< Chapter 3:10 Chapter 4:1 >
Even with everything that had happened in those 12 months, I still had lessons to learn. My mother and grandmother, as always, welcomed me with open arms. I had no place to go when I left jail. The apartment I was staying in was no longer mine. I moved into a small room in their house and I began to start my life over. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I was going to do it right this time.
I was going to make my life work. But I made the mistake of thinking that life would just change. You see, I still had lessons to learn. A big challenge that people have when they quit drinking and using drugs is that they believe that because they have stopped ingesting the chemicals… the world will automatically get better. The reality is, that is just the beginning. From there it is a process of learning how to live without the alcohol. It’s a process of understanding why you drank, and learning how to deal with those emotional triggers.
For me, a big part of why I was drinking was an attempt to kill my emotional pain. Even though I quit drinking, the pain was still going to be there. There was a lot that I needed to deal with, but I didn’t realize that was the process yet. I believed that because of where I had just come from that I would never drink again. There was no way that I would risk going back to that hell I had just left. I still had so many lessons to learn about why I did what I did, and how to live life on life's terms.
I also made the mistake of starting to hang around with “old friends”. These were friends who still drank and used drugs without any of the repercussions that I experienced. It was so easy to forget about all the pain that my drinking caused me as I watched them drink and do drugs with no “problems” like the ones I faced. I started thinking to myself, “See, they can control it, and these are the guys I used to party with. I just got out of control. If they can handle it, I know that I can too.”
Within a month of being released from jail, I was drinking and smoking pot again. Where had my sanity gone? What had happened to that commitment to not go back to the life I was living before going to jail? I had just spent over a year in and out of jails, rehabs and halfway houses. And here I was, sitting in a bar, looking across the table at an old buddy with a beer in my hand. The tailspin had started again.
One thing this time was different, I thought. This time I had it under control. I would go out with my friends and only drink a 6 pack. We would laugh and party and have a good time. They would all tell me how good of a job I was doing, how I had really gotten myself under control. I even had some of them “policing” me to make sure I wasn't drinking "too much". They had the best of intentions. But when they weren’t around, I would find a small bar that none of them frequented and I would get trashed. In my mind I would think, “Hey... I deserved it. I had done so well through the rest of the week, this was my night to celebrate how well I had done in keeping myself under control.” The mind can be an amazing ally, or your biggest enemy depending on how you choose to direct it.
As I started to go back to my old habits again, I also seemed to get a new chance at my childhood dreams, opportunities began to open up again. All of my life, the one thing that I always loved was music. I had been singing since I was 4 or 5 years old. It was my passion, my dream. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table as a child drawing pictures of myself standing outside of Carnegie Hall with my name on the Marquis. Music was one thing that had always been there for me. It was actually while I was in jail that I first started writing my own music. At night, I would sit alone in my cell and sing to myself to keep my spirits up. I also started to write my own lyrics while I was in jail as I fought to understand what was happening to my life.
And now, music came to the forefront again. One night I was hanging out at a small bar in Lock Haven called The Brass Rail. There was an old acquaintance of mine there doing a solo performance. It was just him and his guitar playing all these folk songs. We had been talking during one of his breaks, and he knew I played and sang, so I began sitting in for a song or two and doing one of my own songs that I had written while I was in jail.
One night while I was on stage, another club owner came in and saw me performing and asked me if I would come and do the same kind of show at his place. We were discussing how many hours he needed me to play and I had to tell him that I didn't have enough material for a night, and I would not be able to take him up on his offer. After he left, a guy that I knew from high school approached me to let me know that he had overheard the conversation and asked if I would be interested in pairing up with him to do the gig. I had just recently seen him performing at anther club in his own band, so in need of cash, I said, “Why not?”
Joel Long was to become a dear friend, and that duo was the beginning of an amazing band called Toyz. Joel and I would go into this small lounge called The Mohawk, and just “jam” on whatever we could put together. And each week that we were booked to play, we would invite someone else to come and join us. Within a few months we had almost put together a full-fledged band. Around this same time, Joel's band had broken up, and he had a New Years commitment to fulfill. That New Years was the first official performance for the full line up of our new band, Toyz.
Within months, we were one of the biggest drawing bands in Central PA. We had the luxury of 4 lead vocalists so we could do a variety of music from Billy Joel, to the Beatles, to Bon Jovi, to Ozzy Osbourne. We were meticulous in the way we approached things. We would spend hours working on each section of a song, the arrangements, the harmonies, and the choreography. Our show was electrifying; not only were we great performers, we also had the greatest show with the biggest sound system and the biggest light show. Within no time we were packing houses everywhere we played. And all the while my drinking continued to pick up it’s pace. I would have one or two at the club while we played, then I would grab a 6 pack for the ride home.
The band was skyrocketing. We were setting attendance records at every club we played in. We were getting more and more money to appear, and living the lives of celebrities. We decided it was time to start recording some new music for a demo to get into band competitions and expand into more clubs across the state. We scheduled our first studio session for July 13th 1989.
Finally, here it was, what I had dreamed of all my life. I was going to be a recording artist. It didn’t matter that we were going in to record other people’s songs. I was going into a professional studio to record. I needed to celebrate. But I knew that the kind of celebrating I was looking to do, I couldn't do anywhere around my home. I had been hiding my serious drinking by buying beer and taking it home with me where I would sneak it past my Mother and Grandmother and drink in my bedroom. Everyone who knew about my past thought I was “controlling” my drinking now. The band had become so big so fast, that there was nowhere I could party the way I wanted to without someone seeing me and the band finding out I was out of control. So I decided if I was really going to celebrate, I needed to take a road trip to my old stomping grounds in Camden, NJ. It would be a night on Admiral Wilson Boulevard hitting strip clubs, drinking and getting high. I was going to party, and do it up right.
It was July 12th when I headed out to Camden with a case of beer already in my car. To be honest, I really don’t remember much of that night. I think I was pretty much wasted before I even got there. The thing I do remember is walking out of a club called the French Quarter. It was late; I was drunk and having major trouble unlocking my car. There was a police car sitting right across from me. I saw them and didn’t think twice about their being there as I drove away. In my mind, I was fine. Would you like to take a guess at what happened next? You guessed it. Here came the flashing red lights. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) number 6.
There was no one for me to BS anymore. As the police officer took my information. I remember looking at him, and in all sincerity asking, “Please, help me. I’m an alcoholic.” For the first time, I truly wanted someone to help me stop drinking. I knew I had no control.
I spent the night in Pennsauken jail. I knew that I was in a lot more trouble this time. They would only release me to someone else, because not only was I driving intoxicated, but also without a license. When I woke up I was in a cold jail cell. My head splitting and my mouth tasted like I had been drinking out of a toilet. They opened the cell and led me out to the main entrance where they sat me in front of the door to wait for my family to arrive. I lay on the bench wanting to die. How would I explain what I had done? My mother had thought that I was doing so well. What would happen now? 6 DWI’s, I knew I was going to go to jail for a very long time.
As my mother and stepfather walked up the sidewalk to the front door to pick me up, I could see the pain in her face and the disgust in his. I don’t believe that a word was spoken. We drove to where they had left my car the night before. My stepfather climbed into my car, and I stayed in my mother’s with her. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she was feeling, the disappointment. Here was her son, who she had believed had changed his life around, and now, it was back to the way things had been just a year before.
We rode in silence on the 4-hour trip home. I was laying in the back seat and all I could think about the whole way back was that I wanted to open up the door and throw myself out into the path of the cars that were behind us on the turnpike. I was so humiliated. I believe that the only thing that stopped me was I knew my mother could not take that. She had been through so much. I was ready to die, but to kill myself in front of her… she didn’t deserve to see that.
I arrived home in time to catch a ride with my drummer, Rich to the studio. Here it was, the day that was supposed to be my biggest, proudest moment. And I stood there hung over, shaking, and feeling like the lowest human being on the planet. I had left everyone down. My mother, my grandmother, the band; everyone was going to be affected by my party the night before. I stepped into the studio and did the job that needed to be done.
When we weren’t recording, I did my best to stay away from everyone, but it became a bit of a joke to them. None of them realized how much trouble I had opened up for all of us.
I was scheduled to appear in court on August 22nd. I didn’t know how much trouble I was facing, but I was certain that I was going back to jail. 6 DWI’s? They would never just overlook it. The only other person in the band who had a clue was Rich. He had been there through it all in the past, and knew I was heading for a cliff. He was the one friend that I could really talk to. As we went through the next month together, he was the only person that I told how scared I was. I had nothing to drink, and no more drugs, until, Thursday, August 17th, 1989.
< Chapter 3:10 Chapter 4:1 >
The Warrior Sage Chapter/Section
Who Is Willard Barth?
Preface - Exploring Strength And Weakness
Chapter 1:1 - The Process Of Self-Awareness
Chapter 1:2 The Stages Of Child Development
Chapter 2:1 The World Changed Forever
Chapter 2:2 The Vicious Cycle Begins
Chapter 2:3 Losing Faith
Chapter 2:4 My Dark Secret
Chapter 2:5 Where Is The Love I Was Promised?
Chapter 3:2 The Road To Alcohol Dependence
Chapter 3:3 Leaving My Childhood Behind
Chapter 3:4 Escaping Responsibility; The Joy Ride Ends
Chapter 3:5 Living A Duality Begins
Chapter 3:6 Out Of Control
Chapter 3:7 Crossing The Line To Insanity
Chapter 3:8 The Black-out Drinking Begins
Chapter 3:9 Facing The Music
Chapter 3:10 A New Beginning
Chapter 3:11 More Lessons To Learn
Chapter 4:1 The Final Party
Chapter 4:2 A Moment Of Clarity
Chapter 4:3 My New Life Begins
Chapter 4:4 Sober - Time To Face The World
Chapter 4:5 The First Year Of Sobriety
Chapter 4:6 Major Change Comes In Year Two
Chapter 4:7 My Daughter Is Born April 20, 1992
Chapter 5:1 Life Changing Decisions Follow My Daughter's Birth
Chapter 5:2 Recognizing The Voice Inside
Chapter 5:3 The Empress Hotel
Chapter 5:4 A New Chapter In My Life Begins
Chapter 6:1 Finding My Way Home
Chapter 6:2 Falling Into Place
Chapter 6:3 A New Awareness
Chapter 6:4 Personal Finances And Personal Development
Chapter 6:5 The George Washington Story
Chapter 6:6 Letting Go So Others Can Grow
Chapter 6:7 The Wrap Up
Jump HOME from More Lessons To Learn