Prairie Fire Sobriety


Recently I received a text message from a longstanding friend. He was my partner in the narc unit many years ago. The text message read: “19 years sober today. Seems like only yesterday I was explaining to you why I couldn’t drink that fireball shot at the OCNOA (Orange County Narcotic Officer’s Association) meeting.”

Every new person working narcotics in Orange County, CA was required to consume a drink as part of the initiation ritual. The Prairie Fire as we called it, consisted of a double shot of Tequila and Tabasco. Your esophagus felt like it was set ablaze as the drink slithered down your throat. Participating in the ritual was a right of passage—a beat cop promoted to narco! Drinkers and non-drinkers, churched and heathens alike were all mildly coerced to participate. Watching the gag reflex of most people consuming the toxic brew was a form of brutally bonding entertainment.

Yet, when my new partner was told to “pony up front” for his narcotic bar mitzvah, he had to muster the courage to acknowledge his status as a recovering alcoholic. He could not participate in this time-honored tradition.

I respected and affirmed his courage. We quickly moved past the awkward moment and enjoyed several years of fruitful work together.

Alcoholics Anonymous refers to sobriety as a birthday, not an anniversary. So happy birthday my friend! And to others in the same boat, I encourage you to exercise valor and remain sober. I’ll drink a cola to that!

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