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A Recovery Story: My Life Is Ahead Of Me

The Stories of fellow alcoholics are the fresh minted coins of survival. You pass yours to the next person in the hope he or she will see a gleam of their own life and find the reassurance of recovery. This is the story of a PALS member offered anonymously in that tradition.

As I approach the fifth anniversary of my sobriety, there are few things of which I am certain beyond a doubt, one of them is the fact that I am an alcoholic. My story is not unique, it is like many others I have heard the only thing that sets me apart from many is that I was lucky instead of a lifetime of drinking behind me, I have a lifetime of sobriety ahead. My love affair with alcohol began at a very young age, when as a child I can remember mixing a drink for my father every evening as he returned home from work. It was a job I took as seriously then as I do being an attorney today I was to fill the designated glass with ice, place two fingers alongside the glass, and pour in what came to symbolize manhood for me: scotch. The ritual was one I was to repeat many times in the future for myself. Of course, being born an alcoholic, always wanting more, I figured that my father meant two of his fingers, and therefore, I measured out three of my fingers worth of scotch. As I carried the drink to him, I would stick my finger in the glass to taste it; it was like medicine, and I couldn’t stand it, but knew that someday I’d acquire a taste.

Alcohol was always present in my childhood, but never openly abused. My father, whom I realize now might have been a marginal drinking alcoholic, controlled his drinking like I never could, my mother’s drug of choice was food, and my younger sister has displayed a myriad of addictive behavior throughout her life. My family was textbook dysfunctional no physical or sexual abuse, but I suffered the emotional scars that come from having an emotionally inaccessible father and a severely co-dependent mother. As a child, I never felt quite right, always different from other children my age, and my parents encouraged it, telling me how mature I was and how much adults enjoyed being around me. It wasn’t until I was twelve and had my first drink that I would be able to truly feel the reckless abandon of childhood.

My drinking career took off in my junior year of high school. I never had just one, or even two. From the time my friends and I began drinking on the weekends, I got drunk every single time, often to the point of vomiting, only to get up and drink more. My parents didn’t catch on because I managed to stay at the top of my class and work my way towards college. There was never any question that I would do well in school, nor was there any discussion about whether or not I would go to college it was simply a matter of where and the quality of the school. Needless to say, as the stress mounted I drank more, sometimes, as I look back, I cannot believe how high-strung I was, often to the point of breaking. I even think that my weekend binges may have kept me sane. They surely made me feel like one of the guys, something I had never experienced before, and gave me the confidence with girls I lacked as an adolescent.

Of course, I did acquire that taste for scotch as soon as I was able. One weekend, when I was about 16 years old, on a plane from Florida to New York to visit a friend, I decided it was time for me to learn how to drink like a man. In those days, I loved flying because I could get served alcohol with virtually nothing more than a note from my mother. I ordered three of the small bottles of scotch as soon as the stewardess came through by the time we reached New York, I was a scotch drinker.

When I left for college, a small liberal arts school in Boston, I really went nuts. I literally could not handle the freedom I was given, and I nearly drank myself to death in my first two weeks. My roommate whom I’d never met before was undoubtedly an angel sent by my higher power to ensure my continued existence, pulling my head out of the garbage can and keeping me from choking on my own vomit many nights in a row. I soon managed, however, to drink more “responsibly,” the solution being always having a refrigerator full of beer, with a back-up case in my dorm room closet. Not only did this satisfy my cravings, but helped camouflage my completely inept social skills I was popular solely by the fact that I had booze and a fake i.d.

College was marked by periods of heavy drinking and depression, with a few moments of clarity and motivation thrown in to torment me more, always reminding me of the potential I was wasting. In those few moments of clarity I knew that something was wrong with my drinking I look back at a journal I kept then and see on more than one occasion that I wrote how I needed to cut back on my drinking, bring it under control, and basically get my act together. That did not happen.

Somehow I managed to graduate, but having done nothing for four years, I found myself slightly lacking in marketable skills. Eventually, I found myself waiting tables for a living a profession that enabled me to continue living the life of an active alcoholic, all the while surrounded by others like myself so I would not have to see the truth. At some point I got the idea that I would reject the trappings of “normal society,” which my attorney father had always symbolized, and set out to be a poet. This was the beginning of the end.

I traveled to Gainesville, Florida, with dreams of becoming the next Allen Ginsburg or Mark Strand. Gainesville may be a good place for people with direction and purpose, but a very bad place for someone like me, an alcoholic. Nickel beers, parties every night of the week, and various other methods of avoiding reality turned my bohemian dream into a nightmare after ten months all I aspired to was the bartender position at the restaurant where I worked. I was out every night until 5 or 6 a.m., and I had become nothing more than a vessel into which I poured an endless amount of booze.

April 2, 1994, my cousin got married. I was chosen to give the blessing over the bread (upset because someone else was doing the blessing over the wine), at which time, with a microphone in hand, and about six straight scotches in my stomach, I proceeded to bestow my blessings upon the newlyweds with a poem I had scribbled on a cocktail napkin in the elevator. The next thing I remember was my father pulling me off the table where I had passed out face down, and he dragged me to my room. The next day, he told me I was not returning to Gainesville, and that it was about time I got some help. For the first time in my life, I really could not argue with him, I made some feeble attempt, but it was half-hearted; I’d hit my bottom. At age 23 my illustrious drinking career was over.

Over the next few years I did not have a difficult time staying dry; in fact, the compulsion to drink was miraculously lifted from me a very short time after my final drunk. I did have a very hard time with my feelings. My mechanism for coping with my emotions was gone, and I struggled to maintain some modicum of serenity and balance; I was rarely successful. I was unsure where my life was going, and I was being told to live in an entirely strange way one day at a time. The concept was foreign to me, as I had lived my entire life consumed by guilt over the past and anxiety about the future.

As I began to take that suggestion to heart, my life improved. I managed to figure out that fear had blocked me from a place where I belonged, law school. I began to have dreams again, and this time, staying sober, they started to come true. I was learning to love myself, rather than abuse my body and soul as I did for some many years; in the process, I began learning how to love someone else, and today experience recovery with a wonderful woman, my bride to be. I set goals for myself, and accomplished them. I passed the bar exam without becoming a nervous wreck, and realized a dream of moving to the mountains of North Carolina to begin my legal career and a new life.

When I found out that I could stay sober just one day at a time, a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I can still drink tomorrow, if I want. But today, if I don’t pick up a drink, I can help someone else battle this disease. I can show another alcoholic, through my own actions, that life can be different. That through recovery, the hole inside doesn’t get filled up, it shrinks and disappears. That while I once lived a life enslaved by alcohol, I can now live honest, joyous, and free.

– by Anonymous

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