Most of us have some sort of drinking history from college, but not Kerry – today’s guest. Annie highlights Kerry’s naked life story today. Kerry is a hard-working, southern gentleman who found himself using alcohol to numb the pain of losing a close loved one. He shares how he came to decide that enough was enough and now leads a happy, alcohol-free, healthy life!

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My Story

Well, my family is kind of a typical Southern folk. We grew up on a farm, hard-working people, like to take care of each other, but plenty of presence of alcohol, both, just kind of socially, and to an extent, kind of daily dependence coming from my parents. My first drink came around the end of high school. I had a friend. We’d have those godawful, the Smirnoff Ice things, they were popular, and that was, I don’t know, probably senior year. We would do that every now and again, and then I actually quit through college. I didn’t drink at all in college.

Controlled Drinker

So when I got out, I took a little bit of time to just kind of travel around. Around this time, I wouldn’t even have been 21 yet. I was kind of free spiriting for a couple of years, and when I decided to settle down and pursue EMS and go to school for that, was probably around the time I would start having the occasional social beer or kind of the time when a six pack would last a week or better. I’d have a couple of buddies over at the apartment, and we would study a little bit, and drink a couple of beers, and then watch a movie or something.

Job Stress

EMS is remarkably stressful, remarkably aggravating at times, also rewarding when you can maintain a healthy attitude about it, but that’s certainly true, knowing the crews I run with and the ER folks. I think we feel allowed to just really have a great time when we’re off duty because we devote so much of ourselves and our energy taking care of others. When it’s time to just kind of do our thing, a lot of us run wide open.

We poured so much of ourselves into that job, and I think even moreso, whereas something like EMS, being a first responder, you are seeing things that are incredibly intense, and to not take that home, having a numbing agent, having a tool that seems like, okay, this is the tool everybody is using, so it must be okay. It must not be … Yeah. There’s just almost no logical reason why you wouldn’t turn to that in that situation.

Reasons To Drink

A bad shift can be an excuse to come home and drink ’cause it was frustrating or we saw something really awful, but also looking forward to a weekend. A lot of us get three days off in a row, and so we’ll just kind of look forward to that weekend, and now we got to celebrate, so we’re either celebrating, or medicating, or some blend that kind of goes back and forth.

The Jumping Off Point

I had been working as an EMT for about five years when my grandmother had a very sudden, very severe hemorrhagic stroke. She was 78 at the time. She was just 100% independent and woke up one morning. This stroke pretty much paralyzed one side. She lost the ability to speak. She spent several days in the ICU, and it was just devastating for the entire family. We’re a big close-knit family. Everybody lives really close together, and it was very, very difficult on everybody. We, essentially, lost our matriarch. Even though she was still alive, she could no longer fulfill that role.


After her kind of initial rehab stay at a facility, I spoke up and I said, “We’re gonna bring her home, and we’re gonna take care of her.” At that point, they were no longer doing anything that we couldn’t do at her house. We had enough people, and fortunately, enough money that she had saved that we could arrange for 24/7 care. So, I took the lead on that. I went part-time on the ambulance so I could pretty much be with her. More or less, it was kind of like a 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday that I was out there. That was about four years that I did that. The last year or so, I did cut back a little bit. I went back to working on the truck a little bit more, just because gotta make money.

We had her at the house for about four years, and then she had had other complications, and we ended up going back to a nursing home for a little under a year, and then she had yet another stroke, another severe bleed, and passed away a few weeks after that. She passed away in November of 2013.

Habitual Drinker

Since I no longer had this kind of regimen to schedule on the ambulance to where I would work two 12 hour shifts, and I would have a couple off, and I’d be back on again for three, and it kind of follows rotation, I was real careful not to drink excessively, particularly because I didn’t want to feel like crap the next day going to work, but once I no longer had that kind of discipline that was required, alcohol became a very easy hobby to get into for those four years, and that’s kind of what got me in the habit.

Problem Drinker

Between the winter of 2013 until just this past August, that’s the block of time. That five years is the block of time that I would’ve considered where the drinking was heading towards a real problem. In August, I realized I was fed up with drinking. The process of going through her passing, it’s never really over. Just when you have a day, you think, okay, I’m better, I’m getting over this, we’re having to go through her home and all of her things, and there was just no break from it. Alcohol became the break, and then it became the crutch to, okay, I’ve got all these boxes of things that I have to deal with from her home. I’m gonna have some beer, or some wine, or whatever I’ve got on hand to kind of quiet the anxiety in my brain about this.

End of The Line

Our family history is very important to everybody, and I got so hung up on legacy, and I started having this kind of existential crisis where we’re not gonna have kids. We don’t have children, and so I got hung up on this. In fact, I remember being remarkably intoxicated and talking with friends because I said, “Our family has ended. This is the end of the family. I’m not having children. My brother is not having children. My sister is not having children. This is the end of our family.” For some reason, I got so hung up on that, and that became just this reason to just drink and just kind of obliterate those thoughts and the related anxiety. If that makes sense, that seemed to be a source of that anxiety.

Fed Up With Drinking

Probably for a good two or three years before I finally just made the ultimate change, it made me feel bad. I just started feeling sluggish and not getting any younger, and things that you can get away with doing at 25, you can’t at 35. So, I had started having those moments of waking up in the middle of the night when the alcohol has worn off and all those brain chemicals kind of come back into play, and they wake you up, and I would call it dry brain and have that just godawful thirst, and sore head, and think, this is not good. I wouldn’t do this with any other substance. Why am I doing it with this? But it took dozens of times of that happening until I finally just said, “Enough is enough.”

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I’m not real sure what it was about coming up on my 35th birthday, but there was something about the roundness of the number. I was able to take a new shift on the truck that pays a lot better. It’s a 24 hour on shift, so I worked 24 on, have two days off. So, it pays better money, and overtime, and all that kind of good stuff. My wife was able to stop her job, which was kind of needed for some health reasons for her. So, while I’ve always been a responsibly-minded person, that really kicked it into high gear. We got serious about our diet. I got serious about weight training. I said, “It’s silly if I don’t quit drinking. There’s no point in doing all this other stuff if I’m gonna keep drinking.” While I had tried moderation to an extent, it’s a lot of work. I needed to be either all in or all out. I was like, I think it’s just better if I just stop, and it’s just no longer around. It’s no longer in the house. It’s just not even part of my world anymore.

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Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (
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