Jack Smith is Dead.

I’m trying to get away from using the term: sobering reality.  It sounds like a bad pun in the context of this kind of a blog.  However the truth that “Jack Smith is dead” is something that’s been stuck in my mind recently.

I toyed with the idea of changing his name but frankly, I’m not sure what I’d change it to that’s much more nondescript than Jack Smith.  He was a real person.  I met him several times.  He was the father of a friend of mind and the son of my father’s best friend.  He was a con-man in the most real sense of the word.  He wasn’t the cartoon version that you usually see on TV.  Those guys, you wonder how anybody could be taken in by them because their game is so obvious.  This was a real con man.  He inspired confidence.  He was friendly and seemed sincere.

He did some rotten things and died early.  I’m given to understand that alcohol probably had a fair amount to do with his death.  I wasn’t really sure what happened to him but recently my Dad told me: Jack Smith’s dead.

Another friend of mine has a similar cautionary tale to tell.  It’s about his brother.  His brother was a drunk and was in a recovery program for years.  After years of sobriety he lapsed and never made it back to the recovery rooms.  He never had a chance to pick up another white chip.  At his funeral, friends from his recovery group showed up and tossed some dirt on his coffin.  They looked at that dead man’s brother and told him solemnly: “Well, your brother doesn’t drink anymore.” 

I wish that stories like this were enough.  I wish that we alcoholics would learn from the stories and never pick up a bottle again.  However, we don’t.  At least, it isn’t a long term solution.  We might be inspired to stave off our desires for a little bit, but we need to be constantly reminded of our fate.

The guys I’ve seen who are the most successful in recovery are the ones who seem to truly believe that if they take one more drink….it will kill them.  Is that literally true?  Maybe, not.   However, the concept they have wrapped their head around is that any given drink could be their last.

We just don’t know if we have one more recovery in us.  That’s scary.  But it’s not alway scary enough for some of us.   What we drunks can do it keep adding reminders to our inventory.  “Jack Smith is dead” and “Bob doesn’t drink anymore” are two little thoughts that can put a stop to my temptations.  Some days I think I’m just like them.

On the dangerous days, I think I’m completely different.  Their failings don’t apply to me.  That’s not what my family and friends want to hear but it’s true. 

That’s why I still go to meetings.  I don’t like to do it.  I’d rather be doing almost anything other than showing up in some church basement on any given evening to hear the same stuff over and over.  But, at this point, I need it.  The friendship of the others who struggle helps to keep me sober. 

Someday, it will be said of me: “Joel is dead”.  It will be said for the last time “Joel doesn’t drink anymore”.  When that is said, and under what circumstances is largely up to me.  I hope, frankly, by the time I do shuffle off the coil drinking will be so far behind me that it’s not even mentioned.

Then again, I don’t know that it should ever be forgotten.  Hopefully, if anything is said about my drinking at all at that point, it will be words of hope for those who are there.  He drank, but it didn’t take him.  He fell, but he got back up.  He went through things that he never thought he’d go through but it counted for something.

Jack Smith is dead.  My day is coming.  What will be said after that?  It’s not written yet, but the pen is put to paper every day for what is potentially the last time.

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