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As Families and Friends Gather, I'm Thankful for Two Years of Sobriety

As Families and Friends Gather, I'm Thankful for Two Years of Sobriety
Courtesy of John Casey

With my wonderful colleagues at equalpride, and Neal Broverman on my right

"Is it a coincidence that when I laid-off my top advisor, booze, that I began to excel on my own and find happiness?" writes John Casey.

When I drank, it was epic. Humility aside – if there is such a thing about humbly telling drunk stories – I was the quintessential partier. I was that way all my life, from my “hit me like a goddamn bullet” days in high school, until I was 57, still letting the booze pulverize me with pellets. That was 40 years of playing with a loaded gun.

I woke up in unusual places and ended up in scary situations. I've passed out in front of a library, on a tennis court, in several hallways, sprawled flat on a parking lot with a McDonalds cheeseburger stuck to my face. I woke up in my car and ended up in more strangers’ beds than I could ever count. My phone disappeared three times in six months. It was also stolen from me. I lost my wallet twice. I can’t even count the number of times my credit card was left at a bar.

I was mugged drunk twice, and I fell out of a Jeep going 50 MPH blitzed out of mind. Many mornings I awakened in my own bed, wondering how I got home – that happened…a lot.

I’ve never done drugs of any kind. I wasn’t an alcoholic. I either drank, and drank to the point beyond excess, or didn’t drink at all. There was no middle ground. For most of my life, I drank heavily until the early hours, and the next day I’d go workout, regardless of how awful I felt or how drunk I still was. I bragged about my ability to tipple till 2 a.m. and then train at 2 p.m. Then, if it were a weekend, I’d leave the gym and imbibe again.

One morning, after a night of hard drinking with a friend from out of town, I did a faceplant and broke my jaw and three teeth.

As I got older, I started making a complete ass out of myself – well, worse than usual. Seeing a man in his 50s fall over drunk is not a pleasant sight for a guy who’s vain. And, as I got older, it became more dangerous, not just with tripping over myself, but wanting the trip of life I was on to end: Three drunk-fueled suicide attempts.

Today, when I tell people who know me that I haven’t had a drink in two years, some have said, “Wow, I wish I could have been there for that last hurrah.” That last “hurrah” was a Sunday morning with a bottle of wine, a bottle of antidepressants and 20 sleeping pills, and Don McLean’s “Vincent” playing over and over again.

And that last time of inebriation ended by waking up not in a parking lot or a car or a stranger’s bed, but in an ICU bed where I stayed for four days. That was followed by four days in the psych ward. There were no runs or workouts for this hangover, just recovery and re-evaluating what happened, and where it all went wrong.

It was 2021. I had been laid off for two years and worked as a freelancer. I had enough money to get by, but it was during the pandemic, so there were no crazy nights out for a long time. That’s a money saver. When normal life resumed, and the bars opened, I was desperate to make up for lost time.

Why, I often wondered, did I feel the need to drink so much? For the better part of those 40 years of drinking, I never felt like I fit in, that I was good enough, that I was loved, that I even mattered. I put on an act of a good time Charlie for everyone to marvel at. When I got drunk, I was happy – never mean. Drinking really was the only thing I excelled at.

Yes, I was good in my profession as a public relations guy, but I surely suffered from imposter syndrome. If I’m being honest with myself, I also never truly put in the time and effort to be exceptional. I had moments of genius, filled with praise, but they were outnumbered by days filled with hangovers, and too lazy to do more. If I had truly committed myself and saved all that money on booze, I would have been an unmatched success and a wealthy executive.

The money disappeared in a hurry on those credit cards left behind at bars. I haven’t owned a car in 30 years. Never bought a house. Never had money to invest. Don’t have a nest egg. My hearing aids are the most expensive thing I own. Never had kids.

I’ve had two loves in my life, but I never took care of them. I was ferociously selfish. I was going to die at 50 like my dad. There wasn’t a need to own anything, to truly take care of anyone, or save any money. “You only live once” meant that you could party till you were 50, and then check out.

But when 51 came about, it didn’t make any sense. And all that insecurity overwhelmed me with severe depression and anxiety. The day after I was diagnosed, after losing 30 pounds and being gaunt, I went out, drank, and then tried to kill myself. I had fallen through the very bottom, to a dark and hopeless abyss that would take seven years to crawl out of.

It wasn’t until December of 2021 that I started to lay the groundwork of picking up all the pieces and laying off my top advisor for 40 years — booze.

Two years later, I’m numb, not from an intoxicating buzz but with unyielding gratitude.

Is it a coincidence that these last two years without alcohol have been the most satisfying of my life? I don’t think so. Beyond the fact that I feel better, look better, and act sensible, the most revealing things about life without alcohol are the revelations about yourself. For the first time ever, I have a clear head, I enjoy what I’m doing immensely – writing for The Advocate — and I understand who I really am.

The first year without alcohol wasn’t easy. I got a job in March of 2022, three months after trying to kill myself. It was a middle-manager PR job at a major media company, a job I would have had at 30, not 58. I was making the same amount of money I made 15 years earlier, but I had something to cling to. It bored the hell out of me. On the side, I was writing columns for The Advocate, and in the process, I learned so much about what it means to be gay – what it really means.

My whole life I’ve lived by the motto, when you think you’ve got life by the balls, it comes along and rips them off, and that process just repeats itself. A vicious cycle, with lessons never learned. A year after going sober, I had a job, a gig writing a column, and a strong sense of self – so I thought. In January of this year, I was laid off again, along with hundreds of others. Coming up on 59, my prospects for working again in PR were dismal at best.

And for a moment, I felt hopeless. Yet, I was remarkably at peace instead of getting wasted or wallowing in self-pity. If God has brought me this far, to this point, I know I’m not finished yet. And I wasn’t.

I have a few people that changed my life. My Justin is one. Then there’s Father Angelo, who I’ve written about before. And Kathleen Waugh, my boss at Toys “R” Us who has done more for me than she will ever know, both personally and professionally. And then, there’s Neal Broverman.

In 2018, after a Pennsylvania Grand Jury released a report on the state’s Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, I wrote an article about my experience with one of those priests and sent it to The Advocate for consideration. I heard back from Neal, the digital editor then, who made some edit suggestions and agreed to run the piece. After that, I started sending in more columns, and for some reason, Neal would write back, let me know what worked, or didn’t work, and patiently guide me in the art of column writing, to the point where it became a regular thing and a side hustle.

When I was laid-off earlier this year, after a few weeks, Neal asked if I’d come on full-time at The Advocate, and I jumped at the chance.

I’ve come to the realization – finally, that I was never meant to be rich. But what has happened to me this year has been priceless. I love my job. I love writing. I love all the amazing people I get to talk to and meet. The list is getting longer and more eclectic from Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi to Dr. Fauci. I wrote an in-depth story for our April print edition about the relationship between the LGBTQ+ community and the Republican party, and I wrote the cover story about our Advocate of the Year, the incredible Jamie Lee Curtis.

I even got to present Curtis, the reigning supporting actress Oscar winner, with her award at the Out100 Gala in Los Angeles. Never in a million years did I think something like this – handing an award to an icon and attending the Out100 gala would happen to me, a habitually drunk guy from Pittsburgh.

I love being a gay man for the first time in my life. I love who I am. I have a sense of self-worth and unbridled enthusiasm for what lies ahead.

Will life come along and rip off my balls, because I dare to profess how happy I am? Probably, but when it does — and it will — I won’t be pouring alcohol over the wound.

John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at or text START to 678678.

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John Casey

John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.
John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.