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Alcoholism – An Insight From a Clear Mind With Both Eyes Focused
When I tried getting clean and sober, I knew I had to give up the friends that I partied with for years. That didn’t sound so easy. I knew what my friends would say. Some of their comments would be, “you can just have a couple, you don’t have to get drunk” or “you can still hang out with us and you don’t have to drink alcohol, you can drink pop or coffee and you can be our designated driver.” Their ideas aren’t going to work for me and a lot of other alcoholics. Recovering alcoholics are going to have to hang out with people who don’t drink. Hanging out with your friends that drink usually only last a short while. Relapses are quite real.
Like in my case, some friends will taunt you and think you’re too good for them. I had a childhood friend that would hoist his bottle to his mouth and drink it right in front of me as close as he could get, then making a gesture to give me his bottle to share. He knew I was in my early stage of sobriety and that I was vulnerable. Needless to say, he is no longer my friend–and I knew him all of my life. Friends and acquaintances will be cruel, so a person must be on his guard.
Then there are some real friends that care. I have a friend that drinks but he is not an alcoholic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him drunk. He drinks responsibly. He knows I stock my refrigerator with a few beers, but he also is considerate enough not to get drunk and obnoxious around me. He usually reclines my offer of a beer. He’ll drink bottled water with me. These are the kind of friends to keep. The beer I keep around the house no longer is a temptation, so I keep it for responsible guests.
I was devastated when I made a commitment to myself to stop drinking. I don’t even know myself. What if I don’t like myself? I was scared to death at the thought of getting clean and sober. I wondered how boring my social life would become. I thought of the friends I wouldn’t have any longer. I thought of the fun I wouldn’t have any longer. I dreaded the thought of socializing with sober people. I dreaded the thought of attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and being truthful about myself. I was scared to death of sobriety.
I think most alcoholics, early in their recovery, are frightened of the notion to get clean and sober. It was the ultimate culture shock to me. I drank since age 14. I was an alcoholic by age 22. Then I continued drinking until age 50. During all those years of drinking, I probably stopped drinking only three or four times. The longest period of abstinence was only 60 days–and 30 of them were spent in jail or in an inpatient treatment center.
The story of my life, as an alcoholic, is no different than most other alcoholics. We all have a lot in common–some are more severe than others. We are not unique. To put it mildly, we all are short- sighted and we create our own problems. We blame other people and dwell on the past. We hate ourselves as we hate other people. We hate our addiction and do nothing about it. We abuse our health and laugh about it. We complain like there is no tomorrow. Our life sucks, the law stinks, our boss is an idiot and our girlfriend or wife are driving us to an early grave.
It wasn’t until age 50–and eleven DUIs later–that I finally looked hard at my life and wondered where I am going. I focused my cloudy lens. It was on the 4th of July, in 2003, that I set out on a solo mission to go camping. I chose a spot by a lake. I always feel serene when there is a lake, a river, a stream, an ocean or mountains nearby. I did my usual habit. I searched and found myself a bar nearby my campground. My rule of thumb, was that there has to be a drinking establishment nearby. I very seldom drank alone. I never quite understood why people would want to drink alone. Getting drunk by myself wasn’t my cup of tea–or booze.
As I was drinking my beer at the bar, I noticed there was nobody else but me in the bar. I thought to myself how many times this has happened. It’s a holiday again–another reason to drink. The setting was no different than before–a bartender watching television in this dark, quiet barroom. Here I am again–drinking beer to get drunk and be stupid. Outside it’s a beautiful day–warm and sunshiny. Other people are enjoying the weather and I’m in a dark, stinky tavern. I was thinking how stupid this really is. I reminded myself of a song by the Charlie Daniels Band. The lyrics went like this, “Sittin’ on a barstool, acting like a darn fool, that’s what I’m doin’ today. Sittin’ here drinkin’ and tryin’ to keep a thinkin’ I’m boozing my troubles away. Pour me another one, I think I’m finished with the other one. I’m drinkin’ my baby goodbye.”
I had been drinking more than ever, since my last DUI about two months ago. I hadn’t been sentenced yet and I was awaiting my day in court real soon. I had been daring the law to bust me again. I was way out of control and I could care less. I had been driving drunk every weekend and passing out. I could hardly remember anything.
Today seemed much different than ever before. I didn’t plan on this day to quit drinking–it actually just happened that way. I left the bar, near my campground, after only drinking one beer. I thought I might return later in the evening to party–but I didn’t. I stayed at the campground and I prayed and hoped that some day soon I would quit drinking. I never thought this would be the day. I never was one to pray that often. But today, I felt like the ever-so-popular cliché belonged to me–“I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I never drank another drink of alcohol that day–and I haven’t had one since. This was a 4th of July to remember–Independence Day, my independence from alcohol.
As days led to weeks and weeks led to months–then years, I felt I had put my demons to rest. I enjoyed feeling healthy. Gone were the days of being sick and hung over for four days–the reward for one day of getting smashed. It was getting to that point–one day drinking, four days sick. Alcoholism had taken a major toll on me.
I looked back at my prior behavioral pattern and made sure not to fall or fail–like I did so many times before. I made it a point, not to preach and boast to everyone that I knew, telling them I kicked the habit. I humbled myself by moving forward one day at a time–day by day. My thoughts were clear now and my priorities straight.
I quit drinking at the right time, but many years were overdue. The laws were changing. There was no smoking in the bars. The alternative was to smoke outside or go to the Indian-controlled casinos. When I stopped drinking, I also stopped smoking. Drinking and smoking went hand-to-hand with me. I relapsed in my no-smoking quest–twice. I can’t believe how stinky the bars and taverns were. I never was one to smoke in my house or in my car, but my clothes still reeked of smoke. I had been spraying my clothes with Febreeze–it was the only answer for stinky clothes.
If a person believes getting clean and sober will change their world for the good completely–they are foolish. Arguments with their significant others will remain. When I sobered up, I realized what my girlfriend was really like–so we split and I went my separate way. That was the first and only time sobriety was to blame. My other relationships through the years of drinking, always ended up my fault–every one of them.
After about a year-and-a-half in my sobriety, I was involved in a car accident–my fault. I turned in front of a car I didn’t see. I failed to yield the right-of-way. Accidents still happen when you are sober. This time, my old stinkin’-thinkin’ attitude wasn’t there. If I had been drinking, I would have been arrested for a DUI and taxied off to jail. Then, when I would be released, it meant getting drunk and staying on a bender, drinking my problems away in a sea of illusions. Shit still happens when you don’t drink. Of course, back in my drinking days, I would have confessed I drove better drunk–rather than driving straight.
When I drank, my pattern was precise and it was demonstrated to the hilt. If I had to go out to launder my clothes, I made damn sure a Laundromat was next door to a tavern or bar. When I had to have my car serviced, there had better be a bar next door or across the street. I couldn’t imagine attending a sports event or a concert without drinking alcohol. There were times I couldn’t remember any of them. How stupid is that? Then, of course, my intention to have a couple led to sometimes 8 hours or more of drinking. All the bars and taverns I frequented, might as well have had a time clock for me to punch. That’s how I made up my rules. It was my second job.
When I quit drinking, my social life became reclusive. I felt alone in the beginning. This time I didn’t want to get into a relationship. It seemed I was only eating, working and sleeping–24/7. It seemed very strange. If I was to make this life of mine sober, it would be on my own terms–and it has worked. The more days I achieved sobriety, the better it was.
When my wife, Bobbie, died of cancer, in 2001, I sank into a deep, dark depression. The grief of my loss was too hard to handle. I began to drink hard to forget the heartache and pain. She was my whole world. How could this happen? Am I doomed to the bottle for life? If there is a God, why did he allow this to happen? God surely knew what an improvement she made in my life. When I was married to her, I kept my drinking in check–but not all the time. Bobbie did not approve of drinking and driving. She despised anybody that did. Bobbie was the best thing that happened to me. I always chose my women I became involved in that didn’t drink at all or who drank responsibly. I could not stand a woman drunk. I would talk small talk at the bar, but that’s it.
On November 13, 2005, my older brother, Mark, passed away very slowly and painfully–from alcoholism. He kept on drinking, despite his doctor’s orders. He had full -blown cirrhosis of the liver. His last drink was five days before he bled to death. He was only 55 years old.
On August 1, 1975, my oldest brother, Donald, put a gun to his mouth and pulled the trigger. I was the one who found him. He was intoxicated and depressed on the day of his death. He was a full-blown alcoholic. He was only 36 years old.
There are wonderful things that have happened to me since I stopped drinking. My attendance at work improved greatly. My quality and quantity of work excelled. I felt I didn’t need to smoke. I slept better. I looked better. My health was restored. My depression improved. I went on real vacations by myself. I never had done that before. I have discovered many good things about myself. My hobbies became more important to me. I suddenly took a renewed interest in writing, photography, gardening, camping and fishing. I have enjoyed listening to music and organizing my library of music, books and movies. I learned how to use a computer, now I can’t stay off of it. I bought three guitars and a keyboard to learn how to play and write songs. I own and manage three websites. And last–but not least, I am writing articles on the internet and I am writing a book about my life and my struggles with alcoholism, depression and grief.
There are so many positive things about being a recovering alcoholic. The world around me seems so much better. I feel at peace with myself. I no longer hate myself and others around me. I enjoy the easy and simple ways of living. I will continue to enjoy the serenity of sobriety, with a clear mind and with both eyes focused.
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