My dad, James Whitmore, Part Twenty

The creature sat at the end of my bed. Looking at me, chuckling. It had three rows of teeth, bald head, deep, imbedded eyes, more slits than eyes. Squat, painted clown white and it was looking at me chuckling. Hissing almost. Scared the living shit out of me.

I called Will. Early in the morning, maybe 2 or 3 a.m. Always woke him up. For some reason, when I did that this creature disappeared. For that, I was eternally grateful.

Hadn’t had a drink now for a week or so. I was seeing things. Obviously. My hands would close up and twist outward, clamp down. Couldn’t break the grasp. They were locked. Then after a bit they would let up. It happened regularly. Will said it was alcohol-related. He wanted me to see a doctor. I had no money so he set it up and paid for it. The doc said I was going to be OK, if I didn’t start drinking again. He said my liver was bruised but it, too, could recover, if I didn’t drink again. That was the mantra.

My head was exploding. My body was exploding. Everything was exploding. Sweating was a daily occurrence. Noise was deafening. One night a bug was on the wall and it grew into this huge praying mantis, squawking so loud and facing me while attached to the wall. Tentacles reaching out slowly in my direction. Call Will. 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning. Monster bug disappears. I didn’t sleep for the a long time, The only time I felt at peace was by Will’s side. I felt safe near him. That’s where I stayed.

My energy skyrocketed off the charts. Had to do something. I enrolled in San Diego State University with one goal in mind: To graduate so my pop would be proud of me. One problem. I hated school. To much sitting. And I wasn’t exactly sedentary at this point.

Sobriety is not wonderful in the beginning. In fact, it’s a nightmare. Drinking was my way of living; getting through the day. Now that’s gone, I was a crazy, looney bird. You have to replace alcohol with something. That something was a group of men and women gathered together to not take the first drink one day at a time.

College. I decided my major would be drama. Easy I thought. I could do that. I started college using the G.I. Bill to live. The G.I. Bill paid me $304 a month to go to college.

I was a bit high strung so I decided I couldn’t do four years of this tedium. I took full loads of classes and more and did San Diego State in two years.

I acted in plays all the time. I was put on the Dean’s list for academic excellence. I was voted the King of the One Acts because of my acting in a number of plays. I enjoyed it. The success in college made me feel some worth.

The day of the graduation my family was there. Dad, brothers, mom. That was good. But what touched me was that Will was there.

The creature sat at the end of my bed. Looking at me, chuckling. It had three rows of teeth, bald head, deep, imbedded eyes, more slits than eyes. Squat, painted clown white and it was looking at me chuckling. Hissing almost. Scared the living shit out of me.

I called Will. Early in the morning, maybe 2 or 3 a.m. Always woke him up. For some reason, when I did that this creature disappeared. For that, I was eternally grateful.

Hadn’t had a drink now for a week or so. I was seeing things. Obviously. My hands would close up and twist outward, clamp down. Couldn’t break the grasp. They were locked. Then after a bit they would let up. It happened regularly. Will said it was alcohol-related. He wanted me to see a doctor. I had no money so he set it up and paid for it. The doc said I was going to be OK, if I didn’t start drinking again. He said my liver was bruised but it, too, could recover, if I didn’t drink again. That was the mantra.

My head was exploding. My body was exploding. Everything was exploding. Sweating was a daily occurrence. Noise was deafening. One night a bug was on the wall and it grew into this huge praying mantis, squawking so loud and facing me while attached to the wall. Tentacles reaching out slowly in my direction. Call Will. 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning. Monster bug disappears. I didn’t sleep for the a long time, The only time I felt at peace was by Will’s side. I felt safe near him. That’s where I stayed.

My energy skyrocketed off the charts. Had to do something. I enrolled in San Diego State University with one goal in mind: To graduate so my pop would be proud of me. One problem. I hated school. To much sitting. And I wasn’t exactly sedentary at this point.

Sobriety is not wonderful in the beginning. In fact, it’s a nightmare. Drinking was my way of living; getting through the day. Now that’s gone, I was a crazy, looney bird. You have to replace alcohol with something. That something was a group of men and women gathered together to not take the first drink one day at a time.

College. I decided my major would be drama. Easy I thought. I could do that. I started college using the G.I. Bill to live. The G.I. Bill paid me $304 a month to go to college.

I was a bit high strung so I decided I couldn’t do four years of this tedium. I took full loads of classes and more and did San Diego State in two years.

I acted in plays all the time. I was put on the Dean’s list for academic excellence. I was voted the King of the One Acts because of my acting in a number of plays. I enjoyed it. The success in college made me feel some worth.

The day of the graduation my family was there. Dad, brothers, mom. That was good. But what touched me was that Will was there.

Will Campbell is the reason I’m alive today. My love for him was as deep as infinity. He became my dad in so many ways.

Then there was my actual dad. He was there. I was the only son to graduate from college. I was the only son to serve in the armed forces. I was the only son. He was proud, bullish proud. But he expected more, always more. I knew it. I had caused a great deal of harm to my family. Trust was a distant relative with schemes. Off to Los Angeles to be an actor. Problem was, I didn’t like acting. It bored me. I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything. But I did it anyway. My dad did it. My brother was doing it. I was going to do it. There was trepidation.

And I was leaving Will. Clouds were forming. Staying put may have been the answer but I’ve always been on the move. The only time I’m happy is when I am on the move.

I went to Los Angeles and was courted by a huge agency ICM. Things were looking up except I was miserable. Sobriety is a place where your demons collaborate and move towards the inner destruction of your being. I was sober know for two years and mad as a hatter. Mad as a hatter.

Next up: TV shows. Movies. General Hospital soap opera. And total humiliation applying for food stamps. Fun in the big city.
city.

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About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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