In 2001 and 2002 people began disappearing. It wasn’t that surprising at the time. People come and go all the time at Brighton. And we were slow. We were still recovering from the dot com bust of the early 2000’s. But when long-time press operator Kelley G. quit, he warned us we had better be doing the same. The ‘same’ was quitting Brighton and going to work for Jeff Hock’s head shop at Enerfab. But I had no desire to quit. By 2002 I had invested 29 years in Brighton and wasn’t about to throw that away. Besides, I was 50 years old by then, and finding another good job at that age wouldn’t be easy. So my decision was a no-brainer. I would stick it out with Brighton to the bitter end.
Besides, I didn’t believe Kelley G. was a reliable source. He was a big guy, and had been strong as a bull. But he was a heavy drinker, and as he grew older it caught up with him. There was something going on with his right leg. It was related to his drinking somehow. That leg swelled up like a balloon. And it turned some God-awful shade of purple and black. He said it hurt terribly. He could hardly walk on it. It would take forever for him to limp from one place to another. He kept it wrapped up tightly in ace bandages. You did not want to be around when he unwrapped it. I was in the locker room one day when he did this, to show us how bad his leg was. It stank like rotting flesh. Which I guess is what was happening. His leg was rotting off. He had put in for a disability, but it takes time to do all the paperwork and go through all the hoops. In the meantime, while his claim was being processed, all he could do was suffer through it.
I probably never drank as much as Kelley G., but back in the 80’s and early 90’s my drinking got pretty heavy. But I survived an incident in 1992 that caused me to quit. I won’t go into details, but I was lucky to be alive. I was also lucky not to be sitting in prison because I’d injured someone else. The incident really shook me up. The least of it was that I got a DUI. My first and only. Part of that was spending 3 days in a treatment center. That was an experience. That first night we were all sitting around in the common room when medication call was announced. Everyone on prescription medication went to receive their dose. Only four or five of us remained seated. After the mob left we looked around at each other with concern, wondering what kind of hopped-up dope heads were we locked in here with.
I received counseling while in there. My counselor looked dead-on like Bill Cosby. At the time that wasn’t an insult. He wanted to know what my plan was, after I’d completed my 3 days. I told him I’d quit drinking. He just shook his head. He told me I needed a plan, to continue counseling, to join a support group of sober people, to stay away from my old friends who drank, and to stay out of bars. But I told him I’d already quit, as of the night I had the wreck. He continued to shake his head. I’m sure he’d heard that countless times before. But for me it was true. After that weekend I attended court-ordered counseling. Which I attended and sat through, since I had to. I also attended one AA meeting, but that didn’t appeal to me at all. That was for recovering alcoholics, which I didn’t consider myself to be. I was a recovered alcoholic. It was relatively easy for me. Quitting smoking was much harder. All I had to do was keep reminding myself that I should be dead or sitting in prison. And I haven’t had to stay out of bars, even. My son has played in many different bands. So I and my wife have gone to a lot of different bars to hear him. At first I would order a non-alcoholic beer, but eventually got to just ordering Pepsi or Coke. Since there is a big campaign promoting designated drivers, there was never a problem not ordering alcohol. So I’ve been sober since October of 1992.
Kelley G. wasn’t that lucky. Heavy drinking wrecked his health. He eventually got his disability. But he didn’t live long to enjoy it. I never heard after he quit working if they ever amputated his leg, but they probably did. Anyway, he died soon after. That could easily have been me. I was lucky.