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Idaho StoryCorps: How one man gave up drinking for the sake of his kids

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StoryCorps
Hannah George Sharp and her father Thomas George

Thomas George got drunk for the first time to celebrate his graduation from eighth grade. He was just thirteen.

Drinking alcohol quickly became a habit. He and his high school friends went out every weekend and drank.

He told his daughter, Hannah, that his drinking continued through college and affected all parts of his life, including a series of jobs he held and lost. He was still drinking when he met his wife, Hannah’s mother.

“After you and Mom got married, a few years after … is when you got sober. But when did you realize that you needed to get sober and how did you start that process?” asked Hannah.

By then, Thomas said, he would start drinking beer at 8:30 in the morning, as soon as his wife left for work.

“I'd only have one an hour, so I never really got drunk. But I maintained that level I needed to not … be in the shakes or anything. And it went on like that for years, and I didn't think your mom knew anything about it.”

But his wife did know and Thomas only found out later that she was considering taking their two kids, Hannah and James, and leaving her husband.

“I hated what I was doing. I was scared that I had kids that I was responsible for and I wasn't able to take care of them.”
Thomas George

It was 1994 when Thomas made the decision quit drinking and get help. On November 28, after he called Alcoholics Anonymous, his wife asked Thomas if he had any beer left in the house.

“And I had it hidden under the seat of the minivan. I had it hidden in a toolbox in the garage. I had it hidden in a golf bag in the garage. And I went and started dumping them all down the drain. And as I was pouring the last one down the drain, I just diverted it and put it in my mouth and poured it all down my throat, it was running down my neck. And your mom had this horrified look on her face and she said, what are you doing? And I said, If I'm never going to drink again, I'm going to remember my last beer. And that was the last time I ever had a beer.”

“And how long have you been sober?” asked Hannah.

Since November 29th, 1994, which is a bit over 27 and a half years. I'll be 28 years in November.”

“What has been the best part about living a sober life for the past 28 years?”
Hannah George Sharp

My family. My kids, my wife, my marriage,” said Thomas. “I wouldn't have any of that. I wouldn't have any of that if I wasn't able to maintain sobriety. Your mom, as you know, was no nonsense. And no doubt that if I were to start drinking again, she would tell me to leave. She doesn't need any of that nonsense in her life. I would lose my kids. You know, the thought of losing my kids really bothered me.”

Hannah says she wanted to get her father to talk about his path to sobriety for himself and because it might help other people.

“I just want to say thank you for sharing. I know some of that was so hard to talk about. I think it's really, really important to talk about. I think sobriety is a good story for other people to hear. To hear what a sober life could be like if they don't have one.”

Hannah’s voice starts to break.

“The thing, especially now as a parent, that I admire most about you, is that you were willing to do anything to keep your kids. I think there's probably a lot of people in the same situation. So that's why I wanted to talk about it. So, thank you.”

Thank you, Hannah, for asking me. I'm glad I got to be able to share that with you.”

Thomas paused for a minute.

“You were actually the immediate trigger for my realizing I needed to go to AA,” he told his daughter. “It was one morning I woke up, really hung over. You were probably two, a little over two. James was an infant and your mom left for work. And I was sitting on a couch in the family room, just sick. And you wanted to play, and I asked you to go play by yourself for a little while. I didn't feel good. And you walked away. And the next thing I know, you had gone in the refrigerator and you had gotten a can of beer out, and you walked over and handed it to me.”

With a shaky voice, Thomas continued, “And I was terrified for two reasons. My immediate fear was, oh my God, what if she does this in front of her mother? Her mother is going to wonder why."

"And then my other fear, I thought, oh my God, what am I teaching my child?"
Thomas George

“That really set the stage. And it was only days later that I had my final drunk and got sober, started walking that path. So, thank you.”

Thomas says there were other benefits to getting sober. “I got to work on myself. I got to … be a better person and care about other people that I didn't care about when I was drinking, you know? It was always about the party, the good time, even at the end when there were no more good times and I wasn't going out drinking, I wasn't having fun. It was just drinking to not be sick.” Once he quit drinking, we went on to quit smoking and get healthier. “And now I'm going to get to be an old man and a grandfather,” he says with a smile in his voice.

Thomas George and his daughter Hannah George Sharp recorded their conversation at StoryCorps, a national initiative to record and collect stories of everyday people. Excerpts were selected and produced by Boise State Public Radio.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

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As Senior Producer of our live daily talk show Idaho Matters, I’m able to indulge my love of storytelling and share all kinds of information (I was probably a Town Crier in a past life!). My career has allowed me to learn something new everyday and to share that knowledge with all my friends on the radio.