The Scourge: I Wouldn’t Give The Happiest Day Of My Life When I Was Drinking, For The Worst One Of My Abstinence

Absolutely, may I kiss your hand, take your time, absolutely! Just let me know when you want me to start. Stop me when I cough because I do cough a little, due to the asthmatic bronchitis that I have. I won’t speak for Alcoholics Anonymous. Only my name.
Do you work for a newspaper too? God help you! So you publish in the newspaper too… Well, I want to do a thing, I have some problems, and I want to go to the People’s Advocate. I have to get some money from the Romanian state because I was unjustly convicted. And I need to get the attention of a news reporter, to see the People`s Advocate. I don’t have money for lawsuits, and it takes a long time. I would like to put in jail those guys that beat me back then. Now they’re retired colonels and generals, and still alive. It comes down to a lot of money. I’d win because I have proof. I was conscripted to Bucharest at the People’s House building site. I think about it for nights, entire nights I think about how should I do it, but I have no money. I need at least 40, 30 million to open a lawsuit. It’s very hard to sue the state. To get them in court. I might lose. Maybe you have some connections with a famous journalist who can fight for me, because it's a real fight, and I may not win. Let me know when I should start. My name is Marin Bodea, oops, my bad, drop the family name... Born in Sălaj County. I’m from Sălaj, I’m Sălăjan. I grew up in Dragu village. There I finished the eighth grade, from a poor family, without a father, we were almost the poorest people in the village, I lived a very hard life, but I learned at school. So this was the only good thing: I learned, but being in an alcohol producing area, plum brandy, palinka, as we Transylvanians say, I began drinking when I was a little boy. The first time I got drunk at the age of ten. My uncle had a drink with other neighbors and asked me to bring him a bottle of palinka from the attic. And as I was bringing it, I tasted a bit, and then I tasted some more, and then I finally drank the whole bottle and I never got down from the attic, for I came down without a ladder, I fell down. I went into an alcoholic coma, I was in the third grade, I got very sick. I managed to recover, I continued my schooling, of course. I sometimes drank with children, with classmates, it was a lot of plum brandy in our region. I didn’t know that alcoholism was a disease, since in my memory, everyone drank. I started working as a small child, after the eighth grade. I came to the city. I was employed at the age of fifteen and a half years as an unskilled worker. An uncle of mine – being a kind of boss at the Cluj Management and Construction Company - vouched for me, and gave me my first job. I continued my studies at evening school. I went two years. Then I abandoned that work place, since they didn’t give any certificate of qualification, then I went to a new school, for auto painting. Meanwhile I kept drinking, but I did not know that I had a problem. I’d drink with friends. There was so much alcohol in Cluj during those years, and it was good quality alcohol. I’d drink at restaurants too. I went at night, I remember, to the train station. The bar was open non-stop. During Ceaușescu’s reign life was good at times. I went there to pick up chicks. I was sixteen, seventeen years old. I liked it. And I graduated from auto painting school. Then I painted furniture in a big workshop, but those nitro-lacquers contained opium. I worked in a toxic environment, with toxic substances that contained a bit of heroin. Well, I don’t know exactly, but that chemical is somewhat like the grandson of heroin. Every day for six hours, I was drugged. We put in fans and even so we worked in the fumes. And I got smashed just like with cognac. I had a colleague, I remember, and I’d dance, I was stoned, I’d dance to the rhythm of the air compressor. It was pop-art music. Creedence it was, there were good bands that I liked, The Beatles, and I’d dance. I had long hair, it was during the hippie period. And I’d get withdrawals from those dyes, from those lacquers, from those nitro-lacquers. And I also continued with alcohol. Now, I’ve lived in Cluj for the last forty-two years. I’m fifty-six. And when I went to work, I’d go to the "Danube" - which was a deli but also served alcohol. Now it’s gone, it was near a bridge, by the railway station. I’d cross it and stopped at that bar, I’d get a shot of cognac - four lei it was - and a soda – a quarter. Tanked with that I’d get to work. After that I got drugged. When I had more money, I’d take a bottle. I had a colleague, a Hungarian, Karcsi. He was big, two meters tall. He was my man and I was his homey. He had longer hair than me. And I’d drink that bottle and we got drugged and it was ok. In the evening, I drank with him there at the station. I also started smoking from early childhood. Straight from the age of 10 I smoked. In eighth grade I’d smoke a pack of cigarettes daily. And I still smoke. I began to realize that I had problems with alcohol at the age of twenty-eight, twenty-nine. I’d drink but I wouldn’t get plastered that fast at first. And I was still alright, that is I did not cause trouble. I still had a job. I got married, I left for military service, and I drank there too. We had a pub, "Calu Bălan”/The White Horse, I’d jump the fence and bought drinks. I was the barracks painter and I went out whenever I wanted, drank whenever I wanted. I bought for others too. I also drank sanitary/rubbing alcohol. After all it was approved by the Ministry of Health, you won’t die from it.
Then I came back. I was married before the army, I began to raise a family. Everything went well. I didn’t reach so to speak rock bottom/the pits. I got a place in Gheorgheni district after getting married, one of those tiny studios, but it was more than enough for me who had nothing before, and then we had a daughter and a son. Yes, I’d drink, but I did not get smashed because I had to raise two children. But still, I’d get smashed once a week, or once a month. I was not aggressive then. This went on for eleven years. Well, it goes without saying at holidays, Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Eve revelry, so on, but at times also during the week, at a workplace birthday or whatnot I always got drunk. Even when we went on the military shooting range. But I couldn’t drink like others, controlled, a glass and then mind my own business. I’d drink until I got plastered. However I was lucky from God that they didn’t fire me because I was a good craftsman. They needed me, I was an auto painter and we were only two of us. Drivers were a thousand. So they didn’t have someone else to do the job. I think that was the reason I was not fired. I got another house, bigger, more beautiful. I furnished it, I improved it, and at one point I went to the Canal. Our truck fleet was called at the Danube-Black Sea Canal and had a thousand trucks there. The company also worked internationally. And one time, without telling my former wife, I return home earlier then scheduled and I caught her with someone in the house. That’s when my life broke apart. And let me tell you what happened to me at the Canal. I got drunk there too, but God so wanted that I didn’t drink on the day I had a traffic accident. I had no alcohol in me. I drunk the night before but the device did not see that. It was a traffic accident with a small car, not a big car. And nobody died, only the car was destroyed. Then I came to Cluj and accidentally I caught my ex-wife. She thought that I was still working there. I had to work two months there, but I came one month earlier, because I needed some money. And I caught her with someone in the house. I did not throw a fit, as I am a cool headed man. I didn’t beat her. I said nicely she should do as she pleases and we divorced, I left my home and I was gone. I left with a bag of clothes. And then I got another house, just for myself. There again another misfortune hit me: living alone in a good size studio I turned it into a club for alcoholics. I was the “conductor”, or the “warehouse keeper”. All of us dissolute rascals, all my punk friends. There was drinking, women, everything except drugs. It went on like this for one year, then I lost my work place, people lost their confidence in me and a life of crime began. I started to turn all kinds of tricks without getting caught. I tried with fake gold, I got stamped gold from some colonels, you wouldn’t have thought it wasn’t genuine. I sold it but eventually I became afraid. I stopped. I’d sell 2-3 wedding bands a week, and it was good money, since a gram was 400 in those years. And at one point I got scared and I stopped altogether because I was afraid, there were others, and they threatened to beat me up. And I moved on to other crimes. First, I began trading in foreign currency. Those who are older know that back then owning foreign currency was prohibited. And I got a $1,000 from someone. They caught me with the dollars at the hotel shop, downtown, I was to buy a tape recorder, and a bar of soap. I wanted to buy cigarettes to sell on the black market, and they caught me. I had stolen the $1,000 from an Arab. I've broken into his home with a friend: we found 2,000. A thousand for him, and one thousand for me. And with that money I went to buy a tape recorder and some soap, and some cigarettes to multiply my money, I had no use for that money otherwise. Then I got caught by some civilians, they were actually policemen, or militia how they were called back then, they took me. I didn’t tell them where the money came from. I said that I found it in an envelope at Melody bar. That was my defense. And they beat me up. Neither I, nor my friend, my comrade, as they say in prison, pleaded guilty. They indicted me for "possession of foreign currency." I got a year and a half because it was my first offense. My comrade got two years and eight months. I did my time. In nine months, I returned, I was free for a couple of years and then I relapsed, like I relapsed with alcohol. Meanwhile, speaking of alcohol, I didn’t drink in there. Nine months I was a restrained patient. I came back, first thing: a bottle. Very hard to get hold of one, during Ceaușescu’s reign, it was hard. However, when I was released, a chick came, she was visiting somebody, I gave her a hundred lei and she gave me a liter of cognac. I drank it on the train. When I arrived in Cluj I was drunk. It lasted two years or so, after that I relapsed into my world of crime. With a rented video player and a color TV. Of course the people I’d hang out were all drinking. When I was playing videos, I’d drink, get chicks, and had a life, I was 30 something. And I never gave back the TV set to that man, five hundred thousand lei. I rented it, I got drunk with my comrade and said, "Let's sell it!" He was a Baptist preacher, the guy whose TV set was. I said, "He’s my friend, he won’t give us to the police." And I sold it at the flea market. A JVC TV set in those years was very expensive, about sixty thousand, the video player was over forty. And I sold them for eighty thousand. So this was enough money to buy a Dacia car, the car of those years, this trick happening in `88. And they didn’t catch me for three weeks. I drank for a week non-stop and someone gave us up and the police surrounded our building. All the police cars in Cluj came, at 4 a.m., I was watching a movie with Louis de Funès, and they came and called us by name: Bodea and Lupşe. When they entered the building they broke the door. We were dressed, watching the video, full of booze. Kent cigarettes spread all over, everything. They handcuffed us and took us away. They gave me five years and my comrade three. And there I was again for a year and four months. Revolution came, I came back with Iliescu’s amnesty for prisoners. I made a year and four months out of five years. It was wonderful: we got justice, freedom - as they cried out in the streets then. For me freedom lasted a little less: only eight months. Meanwhile, I finagled a job at a school up in Mănăştur as a security guard. It was vacation, right after the revolution, there was no alcohol, it was sold only after 6 p.m.. At the apartment buildings there was that Adventist who was selling plum brandy. And we managed to gather a few hundreds of lei and bought about three liters with some friends. And we got drunk. And my comrades took the rug from the principal’s office – I had all the keys from the school - and a wall clock that cost fourteen hundred lei, made by Arabs. They thought it was antique, and antique clocks were in great demand in Hungary. They took it. When I woke up in the morning, six, or seven, look, no clock, no rug, open door. Oops! I got scared. I ran away. I threw away the keys and fled. I was already a convicted person, it was the third lawless deed, oh, God. And I ran in Sălaj, to my family. After that I went elsewhere, to Jibou, and I returned after two weeks and I was arrested. I was sentenced to six years, seven months and twelve days. Think of it, for nothing! I did absolutely nothing! I drank in a school and slept. And they sentenced me as if I was murder. I got sentenced because I slept in a school and I drank plum brandy. I think I drank about six hundred grams out of about three liters. More than that I couldn’t drink. I did my time. After four years I was paroled and I was released in `94. Obviously, I drank nothing at all there, almost four years I drank nothing. But I drank when I came back. I began to make debts with my apartment utilities. No one took my studio away. God was good. I had a relative who was boss over the ICRAL's/State Owned Real Estate Property Management, in the legal office. And he did not let anyone rent my home. Actually I think it is written in the Civil Code that they are not allowed to take your property while arrested. And I was left with the house. I still drank. I was hundreds of thousands in debt, which in those years was a lot and I said to myself, “I’d better sell my studio, before the state takes it away.” I got hold of a guy, he was a law student, he bought it and gave me I don’t know, about twelve million. And I thought, “Wait a minute. This guy has money.” With my alcoholic’s mind, “Let me sell it once more.” And I sold it again to another guy, who gave me German marks. I put an ad in a newspaper and another buyer came because it was a very good studio and it was cheap. So I sold it twice. I had so much money, I drank so much, I got so many people drunk with it. I’d walk with my pockets full, I’d just take bills out of my pockets full of money and I’d give them to everyone. Finally, I bought a house in the country to go and hide. Four million. Other than that I bought only drinks. The police came in three weeks and handcuffed me and brought me to Cluj. They didn’t do anything to me because there were not misdeeds: it wasn’t a breach of trust, it was just cheating. The guy dragged me in court to give him back his money. I said I’d give him back the money. The police asked me where is that money. I said, "In a hole." "How in a hole? I asked where do you keep the money?" "My money I keep where I want to. In a bank account. What's your problem?" And I gave in writing that I'd give the money back to that guy, but I never gave it back. He was a very rich guy. Now I realize that I should have apologized or given him the money back, but he was an only child, and I think it was drug money, that’s where it was coming from. I found out afterwards that he deals with drugs, with stuff. Anyway, I don’t feel guilty. I did no time for that, yet. It’s already a closed case by being pardoned after seven years by law and besides fifteen years have already passed. I escaped. I began to drink further on, strongly.
If someone were to ask me how many years I drank alcohol, as an alcoholic, I’d say 30, 40 years.
The only good things I did along those years were that I worked at my trade and I learned from life, since I'm not a jackass, I'm not a stupid man. I had some happy times in all these adventures. I had hard and bad times too, and I learned. It's extraordinary to know that there you were jailed, but free. I think that few can survive being jailed with fifty or two hundred gunmen around you and yet you feel free. Surrounded by those thick walls you are free, because I always had God with me, drunk or sober, He made no distinction between people. And I drank, until the age of fifty. Now I’m fifty-six. I haven’t told you many things, but my life was very, very interesting. When I was a child I projected films in our village, I was the cinema projectionist. So many movies I saw in my life. Forty years ago they started with Russians, with Sashas, with machine guns. Then the Indian film craze followed. After that, cowboy films, action movies, real rough. I projected them in the staircase in my apartment building. I got 800 lei per month. That was a lot of money in those years. So I do have a bit of culture. Plus I learned well in school. What else can I tell you? I knew about Alcoholics Anonymous in America, for about 25 years, I saw it in the movies. They had food, everything. Recovery there costs money. They’d work with psychologists, had good food, in groups, just as us in Cluj. I kept on thinking: how could I quit drinking? Before I knew Alcoholics Anonymous or the Sfântul Dimitrie program I tried to quit alone. I tried with my friends. I never had stupid friends. They were all highly qualified foremen, or engineers or college students. "Guys, let’s stop drinking. Look, some of us ended up in prison, we no longer have money, we've got nothing, people look disgusted at us." "Let's try!" "Okay, we quit starting today!" Do you know how long it lasted? Three, four days. I never managed more than three or four days, maximum one week. I saw that there was no hope, no salvation, and I went to a priest and I swore an oath of faith. I didn’t drink for three weeks. But I had a friend with money. And he came to me, and said, "Come on, let's drink a beer!" It was very hot outside, it was summer time. Until Christmas there were 6 more months. "Let’s go, man..." "Hey, John, I can’t, man. I swore to that priest I won’t drink until Christmas, you know, God..." "Don’t worry, I’ll get you another priest to absolve you from the oath!" I don’t know if it is even possible to be absolved from an oath of faith, but I continued to drink. Now let me tell you one thing: in three weeks after that I got arrested. Again for nothing. I was drunk, walking about Mănăştur with my friend, with a bottle of Napoleon brandy on me. My friend stayed behind, loitering, and so I reached Mănăştur Way, filled with booze, but not utterly smashed. And a car stops next to me. It was my friend in a stolen car. “What are you doing, man?!" He says, "Get in, man!" I got in. I sat in the shotgun seat, as they say. We went towards Florești, to Săvădisla, and he almost hit someone, but I pulled the wheel and we recovered. But the car we’d almost hit, spun around and followed/tailed us. And we flipped over, with the wheels spinning in the air. Thank God we didn’t die. We could barely get out from under the car. We ran. Once again a crime that was not my fault. Just because I sat there like a fool in that car, they gave me three years. That was my last sentence. And again, I was running away, hiding from police. I spent two months hiding. I tried to flee to Hungary. Eventually they caught me, arrested me and took me to a police station and gave me "complicity to theft." That was my sentence. Three years. I always get maximum penalty. Why I couldn’t get six-seven months, since I just sat there, having no clue what's going on?! Anyway, that’s Romanian justice for you. It’s alright. Those judges will eventually have to defend themselves before God.
I got back in jail. Everybody knew me there in prison. I got permission to open an real auto repair shop, being an auto painter.
I was the foreman, working with civilians, since I had committed no serious crime. I worked three years and seven months as an auto painter and was the head of the repair shop. I got as many people to work under me as I wanted! I chose only those who had finished high school, or college. “Whoever wants work, come talk to me and I’ll give you work, if you have a bit of schooling. Don’t dirty my car or scratch it when it’s repaired.” I tell you, I managed well, not well, but extremely well. Actually it’s not so well, jail is no good. I ate only grilled, prime cut meat, I smoked fine cigarettes, but I did not drink at all. The officer wanted to give me a drink but I said, "Not for me, thanks, that's what brought me here!" I punished myself, no alcohol. I didn’t drink. I came back. When I arrived at the train station in Cluj, I was drunk. And so I remained, for two more years.
After two years my daughter took me to Bucharest. I forgot to say that I have two children: a girl and a boy. My daughter’s husband was working then at the Austrian embassy in Bucharest, and I lived with them, because she said, "You’re living in the streets." I was really homeless: I sold the house, I lived somewhere near Groapa Moșului where I built a cottage. And I went to Bucharest and I spent two years in luxury. She bought me a house in a village nearby, a big house. She bought me tools to set me up in my auto workshop. In two years I sold everything. I sold even her furniture made of leather, her fancy corner sofas, and everything she had and I went on drinking. And I got very sick, I couldn’t breathe. Being sick with chronic bronchitis, I got to the TB hospital up here without documents, without anything. I couldn’t breathe. A lady doctor had mercy on me - I thank her even today- and she let me stay in the hospital. She kept me there three days and she provided me with drugs from her own supply, there were no medicines then. After that she sent me to Săvădisla. And there the Alcoholics Anonymous group came into picture. My take was to go see what freebies they gave out, not to quit drinking. Cigarettes perhaps, coffee, something? And I saw some people there who I knew before and they were abstinent. But I thought they were lying, that they drank but hide it. I said, "Man, come on! You’re like those Adventists. Here at the group all self-righteous talk and then you go in the back and drink." I watched them closely. They didn’t give me money, they gave me absolutely nothing, not even cigarettes. I didn’t smoke, I had no money during that time, I was very poor. I managed somehow and I went for a month or two to the group and it was great. I stayed at that resort for five months. After five months, I said, "Indeed, it’s possible! You can drink and not lose control. After five months of not drinking, sure, after managing five months like that, of course I can handle drinking. I go and have a drink right now to celebrate.” And I began to drink. A beer. After that I drank eight more, and after that I drank two days in a row, got utterly smashed. And then I stopped again and ever since that happened, four years and six months have passed! I have a beautiful period of abstinence. I settled my relationship with my family, children, friends, and I’m still alive and am doing well, not extremely well, but alright, because now I’m sober all the time and I regained my judgment, and I see life for what it is. When I was drunk I had no clue if it was raining or sunshine, I didn’t care. Now I care about everything. And what can I tell you? It all comes down to Alcoholics Anonymous, which saved my life 100%. I have four years, there are some who have ten years, or twenty years of sobriety, and they live happily. The only solution is to stop drinking. They learned that it’s a disease and can’t be treated, the only treatment is abstinence, which at the beginning is hard, but slowly-slowly… Even now it’s hard for me, after four years it’s still hard, but, with God’s help, in the True Word I pray, I pray from my heart and things are going better, improving. It is said you shouldn’t have expectations when you stop drinking, that all issues will get miraculously solved, like pressing buttons, “Done, I solved with the house, I solved with the family, I’ve solved everything.” All in good time. So far I feel good being sober and I wouldn’t give one day, the happiest day of my life when I was drinking, for the worst one of my abstinence. I’d stay with the worst day of my abstinence.
I’m very happy that I got to know you, and I am glad that today I haven’t drunk, and that today I’m still around here, with you. We alcoholics talk a lot. We lead tumultuous lives...

Cluj Napoca
November, 2008

Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being one of them, I’d be grateful.Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being one of them, I’d be grateful.

New York
June 20, 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment