This is an essay I wrote for school that got published on sobernation.com. I’m going to post the essay here in the hopes someone might relate. This is part of my story.
I am an alcoholic. Owning this label is not without consequences. Recovery from substance abuse has caused me to reevaluate life and the relationships surrounding it. The freedom in this refrain has kept me sober and humble. Recovery has caused me to change my life by helping others in the community, become a consciousness person with integrity, restored my faith in God, and a present loving dependable family member. It has gifted me with the necessary tools to deal with my past while living at peace in the present. To carry the message of hope and freedom to those still lost in the despair like I was is vital to my recovered state. It is paramount that the narrative show both the negative and positive outcomes of recovery. In doing so maybe help someone identify and bring about some positive change in their life.
It was not always this way. I relished the role of the wild reckless weekly warrior. I thrived on living moment to blackout moment. The excitement of a night out with the endless possibilities of fun, sex, and adventure was an addiction of its own sort. Before all the substances took precedent there was an innocent ignorance about this late night, early morning lifestyle. I had gone on adventures with women that looked like Pam Anderson to New Orleans. Drunk and high the whole way down without a license after a judge issued a bench warrant. I threw parties that lasted days. I worked as a bartender making lots of cash to further my exploits with an awesome neverland-like bachelor pad. I maintained, yet, my Peter Pan syndrom would never quite shake this underlying unhappiness. I was too busy and self absorbed to care. My pride prevented me from acknowledging my fears of living. I was the sun providing the negative energy of my universe.
Before I further romanticize these exploits, a little background is in order. My biological father is a former member of a Detroit biker club. He was out of the picture by the time I could even learn to run away. Daddy issues is an understatement as I remained in such denial of the impact of his departure. I buried it deep in resentment and hate for a father figure whose ghost haunted me daily. Once he was out of the picture by virtue of giving up his parental rights; a would be abusive step-father took his place. What we have here is the makings of a very spiteful undisciplined young man surrounded by dysfunction–confused by adults shortcomings. My father figures instead were men like Jack Kerouac, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, and Axl Rose. Men whom I emulated poorly by failing to recognize their flaws despite their beautifully written prose and songs. This anti-establishment mentality became my creed to live life by. My mother had thought it was best to place me in a Christian school. I never quite fit in by being such a very open minded rebellious individual. I always felt I had something to prove. Also, by not having the same clout as other rich booster families, I eventually wore out my welcome and was expelled. This trend would follow me throughout life.
My first kiss of alcohol was at the age of twelve. This kiss changed my world. I immediately fell in love with its toxic distortions of reality. I had thought I finally found my faithful companion. False proclamations and expectations brought about pride and self loathing for a brighter day. My not so secret love affair grew as I now found myself as the kid whose company everyone enjoyed to get the party started. For once I found myself with a whole host of fair weather fiends, friends, and fictional family. I felt “I had arrived” as stated in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. The ever revolving door of characters added color to life. Who used who didn’t seem to matter. The booze lubed this understanding by making everything appear pleasurable. Little did I know this manipulation of reality was destined to kill me had I continued.
Jail, probation, loss of license, close to $30,000 in fees and fines wasn’t enough to convince me I had a problem. It is at this point I must say don’t drink and drive it will haunt and follow you for life. This scarlet letter is visible in all my relationships as well as the biggest hurdle to overcome. The stigma attached can be very discouraging. Regardless, despite all these legal ramifications, a real deal alcoholic doesn’t stop because it is everyone else’s fault–no real personal accountability. The difference isn’t just an inability to stop; its chasing a facade of thought that I can drink like ‘normal’ people. There is no off switch. I realize now that these are all symptoms of the disease of alcoholism. At my worst my diet consisted of a fifth a day, a gram of cocaine to maintain, pills of any variety to enhance the buzz, and marijuana to take the edge off. When I did happen to sleep my roommate would check on me to see if I was still breathing. Needless to say, my issues were just beginning to surface. Unbeknownst to me the substance abuse was a cry for help which my pride would not allow. When I eventually bottomed out and acknowledged my dependence– a floodgate of tears and years of repressed emotion was released. I quit everything cold turkey– which is highly dangerous and in hindsight probably should of detoxed at a hospital. However, the wait to get a bed was a week too long and I needed the help immediately. Fortunately, I met my sponsor, worked a twelve step program, and the benefits were clear within 6 months.
Currently I’m in the the process of license restoration. In making phone calls to various agencies in preparation; I’m met with contempt, disdain, and hang ups. Mentally this takes me right back to the shame of my mistakes. Shaking the stigma is something I hope to make part of my life’s work and mission. A big reason I’m going for a degree in social work. So that people truly get a fair shot at redemption, restoration, and true health in all areas of life.
When I first got sober I had thought my whole world had come to an end. I had often wondered; what do sober people do with their time? It seemed like it would be real boring. That life would have no substance nor value. Little did I realize this experience would be similar to when Dorothy first walked into Oz. For the first time in life I was seeing beautiful color in reality. While time did slow down; it gave me purpose beyond instant gratification and a chance to evaluate life. Life before noon-what a whole new experience. It amazing at what can be accomplished when life no longer revolves around partying, self seeking motives at others expense, and coming to terms with the past. This is exactly why my whole circle of influence has changed. The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, Life Church, and school are now the vehicles that I chase my dreams in. With the necessary tools to enjoy life on its terms. I have been able to sit at a table face my absent father of 26 years, where he didn’t recognize me, and not drink or think to drink about it. I made my peace by letting go of my deep rooted hatred because it was my resentment, not his, that affected me most. I’ve faced my abusive stepfather and hashed out how dysfunctional growing up was. My family has supported and encouraged my development. There has been much healing, growth, and a feeling of true serenity that beats any drunk or high I’ve ever experienced.
Instead of chasing the oasis of hope in the desert of alcoholism; I now reside on a mountaintop of peace. I gladly look to help inspire others to climb on up. Recovery has caused so many good things to happen. I’m back enjoying school for social work doing mostly well after a lengthy absence. I’m a trusted leader at the youth group at my church where I also help run the café. I help others find hope and purpose in AA and Celebrate Recovery as a sponsor. In helping others I help myself maintain my sobriety. A chain that grows stronger with every new link. As I start to taste success in various forms I find myself no longer interested in the lifestyle that I formally thrived on. The drinking therapy sessions with bartenders and strangers no longer profound nor enlightening. The wild random late night sex no longer thrilling or appealing. Life has taken on new meaning due to the journey of recovery, faith, and self discovery. Instead of making fruitless promises for tomorrow–I consider my plans daily and turn my will over to God. The cause of recovery now more important as I step out of the shadow of anonymity by sharing these experiences by encouraging the hope in another as it was freely given to me. All I had to do was ask for help and accept my disease