Part Five | Advertising Jobs, Family; Atlanta (1989-1998)

AA is filled to the brim with sayings, and one I heard right off the bat was: “No major changes your first year.” But they also said: “You need to change your playmates and your playgrounds.” Traveling around my five-state territory was like putting temptation under my nose every day, so in an imperfect world, changing jobs was in my better interest.

Then a funny thing happened not long after I started going to meetings and getting sober. I started writing. It’s like, when they put together the plans for my life, they said, “You’re going to become a writer, but you’re going to have to put down the bottle before that comes to the surface.” Few salespeople enjoy writing call reports, but mine were so well done they were being passed around among the secretaries in the home office.

Five months after getting sober, I found an ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for an ad agency looking to hire a copywriter with “experience in business and industry.” (You just can’t make this stuff up.) I applied and was called in for an interview. The owners, Bob Pratt and Dan Buehl, were skeptical. I wanted more money than they wanted to pay, and I didn’t have any real writing experience. But they handed me the writing assignment that had been put together by the departing writer, Rick Sanders, whose position they were looking to fill.

The folder consisted of a hodge-podge stack of information about a piece of process control equipment, and they told me to go home and write a 500-word press release. We shook hands mid-morning and I drove the thirty minutes back to my house in Stone Mountain. I don’t think they had high hopes. But I did.

Back in my office, sitting in front of my Brother typewriter with a two-inch-tall screen that could hold a few lines of text at a time—a pre-computer, if you will—I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. As I got underway, the piece started to take shape, and I thought, ‘I can do this.’ As the afternoon chugged on, I started closing in on completion. Remembering at the last minute to give it a headline—Thank you, Ms. Ruedy, for your good work in teaching that advanced-level English class in high school!—I dashed off to the nearby mailing store to send a fax. The agency received my submission before the end of the day.

Following a review by a Georgia Tech professor who gave feedback on the quality of the writing for each candidate, I was made an offer that matched my previous salary working for a chemical company (although sadly minus the bonus). Since I was starting over, this was the right time to change my last name. I went to the library and found the forms needed to represent myself as my own attorney. The judge looked askance at the situation and required me to go get a signed, notarized statement from Ed saying I wasn’t trying to defraud him. That detail completed, I, Jill Hudson, walked out into the world a new woman.

As for my relationship with Ed, it didn’t make the journey. I was told not to make any major changes, but when I let go of whatever meager threads were holding us together, the whole thing simply fell apart. There wasn’t any big fight, but there also wasn’t much pleasantness remaining to be found. I put the house on the market and there it sat for several months. A day after my one-year AA birthday, we got an offer and it was done.

Walker: A Spiritual Memoir by Jill Loree

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