Ramblings of a Former Madman

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on hope, freedom, and the powerful fellowship of testicles


With the Fourth upon us, I spent a moment reflecting upon what the most memorable Fourth of July’s have been in my life.


It was easier than I thought. Once I inserted the word memorable in my screening criteria, only a few stood out.


As a recovering alcoholic, I obliterated a good number of memories along the way on my 42-year destructive journey to death. Unfortunately, I made a shitload of memories for others, mostly my family. One shines clearly through the smoking ruins; the feelings of that day are still powerful and embracing even decades later. 


It was 48 years ago, and the feelings associated with that day are what remain strong. Feelings are what we remember the most anyway, aren’t they? How things made us feel stake themselves in our heart, which has a lot better memory than our heads.


My feelings from this day flow out of my heart in streams that sing with enjoyment and delight that only a nine-year-old boy can experience.


It wasn’t exactly on the Fourth of July that year, but it was close. More importantly, the two feelings that flame out of it represent the feelings of Independence Day for me…


Freedom and Belonging.


Here’s an excerpt from my book, I Almost Murdered a Complete Stranger: Embarrassing Truths of a Madman’s Journey I’d like to share with you this Fourth of July:


It was late at night on July 20, 1969.

My father and I were staring at the TV’s black and white flickering screen, crackling with static, as an American astronaut walked on the face of the moon. I was fascinated with rockets and space- absolutely obsessed. The magnitude of that moment remains with me. It changed history. It changed everything.


“How did they do that, Dad? Get all the way to the moon?”


Balls, Jimmy. They’ve got big balls. The balls to do what hasn’t been done drives the world, son.”


At nine-years-old, I didn’t appreciate the breadth and depth of his answer to that innocent question. I did appreciate having a connection between cause and effect for the impossible, spectacular and mystical event I was a witness to. I do think my father knows everything about anything.


I definitely got the point that big balls are a good thing to have. No… A great thing.


That damn guy is on the moon, for God’s sake! I remember feeling proud and powerful, as I watched Neil Armstrong put our flag on the moon.


Dad and me. Both sitting here with balls.


I wanted to pound my fist on the coffee table like Dad did when our flag was staked into the dusty, craterous terrain. There was no sound from the TV when it happened, but the slam of my dad’s fist on wood was all the sound it needed.


It was perfect.



I still intensely feel my sense of freedom and belonging from that day. Those intense emotions I felt at 9 years old – of unlimited hopes and possibilities for my life ahead- had not yet been crushed under the cruel bondage of The Stranger.

Pictured: basically me at nine years old.


I belonged with hundreds of millions of Americans who knew without a doubt they belonged to this great country in which we lived when our American flag was imbedded in the Lunar soil. Every American citizen knew they had just witnessed something mystical that day, a collective power beyond what our minds can fathom.


At the time, the space race was cast in the dark shadow of the Soviet Union being the first nation on earth to put a satellite into orbit. Their powerful rocket engines were far superior to ours.  


What sparked this unimaginable power which culminated in 600 million people watching the television, wide eyed and our jaws slack? What caused more than half a billion people to experience at the exact same time a transcendent moment beyond words?


The history records demonstrate three critical factors contributed to this phenomenon:

Our Nation’s Willingness to Believe in the possibility of an Extraordinary Hope, a hope which could only be undertaken with an extreme commitment never to turn away from it and run because it was replete with countless life- threatening, outrageously costly and irrecoverable risks.


That last part’s where millions upon millions of pairs of gigantic balls across the Nation come in, putting it on the line for over eight years. I guess Dad was right about that part.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Credit: NASA

President John F. Kennedy’s freedom-ringing speech before Congress in 1961, cast a vision – which expected hope beyond reason and demanded our Nation’s unwavering commitment. This was the initial spark of a hope which grew into a mystical power for our Nation, and resulted in the indescribable, unreasonable, outrageous event we watched on TV on July 20, 1969.


The speech was 8 years before the substance of things hoped for would come into being.


President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 2 and a half years later.


Yet the vision and the hope now embraced by our Nation carried on. Such is the extraordinary Power of hope beyond reason, sustained by committed men, driven by freedom and their fundamental need to belong to their Nation.


Kennedy’s speech is phenomenal in its demonstration of what’s required to accomplish the impossible, the miraculous. Such as safely landing a man on the moon, or perhaps even more outrageous, the recovery of an alcoholic, being tortured by The Stranger whose intent on murdering him alongside the venomous bite of Stigma.



If you are captured in the same bondage of alcoholism as I was and are currently under the cruel yoke of The Stranger, then you undoubtedly have been raped of any sense of individual freedom. Your energy is enslaved and nailed to the obsessive pursuit of alcohol.


You’ve been forced into a prison cell, isolated from humanity. He forced you into a blood covenant with Him to keep a secret -the unspeakable secret of your alcoholism- buried into your bone marrow.


The vicious bigotry of social Stigma demands that you never tell of your deadly secret; you are forced to keep a secret which will kill you.  



Do you?


Do yourself (and me) what damn well may be the best thing you have ever done for yourself this Independence Day, my fellow sufferers.


Grab a pair and tell one trusted soul of your secret today. Once the secret is told, your Independence can begin.


This must be a person you trust. The Stranger’s a murderous bastard, and the bigots who silently endorse the social stigma about alcoholism are tiny little pricks. I know, I know.   


Be easy on yourself this Fourth of July. I have two suggestions of people who you may never have honestly told your secret to:

  1. Yourself.
  2. Your God or other Higher Power.


Please approach this in that order. Most of you won’t have to look for anybody to trust in beyond them.


You matter. You belong. You can be set free.


You can recover.


Oh, one more favor to ask of you, my friends. If you garnered up the balls to do the above, say one more thing for me this Fourth of July:


Tell your secret.

Fuck alcoholism. Fuck stigma.


I dedicate this blog to the walking wounded, my fellow sufferers, as well as the casualties and their families. We know all too well the suffering that comes with this curse, through their own countless battles with The Stranger. To you I say:


I’ve suffered as you’ve suffered, I’ve bled as you’ve bled.

I’ve faced endless beatings under this cruel master as you have. My heart shares your pain and reaches out to you always.

  • James Spina



I hope this allows you to reexamine your stance on any preconceived notions about the true sinister nature of alcoholism. Those afflicted deserve understanding, not stigma.

You can find out more about my terrible journey dealing with this very issue in my first book, due to release this summer!  You can click here to read more about it on my book page or scroll down to watch my book trailer. If you have a second after, I’d love if you shared it with a friend of yours or two.

Ramblings of a Former Madman

Join my mailing list for satirical musings, gripping stories, indelicate but often hilarious commentary, and (questionable) life advice.

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