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Tales of a Hay Hauler: There's always hope

Brad Nelson Published on 05 February 2010

“There’s nothing special about me.” This was the comment of a fellow I asked about doing a story on. I have found that there is something special about everyone. All you need is a little time to find it.

The man I was talking to, for whatever reasons, as a young man, got tangled up with alcohol and drugs. The combination cost him some years of his life, and eventually family and community just gave up on him. He had been to rehab more than once and had only drifted back to the pit that almost destroyed him.

He was not happy there but until he found one man, probably the only man in the community who believed that there was hope for him, he felt totally lost. This one man consented to pay his way once more to a drug and alcohol rehab program. And this time it worked.

“Maybe it was that I needed to prove the community wrong. Maybe it was that the fellow who paid the bill to the rehab center really thought I would make it. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m clean and sober and I will never allow myself to touch the stuff that could take me back to the pit.”

He is now still married to his first wife and they have raised two sons who are sober and hard-working.

Two decades earlier I knew a fellow who had the odd habit of always having a sack of hard candy with him. He either had a piece of it in his mouth or was getting a fresh one.

After I got to know him he told me about the candy sack. “I’m an alcoholic. The candy sack is my crutch. I lost track of how many years it was that I never had a sober day.

The candy replaces the empty calories of alcohol in my system and I’ve been dry for about three years. I’m afraid if I quit eating that hard candy that I’ll find a bottle and who knows how long it will take me sober up again.”

About 10 years ago, I was on my way home from Christmas shopping on December 24 of that year. I found close enough to what everyone on my list needed so I thought I was ready for the big day.

I noticed lights ahead of me on the road that were not normal. As I got close I found that a couple of cars had stopped because another car was parked beside the road on its top. The driver was not injured.

I recognized him as a talented welder who worked for a sister company to where I worked. My first thoughts were to get the car back on its wheels and towed off the road before anyone official happened by.

I was too late, since one of those first on the scene had called it in and the guys with the guns, badges, and ticket books would soon be there. I hung around to see if I could run interference for the driver.

I told the deputy who he was, where he worked, and that he was a valued long-term employee there. The deputy appreciated having someone there who knew the driver.

Problem was, he had been drinking and the county sheriff had issued an order that there would be no tolerance during the holiday season for anyone driving under the influence.

Next on the scene was his family. He was on his way to a holiday party at his home when something had distracted him and he got the car off the road, overcorrected and rolled it on the other side of the road.

Among his family was his oldest daughter, a beautiful young woman who appeared to have just become a teenager. She was the one who spoke decent English, and I explained to her that her father was not injured, and the other particulars of the wreck.

Through her tears she related to the Spanish-speaking family what was happening. Then she witnessed her daddy being handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car to be taken to the county jail instead of the Christmas party they had left when they got the call about the wreck.

Bob was about five-foot-six and his blond hair was in a crew-cut. He was an electrician. When I knew Bob he was a counselor to a bishop in the L.D.S church.

One day as the subject came up, Bob stated, “I am an alcoholic. I have not had a drink for close to 20 years but if I have a thimble-full I know that it will throw me off the wagon, and you will probably not see me for six months or more. And when you find me, I will not know where I have been or what I have done.”

Jesús Cavazos was my crew chief a few years back. We had some crew members who had interesting and expensive situations happening because of alcohol. One fellow of short stature and equally short fuse found that tequila made him feel ten feet tall. He once wore sunglasses for several days to cover a nice pair of black eyes.

The usual was for him to then have some kind of incident on the way home that attracted the police which resulted in another DUI ticket, which made liability insurance for his car too expensive, which cost him his driver’s license, which all added up to well over $5,000 in legal fees, fines, and high-risk car insurance for a couple of years.

The comical thing about this fellow was that he would not allow “the señora” to drive the car. I asked Jesús one day why he had no problems with drugs and alcohol like so many of his contemporaries were facing.

He told me that his father had always told him to leave it alone. His father told him not to smoke or to drink alcohol. “Just looking around me, my dad’s advice could easily have saved my life,” was how Jesús summed it up.

Some of my best friends over the years have been occasional or social drinkers. I do not have a problem with this. This is not about social drinking. This is about the hope that an escape can be made from addictions.

I took my two granddaughters out to eat tonight. There I met, at a table across the room, the first fellow I mentioned in this article, with his family. The candy-eater was still in control of his life when I left Idaho in 1992. Bob, the electrician, passed away a few years back without ever tasting alcohol again.

The young welder seems to have his head in control of his appetites, and the fellow with the black eyes who would not let his wife drive has not had an expensive alcohol incident for several years. I think it was the words of his señora: “You can have me or you can have tequila – but you cannot have us both.”

The “Shoe” comic strip had a classic a couple of weeks ago. A female at a bar was having a drink, and mentioned that she was drinking for two.

The bartender remarked that surely she was not pregnant and “drinking for two?” No, it was her sister who was pregnant, and realizing the dangers of drinking to the unborn one, the pregnant sister was not drinking at all. She then mentioned that alcohol containers should have two warnings. The second warning, that “alcohol can be a major cause of pregnancy.” FG

by Brad Nelson