Sober in a Party City

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It’s hard to believe that the man who built the successful Indigo Road hospitality group—Oak Steakhouse, O-Ku, The Macintosh, and Indaco, to name just a few of its 18 properties in four Southern cities—was once crippled by alcoholism and drug abuse. Here, Steve Palmer shares his personal battle with addiction, how he was saved from an out-of-control spiral, and how he’s paying it forward to help others in the food-and-bev community, here and throughout the Southeast

Saturday, November 3, 2001

I’m lying facedown on my apartment floor. I have been told my liver is failing, and my body shakes as I hallucinate that things are flying out of the wall. My wife has just left me, and her last words, “As long as I stay here, you will stay sick,” are ringing in my ears. I am an alcoholic and a drug addict, a fact that I can no longer ignore.

I have done all the usual bargaining of “I’ll only drink wine... I won’t do shots... I will only smoke pot...” that all addicts propose when holding onto the last hope that we can still manage our lives. That’s the thing about the disease of alcoholism: It is the only disease that tells you that you don’t have a disease.

The hopelessness and desperation are all-encompassing, and I cannot see a life beyond this because it is all that I have known for 20 years. I have tried to quit time and again and have broken every promise I made to myself and others about “never again.” But the truth is that I cannot quit alcohol and cocaine. I have given up hope that my life will be anything other than this and realize that I am going to die.

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Jaci Lund