Quitting (1986)
Posted: 28 May 2007 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Posted: 28 May 2007 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s nice to see that image of the tortured, alcoholic/drug addicted artist laid to rest. Maybe Aerosmith did their best work drunk, but Elmore Leonard’s best work really started after he quit drinking.

In the A&E biography one of Elmore’s sons says that Elmore said he would start drinking again on his eightieth birthday, but when that birthday came along, Elmore said he didn’t need to.

And still, the alcoholism and the AA meetings in Unknown Man #89 are some of the best stuff ever written on the subject.

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Posted: 28 May 2007 05:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Posted: 21 July 2007 06:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The Courage to Change ?Author: edited by Dennis Wholey ?Houghton Mifflin, 1986
“Quitting” Chapter by Elmore Leonard

When I look back now, back thirty-five or forty years, I can see I had a problem.  I can see I had a problem when I was in my twenties, but it wasn’t noticeable.  I didn’t drink that much more than anyone else.  The group I was with were all fairly hard drinkers.  You’d go to a party with a case of beer or bottle of Imperial.  You could buy them both for five bucks then.  Drinking was always kind of a macho thing - that idea of the hard drinkers in the westerns and detective stories, the shot standing at the bar.  I’m sure I was influenced by that.  In the service I passed out beer on an island in the Pacific for a year and drank probably six or eight cans a day.  I was nineteen years old.  In the Philippines we weren’t allowed to drink the native beer because of the water, so we drank whiskey.  Three of us would sit down with a bottle of local whiskey on the approved list and drink it.  That’s what we did.  It was a macho thing to do.  I went out and got tattooed in Seattle.  You’d drink whiskey and get tattooed.  It was a lot of fun.  I don’t regret any of it.

  Drinking was always fun.  We’d never go to dinner anyplace that didn’t serve liquor.  I always felt that conversation was more stimulating and the evening was more exciting when we drank.  I got to the point, though, where I believed that I was bored when I wasn’t drinking.  Talking to men in business was kind of boring for me, anyway, not being business oriented.  Advertising was different because there were a bunch of swinging guys in it.  But with the client, the straights, the manufacturers, I felt that I would have to drink in order to sit and listen to them.

  I always took pride in my capacity to drink.  I remember when I was at Campbell-Ewald in 1957, I went out to Colorado.  I was getting material for Chevrolet truck testimonial ads.  I would call on the Chevrolet dealer, who would then introduce me to a truck owner who had some fantastic story to tell about his trucks.  One time, I think it was in Alamosa, I was out for the evening with a trucker.  We were drinking whiskey and we had dinner.  We were drinking brandy and beer and he said, “I haven’t met a lowlander yet I didn’t have to put to bed.”  We were probably at five thousand feet.  I thought, “What is this? I know skinny guys back in Detroit who drink four to five martinis at lunch.  They could kill this guy sitting at a table.  He wouldn’t last an hour with these guys in little three-piece suits.”  Before that evening was over, he was chasing a waitress down the alley.  The next morning, I went to see him at his office, after I had gotten a couple of beers in me for my equilibrium.  He looked up, red-eyed, and said, “Oh, my God, I never want to see you again.”

  I went on my own after I quit Campbell-Ewald in 1961.  I didn’t write any fiction for four years, but that was my reason for quitting.  I got into business for myself.  I started writing movies for Encyclopedia Britannica and did some industrial movies.  I formed my own ad agencies, and I was successful.  I learned that 50 percent of it was asking for the money, and if you couldn’t ask for the money, you had no business being in business.

  I never reached the point of a couple of fifths a day.  Not until the very end did I drink before noon.  Noon was always that magic time when it became all right.  If you could just hold out until noon.  Sunday morning I used to hold out and then come back from Mass and have a big bowl of chili and couple of ice-cold beers.  Hangovers never bothered me because all I had to do was drink a few ice-cold beers or a real hot, spicy bloody mary and I was back.

  When I think back to my twenties, social events always had to involve drinking.  If someone came by, I ‘d always offer him a drink.  I would be happy to see people drop in because then I could have a drink.  I didn’t realize, until later, that I welcomed this excuse.  Now I am amazed at how little people drink and that they leave a drink when dinner is ready.

  I was getting more noticeably drunk.  I wasn’t handling it the way I used to be able to.  In fact, I was two different people.  There was a definite personality change, like talking louder, acting wackier, which I thought was a lot of fun.  I’m being funny, I thought.  This is really funny stuff.  It wasn’t funny at all.  But everyone was laughing.  Most of the people were not too far behind me, but I had to admit that I drank more than almost anybody I knew.  There were a few guys who would keep up with me, but the majority of our friends didn’t drink half as much.

(to be continued)

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Posted: 21 July 2007 07:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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(continued)


  In the late sixties, early seventies, I was going out to Hollywood quite a lot.  I would take American and sit first-class because Universal Studios was paying for it, and fly the Captain’s Table.  They would come down the stairs, slicing the roast beef, serving drinks before the champagne, red wine with dinner, saying afterward, “Why don’t you do up to the lounge for your cognac.”  Whatever they wanted, and I did the whole thing.  Then I would be met by somebody at the plane.  We’d go out to dinner and do the whole thing all over again.  I’d have twenty drinks or more in me by the time I got to the hotel and went to bed.  I remember once I had a meeting with Steve McQueen, who had bought a story idea of mine.  We were going to sit down and discuss the screenplay, and I was so hung over that I was absolutely dying for a beer.  We had lunch in his office and he said, “What do you want, pop or beer?”  I said, “Oh, I guess I’ll have a beer.”  I couldn’t wait to get it down.  One day I came back from California throwing up blood.  I was in the emergency room and they couldn’t stop the bleeding.  They said they had to look in and see what the trouble was.  So I asked my doctor, the internist, “What do you think it could be?”  He said, “Well, I think it’s probably an ulcer.  If it isn’t, it might be acute gastritis, but usually you only see that in skid-row bums.”  So they took me in and opened me up.  It was acute gastritis.  But it was still seven years before I had that last drink.

  I did ease off for a little bit after my surgery, but within a month I was gradually drinking again, until finally I was right back where I had been.  I was beginning to disguise my drinks more.  I would drink a bid whiskey collins instead of my favorite, which was Early Times over shave ice.  Twice I was arrested for drunk driving.  That was toward the very, very end.  Once, in Malibu, when I was driving too slow at 2:30 A.M., then a year later in Michigan.  I drank for thirty years and nothing ever happened and suddenly two driving-while-under-the-influence arrests   in a year.  That’s got to tell you something.

  I remember a guy telling me that he had joined the AA program because he was always thinking of the next drink.  Before he had barely started the first, he was ready to order another one.  I was doing the same thing at the time.  Finally, a couple of friends suggested that I look into the AA program.

  All I had to do was sit at one meeting and listen to the stories to know that I was an alcoholic.  I admitted it at my first meeting.  I opened my mouth and it came to me, “I’m Dutch, and I’m and alcoholic.”  But this was admission before acceptance.  I did pretty well for a while, but about every two months I’d fall off.    It took me a couple of years or more to accept.

(to be continued)

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Posted: 21 July 2007 08:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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(continued)

  I was afraid of getting caught drinking, so I flew off.  The first time was to Marrakesh in 1974 to talk to Sean Connery and Michael Caine about a picture.  They were doing THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING at the time.  The producer, John Foreman, brought me over to discuss a story idea with them.  I sat around the lobby drinking for a week, waiting for the meeting.  I stopped off in Paris on the way home and drank some more and came home.  The same year, a few months later, I went to Israel to adapt one of my books for a film to be set in Israel, which didn’t make any sense at all to me.  But the producer was paying for it and it was an opportunity to see Israel.  I drank as soon as I got on the plane.  I drank in Tel Aviv, where there are only two honest-to-God saloons in the whole town, outside of cocktail lounges in hotels.  I picked a country where nobody drinks to do my drinking.  I went back to Israel a couple of more times to research my book and did more drinking.

  I tried to hide my drinking from myself.  I would sit in my office- actually I had three offices.  I had a refrigerator in the front office and in the middle office there was a kind of lounge.  I had a bottle of sherry and little glasses there on the table.  I would go in there and have a little glass of sherry from the decanter, than I’d have another one.  After that, I’d get out the bottle and fill the decanter to where it had been, in case anyone noticed.  Then I’d get a cold bottle of white wine out of the refrigerator and put it in my desk drawer.  I’d open the drawer very, very quietly, though no one was in the office, and take the wine out and drink a big, big swig of it and put it back in.  Not a soul was near enough to hear anything.  I didn’t want to hear it.

  In 1977 I was divorced.  I wonder if the booze gave me the courage to leave home, to leave the situation I was in, having been married for twenty-six years.  Now that I know what I know, I’m sure I would have done it in the right way with a clear head.  But I did it drinking and go away with it.  There were all kinds of reasons.  The drinking did enter into it, there is no question about it.  My first wife doesn’t have a problem that I know of, but we always drank.  We always drank together.  We always drank before dinner.  We always had wine with dinner.  Every single night, we would get into arguments, with me drunk and her part of the way, with me saying vicious things, which I couldn’t believe the next day.  I’d be filled with remorse.  I saw some familiar things when I read the book GAMES ALCOHOLICS PLAY some years ago.  The month that I joined the program was the month that I left home in 1974.  The year that I had my last drink, 1977, was the year I was divorced.  It just happened to fall that way.

(to be continued)

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Posted: 21 July 2007 08:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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(continued)


  I was living alone between 1974 and 1977 in the Merrillwood Apartments and I was attending AA meetings.  I had a whole cabinet full of booze, which didn’t tempt me much, but every once in a while I would get a craving for red wine.  I always started with red wine, I don’t know why.  I would drink a bottle of red wine and I’d be off.  The next day im might be something else.  Scotch or anything, though usually the next day disguise it.  I would put scotch in something that you never put scotch in - Vernor’s ginger ale or something like that.  I was great at trying to disguise the booze from myself.  If I’d put that in a story, nobody would believe it.  I really denied that I was an alcoholic.  I based that fact that I didn’t have the capacity, or my drinking wasn’t as intense as that of so many others whom I talked to.  I remember asking a guy, “How do you have time to drink three firths a day?” He said, “For Christ sake, you get up early.  You put the first one, that first glass of vodka, right on the toilet tank while you’re taking your shower, and you reach out and get it.  Then you get over to the bar quick, and you order a vodka and orange juice.  You half it down and you say, ‘Hit it again.’  He puts another shot of vodka in and, by the time you’re there five minutes, you’ve had about four drinks without even finishing the first one.”

  I think my present wife, Joan, had a lot to do with my quitting.  She was so supportive, without pushing or nagging, but with sympathy - the right kind of sympathy.  She’d say, “You are absolutely out of your mind.”  Maybe it was the way she said it.  “Why are you doing this to yourself?” she’d say.  I think I kind of liked the idea of the tragic figure.  I think this must enter into alcoholism, playing the role of the tragic figure.  But, within the same moment, I could look at it as bullshit, knowing I was playing roles, playing games.  It was inevitable that if I had any intelligence at all, I had to stop.  I realized that I had to quit or go all the way and forget about it, the hell with it.  Good-bye brains. 

(to be continued)

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Posted: 21 July 2007 08:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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(continued)

  It’s almost inconceivable to me now, all those games I played, all those things I went through to justify drinking.  The big difference nowadays is that I don’t have to look forward to anything.  I get up in the morning and being is enough.  There isn’t anything that I want to go to see or anything that I want.  I try to describe this to people, and I can see by the looks on their faces that I’m not explaining it properly.  They think, Well, my God, that must be boring, just not doing anything.  I don’t have to do anything.  I am much more aware of things going on but in a very quiet way.  I don’t need excitement.  I’m into my work now, all the way and I’m not straining.  I stop at six o’clock, but I’m giving it a full shot every day.  I see that I can continue to get better at it.  That’s an amazing thing, after thirty-two years, to know I can get better.  It’s happening because I’m more interested in it.  I have so much more confidence in my work.  I can try different things.  I can experiment in different styles.  I look forward to working in the morning, something i didn’t use to do.  I was always a chore.

  My personal relationships are better, there’s no question about that.  Getting out of myself and seeing other people and trying not to see me is the key.  I’m not going to be able to play roles if I’m not thinking about myself.  I just present myself as I am, optimistically, with natural, normal confidence.  Here it is.  This is who I am.  This is what I do.  Would you like to buy this book? If you don’t like it, O.K., fine.  Someone else will buy it.  I used to be very self-conscious.  What do you think of me? Walking down the street, I felt everybody was looking at me.  Not anymore.  It doesn’t matter.  I approach people now.  I never used to.  I approach strangers and talk to them.  I was afraid of that before.  I was afraid that they wouldn’t like me, that they would form a bad impression of me.  The key is getting out of yourself.

(to be continued)

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Posted: 21 July 2007 08:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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(final part)


  Today I realize I have complete trust in God.  I’m in His hands.  Now what I’m going to do is try to live according to His will.  God’s will, I think, is misinterpreted.  God’s will to me means one thing - love - and if I look at this as my primary reason for being here, all the specific things fall into line.  When I get up, before I get out of bed, I say, “O.K. let me be an instrument of Thy will.”  I want to be His agent.  I want to be used any way He wants to use me.  I want to do His work.  This is my main reason for being.  My reason is not to be a writer, it’s to be with everyone else and see what happens.  I see a lot of people I don’t like, but I see the humanness in them.  We’re all pretty much in the same boat.  A lot of people have ugly dispositions and are fighting life for any number of reasons.  BUt nobody wants to be that way.  Nobody really wants to be antagonistic or hard to get along with.  After a while, it becomes their nature.  I think there is hope for everybody.

  Today I don’t drink.  That’s all there is to it.  That dismisses the problem.

  I can go back to the time of my last drink, 1977.  From then on I have become more and more successful.  There’s no questions about it.  I can sit down and write anytime, anywhere.  It doesn’t matter.  I don’t have to be prepared.  I think I kidded myself in that.  I was turning out a book in four months then.  But I’m doing it with so much more pleasure now that there is no comparison.

END

SYNOPSIS
The former host of PBS- TV’s Late Night America presents the success stories of recovering alcoholic celebrities, including Elmore Leonard, Jerry Falwell, Pete Townshend, and Grace Slick.

“The 1970’s was a momentous decade for Leonard, not least because of his discovery that he was not a heavy social drinker, but an alcoholic. Leonard: “I joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 1974, and on Jan. 21, 1977, at 9 in the morning, I had my last drink. Now, I have absolutely no desire for booze. I used to have a personality problem - I thought that if I wasn’t drinking I’d be bored. Since I quit, I’m never bored. Never.”“

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Posted: 22 July 2007 01:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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oops
wandered in here
need a drink
kidding
it was that scene
at the aa meeting
that it hit me
elmore
was a genius
went looking
found forum
been member
since

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