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New year brings sobering reality for recovering alcoholic

John made it through Christmas with flying colors, though there was no hint of self-congratulation in his voice yesterday.

But now New Year’s Eve is coming up, and for people like him the greatest hazards won’t be the ones lurking on the highways; they’ll be found in the gatherings of family and friends where someone’s idea of kick-starting the party will be to add a little brandy to the eggnog or to pour a little vodka in the punch, oblivious to the peril it poses to unsuspecting guests.

As every addict knows, sobriety isn’t a destination; it’s a journey on which wrong turns beckon all the time.

John’s taken a few over the years.

“But I’ve been lucky to have some special people come into my life,” he said. “Once, when I was living in Uphams Corner, a wagon brought me to Station 2 on Dudley Street to sober up. They let me out of my cell at 3 in the morning and said, ‘You’re on your own.’ There I am in the lobby without a dime in my pocket and no one to call.

“A cop walked up and said, ‘C’mon, I’ll give you a ride.’ I later read about some award he got for valor. I sat in the front of his cruiser for almost an hour as he told me how he finally got sober, and how life had been good for him ever since. He gave me a glimmer of hope that I could do it, too.”

So did a legend known throughout the city as Steady Eddie. Scores of recovering alkies regarded him as a patron saint, a patient friend who never gave up on anyone. When Eddie died at age 83 in June 2008, they came from near and far to jam his funeral.

John was there, too, but sat in the back, embarrassed to be seen.

“I’d put together 15 years of sobriety, then began to struggle and my addiction flared again. Eddie had sponsored me; that’s why I was feeling ashamed.”

At a well-known facility a little south of the city, he finally got back on track last fall.

“There’s a tree outside in Eddie’s memory,” he said. “And there’s a big picture of him in the hall, over an inscription of his belief that no one is ever too far gone to be saved. I stood there for a long time, finally able to mourn his passing. I like to think of myself as proof that his legacy lives on.”

John traveled from his Quincy home to Braintree yesterday, visiting the graves of his father and sister.

“Alcohol put them there too soon,” he noted. “Believe me, I know how lucky I am. The holidays can be particularly tough for people like me; though others may not notice, we have to be very careful.

“But today, thank God, I’m doing OK.”

source: Boston Herald

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