Author David Stewart had it all: the six-figure salary, the German cars, the Swiss watch, and the Italian suits. He had a family he adored in a house by the sea. But he was riddled with anxiety, and he became a dishonest, calculating alcoholic and addict.
In One Day, One Life, he has approached the struggles of addiction and anxiety with candour and balance. This is just the sort of book that can not only change lives, it can save them. His story is told with power, humour, humility, and no shortage of tough love. This is a powerful book.
Offering short snippets, One Day, One Life narrates a raw and intimate story of Stewart's struggles with addiction while at the same time showing an easier softer way to live-with love and freedom.
|Publisher:||Balboa Press Australia|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.44(d)|
Read an Excerpt
One Day, One Life
The Propaganda of Success
By David Stewart
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 David Stewart
All rights reserved.
This is my life journey.
The memory of my past.
Not a separate life or an old life, but my life.
My own imprint.
My family DNA.
The blood I spilled in order to change.
The damage I choose to leave in the past by living in the present.
The legacies of love I decided to open and claim.
I offer this to you, my sons.
Not a house or cars or careers, but a father's life gift.
An open letter.
His life. His mistakes. His lessons. The life he has walked.
My gorgeous boys, I am flawed, and I took my flaws into fatherhood. Know that my intentions have always been true. I have never made a choice with an agenda other than love. My life journey commenced with hope and innocence, but naiveté is not an excuse.
Ultimately, I hope it helps you understand me with a bit more clarity and kindness. Even in my recovery, I have made mistakes and acted in self-pity, grandiosity, and denial.
I am sorry, and I will always continue to make right what I made wrong. What is wrong can't always be made right. Thank you for loving me. I feel humbled by your courage and forgiveness.
What I have done is admit and own my vulnerability and humanity. I gave up making excuses and accepted that all we have is today.
One day, one life.
Somewhat ironically (for both the church and myself), I was born in Sydney on November 1, 1961. In Catholic speak, this is a holy day of obligation known as All Saints' Day. I am a man of good intentions (maybe), but a saint? Definitely not! I had a bad streak in me that ended up running its course until my thirty-sixth year on this wondrous, destructive planet.
I have learned by error after error that the wonder of the earth never leaves us. Rather, we just choose to leave the wonder.
Destruction Is a Negative Possibility Created by the Wrong Choices
Life in the Sydney suburbs of the 1960s was basic but good. Milk was delivered in bottles, and garbage was collected twice a week in one steel, circular bin. Kids played on the street, and the front door was always open. Neighbours talked to each other over the back fences, and dog leashes didn't exist (we also didn't have dogs who mauled children). Simple blessings. We went to church on Sunday morning and the local Chinese restaurant on Friday night.
When it was hot, we sat under a sprinkler. When it was cold, we put on a woollen jumper. Simple pleasures.
As my father's political and business careers blossomed, I moved from Punchbowl to Cronulla to the harbour suburb of Vaucluse with my kind and beautiful mother and my two sisters. We followed Dad. He was head of the house; no questions were asked or answered.
As a point-of-suburb reference, Punchbowl was a working-class, stinking-hot melting pot of cultures and cuisines; Cronulla was a rightwing, middle-class mecca filled with beaches, golf courses, strong cars, and even stronger opinions; and Vaucluse was awash with private schools, three-level corporate retreats, boats, and black BMWs — and wankers.
I was full of all of the above, and I mean full of it!
As our family homes and cars got bigger, so did my ego and sensitivity. In 1976, at the age of fourteen, I was lucky enough to be sent to Waverley College, the Christian brothers' leading educational light for schoolboys in Sydney. It was (and is) an amazing school. We competed against the elite boys of Sydney's private schools. We didn't really belong. Waverley boys had a brash aggression that other private school boys lacked. We had no time for airs, graces, and political correctness. Our fathers were lawyers, businessmen, criminals, publicans, tradesmen, shopkeepers, farmers, sportsmen, and surfers. We rejoiced in our differences, and each and every kid was accepted with rebuke followed by open arms. Waverley playgrounds and sporting fields were not for the faint-hearted; I had my share of conflicts. Good or bad, it was a rite of passage. We hung tight, and we stuck it up every other school that played sport against us. The elite of Sydney's eastern suburbs looked down on us with a plum and aplomb. That antiestablishment attitude stayed with me well into adulthood, and it fuelled a lot of my success (and rebellious behaviour). I thrived on the competition, chaos, and energy it provided and created. I liked to draw a line in the sand, and letting go of that need to be right was a major period of positive growth for this flawed man.
From twelve years of age, I showed potential as a cricketer. I opened the bowling as a left hander, batted in the middle order, and fielded with purpose and desire. I loved the game and still do. Cricket is in my blood.
At sixteen, after one game in the First Eleven at Waverley, I was selected in the 1978 NSW school boys' carnival and took the most wickets for any opening bowler in that carnival.
I had a number of senior coaches and former Australian Test players telling me I was a future star of the game.
At seventeen, I was playing Grade Cricket in the Sydney men's competition and took four wickets in my first game at Parramatta in a first-grade trial game. I had intimidated and out bowled seasoned professionals. I knocked out the middle stump of a batsman who was trying to bully me with gestures and words. As he walked off, I suggested he spend more time in the nets. I may have also reminded him that I was much younger and prettier, and he needed to have a good look in the mirror. My ego was blossoming, but dear God, I felt alive!
At eighteen, I was offered the chance to play in England. It was a great honour, but my dad didn't think it was a great idea. He may have seen through me; at eighteen, I was already
driving to cricket games drunk and hung over after leaving Kings Cross nightclubs at six in the morning. I began to miss training, and I found myself talking rubbish and spinning lies in seedy bars. I became an excellent liar, another habit that took years to change.
After not listening to doctors and physiotherapists, I continued to play with a damaged back (the curse of every fast bowler) and did permanent damage to my supple spine. I carry the lumps and aches of stress fractures in my lower back and neck to this day.
By age nineteen, my cricketing career at an elite level was over. I wasn't even a man, and my career was over due to poor decisions fuelled by alcohol abuse. Over! I carried the loss and resentment of that for another twenty years. Addiction had taken away the God-given talent I did not give myself the pleasure of developing.
I hadn't even turned twenty, and it was all gone.
I continued to play the game I was born to play well into my forties and was still able to take wickets, catches, and score runs as an aggressive middle-order player, but I was playing on one leg and no spine. I was broken.
During this period, I was also completing a degree in economics at the prestigious University of Sydney. It took me an extra six months to complete the standard three-year degree because I thought it would be amusing to write a male-chauvinist paper for a course about the political economy of women. The well-known feminist professor saw it fit to fail my effort. Feminism: one; David: zero. For me, University was beer, laughs, midnight oil, and cotoilets with pretty girls. Was it fun? Sure! Was it cultivating and educational? Yes, but not in the classical sense. I eventually got the degree — just! At my graduation ceremony, I had a massive hangover.
I will be eternally grateful for the Sydney Uni feminists for teaching me an early lesson in humility and for championing the rights of coed toilets.
At seventeen, I also started dating my childhood sweetheart, and we were married at twenty-two. Cath was stunningly beautiful and athletic. Her nickname was "Legs Eleven." Cath has great legs. I was a big fan of those legs, and her gorgeous, sweet heart.
Cath gave me everything she could, but I was a boy — a loving, kind, and generous boy, certainly, but also a stupid boy with no control when the lights went on (for me, the lights went on once a week, and I didn't stop until the lights went out).
In our first year of marriage, I was already coming home in taxis at dawn. Sitting in the back of those taxis with ripped shirts and a sick gut, I started to develop a real hatred for the man I was becoming.
I was hurting the woman I loved. I loved Cath, but that's the problem with addiction. You confuse and hurt the people you love most, and if you get better, it's an awful burden to carry. For me, you don't completely mend until you own that burden and let it go — and you don't let it go until you realize addiction is a reason and not an excuse. The disease concept of addiction has its merits and validity, but for some recovering alcoholics, it becomes another way of avoidance. Bad behaviour has to be owned; we are sick, but our sickness is not an excuse. It is a reason to put our hands up and accept the anger, resentment, and disgust of our loved ones. We deserve every tear and ounce of their vitriol. We don't wallow in self-pity because the remorse of ego can be extremely dangerous for the victimized addict.
Cath and I were married for twenty-one years. We had a house by the sea, a couple of cars, a few holiday units as well as a generation of tears, repeated hurt, and hostile silence.
Business was good in those days.
As my father, Hollywood Jack, used to say, "Business is good. Just don't admit it to anyone."
Jack and his kids built a business together that spanned Australia and Asia. We had accolades and performed heroics, but we also suffered loss. Amongst the blood, sweat, tears, and multimillion dollar contracts, Dad and I had some fun. Roppongi in Tokyo will never be the same. That grey-headed guy, and his blue-eyed son are crazy. "Gaijin" Aussie devils!
Amongst the loss and let downs were plenty of success, holidays, and laughter. Cath and I were good together, but I was still a boy — a naughty boy, a sensitive, silly, and damaged boy. The man would go to work, and for five days a week, the sun would shine, and we would make hay together. On day six, out came the horns, and the boy was lost to the ugly belly of Sydney. Cath sat at home talking to her girlfriends, sharing wine, and wondering where the hell the man she married was. He was lost.
When he found himself, it was too late. The damage had been done. We leave legacies in our life. The legacy I left to Cath was loss and despair. Cath handled herself with loyalty and class. She gave me more than I deserved, and to the day I die, I will be in her debt.
We divorced in our forties. The loss and disgust of the nights I left Cath waiting in our marital bed still haunt me. When I wake at three am on cold, windy mornings, the spectres of my decay and Cath's sweet face still mock me. This never goes away, no matter how much recovery and reflection you embark towards.
Only narcissists deny their wreckage while vulnerable. Real human beings admit and own theirs.
Cath and I did many good things together — great things — but our greatest achievements are our three magnificent sons, Matthew, Patrick, and Thomas (or Matt, Pat, and Tom). They are big, beautiful, bold, and courageous men. They tower over their mum, and they have hearts of lions.
Cath and I are good parents, and our sons are amazing. They love hard and forgive quickly. They have opinions, but they have empathy. They are twice the man I was at their age. I marvel at their wisdom and perception.
As small boys, they watched their father submerge and their mother protect, but they grew up with genuine love and care. We didn't fuss, but we were available. Even in addiction, wonderful things happen. That's the nature of the beast. The good things lull you into unjustified confidence, and just around the corner, addiction kicks you harder. The higher you go, the harder you fall.
I'm harder than my sons, but that is hardly a blessing. I've got an edge and a mongrel in me that helped me survive and even thrive, but it also put me in harm's way. I saw many things a man shouldn't see. I did many things a man shouldn't do. I did things that put men in jail and hospitals, and these are the actions and regrets that corrupt your natural goodness. It takes years to heal from such indiscretions. Some people boast and joke about their behaviour in active addiction. I see no point in self-accolades from loss and destruction. That's not the man I was raised to be, so why should I seek refuge in parody? Glorifying the past and seeking grandiosity in the present are luxuries I can't afford. I've had to learn too many ugly lessons. I'm not being noble, just circumspect.
Back to my sons, though: They saved my life.
In a cold, dark, and anonymous room in 1997, after a night of debauchery I had participated in hundreds of times previously, I decided I did not want to leave them a legacy of failure and death.
Alone, on a bed of sweat and bodily fluid, I went into seizure. I went into seizure back to back to back. In fact, I went into seizure six times after twenty-plus tequila shots, multiple grams of cocaine, and a pack of Sudafed. My body was dying. My heart was exploding, my chest was breaking, and my legs were rigid. Six times. For over an hour. Back to back. I still don't know how I crawled out of that room.
I do know I prayed to a God I left behind in the classrooms of Waverley College. I prayed to God that I did not want to leave my sons a legacy of a dead, loser, drug-addict father. With my last breaths, as I felt my body giving up and my heart stopping, I begged for another chance. I could feel a single tear on my cheek. The salty drop revived me. I was dead, but I had survived. I was given another chance.
Three days later, I went out and did it again. As I snorted another line in another inner Sydney toilet, I thought, "What the hell? Who gives a damn? I'm not scared of death." Crazy? You bet.
The experience I went through, the near-death scare, the love of my sons, and the utter despair of me dying as a drug addict and alcoholic were not enough. I was gone. It was done. I was a walking two-line obituary and funeral card for my innocent sons. When you know all hope is gone, and no one and nothing can save you, you give up and commit yourself to the end. It sounds dramatic, but it's not meant to be. It's a fact. Alcoholics and addicts in the final throes of active addiction are living refuse. Refuse gets thrown out. The very stuff that sustained us becomes our rubbish tip. We are born to die, but not this badly, and the sad single fact is that when addicts die, they take down all the unfortunate people hanging onto them.
For me, when it seemed hopeless, it happened.
After another drama-filled and noisy failure of a night, I careened into my third rehab. I was sharing a room with two heroin addicts and a park drunk. We were all in withdrawal, none of us could sleep, and I was still hanging onto the thought that I was too good and too successful to be sharing a room in a psychiatric ward with a bunch of losers.
Denial is a powerful friend and a dangerous enemy. It will ride with us into the gates of hell.
During the third night of no sleep, as I watched the park drunk from Newcastle strike out in the shadows to a ghost in his dreams, the metaphor of his sallow fist hit me.
I could not go any lower.
This was my last chance.
I had no more excuses. I was alone in rehab, ignored by my wife. My sons were shielded from me. My parents were in shock and utter pain at the shell their boy of so much promise had become.
My beautiful sisters, Anne and Margie, could just smile at me, barely, and they held me like a brother they thought they may lose.
This was not a Hollywood movie or a reality TV show, where you build a room or dance a jig. This was life. Real life! Each city in the Western world is dotted with rehabs full of alcoholics, addicts, and anorexics just like me. Rehabs are the garbage bin of society. Like it or not, the need to succeed is also the seed to despair.
It is the same impairment, just different strokes. Show me four bank CEOs, and I'll show you an addict or two. Work obsession can be camouflaged by share prices and bank accounts. Camouflage tends to make the ugly pretty or the dangerous invisible. I can see through camouflage, because I hid behind a number of dappled nets.
Victories in this world are made by little people, and this little man made a little step.
I decided I had to have a go at recovery. I gave in to what people call my disease. I put down my gun and took off my body armour. I stepped out from behind the nets.
It was May 7, 1998, and I haven't had a drink of alcohol since that ugly night. It's been over eighteen years.
I have made many mistakes since then, lost many things, hurt people, and used other forms of addiction just to get through days I thought would never end.
Some days, I yell at the sky and rage against the very earth that sustains my life.
I have met lawyers, bankers, and dentists who make the worst Kings Cross drug dealers look like playful puppies. Envy and greed can make the ugly pretty, and camouflage stuff.
I have lapsed into depression, despair, and self-pity, but the legacy of that night and those three men is a legacy I cannot and will not forget.
Excerpted from One Day, One Life by David Stewart. Copyright © 2016 David Stewart. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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