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Hard-Won Wisdom, and a Helping Hand

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Hard-Won Wisdom, and a Helping Hand

Hard-Won Wisdom, and a Helping Hand

Hard-Won Wisdom, and a Helping Hand

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6350019/6350020" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Edwin Lanier (left) with David Wright at StoryCorps in Durham, N.C. StoryCorps hide caption

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StoryCorps

Edwin Lanier has been sober for more than 5 years.

But, as Lanier told his friend David Wright recently, he drank for many more — and he nearly drank himself to death.

That was the prognosis that Lanier, now 60, got from a doctor.

Many years earlier, Lanier had been told by his father that alcoholism ran in their family.

Back then, Lanier was known as "Little Mayor" — his father was a two-term mayor of Chapel Hill, N.C. When he was 14, his father urged him to stay away from drinking.

"I'm an alcoholic just waiting for the first drink," his father told him. "And I refuse to take it."

Lanier said he would keep it in mind. But soon after, some college kids offered him and a friend a drink. Lanier accepted, and drank for more than 40 years.

It wasn't until after receiving his 28th treatment for alcoholism that Lanier got serious about quitting. His doctor told him he could be dead within two weeks.

It was then that Lanier visited his parents' graves, and pledged not to drink again.

Lanier also found help from his new friend, Wright. They met on an exit ramp where Lanier stood holding a sign that read, Lanier recalls, "Homeless. Anything will help. God bless." Wright handed Lanier a $2 bill and a can of tuna fish.

Wright and his wife eventually took Lanier in, giving him a shower and clean clothes, and a place to start over.

Five years later, Lanier still isn't drinking. But he's still homeless — by choice, he says.

This story was produced for 'Morning Edition' by Michael Garofalo.