I can’t blame anyone but myself when my American Dream turned into an alcoholic nightmare. Being a successful entrepreneur has both advantages and pitfalls. The advantages are, as my father put it wine, women and song or as my generation shouted: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Since I was never into drugs.
For me it was sex, wine, and rock and roll. Make no mistake those are also the pitfalls. I wasn’t long out of college when a buddy of mine said he knew of a sales job in a truck trailer leasing company in one of the Mid-Atlantic States. Being a south-westerner that was about as far away from home as I could imagine. With limited opportunities back home I decided to take the job. As unglamorous as the trailer leasing industry seems, if one was smart and did your homework, you could really make a lot of money. And what I made I saved most of it. So much so, when the elderly owner of the small company I worked for decided to retire I was able to buy it with another friend of mine.
I put my business degree to work and streamlined the operation, cut costs and found myself buying, selling, and leasing fleets of trailers to national accounts. Everything I touched turned to money and I decided it was time to spend some of it. I started by getting myself a townhouse and the most expensive luxury SUV money could buy.
Coming from a working class background, suddenly having so much money for the first time started to make me into a different person. The competition was getting tougher all the time and adding to my stress, there was a criminal element in that industry that I had to be mindful of. I don’t know when things started changing but I found myself working well into the night and most weekends too. I had developed an obsession with the trailer leasing business.
At this point, I knew I needed a diversion and I found two that would eventually cripple me . . . expensive call girls and expensive alcohol. Being truthful the ‘call girls were fun’ but alcohol had become my real mistress. In it I’d found that diversion I was looking for. Soon I wasn’t working well into the night anymore. Instead, I was in my townhouse drinking glass after glass of wine until I was unconscious.
Of course, the inevitable happened, I became distracted, and the company lost a major account to a competitor. That meant I had to let dedicated employees go. Yet that was still not enough to make me realize I needed help. One day while driving home under the influence I sideswiped a light pole and did extensive damage to my car. Nobody saw me and nobody was hurt. I realized then I had a problem. After I had the car fixed privately, another event happened that terrified me. To this day, I don’t know how I ended up in that motel on Route 1 in New Jersey, or what happened to my car. The last thing I remembered was getting four bottles of Argentine Malbec at my local liquor store. Being stranded in a place I’d never been to without identification and no car was a really ‘sobering’ experience and my wake up call.
I saw a TV commercial for a executive alcohol treatment facility in Florida and was on a plane to their facility in the Palm Beaches the next day. In the time since I’ve returned home clean and sober I have been able to focus and work again. I also learned alcohol is a disease and I must stay vigilant in my refusal to go down the same party path I was on before. I’ve also learned that my success isn’t only measured by what I do in my work life, but what I can accomplish in my personal life too.
New Castle, DE