• Horseshoes, hand grenades and vodka

    A lot has changed since I last wrote about my struggles, back on May 1. I wish the Yellow-Brick Road was a part of it. It’s not.

    As you may or may not recall, I was in a lockdown. A few days ago, it had almost reached its end.

    I was lonesome, bored and isolated — all major enemies of the alcoholic. Of course, I could always “look forward” to the spaghetti dinners on Sunday — no matter what!

    And meetings, almost 100 of them. Meeting after meeting, with a different speaker, sure, but all lasting 60 minutes, all reading the 12 Steps, the 12 Traditions, How It Works, and a selection from the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous — or at least three of the four anyway.

    The one time they did take me on a trip, they took me to Drytown. Great.

    Just before my blackout ended, I was sitting outside on the deck. It was late in the evening, and I was in a truly lousy mood, having had a horrible week. I fought it for a while, but before long I was on my way across the street to Safeway. The picture shows where I ended up.Safeway

    I came back and settled in, watching a movie. I do not, however, remember going to bed. When I awoke the next morning, my glass was in the sink, and the bottle nowhere to be found. Everything seemed normal with my housemates, although my roommate was still asleep.

    I thought I was free and clear, but I was not surprised when summoned to the office, and handed the “form.” I handed it back, and said they didn’t need to test me. I didn’t even try to use the “clean” urine sample I had in my pocket.

    I was told to pack my things.

    My sister came and got me, and took me to our childhood home, where I valiantly held out — for about an hour. OK, maybe half an hour.

    I was done. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had no self-respect left, no pride, no joy, I was exhausted and whipped — I’d fought my last fire. I literally had not been home for more than a few days, here and there, in two years. I’d been in numerous rehabs, medical detoxes and sober living homes, and had even “flunked out” of some.

    I was actually looking forward to it. No more whispers or stares during the few times I made it back to our small town, no more being ignored by people I’d known for years, no more unreturned phone calls or emails. No more struggle, no more starts and stops, and finally some peace.

    So it began. I walked down and bought a big bottle, went home, and turned on a movie. Lather, rinse, repeat. My sister’s pleas fell on deaf ears. At some point, I fell asleep in a drunken stupor, woke up, and the second day was a repeat of the first.

    The anguish and grief were indescribable, and I was as distraught as I had ever been.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    I think it was on the third day that the first wave of Federation Troopers arrived. Two of the men that I respect most in the world. It didn’t make a bit of difference. I stood in the family room shouting that I was done, that I wasn’t going back, and I did the same thing in the driveway. My sister was crying and pleading with me, and I was crying too, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t going in. I was done. I acted like a complete asshole. Finally, my friends gave up and left, and I will never, ever forget the sadness I saw in the eyes of those two fine men.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    I’m not sure if it was the same day or not, but eventually the second wave of Federation Troopers arrived. I was just as adamant, just as obnoxious, and just as immune to the pleas and sobs of my sister. By this time, I think there were five empty “handle” jugs in the wastebasket.

    I found myself standing in the bedroom sobbing uncontrollably. All of a sudden, somehow, “the flags” flashed into my mind.

    A couple of weeks before, we’d gone to the Fair Oaks Cemetery and placed flags upon the graves of all the military personnel in honor of Memorial Day.

    I also grew up in this area, and that trip meant far more to me than just patriotism. “Thomas Byers Ryll.” I thought of the lump that still comes to my throat almost 25 years after I lost one of the best friends I ever had.

    “Heather Michelle Ziese.” I thought of the pain and grief that my friends David and Gail have endured at having lost such a precious daughter.

    These thoughts penetrated into a mind that may have been as saturated with vodka as it ever had been.

    And so did the thoughts that followed: How could I subject a wife who has stuck by me through all this, four great kids, and the rest of my family and friends to the very same thing?

    I couldn’t. I walked into the family room and said “OK.”

    Little did I know at the time that a third Trooper and duct tape were waiting in reserve. Such is the love and determination so many of us alcoholics and addicts have for each other.

    They loaded me up and took me to detox, where the folks were just as relieved that I made it back. So many of us do not. Alcohol detoxification is the most life-threatening, but I got through it safely.

    I’m now staying in a sober living house, and trying to get back on track.

    This disease affects us addicts and alcoholics at the cellular level. It’s a miracle every single day that passes that we don’t drink or pick up. There is no cure — all we can do is manage it.

    Don’t believe it’s a disease? Think we’re just using the term as an “excuse”? Get over it.

    As I’ve written before, we have been to the depths of hell that are unimaginable. We do not need any excuses.

    But you know who does need to understand that it’s a disease? Again, as I have written before, it’s our families and friends. They need to be perfectly clear that they did nothing to cause what has happened to us, that it had nothing to do with how they treated, or didn’t treat, us earlier in life.

    This is the last time I’ll be writing about my disease. There’s nothing else to say about it that I haven’t already written. I will be working on managing it, and repairing what damage I can.

    I don’t know how this will all turn out. I do know that it’s going to be a fight, and it’s going to be as vicious as it needs to be. It almost wasn’t.



    • I am holding you in the light Tom and hoping that this time the management works and you are at least at peace with yourself. It is definitely a disease and I hope you make it. I think you are a wonderful writer and thanks for sharing with all of us strangers.


      • Maya North

      • June 17, 2013 at 7:25 pm
      • Reply

      You have so many people in your corner and we want you to triumph more than words can express, because, at heart, you are a very good man, and everybody but you seems to know it. Hugs and prayers…


      • Robin Pratt

      • June 18, 2013 at 4:44 am
      • Reply

      it isn’t easy but it can be done, with the grace of God and the fellowship of true friends. On August 23rd, I will reach my 14th year clean and sober, one day at a time.


      • Spring Warren

      • June 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm
      • Reply

      I wish you didn’t have to go through all this, Tom and I hope that ease and contentment are soon coloring your life.


      • Tom Mcmasters-Stone

      • June 19, 2013 at 7:42 am
      • Reply

      Thank you all. My mentor says that this whole disease is grossly unfair. I have never really thought of it as a matter of fairness. I do know that one of the curses, or torments, of my life is that I really have never been able to understand what I mean to people, never been able to grasp it- even my wives and my children.



    • I hope you are also seeing a professional therapist to work on the meaning you have for yourself and how others see you. If your wife has stayed with you for all this and your kids still talk to you, you mean a lot to them. I hope you see your goodness within yourself. I don’t even know you and I think you are brave and facing fears and it is a process.



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