Sophomore Year -1987/88
I started my sophomore year as the top runner on the cross country team, and I had been elected sophomore class president at the end of my freshman year. I still lived in Memorial Hall, and by this time all of us residents very close friends. Most kids would move off campus after their sophomore year, but in Memorial we had a lot of juniors and seniors because everyone loved living in our dorm. Tony Berry, Brent Dupree, Larry McKee, Joe Falcomata, Ron Baker, Jack Baumann, Mike Calhoun, John Cook, Steve, McGee, Odel Stearling, and David Evans were some of my best friends at Memorial.
I made somewhat better grades that year but I was still taking a lot of basic classes that I did not enjoy. I ended the year with several “C’s” a few “B’s” and just a couple of “A’s.” I was learning how to study and be more organized, but grades were still far from my top priority. I was also completing the general courses and getting more into my history classes.
Keeping a Diary
As a history major, I had to read about our Founding Fath-ers. One thing that caught my attention was how they all kept diaries. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and all of the great men we studied each kept a diary. I decided I would keep one too. I would try to write in it each day or at least once a week. I also took time to think about my yearly goals each Jan-uary and then again on my birthday in September.
Keeping a diary forces you to think about your actions and how you might have done something differently. In life, we get so busy that we rarely take time to think about how we are living. Wise men are busy, but they are never too busy to think. Stopping to set goals and taking time to assess whether you are making progress on those goals will put you miles ahead of the average person.
Lessons on Getting Organized
One of the biggest regrets of my life was missing Clinton and Tammy Gross’s wedding. He was one of my best friends, and he asked me to be his best man. He called and gave me the date to make sure that it would work for me. Well, being young and disorganized, I didn’t check the cross county schedule when I first committed to him. As the big day approached, I noticed that I had a cross country meet scheduled on the same day as his wedding. I felt that since I was the team captain and they were paying me to run, I could not miss a race. I ended up telling Clinton that I could not get out of the race. What an idiot I was. First, if I had checked my race schedule to begin with, Clinton probably would have picked a different date. But if not, I know Coach would have let me off for the wedding.
I ended up driving down to the wedding after the race and I got there just in time for the reception. The next morning, while Clinton and Tammy were asleep at the Drury Lodge, I decorated their car. Unfortunately, I used shaving cream without knowing that shaving cream on a car sitting in the sun leaves a mark. By the time they woke up and washed the car there was a permanent “Just Married” imprint on the hood of Clinton’s Volvo. He wasn’t very happy about that.
When I got married, I asked Clinton to be the best man in my wedding. Despite my having missed his wedding and messing up his car, he agreed. He was my best friend and it was because of my disorganization that I didn’t appreciate his friendship like I should have. That was the only wedding I was ever asked to be in until Scott Faugh, my campaign manager in 2000, asked me to be in his.
While I am thinking about being disorganized, I will tell a story about how I missed an appointment with the vice president of the university that year. As the class president in SGA, I was a rebel. I was always pushing to either get a student onto the board of trustees, extend the chow hall hours, or lower the prices in the book store. I constantly took on causes in order to change the rules and “reform” things.
Most of the time, the administration just ignored students but, finally, Vice President Andrews agreed to meet with me. His secretary called and set up a time for us to meet, and I was very excited about that opportunity. I had planned out what I would say and on the morning of our meeting, after my run, I put on my dress clothes and went to class.
Now, I have always had the ability to sleep anywhere and anytime. Running eighty miles a week and staying up late in the dorm always left me sleepy. Memorial Hall was down on the old campus, and all of my classes were one mile away at the new campus. I fell asleep in class a lot, and when I had a break between classes I would go to the student union and fall asleep on one of the couches.
That morning, as soon as class was over, I went to the student union, found a comfortable couch, and promptly fell asleep. I woke up just in time for my next class and didn’t even realize that I had missed my important meeting until Paula Bogart, the dean of students, called the next day to ask me where I had been.
How could I miss and appointment like that? How could I have been that disorganized? I had been thinking about that meeting for days. Like the old saying goes, “The dullest pencil is better than the sharpest mind.” It was very simple: I did not write it down. I didn’t have a daily organizer; I didn’t keep a list of things to do. The only thing I kept track of with any reliability were classes and cross country practice.
Missing that appointment, however, did cause me to make some changes. I bought a daily organizer. This was before anyone had smart phones. The “Daytimer” had twelve small monthly calendars with each day broken into hours. It fit in a wallet and I started using this to keep track of all of my events, meetings and contacts.
That was the start of becoming more organized and getting things done. Each month, I would organize my new calendar with all of my appointments. Anytime I needed to schedule something, I could check if I was free and write it down on the date. There was a place for each day’s “To Do” list. Taking time to make a to-do list each morning is something that increases productivity dramatically!
Keeping a diary, putting appointments in a calendar, and making a to-do list each day are probably three of the best habits I learned in college. Those three things, along with assessing my goals annually, led directly to any success I enjoyed after college.
My Washington DC Trip
With Mom and Dad’s help, I bought my roommate’s Chevy Nova for $500 during my sophomore year. After Christmas break, I decided to go to Washington DC to attend a campaign school. I stopped in Marble Hill on my way out and told Dad my plan to drive sixteen hours straight through and sleep in the car once I arrived.
Dad never argued with me, but was very concerned about me driving that far across the country with no spare tire and no hotel reservation. That night at dinner he said, “Your mom wants to take Courts and Ruth Ann to see Washington, do you think they could go with you?”
Of course I was happy to “bring” them with me. Thankfully, Dad sent Mom with me because I would have frozen to death sleeping in my car. It was also helpful that Dad had gotten me a spare and paid for some car repairs before we left Marble Hill.
When we arrived in DC, congress was out of session and the town was empty, so finding a cheap hotel was not hard. I signed up for the school and, while I was in class, Mom took Ruth and Courts to see the sites. I had some time off one day and went with them. We walked across the mall in the freezing rain and took in as much of the capital’s history as we could. It was a quick trip, but fun, and I learned a lot about Washington politics at the campaign school I attended there. I left thinking that I wanted to move to Washington and work on Capitol Hill as soon as I graduated from college.
That was the year I got my college nickname. On the first day of one of my required general Bible classes, I was flirting with one of the pretty twins (Cathy Horn) who was sitting by me and told her that my name was “Gern Jet’ton.” I said it with a French flair and told her that I was a French chef who had given up cooking to attend Bible College.
She doubted that that was my name and as I was trying to convince her, Dr. Hodges called my name as he went through roll call. To keep up the charade, instead of saying “present,” I corrected him and explained that my name was “Gern Jet’ton.” Everyone in class laughed and, since it was a large class, many people would see me around campus and only recall that strange name. They seemed to get a kick out of calling me Gern. My friends who already knew my name were confused by this, but once I told them the story the name stuck. Dr. Hodges called me Gern for the rest of the year in that class.
Over spring break, I went home for a few days and Lottie and Josh wanted me to ask Josh’s sister, Cassie, out on a double date. I knew of Cassie because I had dated her friend Monica Green (Gains), and I knew that she had a six month old daughter named Callie, but I had never dated anyone who had a child, and I was a bit nervous about that. But I thought she was really pretty so her good looks, along with Lottie’s urging, gave me the courage to ask her out. We had dinner at Taco Bell and then saw a movie. When I took her home and walked her to the porch, she kissed me good night. I wrote this in my diary: “Went out with Cassie James tonight. She gave me a great goodnight kiss!” I didn’t think much of it because I was dating several girls at that time, but I did remember that she was a good kisser!
I asked a foreign exchange student from Nicaragua (Daila Kalns) out to one of our formal dinners, and surprisingly she said yes. She was so beautiful that I was a bit intimidated, and I will never forget trying to cut my steak with a Miller’s dining hall butter knife, slipping, and knocking the fork out of my hand. No one said anything until I did it again a few minutes later, only this time I also knocked my water over and made a mess. My date, in her Spanish accent, said, “Do you need me to help you cut your steak?” That was our first and last date.
I also dated another gorgeous girl who had been going out with a big football player. He got really mad when she started dating me, so I made it a point to avoid him at all costs. She was also a partier, and we went out for a few months that year. Later on, after your mom and I were married, we moved into our new apartment and that same girl lived next door to us. Your mom didn’t like that much.
Getting Caught Drinking
That year I had an event take place that changed my life. That same girlfriend and I had been out drinking one night and got back to the dorms late. She dropped me off at Memorial Hall, and I snuck in after curfew, then she went to her dorm and snuck in. The security guard saw her pull up and park at her dorm so he went over and checked out her vehicle. She was not in it, but he saw a cooler and some beers through the window. He could not open the car, but he turned a report in to Jack Purcell, the dean of
We were separately called into the dean’s office, and my girlfriend was freaked out. I calmed her down and quickly went back to my old lying ways from high school by making up a story for us to tell. Mr. Purcell could not prove beyond a shadow of doubt that it was my beer in the car, and I never admitted that it was, but he knew the truth.
He could have kicked me out of SBU, and he probably should have. Thankfully, he didn’t. I was the track team captain, sophomore class president and I was active at the same church that he went to. In fact, his wife was my Sunday school teacher. I imagine it was my church attendance that caused him to give me a second chance.
He allowed me to stay at SBU, but he required me to go to counseling with an SBU psychology professor, plus I had to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. I was not happy about it, but I had no choice but to go.
The thought of attending AA meetings discouraged me, and around this time I talked with Paul Fitzwater, an old running coach from Potosi. I told him that I just didn’t like college much and I was starting to realize that I would not be an Olympic runner. He listened and gave me some good advice. Coach said that I was just going through the sophomore blues. He told me a story about how he quit college during his sophomore year. He was a runner too, but he said that seeing all of his high school buddies making money, working hard and driving brand new Jeeps, while he was scraping by with no money and spending all of his time running and studying, bummed him out.
He quit school and went back to Washington County where he started pouring concrete. It was hard work, but he was strong and young, and made really good money. Coach bought a nice Jeep and moved into his own place (a trailer), which, for a country boy, was like living a dream.
After about a year, he started thinking about how hard pouring concrete was. In the summer it was hot and in the winter it was cold. He wondered if pouring concrete would still be as fun to him when he got older. After thinking about his options, Coach ended up going back to school and became a teacher. This allowed him to make great money pouring concrete in the summers, which he now did by choice. Coach finished by telling me, “Stick it out. Once you’re a junior, it’s almost over, and you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
I took his advice and have told many other sophomores his story over the years. College is not that hard. You don’t even have to be terribly smart. Graduating from college just takes time and perseverance. A person has to stick with it and finish. I’m not convinced that a college degree makes anyone a better worker, but it does indicate that a person can set a goal, stick to it and complete a multi-year task. That is exactly how a person succeeds at anything in life.
Almost getting kicked out of college brings up an important lesson that many of us need to learn. You cannot be two different people. In high school and college, I wanted to be a good Christian kid, but I allowed myself to be pulled into a lifestyle that was totally opposite from that. You cannot be a positive witness for Christ while partying and have sex outside of marriage at the same time. When trying to live such a double life, you inevitably end up telling lies to those you love in order to cover up your duplicity.
Living a lie was hard on me mentally, and eventually it lead to more destructive behavior that went way beyond simply “having a good time.” We all think and do things that we don’t want anyone to know about. This is understandable and is exactly what Paul was talking about in Romans 7: 15-25. But when you give in to those thoughts and start habits that are contrary to what you know in your heart is right, you are headed down a path of destruction.
That is why my mom and dad are such special people. I urge you to talk to them and get to know them while they are alive. They are special for many reasons but, to me, the main reason why they should be an example to us all is that they live a consistent private and public life. They are human and make mistakes, but they strive to live their beliefs, represent their values and overcame temptation. I have watched them for years. I have seen them lose their temper and have opportunities to cheat, lie and be jealous or petty, but I have never seen them give in.
There is an old quotation about good character that goes something like this: “Good character is doing the right thing when nobody is watching.” Some parents lie about their kid’s age to get a cheaper price on things. This teaches their kids that lying is sometimes okay. Some parents tell their kids not to drink and drive, but then drink and drive themselves. Some parents make their kids go to church, but check their text messages during the sermon. Some parents tell their kids to be generous, but never give to others themselves.
My parents always did exactly what they taught us to do. They didn’t gossip about others, they didn’t skip church when we were on vacation, they didn’t watch bad shows on TV, and they gave us every reason to believe that the values they taught us were real.
Character is built a little at a time. Bad actions lead to bad character and good actions lead to good character. Most of us do not end up in trouble after one bad decision. This short quotation says it all:
Watch your thoughts for they become words,
watch your words for they become actions,
watch your actions, for they become habits,
watch your habits for they become your character,
watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you do things you are not proud of or have secrets that you don’t want anyone else to know, beware because those private secrets and sins will be exposed. My life is living proof that eventually your double life will be seen by your family, friends and maybe even the general public. In Mark 4 verse 22 Jesus said, “For there is nothing hidden, which shall not be manifested; neither was anything kept secret, but that it should come to light.”
When your mistakes, secrets and sins come to light, your personal reputation is ruined. Even more importantly, your credibility as a Christian witness and your ability to lead your children down the right path is destroyed. When your life is exposed as a fraud, the values you supposedly stood for are worthless to anyone watching. While you may not care what strangers think, the harmful effects your actions have on those you love is devastating. For four years, I was a terrible hypocrite. I have reaped a terrible harvest from the decisions I made during those four years. Don’t make my mistake.
Trying to Stop Drinking
Since I didn’t quit school, I had to attend my AA meetings. My first one was in Springfield and there must have been more than a hundred people there. Everyone was very friendly, and they all seemed to know each other. I remember thinking that I was so much better than all of the other people there. Most were older and some of them told sad stories about lost jobs, criminal records, busted up families, and kids they never got to see. I really didn’t think that I had a drinking problem, and I doubted that anything like that would ever happen to me.
I went to the meetings, listened to the stories, but never talked or said anything about myself. I thought the meetings were a waste of time, but these meetings did have an impact on me. Even though I thought I would never end up like any of those people, hearing their stories played a role in helping me to stop drinking.
My counselor was Dr. Phil Powell. He taught in the Psychology Department and had a lot of experience dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. He was a great guy and turned out to be very helpful to me. I’m sure he could tell that I was only talking with him because I had to so he very wisely spent most of his time helping me to consider why I drank and whether or not I had an addiction.
One day he showed me a chart called “A Chart of Alcohol Addiction and Recovery.” There was a big line at the top left corner of the page and it curved down to the bottom center of the page before curving back up to the top right of the page. It showed how a person starts drinking then progresses down the road to becoming an addict. Descriptions of problems were placed along the line such as: getting drunk more often, blackouts, DWI’s, drinking alone, loss of friends, avoidance of loved ones, money problems, feelings of guilt, geographical escapes, loss of will-power. It all ended in the same place: you lose everything and hit bottom. Then the chart shows the indicators of rehabilitation and recovery on the way back up to the top.
As he went through the indicators of a drinking problem, I noticed that I had experienced many of the items on the list. I was drinking almost every day. I had tried to quit. I had gotten sick or experienced blackouts numerous times. I tried to make a geographical change by coming to SBU, and I had avoided family and resorted to lies to cover up my drinking. I admitted some of this to Dr. Powell, but not all of it. I took great pride in the fact that I had never gotten a DWI nor had I been fired from a job. I remember him looking at me and saying, “Rod, I can’t tell you that you have a drinking problem, but it sure looks like you’re headed for one. Sadly, you seem to be heading down on the addiction curve, and hardly anybody ever turns things around until they hit bottom.”
I didn’t say a word. I just stared at that chart.
For a moment, I entertained the thought that I might have a drinking problem, but only for a moment. I quickly told myself that I didn’t have any DWI’s and I was not like those folks at the AA meetings. I mean, I hadn’t lost a job, wife or kids. I didn’t have a criminal record and felt that I was just having fun.
Still, after that session I couldn’t stop thinking about that graph and all of the sad stories I had heard at my AA meetings. I quietly wondered if my drinking would lead to those same problems in my own life. Could I crash and burn like those people had? I quickly shook off these thoughts and got back to being an important man on campus. I attended my AA meet-ings and counseling sessions because I had to, but I didn’t let myself believe that I had a drinking problem.
Remember, I was running eighty to a hundred miles a week. I was making decent grades and was very involved in SGA. I woke up early, worked hard and, by most standards, was a successful college kid. But by the middle of my sophomore year, I was drinking almost every night. I drank eight to twelve beers or nearly of a fifth of whiskey almost every night. On weekends, I would drink even more. So, even though I was drinking a lot, I felt that it wasn’t a problem because I was getting so much done.
The difficulty with people who are addicted to drugs, alcohol or even sex is, they don’t know it. They think they can stop anytime, but they tell themselves “I just don’t want to stop.” Friends and family warn them, the addiction causes them problems, but they just drive on ignoring all of the warning signs. That’s why Dr. Powell told me that almost nobody ever turns things around until they crash and burn.
Fortunately for me, Dr. Powell did something that helped me see the warning signs and turn things around. He told me about a test that would help us find out if I really had a problem. He asked me to agree to go out for the next two weeks and have two drinks a night. He said I could not drink more than two drinks but that I had to drink two drinks each night. Drinks were defined as two beers, two shots, or two glasses of wine.
He made me swear to secrecy, because he was an SBU professor and this test violated the University’s drinking policy. We discussed it for a bit, and I agreed to take the test. Before I left, he restated the rules and asked, “So, you have agreed to not take more than two drinks each day for the next fourteen days?” Again, I said I would and walked out the door ready to prove him wrong.
This was one test I was excited to take. A few of my friends knew that I was doing it so each night we went out and I had two beers. I did okay that first week but, one night during the second week, I didn’t stop at two beers for some reason. My girlfriend even reminded me of the test and was surprised that I was going for the third beer. I drank nine beers that night but was good after that and only had two a night the rest of the week.
Before the next counseling session I debated even telling Dr. Powell about my slip-up. As soon as I sat down on his couch, he asked me, “So, how did the test go?” It was a short simple question, but one I did not want to answer. I looked at him, looked around the room at all of his books and degrees hanging on the wall and slowly admitted, “I messed up.”
Dr. Powell had a great way of talking to me. He asked a lot of questions and always seemed to care about me and helping me. He was easy to trust, and I guess this is why I told him the truth. I expected him to say, “See, you do have a problem,” or “Your drinking is out of control.”
All he said was, “What do you think that means?”
I sat there for a while thinking. Then I took a deep breath and replied, “I don’t know.”
“Why do you think you took that third beer?
“I don’t know.”
“Was anyone pressuring you?”
He then reminded me that I had made a commitment to myself to not have more than two drinks each day for two weeks, and closed by saying, “You have a lot to think about.”
I didn’t know why I couldn’t stick with the test for fourteen days. That’s when the realization that maybe I did have a drinking problem finally set in. The AA meetings, the sad stories, and the graph got me thinking, but my own lack of discipline on something I told myself I could do is what led me to try and make a change.
Now, I didn’t stop drinking all at once. It was hard and I had lots of help. At about that time, Paul Casey and his wife started teaching Sunday school and they took me in and basically adopted me. I spent a lot of time with them and got a lot closer to God. Also, Dr. Wheeler and Mr. Ingold started a new church named Wellspring that many of us college kids attended. Unfortunately, it was then that the semester ended and summer began.
Once the semester was over, I decided to go to Tan-Tar-A Resort to work a room service job. A lot of college kids went to Lake of the Ozarks and made good money during the summer. Tony Berry and I headed up there and shared an apartment. It was not a good place to be for a guy who wanted to stop drinking.
Every day we worked and made good money, and every night we drank and spent it all. I worked room service, and they paid us minimum wage, which was $3.35 an hour, but our tips brought in a lot more than that. I worked, ran and partied but, as always, I attended church. Riverview Baptist was near my apartment and I attended each Sunday.
Tan-Tar-A was ten miles from our apartment and, to stay in shape, I ran to work a lot. We had no dorm mom, no rules, and enough money to live the “high” life. After one month, I realized I was not saving much money because I was drinking like a fish. I knew the drinking, partying and sex that were prevalent in that environment, were not what I needed to be around.
One day, I woke up and was ready to run to work when I ran into my neighbor who was just getting up and heading to work himself. We chatted about the big party we had both attended the previous night, and I told him how I was spending too much money and that I was thinking about going back to summer school and knocking out some cheap classes.
He looked at me, let out a sigh, looked up into the sky for what I could only guess was inspiration, and said, “Yeah, I should probably do that too. I came here several years ago one summer and then quit college to work construction. It’s fun, but I’m just spinning my wheels at my job. I probably need to get back to school, too.”
This guy was about twenty-five or twenty-six, which seemed ancient to me at the time. He had a decent job working con-struction but had no real plan for the future. He was a good guy who worked hard and partied hard, but hearing him talk about his life helped me decide that I didn’t want to be in his shoes four or five years down the road. Right then and there, I de-cided to quit Tan-Tar-A and go back to summer school for the July session.
When I put in my two-week notice with my boss he was not very happy.
I explained that I was not making enough money so he offered to give me more hours and to let me bus tables. I turned his offer down and made plans for summer school.
Then, on my final day, I delivered a bunch of drinks to the presidential suite and got a hundred dollar tip.
They always calculated a tip into all of our orders, but most of the time people gave a cash tip on top of that, which is why everyone wanted to work room service. That hundred dollar tip sure made it tempting to stay.
My boss put another hard sell on me, but by that time I was convinced that the devil was getting me big tips so that I would stay, and I believed enough in God to know that I needed to get out of that environment.
Falling for Cassie James
When I left Tan-Tar-A I went back to Marble Hill for two weeks before July classes were scheduled to start. Lottie and Josh were engaged by that time, so I asked Cassie out again.. I don’t know what happened in those two weeks, but when I left and went back to Bolivar I was sure missing Cassie!
Falling in love can happen fast. Cassie was easy to look at, but she was also a very determined and responsible young lady. She was a great mother to Callie, and I could tell that she was very dependable and resolute. Those qualities impressed me, but the added bonus was Callie. She was spoiled rotten but as cute as could be. I was a bit scared about taking on the responsibility of a family, but I was also very confident. Like all young kids, I had no idea what those responsibilities entailed, but I sure thought I could handle them.
Cassie and I agreed that we wanted to be married, so I went to her father, Frank, and asked for his permission. He approved and gave me some good advice. Frank said, “As long as you both do more than your fair share, but think it’s not enough, you won’t have problems.” That is good advice for life. When teammates, business partners or spouses do more than their fair share and still think it’s not enough, things sure go smoothly.
I picked out a ring at Mr. Miller’s jewelry shop and mowed his grass that summer to help pay for it. I asked Cassie to marry me and gave her the ring over dinner at Mom and Dad’s house in Marble Hill. She said yes, and then I headed back to Bolivar. For some reason, when I got back and started thinking about being married, being a father and paying all of the bills for a family, I became extremely nervous. I was so nervous that I couldn’t even hold my hand out straight without it shaking, which had never happened to me before.
I decided to do something I had never done before in my life.
I decided to fast for a whole weekend. I told myself that I would not eat anything and that when I was hungry I would pray and ask God if I was supposed to marry Cassie. I didn’t know much about fasting, but I remembered reading about prophets in the Bible who had fasted to get God’s help in their life. That weekend, I drank a ton of soda (I worked part time at the Coke plant and got free soda) and spent a lot of time praying. I can honestly say that by the end of the weekend my anxiety was gone and I had no doubts about marrying Cassie.
I never heard a voice tell me anything, but I just felt a peace about the decision and a certainty that I was doing the right thing. That weekend was a very big help to me as I grew older. Cassie and I had a few rocky times those first few years, but the confidence I had in knowing that I was supposed to marry her helped me stick it out, even when Cassie wanted to leave.
As the new semester started, I was the student body vice president and a “big man on campus.” When I left Bolivar the previous spring, I had been looking forward to all of the new, good-looking freshman girls who would be arriving that fall. Cassie changed all of that. We wrote to each other almost every day, and I took several trips home during the semester. We planned on waiting for me to get out of college before getting married, but since Lottie and Josh were getting married that November we decided to speed things up and have a double wedding.
Getting serious with Cassie and stopping drinking all happened at about the same time. With Dr. Powell’s counseling, Bill Berry’s advice, my AA meetings, and the help of good Christian leaders at church, I stopped drinking and got on the right path. I will never forget going over to the Casey’s house for my birthday. I chuckled as I thought about how I had planned to have a big blowout on my twenty-first birthday. Spending the evening with my Sunday school teacher enjoying a nice dinner was a far cry from a drunken night at the bar, but I was very thankful to be there.
It took me a long time to get to the point where I could have fun without drinking. On previous nights, I would be mad when we couldn’t find anyone to buy us beer. One good way to know if you have a drinking problem is to analyze how important alcohol is to your ability to have fun. If whatever you’re doing is not enjoyable because you can’t have a beer or a glass of wine, watch out, you might have a problem.
When I first stopped drinking, going to church outings and other events was not very fun. I would laugh and have a good time, but I was always thinking about how I wanted to get out of there and go have a drink. Fortunately, things got better, and I relearned how much fun life is without drinking.
Paying for College
Of course, now that I was getting married I had to start thinking about money. It cost about $7,000 a year to go to SBU. Our family was considered poor so I received a $2,700 Pell Grant and a $1,500 Missouri Grant based on my income, but I lost all of my academic scholarships after my freshmen year because my grades were too low. I also received a $3,000 run-ning scholarship and a $1,500 SGA scholarship for being student body vice president.
Thankfully, the scholarships and grants were enough to pay for college so I didn’t have to take out any loans. I worked part time as an electrician on campus and that job paid $3.35 an hour. While that was great as a single guy, it wouldn’t be enough to take care of a family. I took a job as the ad salesman for the college newspaper and that paid a flat ten percent commission. Fortunately, that brought in about two-hundred dollars a month. I also bought a lawn mower and went back into the mowing business. I made good money at that during the summer.
I found a low income apartment that had cheap rent and I took out my college loans to help pay for expenses. Once Cassie and I were married, we basically lived on my college loans and paid for college with scholarships and grants.
Heading into my twenty-first year of life, marriage, bills, running and student government were all on my mind. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do for a career, but like most college students I had no doubts that I was going to be successful and important. I sure didn’t lack confidence, but I had a lot to learn. Starting a family was the beginning of my education.
I was considered a successful college student and my accomplishments caused me to be very proud of myself. While I made mistakes and didn’t achieve all of my dreams, I had gained a lot of friends, dated pretty girls, learned how to make good grades, broken school running records, been elected student body vice president, overcome a drinking problem, rededicated my life to the Lord, and gotten engaged to a beautiful lady with a wonderful little girl.
All of these accomplishments gave me a sense that there was nothing I could not achieve if I worked hard enough. I trusted in God, but inside of me the seeds of pride had taken root. My successes served to water and feed those seeds, and my pride would continue to grow and cause me serious problems later in life.
Someday, I will continue this story and tell you about marrying your mother, raising you kids and getting into politics. It was the happiest time of my life. I had a wonderful childhood, but raising you kids was even better. It will be a fun story to tell. Of course you will remember much of those times, but you might enjoy hearing about those first years when your mother and I started our family and took you far away from Missouri.