(48) Moving forward

Getting defeated doesn’t mean you have to give up, all it means is that you have to try that much harder next time. What I’ve learned is that feeling lost by drinking and substance abuse shouldn’t define who you are. I used to be that guy, a guy with a good heart but had really not takin ownership of his real issues. I used to cast blame anywhere it would stick, hoping someone else would jump in and fix my problem. It doesn’t work like that. There was a lot of fear and confusion as I kept battling with alcohol and drugs. I thought how sad was it that I could never get a grip on reality and seemed to be stuck in a bottle without anyone around to help. Must’ve been a little weak and a little desperate at the same time. But then…

Then I saw a person slowly begin to CHANGE and grow more confident as the weeks turned into months. It wasn’t easy but then overcoming failure takes a lot of work and belief in yourself. Ya know that is the single most important step (what I’ve learned) is believin in yourself. I remember thinkin yeah this guy is sober but so what. What now? An addict spends a lot of time kickin themselves or beatin themselves up cause we think we are nothin more than a failure and things will never get better. Ya know it’s easy ta stay in that place, the place where we just give up and keep wallowing in our own misery. Why… cause you don’t haveta change anything. It’s like admitting you have a problem to begin with, that’s easy, it’s easy to keep drinking or shooting pills to cope. And yeah I’m an alcoholic and I know it, shoot everyone knows it, so what? It’s the next step doin something about it that makes the biggest impact. Ya know the jump is only half of the battle, you’re gonna hit the water at some point and that is gonna hurt like hell.

But that’s how it works, wish there was an easier way but there isn’t. However this is when things do CHANGE and your life does get better. You haveta finish the chapter and then go on to the next. I think a lot of folks keep going over and reading the same chapter not really movin forward. They stay in the safe mode of recovery ya know, I don’t want to be in recovery for the rest of my life, I want to put an “ed” at the end of my walk.

When I stop to think about the road I was on and the trouble I had caused others, people who cared about me, people that loved me. They just didn’t know how to help or should they’ve or could they’ve of. All they could do is wait… and wait… watching and waiting. Here’s the thing tho, this is when CHANGE happens, you haveta forgive yourself (which this guy has come to learn the hard way) is the most important step in healing, it’s the key to movin on and getting healthy. It’s also one of the most difficult things to do. Ya know admitting the obvious and then takin action right? How do you move on when the one thing you were good at didn’t really matter much. Wasted years, shattered lives, broken hearts, unfulfilled dreams, promises never kept and relationships tossed aside. How do you fix that? Truth is you can’t until you start fixin yourself and that is easier said than done. You haveta start somewhere and forgiveness is the best place to begin that process. But how do you do that? Ya haveta let it go, ya take that guilt off your shoulders and say to yourself I am done, I can’t carry this any longer, I just can’t bare this pain any more. Then it happens… it finally happens… you actually move on. Why did it take so flippin long… why didn’t I just do this from the very beginning? Who knows why? Pride perhaps, the point is you do get better and whatever you broke eventually heals, if you let it. But man you gotta let it, you gotta move on, stop turnin around and feelin sorry for yourself. The past never changes.

You can’t get better if you’re always looking over your shoulder. To me it’s not how ya run the race it’s just that you cross the finish line at some point. If an organized step program works for you… awesome, if it doesn’t then great just get better, just cross the finish line. There is a final chapter in every book. I agree recovery is a process but eventually at some point along the road you’ll be recovered. I refuse to let alcohol define me and ya know it will not anymore. There are twelve (or however many) steps you’re takin but sooner or later your standin on flat ground again. There’s no need to re-climb the stairs if you’ve already reached the top. I mean your done right… move forward.

CHANGE is to pass from one state to another, to become different or make something or somebody different.

(47) Three hundred sixty five days

I had so many thoughts spinning around when I began this process and began sharing my stories about the stuff I put others thru. This has kept me on course staying accountable to myself and my buffer. Have yet to slip backwards and hope and trust that I never will, that whatever woke me up keeps me moving forward. Even if I do relapse, this isn’t to say I am planning on getting drunk ever again, but in the chance that I do cave in for whatever reason I know now how to overcome failure. That’s what all this boils down to right? I’ve made it a year now (today in fact) and lately I’ve come to the conclusion that if BAD ever does chase down and catch WORSE that the key is getting back up. Ya see I’ve already taken the pressure off me “slipping up” cause that has been my biggest fear and if I let that go… what’ve I got to lose? I mean some national associations make you go back to start if you sip whatever was your cement block before. I’m just sayin bag that idea that isn’t the way it should work. I think the expectations are outta whack. What message does that send to a person that is clean or sober for years and then slips up and goes all the way back to the starting line? That’s like sending Drew Brees back to quarterback camp after throwing a couple of interceptions. Now if your were head coach of the Saints and you told the owner hey I’m pulling Drew until he gets his act together again… you’d lose your coaching job. And you should cause you’d be an idiot. It doesn’t work that way if you’re trying to get in shape, lets say you decide to take a few days off from your routine you don’t go back to walking 15 minutes on the treadmill when a few days ago you were running for 60 an hour. Why in the heck would ya? I’m thinkin you’d step on the machine push in 45 to 60 minutes, set your pace and start your workout. I’m just thinkin that kinda logic makes no sense, starting over and over again. It’s kinda like being able to lose your job for being late for work one morning, you’d probably get in trouble but your boss wouldn’t send you to HR to do your new hire paperwork again.

And as I shared a while back I don’t want to be anonymous either, not that I can by now but I want everyone I care about to know that I have a severe drinking problem. Here’s what I know, this thing, this thing I’ve been repeating everyday for a year now is working. I have not had one single drink other than my NA beer, which by the way does help me and there are a few really good ones out there with close to real beer flavor just without the alcohol. Couple I really like is Kaliber made by Guinness and Clausthaler which is a German dark brew and the safe bet for your money is the O’douls Amber great taste and a good price. If you don’t give a shhhht about taste and are short on cash try the Busch NA it’s pretty cheap so don’t expect a lot. It’s like drinking flat tonic water… it is what it is. Hey it’s kept me sober so no complaint here. My old ALCOHOL cravings just aren’t around any longer, not even close. So I feel very confident I finally have a lid on this one. This process so far has worked for me, however my program may not work for you, my goal is to stay SOBER and that should be yours.

* Admit to yourself you can’t go on the way you are living and that you are an addict/alcoholic and you are unable to do this alone. Now I suggest you get help from someone who’s trained in addiction counseling or some other group that sponsors positive and uplifting meetings. Healing is a process, it’s not a race, this will take time.

* Make a change now, today like right now, whatever you’re doing today stop and just do the opposite tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, the next day after that. Repeat that every week for each month of your first year of sobriety. You keep on course and stay clean to the best of your ability and don’t look back.

* Tell everyone that you want to continue to hang out with that you have a serious drug/drinking problem and you’ll need their support to help you through this journey. Let folks know. I told my doctor who invited me to his church. There I found a resource group where I met a bunch of men I could talk and share with. Everyone’s got a story, we all need positive influences that will replace our old habits. Man feel blessed you’ve been given this chance, this second chance to prove to yourself you are worth it.

(46) My own road to recovery

I thought I would have written another blog by now but the words just never made it to the paper. Facebook status’ are much easier for me, short and to the point. One year ago I was out of town and Craig was about to have his biggest life changing moment and I wasn’t going to be there. Which looking back was probably a blessing, would things have turned out differently if I could have just picked him up and brought him home before the evening spiraled out of control? Who knows? I have always believed that everything happens for a reason and I wasn’t there to pick up the pieces like I had always done before. So he hit rock bottom without me and recalling the crazy events that took place that night really broke my heart. I felt guilty about that for a long time but then again I felt guilty about a bunch of things for a long time. I enabled him to keep drinking, to make it easy for him to drink, making it okay in my mind cause I thought I was in control of his drinking. Guess what…I was wrong, so wrong about so many things.  

Tomorrow January 28th Craig hits one year of being sober, his sober birthday, a whole year of not drinking! One year of taking  life head on without anything to fall back on, one year of not being able to escape to the bottle. For the both of us it has been a roller coaster of emotions. We have faced a year of ups and downs, peaks and valleys and still….Craig stayed sober. Never wavering from his decision that day in late January to stop drinking and to finally put an end to his addiction. 

I know I played an important role on his sober journey. I was his rehab clinic, his out-patient therapy group and the AA meetings all rolled up into one. Together we researched, Googled, watched programs like Intervention or Addicted and any other documentary we could find on alcohol or addiction. He blogged about the reality of being an alcoholic while I read books on anything I could do to help in his recovery. In the back of my mind I wondered…would he make it a few weeks, maybe a couple months, possibly a whole year? Could he really kick this thing, this thing that has knocked him down for so many years, that held him captive every single day? It was the number one thing in his life, like he’s said so  many times, nothing else really mattered but his next drink. All I could do was sit back and hope and pray that he was strong enough to one day take control instead of it controlling him. That’s all I ever wanted, just wanted my husband back, my best friend back. 

Well…here we are…one year later! He did it. He made it! The person I knew that drank everyday, that acted like a complete idiot, embarrassed me (and others) more times than I can count, had more hangovers and blackouts in a month than I have had in my life…was at last sober. It has been a strange transition for me…he remembers everything we talk about now and actually wants to have an intelligent conversation about what’s going on in the world and I get a lifetime designated driver. I have continued to drink on occasions but never at home. I wasn’t a huge drinker to begin with and have only had a few moments I would like to erase. It’s funny because he can tell when I have been drinking and I can’t even try and deny it. He can smell alcohol from a mile away the whole thing has now flipped in the other direction. Imagine that. 

To say that I am proud of Craig would be an understatement. He did what NO ONE thought he could, very few gave him a fighting chance. He simply walked away from alcohol and didn’t look back. Really who does that? He is truly an inspiration for anyone that doesn’t think they can do it and his story is one worth listening to. His sober journey has reached thousands of readers and that’s what really matters, changing one life at a time, just like he did. 



(45) Staying accountable

So I wasn’t so sure in the beginning why a person would write down on a website all the bad stuff they had gone thru for others to read but it’s clear now. I had to let out what had been building up for a long while… somehow, something had to be said at some point. I waited three months to say anything to anyone other than my buffer. You could say I was an anonymous alcoholic, I kept it all to myself, healing hadn’t started its process of mending bridges. I feel like y’all have been my sponsors although the dialog has been mostly a one-way conversation, nevertheless y’all have been awesome readers (listeners)… some have emailed and commented on different thoughts to help me in my walk. You’ve kinda been my rehab therapist without the 70’s floral couch with the framed pictures of Dr. Freud on the wall and the massive book collection on Psychology on the shelves… and without all the awkward questions. And bonus for me no appointment needed for my sessions, no twelve step program, no burnt coffee in styrofoam cups and no daily group discussions. Hey thanks its got me this far but now it’s getting to the point where I’m gonna haveta go to the next phase to continue on in my journey. It’s time to use what I’ve learned and been thru to move on to becomming a recovered addict. The struggles I led myself down and the negative actions need to turn into something positive now.

I’ve learned some things over the past several months and have realized I am different in one part of my life than others – I can’t drink responsibly. Which is really upsetting for me cause I did enjoy drinking and am still really jealous of those of you that can drink without turning into an obnoxious idiot every time you do. I’ve also learned that while I am still sober for the most part everything else is pretty much the same. Like when I was an alcoholic, which everyone now knows I am and I am (glad it’s out there) I am an alcoholic and an addict. And to be honest that is a good thing cause the more people in my small circle that know what I was like keeps me in check so I don’t repeat those mistakes again. So thanks, thanks to the folks that have been following me from the start it’s made me accountable not only to myself but to y’all that keep up with my story. I also want to clear up any doubts that this was indeed all my doing. I chose to be the drunk guy at parties and take all the blame for what I put others thru. On the flip side, my hats off to those of you that can be social drinkers and enjoy one another’s company during this holiday season, cause truth be told I’d give up anything else (almost anything) to be in that group. I may have come off wrong to some at times, even sounded like I need everyone to be like me and not ever drink, cause drinking is horrible and it only does bad things to people. But that’s not the case and it doesn’t even make sense, alcohol and prescription drugs are not the problem, the problem is I don’t know how to stop once I start. There in lies the trouble with someone like myself that wants a cold beer or a mixed cocktail… I don’t know when enough is enough. No clue that you can have a few cocktails during happy hour and ask for your tab and go to the house. It’s called happy hour for a reason… you’re suppose to have fun and relax and take drinking for what it is, just a good time with others that also want to have a few drinks with friends or family. But I’ve got a problem, you see I am different in that my weakness, my disease doesn’t allow me the opportunity to do what others can.

The good news for me is that I have come to that place where I know in my heart that I just can’t drink and that’s just the way it is for me and I accept that for what it is and am learning to move on and to just live life that way. I was talking to a lady the other day I haven’t spoken to in a while and after the hello how’ve ya been she asked… so you still sober? I get that a lot and deserve it, I think I should get a hat and wear it out in public that reads ‘still sober’ or maybe ‘retired alcoholic’ maybe a t-shirt that reads ‘made it thru another happy hour’. Maybe a sweatshirt with a picture of a beer in a circle with a slash thru it. Anyhow I said yeah I am which of course she responded hey that’s great good for you! That will always be over us, the alcoholic, the uncertainty others have about our sobriety. And I totally get it, when I look back how I acted and all the stupid and hurtful things I said and did… if the shoe was on the other foot, I’d be making sure that person was still on course as well. I need to be called out on occasions, in fact we all should be checking up on one another. I believe it’s called friendship and in the end that’s all we have ya know, people on our side that truly care about us and we the same for them. I believe true friendship knows no boundaries.

(44) Gotta start somewhere

Everyone has different moments we will never forget, we don’t have to write ‘em down they are forever burnt into our memory. Family birthdays or certain holidays, special times like a wedding or a child’s graduation, maybe a tragic event that will never escape any of us. There’s also a sober date for addicts and alcoholics it’s a day that we won’t forget, we can never forget… mine is January 28th of 2012. That was my wake up call, my time to reevaluate the road of life I was traveling and decide if that was a path I wanted to keep walking down… keep stumbling down. A lot of good things have happened since that day and for the first time even the doubters are beginning to see a brighter side in my personality, a different step in the way I walk, the way I live. Folks are starting to share with me, as well as my buffer, all the positive changes they are now noticing, which for me is a sign that I am definitely on the right path. I really don’t see it but then again I have been extremely hard on myself, I don’t think I have really truly forgiven myself for all the pain that my addiction caused. All the dark times I put others close to me thru, no I gotta be totally honest here, I know I haven’t and I don’t know how to. I find myself in a very bumpy place at the moment, like I’m stuck in neutral and I just can’t find the right gear to move forward. The thing is… it’s tough for me to talk about this with anyone cause no one really gets it.

I’ve talked about this subject to a few in the other group, the power of addiction and the sadness of it all. I’ve been told on those occasions that alcohol dependency is just a weakness in an individual’s personality, that it’s a mind over matter kinda thing. Some have went on to say that they use to drink but they quit cause they were tired of the occasional hangovers and it began to interfere with their marriage or their job. One individual said his drinking started to impact different areas of his life so he quit, he put it down without giving it a second thought. Good deal I thought to myself, then I asked him how much he drank and how often. He explained to me he would drink a couple times a month and really blow it out a few times during the year drinking up to a bottle of bourbon on a long weekend… really a whole bottle in two and a half days? Amazing I remarked sarcastically and added I don’t know how you survived that ordeal, it’s no wonder you quit. When I told him he really didn’t have a drinking problem he was just a drinker with some problems he just looked at me. But hey I’ve seen that look everyday so it didn’t surprise me, I mean my wife doesn’t even understand. I shared a few more details about what I did when I drank and how it was different cause ‘my life’ was really getting in the way of ‘my drinking’. I could tell he wasn’t getting it, I knew then this topic was about over, as we were going round and round. So I just said it’s like this… if you’re in a place where everywhere you look nothing makes sense, nothing seems like it will ever change or ever get better and you decide to stay in that place regardless of the outcome… then you’re an addict.

A few nights ago I was reading an article on the difference between a person that drinks a lot of alcohol on social occasions and a person that is an alcoholic. The article went on to say that about half of all alcohol sales in America are purchased by about ten percent of the drinking population, this study was from the American Liquor Industry. Again most people don’t abuse alcohol that’s why they don’t give any thought to whether or not they are drinking to much. It’s the other group (like myself) that has a lot to worry about… and even less in this group that’ll end up in rehab or dead. A binge drinker is a person that drinks more than five drinks at any given time, if the stats are correct and I’m not gonna doubt the CDC’s own website, then I was a daily binge drinker, so for my group giving that up or quitting is gonna be a little more challenging, the hill for us will be a little bit steeper if you will. Yeah it’s gonna be easy to quit something you don’t do well or do that often. Heck if someone told me I could never eat anything sweet or anything with chocolate I’d say sure no problem… done deal. But ask a lifetime drug addict that steals from their own family or a two-pack a day smoker who can barely talk to quit and you’re gonna have a different answer. Remember you get good at what you practice even if what you’re practicing isn’t good for you… it could probably be killing you. Ask a person that smokes or drinks on those rare situations that same question and their response is gonna be easy. When you’re not a servant to any one strong hold or a disease that only wants to kill you, it’s gonna be simple to say “I am done” and put it away, that’s just the way it is. What I’m tryin to say is exactly that, it can be done… with some hard work and self discipline of course. But if you don’t begin the healing process how in the heck are things gonna change?

You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.

- Zig Ziglar
(November 6, 1926 – November 28, 2012)

(43) Change what’s not working

I know I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating, there is really no good reasons to keep living a destructive lifestyle. However you wanna spin it… it’s just not there. Easier maybe yeah, less work for sure to stay on the same path you’ve been on, simple to keep doin what your used to, that way no change has to take place. Nothing has to happen, a person can keep living the lie they lived the day before, today and again tomorrow. No need to make any adjustments if you don’t need to, keep doing what seems to be working… at least keep telling yourself that. Like as long as I drink at home I can drink as much as I want, I’m not bothering anyone. I tried to sell myself on the idea that drinking by myself at the house is safe cause well I’m not driving so I’m not really putting others at risk… but then again I was drinking alone. Some of y’all drink alone, you know you do, it’s easy right? Or how about I’m not gonna let others know how much I really drink that way no one will ask questions I don’t want to answer. They’ll be on a need to know basis. What they don’t know won’t hurt ‘em but then again ya can never hide the truth from yourself and when you’re stashing liquor around the house who are you really trying to fool?

Living a clean and sober life now has brought me the peace and the confidence to live again, to see the wrongs that I was trying to convince myself were rights, the courage to change the things I can. Life today is way different from three hundred plus days ago, cause while I was so absorbed in the life of an alcoholic, nothing I did really made much sense. Then again it didn’t need to. Everyday was pretty much like the day before, I was flying by the seat of my pants hour by hour, drink by drink with no regard to any future I might have. It wasn’t just the alcohol either, my prescription pill supply was just as important. The pain meds were a huge part in my day-to-day lifestyle, in my success in being an addict. And believe me when I say I could lose myself like no one else trust me I could. I was dedicated to being a great alcoholic… a great addict. My pills mixed well with whatever I was drinking that day, my twelve pack of beer, a bottle of wine or a few shots of hard liquor it didn’t matter. My Vicodin, Lortabs, the Ambien and anything else I could buy… I’d throw ‘em down without thinkin twice, without any caution at all and I had double prescriptions most of the time. Always had a back-up plan, a back-up supply. Ya know in hindsight it was pretty easy to get meds when you wanted them… legally or otherwise, they’re available. You can always find a parking lot pharmacist anytime you have cash, trust me you can find what your addiction craves. I purchased most my pills from other struggling addicts, just go by an NA meeting if you need to score somethin. When you’re an addict/alcoholic there’s no need to change anything, no need to reinvent the wheel ya know, your only goal is makin sure you repeat today what you did yesterday, yeah that’s easy enough.

This is going to be my first sober holiday season in a long time (twenty somethin years) and I do know from experience this time of year, with all the company parties, social networking groups and family get togethers, this definitely is the best time for an alcoholic to drink… cause there’s soooo many opportunities and misery definitely loves company ya know. This time of year can be a lonely time for some folks, the ones who don’t have friends and family to gather around for support. They don’t hold hands around a table and go around the room sharing what they’re thankful for and watch the carving of the family bird or the tofurkey whichever, I mean it’s easy enough to give in during the rest of the year… but during the holiday season it’s a no brainer. And you can spot us (the alcoholic) easy enough in a crowd, we’re the ones talking over everyone else in the room with our arm around anyone we’re standing next to… cause drunks love everyone we meet. Oh and we usually don’t bring our own liquor, not much anyways but we’ll darn sure drink up yours… I know the captain did. A taste of this, a shot of that and a hot toddy for good measure… you pour it and we’ll drink it. Yeah with soooo much food and soooo much alcohol and with soooo many depressed people wanting to drown their pain and misfortunes, the holiday season isn’t so festive.

If drinking is interfering with your life you more than likely are a heavy drinker but if life is interfering with your drinking then you’re probably an alcoholic.

(42) Facing the truth

Stepped out last weekend on a ‘date night’ if you will with my buffer, went to one of our favorite local eateries and caught a movie afterwards. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that weighs the most. I found myself, once again, looking around the crowded restaurant watching others drinking and observing the different habits or styles that varied from table to table. There was this one guy in-particular buying a round each time the waitress came by, whether or not he was ready. I observed however his other half wasn’t really drinking, which of course I used to do, I used to do all the time. Not sure why, I guess to feel better about myself cause when the check came and there were a dozen beers on the ticket you can always pretend and say well that’s six a piece. But deep inside you know the count tipped in your favor. Thank goodness my buffer always had the sense to drive us home, I mean she knew I was a statistic waiting to happen, waiting to be pulled over. I would always order one more… and then one more… and just when everyone was ready to leave I’d grab our waitress hand her the card and say one more and then tab us out. Just one more, I bet that phrase cost me a lot of money thru the years… hey just one more. The other thing about throwing down a buncha beer and going straight to the movie is you only get to watch about half of it cause the other half you’re going to or coming back from the rest room. Or a person could even run out to their truck and chug the one they left (almost full) in the console, but who does that? laughing And we always sit on the end of the aisle cause again my wife was planning ahead, cause she knew I’d be up and down for the entire length of the movie. Yeah if you were one of the unfortunate ones that sat behind the captain during one of these ‘date nights’ all I can say is… I’m sorry. The only thing more irritating is the chic on her iPhone texting or trying to talk softly, I mean really? Is your social calendar that full that you can’t get off the mobile merry-go-round for a coupla hours? Oh and the fussin baby which brings up the obvious question… why would any parent take their child to an R rated film, except the ones that still VHS Jerry Springer.

The movie was extremely difficult for me to watch… actually thought about leaving several times. It was too real for me, too painful to watch some parts, I felt like walking out, then I’d look over and see my buffer was cryin. Not sobbing outta control but tears welling up in her eyes ya know? So I actually started watching her watch the movie (from the corner of my eye) to see her different mood swings. The film was about a guy who has an awesome job (commercial pilot) but was a troubled alcoholic, it was the one thing in his life that was consistent and loved him back… so he thought.. so I’d thought. He lied all the time to others around him but most importantly to himself, which like I’ve said is the one person you can’t lie to (yourself) providing you have a conscious. If you do and I trust most everyone has one I mean, if that’s the case your conscious will call your addiction out at some point. I refer to that as the addicts ‘do or die’ time. That split second where the individual can change everything that is killing them… or just keep lying to themselves and eventually they’ll… well they’ll die. The theatre was packed which was surprising to me cause it’d (the movie) been out a few weeks but I could tell just by sitting there who got the movie, who lived the movie. I began looking around without being obvious and saw people in tears during the different scenes that unfolded. These were the enablers, the victims if you will of the alcoholic, they were the most choked up, the most moved by the different ‘real life’ situations. The people sitting beside them (like me) had a look of shame on their face and were looking down a lot during the show and most were holding the hand of their buffer wishing this wouldn’t have been our story. But it was… it was our story and after the film ended a lot of folks just sat there, no one moved, silent if just for a few seconds… then people slowly rose to their feet and began exiting thru the double doors on their way outside. I didn’t talk much going back to the car, I looked into her watery already swollen eyes and told her thanks, just thanks. What else could I say ya know, she knew what I meant and grabbed my hand and smiled at me. Squeezing her hand a little harder I smiled back as a gust of wind blew by both of us and I knew what she meant at that moment… we were both glad our movie was over.

And this night I drove us home… both safe and sober.