This week’s Here’s To Your Health is a continuation of Steve C.’s story. When he finally sobered up in October of 1990, his life was in shambles, his wife Louise had left him and taken the children, and he was unemployable.
For the first time in his life, Steve was forced to take a hard look at his childhood and reflect back 37 foggy years to his Vietnam tours. As he worked the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and did intense professional therapy, Steve soul searched for answers to questions he didn’t know, couldn’t understand, or explain and he was baffled by his re-occurring nightmares. Louise, the children, ex-boss and others asked him to explain his, severe bouts of depression, unpredictable rage, agoraphobia, suicidal tendencies and violent mood swings, but he could not until he finally faced his past.
Today, after being alcohol and drug free for 15 years he has long since reconciled things with Louise, is happily married, a parent, grandparent and a productive member of society who is helping others. Steve’s story is one of hope and he’s a living example that no matter how far down the scale we’ve slid, there is hope.
With God’s grace, the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the right kind of help, it is possible to escape insanity, self-destruction and an inevitable alcoholic death.
Steve’s story is proof-positive that you don’t have to stay in that living hell because with God’s help, and the fellowship of A.A., a new kind of life is possible that’s infinitely better than anything we’ve ever imagined.
After the first segment, of Steve’s story was published it seemed to Barleycorn that perhaps some facts might have been skirted around and maybe there were others that Steve was reluctant to talk about? And so, I asked Steve to start at the beginning of his Vietnam tours and tell it all, the good, bad and the ugly. Steve shared with me that more than anything; he hoped if he did share the unedited version of his story; it might help other veterans who still suffer? And so, at the risk of conjuring up disturbing mental images from his past here is the next segment of Steve’s story.
I arrived in Saigon, Vietnam during January of 1967. We were forced to circle the Saigon airport for 45 minutes, because it had been attacked by enemy mortar, and the runways were still being patched. As our flight landed, taxied and rolled to a stop in front of the air terminal, I looked out the plane’s window and got my very first glimpse of Vietnam. The airport seemed fairly modern and it was surrounded by an abundance of beautiful palm trees. Steps were rolled out and when the door opened we exited into a world of extreme humidity, and a wretched smell that hit me squarely in the face. That smell was indescribable and it seemed to be a combination of tropical vegetation and the stench of death. As I descended the steps and walked out onto the tarmac, I soon discovered the source of that smell, I looked to the right and saw rows and rows of black body bags about two city blocks long waiting for the next cargo plane to take them back to the United States. Still young and naïve, my first thought was, “Will I ever get out of here alive, or will I end up inside one of those stinking black bags?”
The horrible smell and the stark reality of this situation almost overwhelmed me. My favorite escape from unpleasant realities at that time was booze, but I silently wondered if there was enough of it in the country to make this reality go away? I was shipped to a processing center where I stayed for about a week and then I was moved to a place on the outskirts of Saigon dubbed “Tent City.” The Army had set up hundreds of tents with bunks strewn around inside them. I was assigned to a bunk, but was not issued a weapon to defend myself because we were told that the ammunition bunkers at this place kept getting “hit” and if we were attacked, we should roll out of our bunks, hit the ground, and pull our mattress on top of us. We were issued “C” rations for meals and we were supposed to stay inside “Tent City” until our orders came to deploy us elsewhere. I disobeyed that order and found my way into town where I stayed drunk for two weeks until new orders arrived. My new orders sent me north to a mountain in the Central Highlands above a small village named Dalat where I was supposed to be a perimeter guard.
To be continued…