The True Story of How a “Violent Drunk” Became One of My Greatest Inspirations

by Amy on April 17, 2013


A few weeks ago I wrote about the time when I watched my dad throw my mom through a glass table.

I was kind of hoping he didn’t catch that post…

Sure enough, a few days after I posted it, there was his comment on Facebook:

“The good news of Amy’s story is that was me & Kathy’s last drink!! After that night we joined AA !! Due to the 12 steps of AA we both stayed sober.”

Like a true approval addict, I called my dad right away to see if he was mad.

“No, not at all.” He said without a hint of shame. “The past is the past and that was a turning point in my life.”

Then he told me a story I had never heard before…

“After I got arrested, your mom talked to the police officer for a long time that night. He told her where she could get help for her drinking. A place called Tualatin Valley Medical Association.”

This is where she met a counselor named “Burt.”

Apparently she bonded with him right away because he was from her hometown. Burt told her to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. She did. She was sober 29 years when she died.

My dad got sober too. Not long after, as often happens when married drunks decide to get sober, mom and dad got separated and my dad moved into an apartment.

Now this is when the story gets interesting…

Remember Burt? The counselor?

He started drinking again.

Shortly after the separation (all I remember about that btw was visiting dad in his new apartment where he fed us hot chocolate and pork and beans) Burt moved in.

AND my dad (the one who went to jail for throwing his wife through a glass table) became Burt’s AA “sponsor.” The man my mother met who saved her life by telling her about AA asked my father to sponsor him.

If you’re not familiar with AA, a sponsor is like a life coach. They inspire, they hold space, they listen, they remind you of who you really are, they don’t take any bullshit and they see for you what’s possible when you aren’t able to see it yourself.

As Martha Beck says, ” the unit of biological survival for a human is one individual. But for emotional survival it’s two. Everyone needs at least one compassionate witness to their experience.”

So my dad became a compassionate witness for Burt, and many others.

Mom and dad got back together a few months later. For years people would call the house at all hours and ask to speak with my dad when they were desperate for help. He would be there for them. No questions. At any hour.

He’s sponsoring 3 people right now. His next AA birthday is June 9th. He’ll be sober for 34 years.

The point?

Every single person has the capacity to Change. To be Great. To Contribute.

Every single person has the capacity to Change. To be Great. To Contribute.

The past — no matter how ugly or painful — holds the key to your power to heal, inspire and contribute in a way that only you can.

Hide the past under a wall of shame and that power is lost to us all, forever.

My dad taught me that.

4 Powerful Questions to ask yourself:

1. What do you hide about yourself?
2. What are you afraid will happen if you shine a light on it?
3. How could the truth be a source of inspiration to others?
4. How could you heal yourself by revealing it?

As always, I’d love for you to comment below.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelli Wilson April 17, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Thank you for sharing such a powerful story. I loved the honesty from your Dad. We can make profound changes and I have heard amazing stories of recovery from the 12-step rooms. I hope people find inspiration and willingness in your sharing and open to the idea that they can live a happy, joyful life if they choose to do the work. Love it! Kelli


Amy April 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Thank you Kelli! We can make profound changes. Human beings are incredible! xoxo


julia April 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Hi Amy,
I was so moved by your blog last week when you talked about your dad throwing your mom through the glass table in a drunken rage and how that impacted your life.

My sister is in AA and she had her one year sober anniv in March! When her young teenage son died unexpectedly, my sister’s already out of control life completely and systematically unraveled. The little drinking issue we thought she had was ultimately exposed as full on alcoholism complete with moments where she seriously considered taking her own life.

Your four questions highlight the very things that my sister has begun to live by way of, her own kind of life coach, AA. And it has saved her life and helped her heal and grow. These are thought provoking questions for anyone at any point in their lives so thanks for sharing today! I love this work…it has changed my life. I am grateful for knowing people like you, who are an inspiration of living the truth.


Amy April 18, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I’m so happy your sister found help. I’m so grateful to AA. Thanks for the post Julia!


Aaron April 17, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Great job, Great story. Thanks for sharing


Amy April 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Thanks brother.


Sarah Novak April 18, 2013 at 12:02 am

LOVED THIS STORY AMY – what an inspiration you Dad is! Thank you so much for sharing it; you are so right – we all have the capacity to change!


Amy April 18, 2013 at 1:19 pm

He will be so happy he inspired you through this story! xoxo


Adriane April 18, 2013 at 1:25 am

I loved both of these stories. I think we can all make a difference-and change. It is nice to hear these kinds of stories-of people at times in their lives when they could have just given up on themselves, but didn’t. Thanks.


Amy April 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Thanks for comment Adriane. That’s another good point of this story. There were plenty of chances for him and my mom to give up on themselves. In the end they didn’t and they turned out to be awesome parents and people because of it!


Claire April 27, 2013 at 3:58 am

So many miracles! Thanks for sharing your story. I’m 25 years myself, and 7 in Alanon (which I highly recommend for alcoholics as well as families [we all qualify!]; my level of serenity skyrocketed when I joined).


Amy May 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Thank you Claire! Alanon is such a great resource.


Joan McLeod April 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Wonderful post in every way, Amy. Thank God for your father and the people who helped them along the way.

I’ve come to use AA tools to help people learn to hold space for many different kinds of struggles and conflicts, both as individuals and at systemic levels of communities and organizations. There are so many in the world who provide space for others to let vulnerabilities come to light… those 4 questions are a great window to getting on with what is on the other side of the answers – if one is brave enough to take the questions on – or is lucky enough to find one who can provide such safe space such that you can’t help but do so. Bravo!


Amy May 1, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Thank you Joan! I so appreciate your comment. AA is a great program and I was raised by the philosophy — live and let live, easy does it, one day at a time, the serenity prayer. Such powerful wisdom for anyone and being exposed to it as a kid was another blessing that came out of this experience. xoxo


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