First and Last: Edward Grinnan on Moving from Hopeless to Hopeful

Edward Grinnan, Guideposts' Editor-in-Chief and author of The Promise of Hope, recalls his first drink and his last and discusses the difference sobriety has made in his life.

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I'm Edward and I'm an alcoholic, and this is about my first drink.

So, I must have been about 13 and I was with a bunch of other young teens, out in an apple orchard. So we went out there one night with a bottle of Old Granddad that one of our members had smuggled from his father's liquor cabinet, and we stood in a circle.

It was a perfect fall night; it was so crisp, it was like peanut brittle. You could almost break the air, and it was clear and the stars were everywhere. And when the bottle got to me, I lifted it high in the air. It went down like a demon, but it felt like the moon was coming was coming down with it, like light was filling me on the inside. And somehow it awakened something in me and I felt unbelievable, and I thought, I want to feel this way all the time. And for the next 25 years or so, that's exactly what I tried to do.

So, my last drink: Here's how it happened. By this time of my drinking, I'm in my early thirties, but I'm way ahead in other ways, and I had to wean myself off alcohol, off of a binge, very carefully, or I could go into convulsions or seizures or have hallucinations. 

I was walking down Eighth Avenue and I was sipping a can of warm beer through a straw out of a paper bag, and when I finished, I fired it into a trash can and I said, "That's it. That's it, that's the last one."

I go up to my apartment and I opened the drawer of the side table, the night stand, and there looking back at me, as if it'd been waiting, was a 16-ounce can of Ballantine Ale. And I said, "Well, maybe God wants that to be the last." But I looked at it again and I thought, no, this is my last chance. And I took it over to the sink in the kitchen and I poured it down the drain, which was a completely unnatural experience for me.

That night, those cans of beer, they were the last drinks of my life. 

How it is... It's mind-boggling to me, really, to think back over those years of self-destruction, but I would say the two poles of my life are really hopelessness and hope. Because I have hope every day when I wake up now. I have hope if I don't take a drink.

Now, it would be easy to look back across those decades to see myself, see my drinking, my drugging and all my other behavior as being a different life, but it's not. It's not; it's part of my life. On this side of that divide is a different Edward, but still the same person—still the same alcoholic. I did not become an alcholic; I'm still an alcholic. I think, in many ways, like an alcholic. I don't think about drinking, but I think about...I use my character flaws—or, at least, I battle them, the same flaws that were there when I was an active alcoholic. 

But I would say the two great differences between the way it was and the way it is now is the way it was was hopeless and the way it is now is hopeful. A day at a time.

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