"I Had Gone Through Seven Jobs and Nine Cars"

Strength + Courage

"I don't ever want to go back to where I was and how I was living then."

My name is Ken K., and I am a recovering alcoholic.

I received treatment for alcoholism at Hazelden in Center City, Minnesota, and my sobriety date is 12/30/69.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps in January of 1951 and was stationed at Camp Pendelton in Oceanside, California; it was there that I was introduced to other drugs and started using alcohol more often.

By 1953, I was using alcohol regularly as well as pot, speed, red devils (downers) and other drugs. I was discharged from the US Marine Corps that year and returned to Minnesota.

The following year I got married and began a family, still using some illegal drugs, but alcohol was legal and easier to purchase without being prosecuted. My wife and I had seven children by 1965, and by this time, my alcohol use had accelerated to three to five times a week.

In May of 1965, our community was hit by three tornadoes, sending us out of our home for six months and leading me to drink daily. For the next four years, my problems escalated to the point where two police officers appeared and removed me from my home on December 30, 1969. I proceeded to the bar and was crying in my beer when I was approached by a fellow drinker. He asked what had happened, I told him, and he suggested that I go with him to Hazelden in Center City. He said he'd been there and felt I should go as well.

Now mind you, during that time—an approximate four-year period—I had gone through seven jobs and totaled nine cars. (My Higher Power was working hard!) I had the shakes and tremors so bad that I could not hold anything—cut myself to pieces when I tried shaving—and when I lifted a drink, I had to bend over it, hang on to it and try to get it down. I was in such bad shape I didn’t care whether I lived or died. I knew I needed something, and I didn't know or care about anything. But a bed sounded good. So in the early morning hours, off we went to Hazelden—crying all the way. I didn't believe in God. I asked for His help many times, and I felt He never helped me. Treatment helped me to attain a Higher Power, and with the help of the "Big Book" and the "24 Hours a Day" book. I finally discovered and accepted that I needed a power greater than myself because I wasn't doing very good at living on my own.

The toughest part was going back to my family. My wife and kids visited me while I was in treatment, and we all faced the problems that I had created.

The first year was and always will be the hardest to attain in my sobriety. I tell people coming into a program of recovery for the first time that it's essential to live moment to moment, hour to hour, one day at a time, and live in the here and now. Do not let yesterday or tomorrow tear you up, or you will miss out on today. I am no longer afraid of tomorrow for I have seen yesterday and I live today.

The greatest gift in my life is being straight and sober; now I look at every problem I have as an opportunity. My daily program includes reading the Twenty-Four Hours a Day book, the same one I got at Hazelden when I was in treatment. If my day isn't going well, I sometimes find it necessary to take an inventory. One of the things that stuck with me from people in AA is "Why spoil a whole day when you can find out where all your feelings and emotions are coming from, can cut short the bad and still have a good rest of the day?"

At night I take a daily inventory, going through my day from morning to night. I take the inventory for the purpose of not making the same mistakes tomorrow. You see, I don't ever want to go back to where I was and how I was living then. Life is too good for me now. My first wife and I were married 48 years. I know she is in heaven, because she went through hell those years I was drinking and using drugs. The last 20 years of our marriage were very, very good compared to the years before I got help.

I have gone through a lot of crises—including my wife's death from cancer—and am still straight and sober. One of my daughters was hit by a drunk driver when she was a year and a half sober; she still lives in both mental and physical pain but is 15 years sober. I have a son that tried to commit suicide twice; he's been in treatment many times but is continuing to use because he doesn't have a bottom. My family is still full of alcohol and other drug dependencies, and I've accepted that and helped when I could, but I know I can't change anyone. They have to make their own changes themselves.

My present wife, who has 41 years of sobriety, and I read two pages of Karen Casey's book Serenity every night. Over the years of doing this, my worrying, efforts to control and other defects of character have decreased significantly. I have found more serenity now than I have ever experienced.

In closing, I want you to know that I believe my Higher Power put me on this earth to be happy. It is my choice—and your choice as well.

Read More
Kurt, student at the Hazelden Betty Ford School of Graduate Studies

Coming Back Around

Reclaiming his recovery and helping others do the same Read More >

Read More
Continuing Care helps you stay committed to sober living after treatment

What's Next?

Continuing Care helps you stay committed to sober living after treatment Read More >

Read More
Young person on Skateboard

Hard Data and Tough Love

Drug testing in recovery can help to foster lasting change for young people Read More >