I am a man who is 45 years old. I quit drinking 5 years ago on this December 25, 2014.
I drank alcoholicly before I left high school. I continued that terrible wasting until I was 40 years of age.
I have been arrested for DUII twice. Because they were 10 years apart I was able to go through Diversion both times. I have been put in county drunk tanks about 3 times. I would estimate that I have driven drunk, without being caught, about 700 to 1000 times.
I have wrecked at least 4 vehicles due to my alcohol consumption. Once I ran my truck off a road and into the cut-bank. I ran away (on foot) from this so crash until I had a chance to sober up to avoid a ticket.
I do not know how many jobs I have lost due to drinking. At least 10 I would guess. I have shown up to work still drunk numerous times
I liked to “drink alone”, that is why there is so little legal damage.
Every romantic relationship I have had has been ruined, or at least damaged, by alcohol. No woman wants to be valued less than a bottle.
I had half-heartedly wanted to quit drinking for at least a decade before I did. Finally I got up Christmas morning with a terrible hangover and have not drank since.
I had read a number of self help books on drinking so I had an idea what I needed to do once I got started.
Quitting drinking was the easiest thing to do for me. I was in horrible shape, I wished I were dead (I also suffer from depression).
I don’t think people appreciate just how difficult it is to be a practicing late stage alcoholic. When you finally get ready quitting is much easier than you have been led to believe. Don’t let the portrayals on the Television and in the movies scare you off. They are wildly exagerated in most cases.
Beginning, Middle, and End of my Alcoholism
I was a drunk by the time I graduated from high school. My mother and father watched this happen, they did not intervene. They were nice people; they were respected in the community. They had stable employment and kept a roof over my head and clothes on my back. There was always food. My mother and father just were not interested in doing any sort of parenting. You have heard of free range-chickens. I was a free-range child. Once outside of the coop, I could do pretty much anything. At home I had to mind my manners a little bit. It’s speculation but I would say my mother had depression and my father; I don’t have any idea about him. He was just weird and angry. That may be an unfair assessment, I did not know either of them well enough to be confident.
When I was younger one of the things I enjoyed doing was drinking alcohol. This isn’t surprising to me, about half of my family didn’t drink, another portion drank sparingly, and the rest were drunks. My mother and father did not drink. My mom had been raised by an alcoholic. She did not like alcohol but, she did not dislike it enough to make me stop.
As I had an older brother, and friends who had both older brothers and alcoholic parents; I was always able to get as much alcohol as I wanted. My mother and father never bought me alcohol. They would have been upset if they saw me drinking it at home. If I was at home I had to be kind of sneaky with it. Regrettably, my parents didn’t care if I was gone for two or three days at a time. They didn’t even get upset if I came home stinking like alcohol. They just did not want to see it. Avoiding their dislike for drink was not difficult.
That is how my problem began. There is a middle to this story but it is the standard pain, suffering, and humiliation most drunks go through. The trying to quit and failing, broken relationships and lost jobs. The usual.
I did, however, do two things right during this period. I did not marry and I did not produce any offspring. To put it bluntly, I knew my ship was sinking and I believed that a good captain does not take on passenger at such a time. I believe a good captain gets people off of a sinking ship. I also understood that if I could not take care of myself I could not take care of a child, or anyone else, as far as that goes. Other than this I was a pretty normal middle-to-end stage alcoholic.
At the end, as I became a worse and worse drunk, my lifestyle really declined. I lived in a small trailer house, parked in a buddy’s driveway, which I didn’t keep clean very well. Frankly, it was a pig sty. I was poor and heading straight for homelessness. I was very unhappy. This is not the life I had envisioned for myself. My values told me that I should be doing one thing, but my behavior was doing something quite different. I felt a strong, almost imperative, need to remedy this.
To remedy my life I went after my biggest problem, alcohol. Before I had wanted to quit but I didn’t care enough to actually do it. I finally decided to give up alcohol, but not for the sake of quitting. I gave it up because my values and my behavior were too far apart.
After all, not living your values is for cowards. My life was a mess. I believed I had arrived at a critical crossroads. I thought that if I didn’t get better now I never would. I also thought that if I didn’t find a solution to this problem I would become something much worse than just a drunk. I was afraid of that. So I messed around with the semantics. I broadened the war. I didn’t fight alcohol. I made it about something more important, fixing the life I had so badly mangled. Not drinking alcohol just became a tactic I used to overcome my problem.
So I just didn’t drink. I didn’t go to any meetings, I just stayed away from alcohol. I read books and surfed the web. I did whatever I could think of. That lasted about 6 months. Then I began to research what I wanted to do for a living. I needed to find a job that I liked and that had a future. I needed something I valued beyond a paycheck or I thought I would just fall back into my old life.
When I hit a year of sobriety I decided that I probably had a pretty good handle on alcohol and I should move forward with the next step to reclaiming a life. I went to the local community college and enrolled. In about 12 months I had picked up an applied associates degree as a paralegal (I already had a BS in business administration, which made it much easier to get the AAS).
School fulfilled several needs for me. I knew it was something that I could succeed at (I had always been a good student). It would prepare me for a new career. I wouldn’t be able to drink because I would be too busy. It would replace old habits with new habits. School was perfect for my needs at the time; it was a noble and potentially profitable distraction. I think all recovering alcoholics should have a goal they value and that will accomplish a number of worthwhile things for them, something that they value enough to suffer for.
Somewhere during all of this I realized I did not have to drink and, more importantly, that I did not want to drink. Not wanting to drink changed everything. It was a magic bullet, a lethal weapon against alcohol, and it took no effort on my part. I just came to understood how terrible alcohol had been for me and that I also did not want to drink it again. Not drinking for me was so much easier than continuing. After all, the sobriety path led downhill and the drinking path went uphill. I’m lazy, I took the easy path.
My easy path was what I think addiction professionals call natural recovery or spontaneous recovery. It is where an active disease just goes into remission. I tend to think that alcoholism would go into remission for a lot more people if they could just get some time away from it. If they could find something that they cared about enough to leave alcohol alone for a reasonable period of time. Time would do much of the rest of the work. In my case, time did almost all the work.
To me it seems as though my life could have taken no other path. That I was destined to be a drunk and then to stop. It isn’t true, but this feels so normal. I would be a different person if I had not been beaten and humiliated by alcohol. Maybe I would have been better, but I could have just as easily been worse. Like I wrote above, it’s almost as if it had to happen this way.