idea what had just happened. Now I know it was my first true spiritual experience. I would get sober in prison, pick up my first AA Big Book from a member of the Latin Kings, attend my first AA meeting in prison. I would also have the DT’s on day 3 and get out later thanks to the company I was working for but those are stories for another time.

Based on that story alone, if you do not understand my relationship with my Higher Power, I don’t know what to tell you. I can explain those events no better than I can explain any other alcoholic’s/addict’s story. I have handed you all the clarity I have.

So when I meet my Higher Power, I know what question goes first.