“Michael Herbert’s first words to me were, I like your shoes, I knew I had good taste, but I knew I could be looking better. I needed every compliment I could get and when he told me he liked my shoes, I felt comfortable for the first time in a long time.”
– Al, 1998, New York City
Alcoholism snuck up on me, I never really thought I had a problem with drugs or alcohol, I smoked pot and drank a lot but I didn’t see it as a problem. Then one day I got a phone called that set the spark for my alcoholism. My Grandmother called and told me he I had to come over to the house immediately. I knew it was serious so I took my time going over there, had a few drinks and then walked in the door. I remember it was a beautiful day and when I walked in the door my baby boy was so happy to see me.
Then my Grandma said, “Al, the baby had a small test done today at the hospital and it came back that your son is HIV positive”.
I felt like I was in a movie and I was frozen and the rest of the room was moving very fast around me. I remember thinking at the time that I wasn’t mad at God because I was always a religious person, my Grandma raised me in the church, I wasn’t mad at God I was just very, very disappointed. I had just gotten out of prison and I was ready to start my life and now I found out my son was HIV positive. Prison wasn’t hard compared to this, this is hard, life is harder than prison.
My son didn’t want for anything, I would go to see him every other day and bring him anything he needed. Then there started to be larger and larger gaps between my visits as my son’s sickness started to become more evident. As he started to get really sick I spent a lot of time in the hospital. I would drink before I came to see him, to feel a little better or to feel more comfortable. Not to soon after my son passed away, I feel deeper into the bottle and got caught drinking on parole and was sent to and Intensive outpatient program. That was where I first met Michael Herbert.
When I was in IOP I wasn’t really counting days of sobriety yet. I was still staying up ‘til 2 am smoking pot with my cousin. I would smoke a lot of weed and then have Old English or a Long Island Ice Tea. My life wasn’t getting any better at all. I had so much pent up anger inside me. I was holding so much in. While I was using, my roommate overdosed and died in my bathroom. He was curled up in a position that I had only seen in the movies, it’s a sight I can never forget.
Not longer after that my sister died of cancer and my Grandmother passed away. I had lost my son, my roommate, my sister and my grandmother and I was afraid I was going to be next. I went to meet with Michael for one of our sessions and for some reason I started to hear the message, I started to listen. I became very easy to work with because I wanted to get this, I wanted to stay sober, I wanted a better life. Around this time I was introduced to a sponsor in Brooklyn named Darryl. I started to do Ninety meetings in ninety days. I kept working the steps and everything started to turn around.
When I was using, I didn’t know I had a choice, I didn’t realize that I had a choice to be sober or not, a choice for a better life. He showed me a better way and I looked up to him as a role model. I was introduced to my new life and when he told our group that he was leaving to take a new job I was crushed. I remember crying so hard snot was coming out of my nose! But it was time for ‘ to move and time for me to lean more on my sponsor and AA and start a new chapter.
When my sister passed away she left behind 3 sons ages 9, 8 and 7. So when I had 9 months sober I got full custody of all three boys in and raised them as my own. After I had the boy for about three years I met a women and we got married. She became a mother to the boys and loves them as much as I do. My wife and I had two children of our own as well. All 5 children are doing very well and I myself have been sober now for over 16 years and it all started when I met Michael Herbert.