I retired a couple of years ago after nearly forty years of big ad agency life.
Just weeks later, a good and dear friend, Judy Halewood - owner and Chairwoman of Halewood International, asked me to lend a hand to her marketing department. That project lasted rather longer than either of us had expected and for some of the time Lady V and I stayed at Judy’s house on Barbados.
That was where I met Charlie, in an AA meeting.
Charlie’s drinking and drugging didn’t just help take the edge off his day. It took out the day; annihilated and obliterated it. That was the way he lived. Seeking and finding oblivion from life.
Finally, he got clean and sober, and here he was, living a life of relative peace and serenity on the island.
We became fast friends, two men from diametrically opposed backgrounds. Charlie, the one-time street kid made good. Dominick, the titled ex public school boy with at least two plums in his mouth. Both of us united in our sobriety.
Charlie’s story – his twenty-five years of addiction, pain, loss, recovery and redemption – is one of the most extraordinary stories I have ever heard in the rooms of AA. He asked me if I might be interested in writing about it, making a book of it. Not as a vanity project, he assured me, more a message of hope. Perhaps sharing his story would be of help to another alcoholic or addict. Or ten, twenty, hundreds, even thousands. Not to mention all those people whose lives are blighted and tested by their relationship with an alcoholic or addict. Be they friends, lovers, sons, daughters, parents, uncles or aunts.
At a conservative estimate, more than 23 million people in the US are addicted to alcohol and drugs. Nine million people in the UK drink at dangerous levels and the averages in Europe are close behind.
Against numbers and statistics like that, what good is one man’s story?
Well, for a start, it’s the truth. Shared with bare-knuckle honesty. It’s written by an alcoholic about an alcoholic. It’s funny, sad, fast-moving, appalling and redemptive.
It might encourage others to share their stories, to feed the chain of good news, optimism and strength so needed by those millions hoping to recover from their addictions.
MY NAME IS CHARLIE AND I DON’T THINK RIGHT.
A message of hope for the hopeless.