It’s a Progressive Illness

I was a weekend beer drinker. Until that is, a few beers suddenly became a became a six-pack at every instance. Then a six-pack became a 12 pack, which in turn became an excuse to get home later and then…when I chose.

Somewhere along the way I found Ketel One vodka. What a relief that was. No more beer for the burgeoning beer gut! In no time I was off and running with Ketel One. Yep, one martini became two martini’s, and two martini’s soon became tee martini’s and, on and on. Then I would hop in the car and drive home!

I remember the first time I drank a whole bottle of Ketel One. I proceeded to throw it up. Without missing a beat, I was struck with thought – “hey, I can drink again”. And so I did!! About that time I self-diagnosed myself as a “functional alcoholic”. That worked! My new label had a certain ring of self-control and dignity to it. Order was restored. Truth be told, my self-respect was beginning to wane. I was aware of it and by giving myself the “functional alcoholic” label, I seemingly could better cope with this awareness.

I know things were starting to look a bit out of control, but I still had a few basic rules that I was abiding by! For one, I never started drinking before 7:30am. But as soon as the family pulled out of the driveway for work and school (always at about 7:30) I was mixing a drink. Toward the end of my drinking, I would put away one bottle before noon, take about a two-hour break and then start in on another bottle. Of that bottle, I would leave about an inch so that I could have enough for an “eye opener” the following morning. After my “eye opener” I would wait around to about 9am and then hit the store for more booze.

My prodigious drinking had crossed that “invisible line” and I was completely unaware. I was physically and mentally addicted to alcohol. I had lost the power of choice. I was no longer in control. It didn’t matter how much feeling and belief that I put into my thousands of pledges to stop drinking, I would always break that pledge no matter what. Despite adverse consequences, which were occurring on a more frequent basis, I would always return to the bottle. I could no longer take it or leave it, for “it” had taken me!

Alcoholism is a slippery slope. It is a progressive illness. And it’s damn sneaky too!

About Me

“Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery and emotional acceptance of the truth in the individual and unique history of our childhood.”

– Alice Miller (from her book The Drama of the Gifted Child)

For many years, I worked hard to build a charmed life. I had been living that life to the fullest until I took a precipitous fall into the abyss of alcoholism. Unwittingly, I claimed my family as hostages and took them right along with me.

I survived addiction and have been in recovery since February 9, 2007. Since that time, I have been working courageously, and sometimes not, to face the trauma/emotional pain that caused my addiction and ripples through my life today.

Writing My Story has been revealing and cathartic.  Glad that you stopped by!

 

Finding the Right Therapist

 I’m sure that you are aware that sobriety is a lot more than quitting alcohol or drugs.  Newly sober, it seems our human nature wants to make everything right as quickly as possible.  From my experience and from observing many others, I don’t believe that it is humanly possible to fast track recovery.  I tried to carry that out with all the strength I could muster and, in hindsight, I might have been better off by going down to the beach to try to stop a few waves from breaking.  This takes time!  And for me, it also took a village!

 And of course, as someone who is prone to addiction, it is completely foreign to seek help or to allow others to step in and row the oars for a bit.  But taking “contrary action” is critical.

 I have had good and bad experiences with therapy.  While chemically dependent, my experiences were mostly ineffective – go figure!  As I gained strength in sobriety, through time and effort, my experiences with therapy became more rewarding.

Here is what I learned.  Your therapist is critical.  I would focus less on one that has addiction counseling experience and focus more on finding one that has a good understanding of their own self.  Of course, if they have both, then you’re probably in good hands.  The best way that I know how to describe what I am referring to is to direct you to the website of Alice Miller, a wonderful psychologist and author.  The website address is www.alice-miller.com

I have found Alice Miller an incredible source.  Enter a search on her home page for “enlightened witness”.   That description would be my recommendation of how to find the right counselor.  Her book “The Drama of the Gifted Child” has changed my life.

 If you’re newly sober, my one caution would be that getting too deep into this material (with so much going on already in early sobriety) would be putting the cart WAY, WAY before the horse!    It has been my experience that tackling the subject that Alice Miller addresses is something that is better received when you have had some sobriety under your belt.  I was well into my third year of sobriety before I was able to fully absorb her material.  Before that, I was just too broken and too mentally weak. 

Strength in sobriety comes the old-fashioned way – by putting in the time.  And sometimes that’s just being sober and letting time heal you.

Goodbye Blue Sky

“Look mummy, there’s an airplane up in the sky”

Pink Floyd, The Wall

 Have you ever listened to the lyrics of this song and wondered what they meant.  The melody is so soothing but the lyrics are anything but that.  The confliction reminds me of my childhood in a lot of ways.

 For most of my adult life I suppressed all notion of having anything but a happy childhood.  When certain unpleasant childhood memories did breakthrough the phalanx of my suppression, I played my own little game of “trump that”.  I just reached into my memory bank of abuse stories that I had collected, all ranked as being worse than any abuse that I suffered and I sought solace in knowing that others suffered worse abuse.  Like the woman who told me that eleven broken bones as a child is her badge of courage.  Or the man who told me how he, as a child, endured blows from a ball-peen hammer when he failed to memorize math formulas that his father had given him as an exercise.  In my mind, those were all worse cases of abuse.

 Today, I know that no rating scale for abuse exists.  If your soul was pierced as a child, you most likely have a deep wound that, unless addressed at some point in your life, will never properly heal.  A soul sickness will remain.  That has been my experience. Continue reading “Goodbye Blue Sky”

Alcoholism’s Gift

I experience internal conflict when I state that quitting alcohol was the easy part.  There is nothing easy about putting down the bottle and getting sober.  It is the journey that awaits you that is also very difficult; in fact, I found it a lot more difficult.  I believe it is that way because we are now going forward in life sober and not numbed out to the world around us!  I wish someone would have given me a heads up about this because it was a rude awakening that I did not find inviting when I started to make this connection. Continue reading “Alcoholism’s Gift”

Surrender…Surrender Not!

“Try Not! Do, or Do Not! There is no try.”
Yoda

On Feb 9th, it will be 3 years since I “surrendered” to my alcoholism and entered a 28 day treatment center. WOW! Today….it is painfully obvious to me what I would do if I were in that cycling struggle of trying to stop my drinking. I would go to treatment as soon as possible. And, if I didn’t have the money, I would borrow it. Isn’t hindsight amazing! I tried and I tried to get sober for 7 years. But it doesn’t work that way. There is only Do! Unfortunately, we generally have to experience much pain, over and over, before we actually do something about it. Hopefully we don’t die in the process, or worse, kill someone on this destructive journey.

I was commenting to my wife the other day about how I watch the daily struggle on the Sober Dare page. Where it is not so painfully obvious of what to do when one cannot stop drinking, despite continued adverse consequences. If I offer up my advice and tell them what to do, in the kindest way possible, it just seems to fall on deaf ears! Hell, I owned those ears for 7 years! Continue reading “Surrender…Surrender Not!”

And So It Begins…..

I have always considered myself to be a pretty good planner. From a very early age onward I seemed to have my life pretty well planned out. Go to school, get good grades, play sports, have fun, graduate, go to college, get a degree, pursue a career, fall in love, get married and have children. Living the American dream had a real appeal to me!

I never considered the fact that things might happen in my life that I had not planned. At about the age of 35, career on an upward path, married with two small children and another on the way, I began to have an affinity for alcohol that seemed to gradually escalate beyond normal social drinking. Hey, who could blame me though for having a good stiff drink or two or three or four! There were now a lot of demands in my life and alcohol just seemed like a pretty good way to offload some of the burden that I had started to feel.

As my family grew, my marriage carried forward and my bank account increased as my career began a meteoric rise, my alcohol consumption kept pace with all of the things that I had so carefully planned for. For the next few years life was pretty darn good!

They say that a DUI is the first legal indication that you might have a serious drinking problem. In fact, you might even be an alcoholic! I learned that in one of the AA meetings that I had been sentenced to attend by the Courts. When my children were the ages of six, four and two, I went out partying one night after work. After leaving the night spot, that I had been at, I drove my vehicle down a winding road on my path homeward. Traveling at about 50 mph, I passed out as I was navigating an s-curve and proceeded up an embankment until my Jeep Cherokee began a barrel roll back onto the road that I had been traveling on. Amazingly, my Jeep came to a stop on all four wheels and did not take out any other vehicles in the process. The police arrived, assessed me for any injuries and then assessed me under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated. When I failed the field sobriety test, I was handcuffed, put in the squad car and driven off to the county jail.

In all my 38 years I had never been arrested. Being arrested was never anything that I had planned for in my life. Neither was the precipitous decline into alcoholism that I had yet to become aware of