One Man’s Story of the Tumultuous Road to Sobriety and a Changed Life
In this grippingly honest narrative about one man’s journey from addiction and self-destruction to recovery and a changed life, readers will be dismayed at the hurtful patterns of his two alcoholic parents and how they scarred and shaped the outcome of their three sons forever. Watts openly talks of his multiple failed marriages, strained relationships with his children, overwhelming business losses, and the self-loathing and guilt that plagued him for years.
In spite of all of this, Jack held on to the conviction he made more than fifteen years ago never to drink again. Gradually learning to make better choices, he discovered how to move past deeply engraved dysfunctions and become a productive, loving adult. Included are accounts of his efforts to live out the twelve steps in restoring relationships with family members and confronting the offender who molested his three daughters.
A story like this is one that continues throughout a lifetime. The glimpses shared in these pages will inspire readers to be honest about their own demons and provide hope for a fulfilled and joyful life beyond the shackles of addiction.
About the Author:
As a young boy and a young man, Jack Watts experienced multiple expressions of religious abuse, which led to self-destructive behaviors that nearly ruined his life. But through programs such as AA and the support of loving Christians, he made much progress toward recovery. However, he found that the particular effects of religious abuse needed a program beyond what he had experienced. Thus began his journey to find the spiritual freedom his heart yearned for and the eventual creation of the 11-step program, Recovering from Religious Abuse. Jack has an A.B., from Georgia State University; an M.A., from Baylor University; and has completed everything except for his dissertation for a Ph.D. from Emory University. He has worked for nearly three decades in marketing, exclusively serving Christian ministries and publishers.
Jack Watts can be found on the following websites. Stop by and say hello.
The following was taken directly from Jack Watt’s website.
I wrote my story because I had all of this “stuff” inside of me that was keeping me from being the person I knew I was supposed to be. I realized I needed to get it all out, and that’s exactly what I did.
Although I have been to thousands of AA meetings and years of counseling, nothing has been as cathartic, healing, or empowering as when I wrote Hi, My Name Is Jack.
It started out like it was a massive fourth step, which is writing a fearless and honest moral inventory of your life, but it quickly became much more, as I began to learn about the dark side of my family’s history. By the time I finished, my story read more like a mystery novel than a memoir; with twists and turns so bizarre they had to be true.
Once completed, I knew I had to share it with others. If I didn’t, the value of the lessons I learned would have been lost. If you read Hi, My Name Is Jack, you will get to know me really well. This isn’t just my story, however, it’s your story as well. Nearly everybody who reads it recognizes significant points of identification.
Therefore, if truth interests you more than fiction, and if you are seeking encouragement and hope, Hi, My Name Is Jack may be exactly what you need.
Chapter 1: (From the Amazon page)
“Jack, I don’t know how to say this gently; so here goes. If you want us to continue dating, you have to go to AA and stop drinking.”
This ultimatum was delivered to me in the late spring of 1994 at a quaint Italian restaurant on Peachtree Street
in downtown Atlanta
, right above Underground Atlanta
, by my long-standing girlfriend, Eleanor Benedict. We had been talking about Bill Clinton, who had taken office a little over a year before.
There had been no segue. She just blurted it out. When she did, I wasn’t offended; I was surprised. I wasn’t an alcoholic. “I’ve only had three beers,” I said quickly and defensively.
“Tonight you’ve only had three beers, but your drinking has gotten out of hand. I can’t go on like this. It has to stop, or we have to stop. The choice is yours. I’m serious about this,” and I could tell that she was.
Now she had my attention. For me, three beers was nothing. I used to think of three beers as priming the pump before I started on Jack Daniel’s. I would have anywhere from eight to ten of those and wind up the evening with one or two Grand Marniers. That was a normal evening routine for me.
Eleanor and I had been dating for three years—going on four—and Eleanor had been pressing me hard to marry her. Having been married twice, I was reluctant.
She was a medical doctor, finishing her residency at Emory and about to make substantial money as an internist. Eleanor was in her early thirties, redheaded, and had green, captivating eyes that were warm, alluring, and troubled. She was five three and always seemed to wear too much makeup. She wasn’t beautiful—not in the traditional sense—but she was quite striking. She was also very exciting. There was never a dull moment with Eleanor.
At the time, I was doing quite well financially. I admit that I found the prospect of living a jet-setting, affluent life with a cute young doctor very attractive, but our relationship had its share of problems. One time, I was taking one of my daughters, Jordan, to the movies, and Eleanor came along to shop while we did. She and Jordan were fooling around in the car, and Eleanor bit Jordan. That’s right. My girlfriend, the doctor, bit my daughter, who was only eight years old at the time. Jordan screamed because it was a hard bite, which both startled and hurt her. It was all I could do to keep the car on the road as Jordan reached over to cling to her daddy. Eleanor apologized, insisting that she was just being playful, but the scene was so bizarre that I began to rethink the possibility of a lifelong relationship with her.
This aberrant behavior was not an isolated incident. Another time, Eleanor and I planned to go to a bed-and-breakfast inn for a long weekend in Savannah. One of my older daughters, Brenn, who was twenty-two at the time, asked me if we could drive her there and back. Brenn planned to stay with a girlfriend of hers who just happened to be the hostess at the same B&B where Eleanor and I were registered. Naturally, I said yes. Frankly, I thought nothing of it and looked forward to the long drive down and back, with Brenn along for the ride. She was a lot of fun. For this trip, we drove in Eleanor’s car instead of mine, which was in the shop.
Although Eleanor readily agreed that it would be wonderful having Brenn, she was secretly seething. When we arrived at the B&B, Brenn’s friend Jennifer, who was a very attractive young lady, gave me a hug, which was apparently a little too close and a little too long for Eleanor’s comfort. Having known Jennifer since she was fourteen, I didn’t think a thing about it—nor would anybody else in their right mind. Yet Eleanor, who had more and more frequently acted as if she had some kind of personality disorder, was not behaving like she was in her right mind—she was acting insecure and jealous. Although she didn’t say anything then and there, her discomfort quickly turned to anger. When Brenn left to spend the weekend with Jennifer, Eleanor unleashed a tirade of obscenities that would have made a sailor blush. I was stunned, but there was no appeasing the doctor.
I retreated to the bathroom to take a shower and to avoid further battle. My fear was that every other guest would overhear her shouting, making it impossible to look others in the face at breakfast the following morning. While I was in the shower, Eleanor hurriedly gathered her things, threw them in her car, and left.
I will never forget how I felt when I realized what had happened—like an absolute fool. There I was, a forty-nine-year-old man with his twenty-two-year-old daughter, stranded in Savannah—250 miles from home. I not only felt like a fool, I also looked like one for being in a significant relationship with someone who was that volatile.
Within an hour, I rented a car for Brenn and me to drive back to Atlanta, cutting the trip short by two days. While on the road, I left a message for Eleanor, telling her it was over, which was the healthy, appropriate thing to do.
But I wasn’t healthy. Although I did not realize it at the time, I was an alcoholic. Therefore I reconciled with her two weeks later when she came to see me—remorseful and in tears. That is what alcoholics do; it’s who we are. Even when there is no alcohol in our system, we still think like alcoholics, and it costs us. I was a rescuer, and my alcoholism clouded my judgment regularly and repeatedly.
It’s funny because Eleanor thought all of our “issues” were based on my drinking and not hers, but that wasn’t true. I think she had problems with alcohol as well, and like nearly every problem drinker, she was in complete denial. During our last Thanksgiving together, my family came to eat at my house in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. Being the host for all four of my daughters and their families, I didn’t have anything to drink. I was much too busy. By the way, this is also one reason I denied having a drinking problem for so long. I didn’t have to drink on every social occasion. There were many times when I never touched it, but in truth, these times of abstinence were becoming less frequent.
Before the meal, everyone was talking and mixing very well when Eleanor, who was feeling no pain, spilled her red wine on my beautiful new white Burberry rug in front of everybody. I asked her to clean it up right away.
“Let the maid do it when she comes next week,” she said with a dismissive, haughty laugh.
Immediately I got a sponge and started cleaning it myself. Victoria, my second daughter, who was twenty-four, marched up and said, “Dad, why are you cleaning that and not her?”
Eleanor heard this, and the battle was on. They went into another room and let it rip. It was awful, and it seemed to go on for hours. Every once in a while, Eleanor would come out and refill her glass to keep her throat moist for the next round. By the time the doctor left to go on duty, there was nothing left to be thankful for. The holiday was ruined.
She called in the early evening after everyone had left and said, “It wasn’t that bad.” She added, “The first two cases I saw today were Thanksgiving gunshot wounds.”
“So I should be grateful that we didn’t have gunplay?” I said, still infuriated that the holiday had been destroyed.
There were dozens of other examples I could describe, but everybody could see this relationship was unhealthy—that is, everyone but me. I met Eleanor at a Bible study, and we were attracted to each other at first sight. She was a petite beauty and obviously quite intelligent. I kept hoping things would turn around with her, but they never did.
So when she gave me the ultimatum to go to AA, I went. I found a noon meeting at the Triangle Club, which was right behind a huge liquor store that I frequented often. When I went to the first meeting, I was surprised to see so many sharp people and virtually no street people. At the end of the meeting, I went forward and picked up a white chip, which signaled my acknowledgment of being an alcoholic and my willingness to surrender my problem with alcohol to God.
My relief was instantaneous. I felt a burden lift from my back, and I was certain I was in the right place. Ever since I was in high school, when I first started drinking excessively, I knew I was different. I didn’t fit in—not really. At AA I was finally with people who were like me—people who thought like me. It’s definitely where I belonged.
On the outside—the side I allowed people to see—I looked fine. In fact, I looked better than fine. I looked good. On the inside, however, I was a mess, and I knew it. In the second step of AA’s 12-Step program, it says that God can restore an alcoholic to sanity. At first this seemed a little extreme, but I soon realized how crazy I had become. Take my anger, for example. I would sit in a meeting and, if a guy looked at me in a way I didn’t like, I would say to myself, I can take him. If he even looks at me again, I’ll beat the crap out of him.
I always thought like this and was surprised to find that most people don’t. Even people who have a problem with anger aren’t that angry. My anger seemed normal to me, which is a pretty good definition of insanity. By the way, if a girl looked at me, I thought, She wants me.Sadly, I still think that way, which is pretty typical for a guy—even an older one.
In those first few months, AA was my life. People seemed genuine and more willing to be transparent than any people I had ever seen before. At Triangle, there was a guy who led quite a few meetings. He was kind, accepting, insightful, and had an obvious desire to help others. He seemed genuinely humble, which came from deep within him. He was also gay and h…
In lieu of a guest post, I asked Jack Watts to provide a copy of the Conclusion. He was kind enough to do so. Enjoy.
I began telling my story the day I went to AA to pick up a white chip. That’s when I acknowledged publicly that I was powerless over alcohol. But joining AA involved more than admitting I was an alcoholic. In many ways, that was easy. The other part—realizing that I thought like an alcoholic— was really difficult.
It wasn’t simply giving up my addictive behavior that was required. I needed to change the way I thought about life, which has been more challenging. Drinking caused me problems—no doubt about it; but it was thinking like an alcoholic that made my life a wasteland. It produced chaos, dysfunction, and insanity—each requiring years of sobriety to transform. At the time, I had no idea what would be necessary to make me whole; I just knew I needed help and lots of it.
My surrender was also an admission that I needed God to heal me and restore me to sanity. Every successful AA story is a God story. Even though I had been a Christian for years, it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t solve my problem with alcohol on my own—most people can’t. I needed recovery—not abstinence.
***As I end my story, perhaps the best place to do so is where it all began— at an AA meeting.
A year after my meeting with Mona, I went to a 5:45 meeting at Triangle, where I have been a regular for years. I brought Jordan with me. She had just graduated from The University of Georgia with a degree in psychology. She was getting a graduate degree so that she could counsel children who have been sexually abused. Obviously, I’m very proud of her and the choice she has made.
As the AA meeting ended and the chips were being given, Jordan stepped up and said, “Hi, my name is Jordan.”
“Hi, Jordan,” several hundred people responded in unison.
She continued, “I’m not an alcoholic, but my dad is. This is his fifteenth anniversary of sobriety, which is a special milestone for him. That’s why I want to give him his chip.” Turning her eyes to me, she said, “I’m very proud of you, Daddy.” With that, she gave me a blue chip, as tears started to fill her eyes.
Accepting the chip with misty eyes, I looked at the crowd and said, “Hi, my name is Jack.”
“Hi, Jack,” came the familiar response.
“I’m an alcoholic, and it’s been fifteen years since my last drink.”
The audience, which was filled with familiar faces, all clapped, smiled, and hooted their approbation. It was a wonderful moment.
As the applause subsided, I said, “I remember the day I picked up my white chip like it was yesterday. I was determined to stop drinking, but I had no idea how to do it. It took about a year for me to come to the point where I no longer craved alcohol. I thought that was all I needed.”
When I said this, most people laughed. Like me, they knew my journey to sobriety had just begun.
Continuing, I said, “By the time I picked up my five-year chip, I no longer thought like an alcoholic. It took that long for me to become sober—completely sober.” Several newcomers groaned when I said this, recognizing the daunting task that lay before them.
“When I picked up my ten-year chip,” I said, “I had finally learned how to incorporate my recovery tools into other areas of my life. And from then until now—my fifteenth anniversary—I’ve learned how to live day-by-day in recovery, especially the value of honesty.”
Looking at Jordan who was beaming, I smiled. “Most people don’t learn to live until they are told they are dying,” I said. “I want more for my life than that. From this point forward, my goal is fulfillment, which is achievable, as long as I remain sober in body and spirit—one day at a time. Thanks for being there for me when few others were. It means the world to me.”
As I sat down, I realized I was no longer a prisoner of my past. My chains have been broken, and I’m free to go forward, embracing the truth and the light. I’m free to finish strong.
As the meeting ended, Jordan and I drove off in my Volvo convertible. The weather was lovely, and everything felt in sync. With the top down and the wind gently blowing, Jordan turned to me and asked, “Dad, do you think you’ll ever get married again?”
It was a great question. After so many failed attempts, sobriety and counseling had taught me that I was okay the way I was and didn’t require a woman to feel good about myself. Perhaps Humpty Dumpty would have to remain broken forever. At the same time, I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life alone; so I answered, “I’m not sure whether or not there will be a caboose to this train, Jordan.”
Smiling, I added, “I’ll keep you posted.”
Knowing me as well as she does, Jordan just grinned mischievously; so did I. I guess we both knew the answer.
Book Quotes that I felt were important (few among many)
His bullying was no novelty to either Dick or me because Danny used every opportunity he could find to inflict minor physical pain or major emotional cruelty. In spite of this, we loved him dearly. He was our big brother, our hero, our champion in standing up to Dad. He couldn’t see the intensity of our loyalty because he was a bully, and since bullies are obtuse by nature, they often can’t see or understand what’s going on around them. They’re too busy with the corporal dimension of pain to comprehend the emotional side of life.
I was terrified. Blacking out was the kind of alcoholic behavior I couldn’t deny. I was scared to death; and just like Murph, I immediately stopped drinking – cold turkey – no slips, no relapses, no excuses. Also like Murph, I didn’t go to AA, as I should have; so I didn’t deal with any of the underlying causes for my acting-out behavior. I just stopped drinking – with surprising success – for years. But I was a “dry drunk,” with all of the causal factors for medicating with alcohol still lurking just beneath the surface, itching to emerge again and destroy me.
Since Martha’s parenting skills have always been exemplary, I’ve never had real cause to complain. Over the years, we’ve had no more than two or three conflicts, all of which were resolved within a day or two. Neither of us speaks ill of or undermines the other, especially in front of our daughter. Jordan actually believes we were well suited for each other and never should have divorced. Since we couldn’t make the marriage work, Martha and I decided to make the divorce work well. It’s something I’m very proud of.
I was shocked, but she was right. It couldn’t hurt now. I’ve thought about that moment a thousand times since, and it helped me understand how cunning, baffling, and powerful alcohol really is. Mom was never sober – not really. She just quit drinking – a big difference. It has also made me realize that once you’re an alcoholic you’re never free from its influence. No matter how long you’ve been sober, you can never let your guard down. You can achieve great things through sobriety, but alcohol remains your constant enemy. You can never drink again.
Obviously I was playing a game of self-deception, but that’s what alcoholics do. They put on a happy face and say “Everything’s fine” – especially when it isn’t. they use alcohol to numb pain and blur reality…Everyone else sees it – but not the alcoholic.
But I knew that confronting Danny was my duty and my responsibility, regardless of the fact that more than three decades had passed since his offenses against my family and me. I had to stand up for the truth and for my daughters. I would be unable to live with myself if I shirked this responsibility.
I thought about the choices Danny had made in life – as well as their consequences. Because of his egregious behavior, he is alone, completely alienated from those who should be close to him. He is bitter, angry, unfulfilled, and friendless. Nobody cares whether he lives or dies – not really. Truly, the consequences of his actions have produced a living death.
We drank for happiness…but became unhappy.
We drank for joy…but became miserable.
We drank to be sociable…but became argumentative.
We drank for sophistication…but became obnoxious.
We drank for friendship…but made enemies instead.
We drank so we could sleep…but woke up tired.
We drank to gain strength…but ended up feeling weak.
We drank for relaxation…but ended up with the shakes.
We drank to get courage…but we became afraid.
We drank to be confident…but became doubtful instead.
We drank to make conversation easier…but we slurred our speech.
We drank to feel heavenly…and ended up feeling like hell.
Jack Watts wrote a forthright memoir about his life as an alcoholic. I enjoyed his candidness; his unrestrained approach to storytelling. His ability to tell his story – the good, the bad, and the ugly – in an unsullied way was astounding.
“Hi, my name is Jack, and I am an alcoholic.”
The book, in my opinion, is extremely well written. The chapters were short and to the point, which made stopping and starting the book very easy. I found no grammatical errors, and the book’s content stuck to the story. Often, when writing memoir, it is easy to go into too many minor details; losing sight of the story’s importance; this was not the case with My Name is Jack.
“Now she had my attention. For me, three beers was nothing. I used think of three beers as priming the pump before I started on Jack Daniel’s. I would have anywhere from eight to ten of those and wind up the evening with one or two Grand Marniers. That was a normal evening routine for me.”
My Name is Jack gives the reader insight into the life of an alcoholic. His story takes us through the ups and downs of his addiction, and while some may laugh, his Karma. I often speak of Karma in stories on my blog – my stories. I can frequently be heard saying “I must have had a hell of a good time in a prior life, because there is a permanent bite mark on my behind from Karma coming around and biting me.”
“As part of my AA program, I began to take a complete – painstakingly honest – inventory of my life. In so doing, I asked myself exactly when I became an alcoholic. I decided that it was in 1933 – eleven years before I was born.”
My bite is miniscule compared to the bite on Jack’s behind. If it could go wrong, it did; if it could come around, it did; yet, this man stood tall and jumped right back from the fire into the pan – many times.
“I prayed and asked God why He had allowed all this to happen. I begged Him repeatedly to answer me. Finally, one day a voice – like thunder – seemed to come out of the heavens. “I don’t know, Watts,” the voice said. “Something about you just pisses me off!”
Jack Watts is a man meant for love. His love and devotion for his children and his grandchildren shines through as though the Heavens opened up and pure sunshine came streaming through. While his life is full of the love of a good family, the one love he so desperately seeks has eluded him. I hope he finds that one special person.
The book is full of poignant phrases, as you can see from the above quotes taken from the book. Jack speaks with a wisdom that only someone who has lived life to its fullest, the good, the bad, and the ugly…
This book is a definite must read!
My Name is Jack can be purchased at Amazon AND Jack is offering one of the commenters an autographed copy of his book. Just leave a comment below with your email address for contact purposes. A tweet or mention about the give away will bring a smile to my face! Thanks!