White Knuckle Sobriety…

– Dennie Kuppinger, MS, LPC, CACII
My grandfather got sober the old fashion way—a cast iron skillet up the side of the head (no not really) but these words from my grandmother felt like it. “You drink again you son of a biscuit, I’ll kill you.” She used the basic southern style intervention technique after he embarrassed her at the Church Homecoming Picnic back in the 40’s. He must have taken her seriously, as he did not drink again.

For the next 44 years, he sat on the front porch in his rocking chair and complained daily he was gonna die. He made her pay dearly for her intervention, he never let her forget he was angry with her. As most good Southern women did, she went on with her life. She joined Eastern Star, played dominoes, and carted us grandkids to Sunday school. When we would cross the county line where the honkytonks clustered, she would tell us to avert our eyes. Of course, I peeked thru my fingers to see what was going on at “Sin City” as we barreled down the road to Catfish Village.

On Christmas Day, 1978, my grandfather died. Before he died, he said, “Merry Christmas.” That was the nicest thing he said in all those years. My grandfather didn’t have the benefit of treatment, AA, or a spiritual way of life. All he had was what we call “white knuckle sobriety.” He hung on to that rocking chair for dear life so he wouldn’t drink. Bitter, angry, alone.

Today, I would never suggest to anyone to simply quit drinking. I know how important drinking is. After all, if you cross alcohol out of the word alcoholic, all that is left, is “ic.” There has to be something better to put in its place, a way to deal with the “ic.” That something to me is treatment, AA and a spiritual way of life.

My grandfather didn’t have the benefit of AA – it hadn’t made its way to East Texas back then. By the time I came along in the program, it had. On my trips to see family, I went to meetings and even bought a first edition Big Book for the original price of $3.50.

Now that I am 44 years sober, I think of my granddaddy often. I am grateful I was given the gift of recovery. There have been times though I will admit, I too, have sat on that proverbial rocking chair, stuck in self-pity, fear, resentment, or “ic” but not for long. That’s because I have a program that tells me, “move a muscle change a feeling,” “Analysis, Paralysis,” or better yet, pick up that 500lb cell phone and call someone. Today filled with the many gifts of sobriety, like so many of us are, every day is a Merry Christmas!