BY: R. C. | ROGERS, NEBRASKA
THE FIRST lesson in honesty I remember was when I was about eight years old. Dad and I were in a grocery store that had open nut storage. Dad cracked and tasted some peanuts and gave me some to do the same. “Good, aren’t they?” he said. “We’ll have to get some for Christmas.” Well, that was too long to wait. I went home with a pocketful. My penance was to pay the storekeeper my nickel, and I did–with tears in my eyes. The storekeeper took my nickel, but to reward me for my honesty, he gave me a small bag of peanuts. I learned honesty does pay.
That lesson stayed with me. I gained a lasting reputation for being dependable and honest. Calling the barmaid’s attention to long change, for example, was always good for a free drink–more proof that honesty pays.
My big day came when a Federal inspector visiting a food-packaging corporation where I worked suggested I “accidentally” mislabel a package, so it would end up in his possession. If I did it, he promised to overlook some small things for me. Two counts against him–bribery and mislabeling–would be enough to cost him his job and bar him from civil service.
I checked with my boss before I moved either way. After some thought, he asked me if I could live with myself if I went along with the deal. If we pressed it, he explained, we would win the battle but lose the war with the other inspectors forever. I finally agreed I would if I could let the inspector know what a precarious position he was in and that it would not happen again. The boss agreed, and we went ahead. It worked well–a bouquet for me and an inspector afraid to squeal.
My secretary found out about it and was proud. Some time later, she noticed me taking paper clips from my shirt pocket and accused me of bringing them back from home after borrowing them from the office. She called me “paper-clip honest.” At the end of the year, we had wage evaluations, and the boss remembered the incident and gave me a nice raise. Honesty paid again.
So it went with everything–even with my drinking. All the guys in the bar and I agreed that there was no use hiding how much I drank, certainly not as long as I could hold it so well. Same at home–I didn’t hide my drinking unless we had overnight company or visiting teetotalers. To save them embarrassment, I kept extra bottles in the car and in the utility room, very handy for breakfast or a nip if the guests stayed too long.
Slowly, my drinking got worse, and I was finally discharged for an “honest mistake.” I couldn’t have been drunk! I’d only had my usual breakfast (a double) and lunch (three doubles).
My unemployment started off great: two weeks’ paid vacation, two weeks’ severance pay, unemployment insurance, and lots of time for drinking. Eventually, I had to go back to work. Construction was all I knew; I matched my previous salary but had to work sixty to seventy hours a week to do it. That got in the way of my second job, my drinking.
Finally, while on layoff and constantly drunk, I had a moment of truth and admitted myself for treatment. Other than three days in the hospital for DTs, my treatment seemed a breeze. After I left the hospital, two things that AA visitors had said stuck–rigid honesty (that’s the way I heard it) and faith in a Higher Power.
A piece of cake, I thought–my honesty was so stiff it might have had rigor mortis, and didn’t I go to church every Sunday?
On the outside, sober, I found a new world: many habits to change, new friends to make, family to try to get close to again, AA meetings to attend. Cake maybe–but the frosting came later.
After a couple of months, I began to see the light. The AAs weren’t talking about my paper-clip honesty or my take-off-your-religion-with-your-Sunday-suit faith. They were talking about real self-honesty and a firm belief and trust in God.
After an inventory of myself, I found out how dishonest I had really always been, on both counts. When I realized this, my whole life changed almost immediately. I now have peace of mind, a contented wife and family, a steady job, and a very bright future–one day at a time.
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