***Edited on 07-25-17***
Pondoff’s Anonymous – #1
(Recommended Background Music: “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy)
“Self-Accountability. Sorry, but…”
“Memories give me the strenf I need to proceed… strenf I need to believe” – Puff Daddy
I had my first (and only) restraining order issued against me 25 years ago today… and I can finally say that I’ve learned something from it.
Now, before you go off and label me as an eight-year-old wife beater or cat killer… let me explain.
For those of you reading this that don’t know me well… on July 25, 1992, my father took my two friends and I go-karting. We were regulars at this particular race track and had gone so often that we are on first-name basis with the owners. In fact, we had gone so often that they were pretty flexible on the safety rules for us kids. Unfortunately.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, I guess.
Long story short, as I came out of turn four, my best friend’s go-kart got sideways and flipped right in front of me. Johnny and his go-kart landed upside down, on his helmet-less head, and that was all she wrote.
We were eight.
What the fuck just happened.
To this day, I vividly remember TP (my old man) hurdling the fence and rushing over to Johnny’s motionless body. For the life of me, I have a hard time shaking this. I can still see him lying in a pool of blood… in a fetal position… as if he were sleeping.
“He’ll wake up”, I thought to myself…
Later that evening, in the emergency room at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, I learned otherwise.
Aye yai yai.
Then, shortly after the emergency room doctor informed us of John’s fate, his real “father” arrived. More on the quotations later. For twenty-five years t I have one hell of a time forgetting how he stormed in hammered drunk and pummeled the shit out of my old man.
My best friend is dead. My old man hero-fuck-of-the-universe is getting fucking wailed on. And I couldn’t do shit about it.
But, in possibly my first experience with God, Tom sat there and took it…
Maybe God doesn’t want me to forget this particular memory, now that I think about it.
Now. I know most normal, loving, good-hearted men would take a beating from a parent who just lost a child. Yes, I get that. I would like to say with one hundred percent certainty that I would behave the same way Tom did. At least I sure hope I would.
But, now, as I look back on things with some resemblance of a clear head emotionally and a minor ability to write and discuss this memory, I can honestly say I think this is my first memorable experience with God.
What if Tom lost it there? What if he fought back? Right in front of his eight-year-old son who worshiped him. Moments after his eight-year-old son watched his best friend die.
Some heavy fucking shit, right?
But he didn’t. He kept it together. After all, the prick’s son was just killed.
Faith. Hope. Love.
That’s what that was.
Anyway, Pondoff… let’s reel it back in here. Recovering alcoholic, grief, restraining order, town drunk, and now an altar boy… how does this all connect?
The next couple of days after Johnny passed away were definitely a blur. But what I do know is that Johnny’s douche bag of an old man filed a restraining order against me personally (and my family) from coming to any of the funeral services.
We did not oblige.
I was a Paul Bearer.
The fucking kid was my best friend.
So. Tough times. Life happens. But it was the following years that were especially rough for me and my family. That asshole “dad” of his was suing us for millions of dollars that unfortunately we did not have and It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that it was settled. Needless to say, it drug on quite a bit. We walked away unharmed… financially… but, from my perspective, and looking back, the damage had been done.
For those of you that do know me, it’s been said softly with a whisper that I may have had a wee-bit of a temper problem growing up… Not like a gym-rat, handjob-in-the-mirror, fucking toolbag temper. No. My temper was more like the one that would boil over, on occasions, and be considered somewhat unhealthy (“somewhat” is my term). I was never Joey-Badass but I could hold my own in scraps… and growing up on the ice, playing hockey my whole life was a certainly a good outlet. I would have it no other way.
Some mothers and fathers celebrated their kids making the honor roll.
My old man gave me a fifty for every Gordie Howe hat trick I racked up.
To each their own.
Anyway, off of the ice, I did develop a problematic way of thinking. Whenever I would act out, do something stupid, or get in a fight, I had it blueprinted in my brain that I was suffering from a case of “survivor’s guilt”… and that most of the times my bull shit… well, it was all because of the accident on the go-kart track. It was because I had witnessed something horrific and endured such a tough loss as a child that I was always going to be a little fucked up upstairs…
The problem, however, is that I began to use this to my advantage and I was able to conveniently substitute my “survivor’s guilt” and childhood trauma in the place of self-accountability. Real smart, Pondoff. The connection to my alcoholism here is that when I made the transition from “acceptable drinking” to “just a fucking alcoholic”, I was able to make this transference. Being a drunk asshole was never my fault.
I had no self-accountability.
“Sorry but…” is how I began my morning phone calls.
If I made them.
The “drunk apology tour” we called it…
Keep in mind that it happens subtly and over a period of time. It’s not that I’d go to the tavern, put down a bottle of VO, mouthwash with a couple shots of Rumplemintz, and, get all coked up with some strippers, or, get in some sort of bar fight because my main guy got killed right in front of me when we were eight…
What I would do, however, is blame my shit on something…
My behavior was never really my fault. I called you drunk and screamed at you? Sorry, but it was because of ‘ABC’. I got in a bar fight with you? Sorry, but I did that because of ‘XYZ’… I came at you with a baseball bat and a hockey stick? Nope. Sorry, but it is not my fault. I dropped x-amount of money on blank, blank, and blank? Sorry, but…
I bashed in your Television set with a fucking golf club?
Actually. This one was warranted.
You get the point.
Fast forward to when I’m twenty-eight, kill Tom off, and there you have it… all sense of accountability for this boy was like the line in that Top Gun song “Lost That Loving Feeling”…
“gone, gone, gone…woh”
Nobody knows how to go through a tragedy like this. Nobody knows how to parent a child through this. There’s no manuscript or “Tragedy for Dummies” book out there… at least there weren’t at the time. My mother chose love, unconditional love. Tom and I? Two guys who talked about everything in the world… and I mean everything… didn’t speak of it much… if at all. But, as an opportunist at a young age, I grasped onto the “this shit ain’t my fault because…” lifestyle and could sure throw one hell of a pity party.
“Sorry, but I drank too much. I promise I won’t do it again.”
Unfortunately… this coping mechanism and excuse-making did nothing but help the whiskey bottle tighten its grip on me…
At least until March 25, 2014.
When I decided to take back control of my life.
Talk about a fucking liberation.
I cannot tell you how liberating it is to take back control and live each day free of being owned and controlled by a fucking cocktail. And for my sobriety, this one of my pillars.
I took back control.
And now I know. I drank because I wanted to drink. Plain and fucking simple. It’s on me. I own it.
No more excuses.
To wrap up, I want to share two very real truths that I’ve learned by getting sober and staying sober…
There IS joy in life without drinking and this reality DOES exist
Self-Accountability. Own your shit. Take your life back. Go be great!
No more fucking excuses. Man the fuck up.
To much language? Sorry, but…
Love, God bless, and goodnight.
Oh… and the guy that filed a restraining order on me when I was eight… fucking douchebag… lucky for him, he’s doing life in prison.
I guess I haven’t crossed the Christian forgiveness bridge for that motherfucker just quite yet…
Let us pray.
PS: Love and miss you, Johnny. Thanks for always having my back. As always, until we meet again. JNG 07-25-92
PPS: The baseball bat used in the attack referenced in this post was indeed Johnny’s Little League bat… that I still carry around with me… just in case this Christian thing don’t work out.
Go be great!