NEW YORK (CBS) What if you got drunk, killed a man, and didn't remember doing it?
Richard Broom wasn't bothered by the mystery of what he did during his frequent alcoholic blackouts--until the morning of July 5, 1982. That's when he learned that what he didn't remember doing the night before had made him a murderer.
In Cocked and Loaded, Broom tells the harrowing true story of how he shot a man while intoxicated and was sentenced to life in a Florida state prison.
If you're expecting him to deny or excuse what he did, think again. While in prison, Broom finally acknowledged his drinking problem--and his anger problem, took responsibility for his past crimes and sins, and worked to redeem himself and make amends. Rather than blaming his parents, his lawyer, or the system for the 11 years he spent behind bars, he now blames only himself. And he credits prison and Alcoholics Anonymous with saving his life.
Broom recounts the abuse he suffered as a child, and the pain he inflicted on others--classmates, co-workers, his two ex-wives, his two daughters, and assorted strangers--after discovering beer at age 14. "I didn't get into trouble every time I drank," the author reflects, "but every time I got into trouble I was drinking." He traces how alcohol cost him a career in baseball, several jobs, two marriages, and a lot of money, and wreaked havoc with his physical, mental, and emotional health. He shares how he experienced his first taste of freedom as a convicted murderer--and eventually found redemption. "I'd rather be sober in prison than drunk on the street," he attests.
In his brutally frank memoir of addiction and recovery, Broom aims to offers inspiration to anyone struggling with substance abuse--or any formidable challenge--and hope to all the loved ones of hopeless alcoholics.
Interview with Richard Broom by Barry Leibowitz, Senior Writer at 48 Hours | Mystery
It's hard to believe you remember nothing about the shooting that led to your murder conviction. Is that really still the case?
Broom: Yes, it is still the case. I still remember nothing from the night after approx. 8pm. I guess it's hard for one to believe if they've never had an alcoholic blackout, but I'm sure that millions of recovering alcoholics could share with me times when they can't recall things. I've had hundreds of blackouts while intoxicated, and none of the memories ever surfaced. Since I've been sober, over 26 years, I have not had any blackouts.
Do you forgive yourself for taking another man's life?
Broom: Yes, I have forgiven myself, but it didn't happen overnight. One thing I did was follow and work the 12 step-program, and during step nine I wrote a letter to the victim's family, (after 9 years of incarceration). Soon after that, my sponsor Bill H. told me I needed to forgive myself, because I wasn't acting like I had. Finally Bill said, "Who do you think you are, God? - God has forgiven you, so why can't you forgive yourself?" Within days I finally let go, and "let God," and I forgave myself and no longer regretted the past.
You write that "prison saved my life." How so?
Broom: If I had continued drinking and behaving the way I was, I believe I would have died, or been killed within a year.
There's a big spiritual side to your story of recovery. What's at the heart of it?
Broom: I had a spiritual experience while I was in prison which proved to me that there was more to existence than my senses could experience. I also awakened spiritually through the 12-step process. I changed my outlook and attitude towards life, changed the way I thought, acted, and dealt with life. I had a complete change in my psyche, a 180 degree turn.
After your many run-ins with the law, how does it feel to be helping cops who have drug and alcohol problems?
Broom: It feels great. I finally, over the last 13 years plus, have found what I was meant to do with my entire life, and that is: help others. I've caused a lot of pain and headaches to officers over the years, and now am able to help some of them through their disease, and painful existence. Living in the disease, being an active user, is a terrible, painful cycle. It's not living the way we were meant to live. Being part of the solution gives me great satisfaction, and a feeling of warmth.
Is there anything from your past that is still unresolved... and what are you doing about it?
Broom: I think a lot, or most of my issues from my past are resolved, at least to me. If some should show up, I deal with them in steps 10, 11, & 12 of the 12-step program. I work steps 10-12 daily, which help to keep me spiritually fit, gives me peace of mind, and keeps me content with who I am today.
What question should Crimesider have asked you that we didn't... and what's the answer?
Do you think you'll ever commit another crime?
Broom: Not as long as I stay in good standing in my 12-step fellowship, and keep in fit spiritual condition.
About the Author
Richard Broom, born Richard B. Tremper in 1946, grew up in Albany, New York. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1968, graduated from Hudson Valley Community College in 1970, and was released from prison in 1993. A recovering alcoholic, he has been sober for more than 20 years. Broom has two grown daughters and currently works as a therapist at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, a nationally renowned drug rehab, alcohol rehab, and substance abuse addiction treatment center. He lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Click Here to Read an Excerpt (Scribd.com)