Stanley Welton spent that New Year's Eve much as he had spent every other such for the last twenty years. He was loud and festive and stone drunk. It was a familiar and a perpetual state for him.
He wasn't tipsy or buzzed or even intoxicated. He was totally, entirely committed to the wanton consumption of alcohol beyond any restraint or reason. He'd abandoned any premise of social interaction or camaraderie some time ago..
He didn't care who was there or who had left or who might yet be coming. All of the niceties were subsumed by his compelling need to drink. Those around him found it in varying degrees anywhere from humorous to pitiful.
Stan didn't much care what they thought as long as the bar kept serving. He would continue to drink until they stopped providing him more and then he would find his way home. It wasn't a healthy or considered or sane way to live, but in the final analysis, Stan didn't really care.
It had played out much like any of a thousand-plus other nights of debauchery and self-destruction for him. It was the morning after that night that made all of the difference for him. For on that particular morning, he awoke covered in blood...blood that was not his own.
He showered, shaved and consumed two pots of very strong coffee before trying to sort it all out. He had no memory of how he might have come to be that way. No one he called or talked to was able to shine any light on it either.
While he was not unaccustomed to nights that he had little or no recollection of, this one convinced him to do what no other had. It convinced him to stop drinking. There was no debate, no second-guessing. There was merely the unfalthering, unshakeable resolution that enough was enough.
He spent the next week in total abject hell. He locked himself away from the world and he suffererd. He sweat, he cursed, he cried and he hurt. His body was wracked with pain so intense and all-consuming that he feared it would be the end of him.
It was not. He survived it and emerged from it purged and purified. Somehow the flame of addiction was quenched and replaced with the smallest spark of Hope. Stan knew how easily that spark might fade and so he nurtured and fed it with the fuel of change.
He came to realize there was no aspect of his social or interpersonal interactions that did not revolve around the presence or promise of readily-available alcohol. If he were to cast off the shackles of his addiction, he must change nearly every aspect of his world and embrace life rather than merely a lifestyle.
He began by attending meetings at the small Baptist church near his apartment. He joined a gym to attain the vigor and vitality of the man he had never been. He began to care about not only existing but about improving. By the power of his will and determination, he had walked through the valley of the shadow and filled it, instead, with light.
It was a Friday night. It had been nearly three months since Stanley had made the decision to transform himself into someone he was not ashamed to be. He was a new person, a person he genuinely liked being.
He headed down the steps of the First United Baptist church with a new-found spring in his step. His eyes were bright and his thoughts were clear and focused. A smile came easily to him now and he was whistling a jaunty tune. Life was good and becoming better with every passing day.
As he drove away from the church, he was overcome with the sheer joy of how good he felt. Without the alcohol calling the shots, his life held more hope and promise than he ever thought possible.
He was so caught up in the moment that he never saw the woman or her son until after his car had struck them. The police determined it to be an unfortunate and tragic accident. Though no charges were filed, the two were no less dead for no fault having been attributed to Stan.
Whether he was to blame or not, one thing, above all else, was certain. That was the last night of either sanity or sobriety that Stanley Welton knew for the remainder of his short and tortured existence.
He ended his life much as he had lived it, alone and drunk. Though the cause of death was listed as a single self-inflicted gunshot, it might, just as easily, have been determined to be as a result of a case of brutal cosmic irony.