Alcoholism Kills: Don’s Relapse Story

Alcoholism Kills: Don’s Relapse Story


Sometimes it’s so unreasonable, with deaths,
that it’s almost hard to tell. There’s a cup up here behind me. If you look
closely at that cup, you’ll see that it’s got an inscription on it to a guy by the name
of Donald Burns. How ironic his last name is Burns, because that’s how he died. He burnt
to death, along with another person as a result of his carelessness, in a hotel in Seattle. And he burnt to death two days after leaving
here. Oh, he was only in here overnight, so he had no time to even get sober. He just
couldn’t bear what he thought was the indignity of having to have to come back here. Because
you see, here’s what happened to Don. Don had come down here a year previously.
He always used to say, “I’m in the “rag” business,” and really what he was, he was the West Coast
representative for the fritzy clothes line. And you know, fellows, it seemed like he had
everything that me and you used to drink wanting to have. He was a single bachelor-type guy,
fairly attractive looking man, a good-looking guy. Had a Cadillac convertible, had a yacht
up there in Puget Sound, had his own bachelor pad, beautiful ranch, built over on one of
the islands on Puget Sound. And he was making himself about $250,000 a
year. Most guys would say, “Boy, if I had that,
I’d never drink again as long as I lived.” Well, that’s what he had. And it got better.
It got better. That’s why he got that cup. He came down here and he bought it hook, line,
and sinker the first time. God, he loved it. It had been so long since he had gone any
length of time without taking a drink that this new experience of sobriety just overwhelmed
him. And so for a year, he was active on AA and
done great. And then he came down to see me at the end of this year. And he says, “Say,
I’ve got a problem. Our company is having its yearly meeting. I’m the top salesman in
the whole country for our line.” And he says, “I’m going to get a financial award that’s
going to amount to a whole lot of money. I’ll get a good promotion, and it will give me
a lot of clout in the company.” And he says, “They have to award me this at
this banquet, but what worries me, Duf, is that there’s a lot of drinking goes on down
there. It’s just one wild weekend.” He says, “What do you think I should do? Well, I have no argument of what the hell
he should do. I said, “You just come down here. And you stay here for the weekend. Now
there’s no reason for you to be there Friday. Of course, that banquet isn’t until Saturday
night. And there’s no reason for you to be here Saturday afternoon. That banquet isn’t
until Saturday night. There’s no reason for you to be there Sunday. Because what they
want you for is going is be over on Saturday night.” So he said, “That makes sense.” So we made
arrangements that he’d come down here for the weekend. Then Saturday afternoon, late
Saturday afternoon, he got all cleaned up, and he drove into San Francisco. And he went
to the banquet. And he got the award there. And it was all filled with $50 gold pieces.
And so he was happier than hell that he had done this. He was so happy that on Sunday,
when we were having our regular meeting, as we just did here the other day, somebody said,
“Does anybody have anything they’d like to say?” Don jumped up. And he came up to the podium. And he says, “I don’t feel as though I won
this award.” He says, “I’m going to keep the money.” And he sort of smiled. But he said,
“I’d like to give the cup to where I think it belongs.” And he says, “I’ll give it right
here to Myrtledale.” Now that’s a beautiful story, beautiful story.
Except that three months later, he decided to drink. And he got mixed up with some chippy
from Reno. And he got married in Reno. He got married that same night, or the afternoon,
that he met the woman he married. And of course, he was drunk when he married
her and got drunker after he married her. And the marriage was never even consummated
sexually, because in the middle of the night, they drove him down here—his new bride and
a couple of friends that he knew up there—to get well. Now he was passed out, of course, when he
got here. And he woke up sometime Monday, confused, befuddled and all of that. No, he
knew he got married, he knew all about that. But he had no recollection of how he got down
here. And he was so ashamed of being here, so ashamed,
so ashamed. He was scared to death that somebody’d come in here and see him. So he left. And he went to Seattle, which was sort of
his home base. And he checked into a hotel in Seattle, supposedly, I guess, to taper
himself off, knowing full well that he couldn’t go to his own home because people would look
for him there. And he had a very notorious habit. There are people in this room who know
Don and know of the habit. It was smoking. He was a chain smoker. And even when he was
sober, he’d drop cigarettes on the floor. So it’s not too hard to understand what happened in Seattle.

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