Wrestling with demons

By Randy Grider
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There are few things worse than feeling out of control of your own life.

Most of the time this is a temporary feeling, the result of day-to-day stress.

But some people have far more serious problems that take over their existence. And many times, it’s only when their lives totally spin out of control that they finally realize what’s in command of their lives – an addiction.

This month’s cover story looks at five addictions – gambling, sex, drugs, alcohol and tobacco – and how some truckers have fought their way back from dependence.

We hope anyone who has a serious addiction can find helpful information and inspiration from the stories of those who have traveled the road of addiction and bounced back to regain control of their lives.

While searching for sources, we encountered a few people who suggested we were trying to cast a negative light on truckers by doing such a story. The truth is people with addictions come from every field and every walk of life. At the same time, occupational lifestyles that offer limited supervision and long periods of isolation from co-workers, family and friends can make hiding an addiction easier.

We deeply appreciate the truckers and family members who were willing to talk honestly about their addictions. Not everyone is open enough to crack the door on his or her closet of skeletons. Very powerful are the stories of drivers and family members that appear in their own words as told to members of our editorial staff.

But I know one more story – the story of my late father.

I can’t remember when he didn’t drink. My first memories of our refrigerator always included Schlitz beer on the bottom shelf. He could never drink just one or two.

I hated the mood swings that came with the sixth or seventh beer. While he never physically abused my mom, my sister or me, he would get extremely angry for no apparent reason.

A few times, he dumped over the dinner table or threw my mom’s clothes out in the yard. One night he even plowed under all the vegetables in our garden during a drunken fit.

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Because I was stubborn, I often argued back with Dad, which wasn’t the smartest thing to do when he was drinking. I lost a good go-cart and a few other possessions for not being willing to keep quiet. Later on, I got pretty good at judging the timing of his alcohol-induced mood swings and found reasons to be out of sight when I could.

By the time I was a teenager, my mom had banned Dad’s beer from the house. But that didn’t stop him. From then on, he kept coolers of beer in the bed of his 1965 Chevy pickup.

It was sad watching my dad sit inside his pickup truck in our yard, drinking for hours. If we were lucky, he would come inside and quickly go to sleep on the couch. If not, the slightest thing would set him off, and you might have to endure an hour or two of verbal abuse before he tired and passed out.

I don’t know what made him drink, and I don’t make excuses for him when it comes to his alcohol addiction. Instead, I loved him for what he was – a good father to me and my sister and a wonderful husband to my mother when he wasn’t drinking. He also possessed many good character traits that I try to emulate.

I admired him for his skills as a truck driver and for having a great work ethic. He never drank while working or before all our household bills were paid. He died owing nothing. He enjoyed helping people. He preached the importance of education to me and my sister.

I’ve wrestled with the two sides of my dad most of my life. I was blessed to know the good and survived the bad. I wish I could have helped him beat his addiction before he died. Hopefully, it’s not too late for someone you know.