On March 20th , 2013, something happened that changed my entire life and way of living. I can only hope and pray that this change is forever.
I started drinking around the age of 14 but was introduced to alcohol much earlier. When I was about 4 or 5 years old, I would sneak up along side my dad as he watched Friday Night Wrestling on television and sneak a sip or two from his beer. Dad was not an alcoholic, but he did drink occasionally. A six pack of beer would last him six weeks. He only drank one beer and that was on Friday nights.
If alcoholism is hereditary, then it skipped a generation.
My brother, several cousins from Dad’s side of the family and myself are alcoholics, as was our granddad. My drinking didn’t become a daily routine until after I left home and had been in the military for a couple of years. I enlisted in the Army a month after graduating from high school and my first duty assignment was in South Korea.
Initially, this was a twelve month tour. However, I had so much fun during the first six months that I extended that tour for two additional years. During this tour, I also met and married my first wife and our oldest son was born. Soon after arriving in Korea in 1973, I began drinking on a daily basis. Prior to this time, I was a binge drinker, maybe once or twice a month on weekends. But, that changed because everyone that I worked with went to “Happy Hour” at the NCO Club from 5:15pm until 7:30pm every night.
Usually after Happy Hour, if we didn’t close the club, some of us would go to the village and party until curfew which was midnight. Getting drunk was extremely cheap back then so money was not an issue. After spending my first three years in the Army, in Korea, I was reassigned to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, where I would spend the next five years with my family.
This assignment was nothing like my overseas tour. Here, I was required to spend a lot of time away from home and my family on field training exercises. The length of time for these excursions varied; they lasted anywhere from 15 days to 45 days. My drinking habits also changed from daily to weekly or monthly binge drinking again. There were times when we’d get back home with just enough time to clean up, repack and go for another 30 or 45 days. These absences were extremely difficult for my ex and took their toll on our marriage.
While I was away, she was forced to provide for herself and our son even though she didn’t drive or speak our language very well.
Even when I was home, I wasn’t much help because I spent most of my time with my friends drinking and working. Back then we didn’t need much in the way of reasons to drink. When I was working or drinking, or both, I was absent from home . While stationed in Kentucky our second son was born. Having two sons was a dream come true for me. This dream was shattered approximately 33 months later.
That’s when she decided that she had had enough of my drinking and not being home when she needed me. It was then that she asked for a divorce. She stated that she never really loved me and only used me to be able to come to the United States. To make the pain even worse, she stated that she had fallen in love with my best friend and co-worker. I was devastated. Our divorce was final in March 1981, and I was reassigned to Germany the following month, where I would spend the next six years working, traveling and drinking…..
Read the second part of Ricks story next Thursday 2nd February.