This is my story as I told it last night at my home group for the first time since getting sober.
God I ask that you go before me tonight and show us the way of patience, tolerance, kindness and love.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Just kidding! I heard long ago that line was the most popular opening line in literature. So I just had to use it!
Seriously though, my sobriety date this time, and hopefully the last time, is September 1, 2017. For that I am eternally grateful.
It was a long and circuitous path to get where I am now. As most of you know the disease of addiction is progressive and fatal. There is NO cure. I am now and always will be addicted to alcohol. That was a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around. Doctors and scientists have discovered that addiction lies in one part of the brain. The amygdala. This is the most primitive part of the brain. It controls all survival instincts. Fight or flight, eating, breathing and even sex. You basically have no control over this part of the brain. You can hold your breath, but when you pass out, you will start breathing again. Addiction is just like that. I may be able to temporarily stop. But the next drink I take will lead me right back to where I was when I stopped initially.
Ok, I will stop with the science lesson. I’m a nerd, so I needed an understanding of what addiction is and what it isn’t. As we all know and as the Big Book tells us, it isn’t a matter of will power! Now on to what you hopefully came here for. The story of my road to addiction and my travels through that minefield on my way to recovery.
My journey into alcoholism started 49 years ago. It was purely accidental, however the end result is still the same. My dad left a drink on the counter and walked away from it. I saw it, and probably thought it was a coke or sweet tea. I picked up the glass and took a swig of it. I don’t remember if I coughed or choked. I do remember the taste. It was hot and sweet at the same time. My dad’s drink of choice was Jack and Coke. I have found that most, if not all alcoholics remember their first drink like it was yesterday. I absolutely do.
My childhood was a normal middle class upbringing. I have two parents that were always there. They let and encouraged my brother and I to participate in any activity we wanted. Sports, scouting, summers at the beach, sledding and camping in the mountains, etc… They were always there whether it was volunteering or coaching. It was a good childhood in 1970’s North and South Carolina. There were a couple of instances of childhood experimentation, sneaking some of dad’s home made wine, a beer here or there but nothing extreme.
In December of 1981, we moved to Texas. A little town just southwest of Fort Worth, Granbury. I made the varsity football and track teams as a sophomore. I wasn’t the most outgoing guy in the school, but since I was a jock, I had a built in group of friends. One thing to keep in mine at this time is that the drinking age in Texas was 18. I looked older than the 16 year old that I was, so I always got tapped, ironic wording I know, to buy beer before we cruised the drag in town.
The summer between my Junior and Senior year (1983) was the real start of my troubles with alcohol. One day a group of us were together and I bought the beer. Of course! We went to a lot next to an empty lake house to sit, talk and drink. None of us was drunk. But we were all under age. Ranging from 14-17. One of the guys had the bright idea to see what was in the house. A window got broken and some of the guys went inside. However a neighbor heard the noise and called the police. We were all arrested and charged with Criminal Mischief. I accepted the charge and took my punishment. 1 year probation and the charge would be expunged from my record.
Later that same year, myself and 3 other football players were caught drinking the night before a game. One of my friends, Anthony, ran into a coach at the JV game. Nothing was said the next day. That is until after we lost the game. Our coach called all the families into the locker room and asked the 4 of us to stand up. He told everyone we were the reason that the team lost. Granted we were all 4 starters, 3 of us never left the field. We played offense, defense and special teams. We just got beat. I know, justification…. On Monday morning, he told us we were kicked off the team. Later that day, however, Coach Mitchell had a change of heart and said we could accept his punishment. The only caveat being that we had to accept it without knowing what it was or be off the team. I again accepted my punishment and told him thank you. Our punishment was to run two miles in full pads after every practice! I was in the best shape of my life!
As most of you know I am an Aggie. At the weekend meetings we have our Aggie corner right over there. My 2+ years at A&M are pretty much a blur. Most nights were spent at the Dixie Chicken, Dudleys Draw or the Hall of Shame. One weekend I went back down to go to a ball game and visit with friends. We started off at the dorms and then went out for the evening. Later that evening we went to the Chicken to close out the night. Or maybe it was to drown our sorrows over losing. Honestly I can’t remember! When it closed we went out to the parking lot and my car was gone! Someone had stolen my ’72 Super Beetle!!! Of course I called the Police. How or why I didn’t get arrested for Public Intoxication, I have no idea. I think my friends probably talked the officer out of it. I was pretty belligerent with her. I went to one of my friends apartment to sleep it off. And this part is important! He wasn’t with us at the end of the night. At breakfast the next morning, I was telling him “I can’t believe someone stole my car!” The first words out of his mouth were “Out of the dorm parking lot?”. I just hung my head as I thought Holy Shit. The memory of moving my car from the Chicken over to the dorm came back. Sure enough, my car was right where I left it! Needless to say, I stopped by the police department on my way out and cancelled the report and left a note for the officer apologizing for my behavior!
In the summer of 1986, I got my first DWI. I received 1 year probation along with an alcohol awareness class. 3 major consequences over the span of 3 years. That SHOULD have woke me up. It somewhat did. I married in 1988 and enlisted in the Marine Corps. There were plenty of parties. Most of my friends were single and couldn’t drink in the barracks. Since we lived off base, our apartment became the party place. That said, there weren’t any issues that came from that. I was a squared away Marine. Between 1988 and 2007, I was able to drink like a normal person, woohoo!!!
By 2007, my wife had become addicted to pain medicine and alcohol. This was related to a broken neck she sustained in a car accident when she was 5. I was travelling for work a lot and didn’t see the progression. She was doctor shopping and eventually they found out and began cutting her off. I tried to get her to go to treatment but she refused. I was trying to take care of our daughter, who was 10 at the time. It finally got so bad, I asked her to leave. She moved out and 2 months later, she committed suicide. This started my alcoholic drinking. I blamed myself for her death. It started slowly but steadily gained steam. To the point I wasn’t just drinking at night, I was drinking morning, noon and night.
In 2008, I remarried. This was a huge mistake on many levels. I still hadn’t dealt with my guilt and anger so the drinking just kept getting worse. I was laid off in November of 2009. It wasn’t alcohol related. That would come later. My wife gave me the same ultimatum that I had given my first wife. Treatment or leave. So off I went to treatment. I didn’t want to and I certainly didn’t put in the work necessary. Two months later she filed for divorce and moved out. I am sure she made her mind up while I was in treatment.
The month she moved out and filed should have been my rock bottom, but it wasn’t. I still had further to fall. That month I spent a few wonderful days in the care of JPS. I don’t know if I was serious or not, but I did threaten to kill myself. I sat out on the back deck of the house with my gun, not thinking about anyone or anything but the pain I was in. I made probably 10 hang up calls to 911. When the cops finally showed up, they tackled me off the porch and took me to JPS for an eval. My parents made my daughter and I move in with them after I got out. I started going to AA at the Glass House since it was close. One day, I was going to a meeting and to this day I can’t explain why, but there is a liquor store on the corner as you turn on the street off of Camp Bowie to go there and I stopped. After buying liquor and beer, I sat in my car for 3 hours driving to Woodson. Which is a little north of Abilene. Why there? I had it in my head I needed to apologize to my dead wife. For pushing her away and not taking better care of our daughter. Just to further show the depths of my pain and depression, think about this. I wanted forgiveness from a headstone. What kind of sick thinking is that! Of course, I didn’t get a response. How would I have known if I did anyway? I was drunk! That just added to the anger and guilt. I left the cemetery and bought more alcohol for the drive home. Along the way I got into an argument with my ex-wife. I pulled over in a parking lot to continue the argument. After we hung up I just sat there drinking and eventually blacked out with the car running. Of course, someone called the police and here came dwi #2. Again, only 10 minutes from home safety. I received 2 yrs probation and 3 days in jail. I also had to have an interlock on my car for 2 years and an alcohol monitor for 6 months. More about that minor inconvenience in a few minutes. This kept me from drinking for a time. I had no intention of stopping once I was finished with probation though.
Once I was single again, I didn’t have to answer to anyone, other than my probation officer, who could be a real hard ass. I didn’t get what her problem was! I dated off and on after the divorce. One memorable or maybe forgettable time, I was playing golf with a woman I was dating over in Benbrook. I had made a habit of coming up with any reason I could to not drive my car and take my Daughters car so I could drink. I had even taught her how to use the interlock so if she needed to go somewhere in my car she could! This time, it was because the golf clubs wouldn’t fit in my car so I needed to take her jeep. Anyway, after drinking on the way over there, and of course getting there early so I could keep it going while we were playing, I proceeded to crash the golf cart into a ditch and get it stuck when we were racing back to the clubhouse. She got pissed, I of course thought it was hilarious. Anyway, we left the cart and parted ways. That was my last time on the golf course and date with her.
Back to the interlock. I viewed that thing as a straight up challenge that I had to conquer! As most of you know, it goes off at random intervals. Sort of. You have to blow into it when you start the vehicle. Then at a random interval, normally in the 15 to 20 minute range it will go off again. I soon figured out that after that second test, it would be about 45 minutes before it went off for the third time. So being the smart alcoholic that I am, I would locate a beer store about 15 minutes from where I was starting from, that was between there and my final destination. I had to be careful there, because I had to leave the car running while I ran in. Sure would have been nice if the drive through beer barns were still around! I would also check the traffic between start and end, as well as keep it up on my phone while driving. I didn’t need any surprises! After getting the beer, I would haul ass as fast as I could to get as close as I could to my destination in the first interval. That would give me time to drink my 4-24oz steel reserves or bud ice before the next test. Of course by then I would be home. Funny thing is, compared to now, it is amazing how much traffic has died down on my commute!
I married my wife, Jackie, in 2011, we just celebrated our 7th anniversary this week. Thank you and I love you Beautiful. She knew my history but not how heavy my drinking was. We tried many things to stop it or slow it down. I changed from liquor to beer, only at home, AA, limiting my access to money, requiring receipts for purchases (interesting thing about that, did you know that if you pay for your gas inside at QT, you can get a receipt for the total amount that shows the gas purchase and then just not fill up all the way. Then go back inside to get your change so you can buy alcohol! I don’t remember when I figured that out. But they are the ONLY station I found that would do that! And believe me, I looked. Left more than one pissed that I only had ¾ tank of gas and no beer! Once again the smart/crafty alcoholic showed up!)….. I digress, but you get the point. WE did try, but nothing worked. I guess I wasn’t ready to say I am done. Over the prior 6 years, I continued to drink. We planned many romantic weekends together, but I always managed to make them anything but. There also were many times when I would just disappear for a day or two. Pack some clothes, my dog, my gun. Sometimes food. But always alcohol. Turn my cell phone off. My brother is a cop so I just knew he would be able to track me by it. Every time, I never had any intention of coming home or being found. I thought everyone would be better off without me around. Again, it is a miracle and only by the Grace of God that I wasn’t stopped. Most times, I would go to a park or campground. One time, I ended up out of state. In the end, I always came home. Either Jackie somehow, knew where to find me, or I just ran out of money/beer. Each and every time she forgave me but I know it was getting harder and harder each time.
Like most of us, I have lost things too. I lost my house. I blamed it on my ex-wife. But it was 100% my fault. I drank rather than make the payments. Jackie and I lost a car, albeit somewhat voluntarily. I was out of work AGAIN and we didn’t have the money to make the payments so we let them have it back. And then of course there were the cell phones, keys, diamond earrings, etc. Most of these weren’t technically lost. Just destroyed by Jackie throwing them at me when she was pissed. Funny thing is that most of the time it was always MY phone or My keys. Go figure! Except for the earring. That was hers and I still don’t know how she managed that, but I know it was my fault!
I lost 4 really good jobs either directly or indirectly to drinking. Including one where I had to go to Georgia for training. I had been there for 2 weeks, drinking every morning, noon and night. I received a phone call about 6am one morning telling me to turn my laptop in at the front desk and go to the airport. There was a ticket waiting for me. I got to the airport and was about to drive in the one way to the rental car lot and I thought, the hell with that. I have a rental car. I am just going to drive home from Atlanta. Of course, drinking the whole way home. I got home around 8 or so the next morning. Jackie knew what happened without being told. The last being on August 30, 2017. This after promising Jackie and myself that I wouldn’t screw it up. All the time meaning it 100%. We have all said it and meant it. On August 31, Jackie came home for lunch and found me at home drinking. I hadn’t told her I was fired the day before. She is smart and figured it out pretty quickly. She took my keys and debit card and poured out the last of the 4 24ozers I had. I knew she was pretty much at the end of her rope that day. I didn’t know it, but on her way back to work she started calling some of our closest friends for help, any help. Later that day, I got a call from a good friend. He and his wife lead our couples group at church. He told me he found a place for me to go for help and he would pick me up to take me. I told him ok. I knew I was finally ready. That this time was different. I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and was baptized earlier in the year. This had changed my whole attitude about it. However, being the resourceful alcoholic that I am, I quickly realized, she didn’t take my phone. Since you can use your phone to pay at 7-11 now, I walked up and got 6 more 24’s. I was ready to go, but I wasn’t going without one last “hurrah”! 4 friends, Jackie and Jordan took me to treatment that evening. When I got to treatment, I blew a 2.6 at intake. It took a day to sober up, hence my Sobriety date of September 1. I spent 4 days in detox, getting over the shakes. I never was sick, just not steady. I used to always blame those morning shakes on low blood sugar before. I just needed to eat and drink some OJ. Of course, I knew it was withdrawals, but I wasn’t about to admit it to my wife! I left treatment on September 28th, 2017. When I left, I went straight to a meeting at Primary Purpose. I fully intended to make 90 in 90 like they tell you is best. I think I actually made about 130 in 90. I tried to make 2 meetings a day. Since I was out of work it was pretty easy. It was also good to get ingrained into the culture and life that is AA. I got a sponsor within the first week after treatment and he has been guiding me through the steps. Have I done them perfectly? Nope, not a chance. But I have been making progress!
I am a firm believer in AA and what it can do for a person NOW. I have been in and out of the rooms of AA for the last 10 years. I never really wanted to be there or had any intentions of putting in the effort required to accomplish sobriety. There were times I showed up at meetings after drinking on the way there and times I stopped on the way home afterwards. Because of that, among many other reasons which I have already talked about, it has taken me 10 years to maintain any sense of sobriety. As of today, I have been sober for 419 days! I owe that to 3 things and 3 things only. First and foremost, is my Higher Power whom I chose to identify as God. Second is the Fellowship of AA and last but certainly not least are my Family and Friends. At differing times of the day, these 3 rotate positions. It just depends on what is going on in my life and mind at the time.
After I got out of treatment, I began looking for a new job right before Christmas. Knowing that it is a slow time for hiring in the corporate world. I am in IT so there is always a demand but it does get slow at the end of the year. I had a few phone interviews but nothing materialized. A position I had interviewed for called me in for a face to face interview. I was excited and nervous. I didn’t doubt my ability to do the job, my nervousness stemmed from being so short in sobriety. Was I ready for this step? Would I screw it up again? Most of us know the questions. And as usual I didn’t have the answers. I just knew what I wanted them to be.
When I got to the building, the location looked familiar. It hit me. Ten years ago when I first went to treatment, they would take us to AA meetings. One of the ones they took us to was literally right across the street from my new office! So if I was having a rough day, I could walk 50 yards to a noon meeting! If that isn’t God stepping in and saying “I gotcha on this” then I don’t know what is! My first day on the job, I began my day with a meeting at 630 since I didn’t have to be in the office until 9am. It was a great meeting. The topic was “Upon Awakening”. How appropriate was that for my first day at a new job? Things kept falling into place.
The job was great, but it wasn’t really conducive to my early sobriety. I was working 70-80+ hours a week. Barely able to make meetings even on the weekends at times. I don’t think I was ever in danger of slipping, but I have been told by many that is an early sign that one could be eminent. Over Confidence! Almost 7 months to the day I started, I was fired. Still don’t really know why. Their reason was that “I wasn’t meeting company expectations.” What the hell does that mean? If you know, let me in on the secret! My reviews were great, no writeups etc. The morning I was fired, I had already been at work for almost 2 hours before my boss came in. Anyway, I gathered my stuff and came home. On the way, I did what had been recommended to me by so many here. I called my sponsor and several other alcoholics. Then I got my ass to a meeting. I did what the big book and y’all told me to do in order to be successful. At least this time I could honestly say I wasn’t fired for drinking!
I immediately started looking for a new job. All the while making 2 meetings a day, praying every day and most importantly NOT Drinking. It took me about 2 weeks before I found my current job. Basically the exact same job I was just fired from. Only for more money, better benefits and less hours/stress! I call that a win/win.
I whole heartedly believe that God knew I was in danger and closed one door only to open another to save me from myself. I truly hope and believe the Promises will continue to come true in my life and hope the same for you!
Thank you all for being here. I can’t do this alone. I am better than the man I was yesterday and nowhere near the man I can be tomorrow. But I will keep progressing, imperfectly, but progressing. In closing I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom I heard in these rooms. The first is: If you don’t know what to do. Don’t do anything then pray. And the second is: I’m not grateful I am an alcoholic, but I sure as hell am grateful y’all are!
God Bless Each and Every One and I pray we all remain sober today!