After 9 Years of Recovery, I’m Helping Others See What a “Real Alcoholic” Looks Like

I remember the first time I got drunk like it was yesterday. I guess it’s hard to forget those moments that change your life forever. I remember exactly where I was standing. I remember who I was talking to. But most of all I remember the absolute euphoria I felt when that first buzz came over me. It was like something was unlocked inside of me. All my angst, fears and insecurities disappeared in a heartbeat. Suddenly, I wasn’t afraid to talk to the girl standing in front of me. Suddenly, I didn’t care what people thought of me. Everything that was tied up inside of me that held me back had disappeared. I was free. At that moment, I knew that my life would never be the same. I spent the next 17 years of my life chasing any buzz I could find. I had found the secret to life and there was no turning back.

Alcohol owned me. I was consumed with getting drunk now that I knew what it felt like to live without fear. I just wanted to feel “normal”. Alcohol gave me the power and strength to live and act how I wanted to. Liquid courage they call it. Any chance I had to get drunk I took it. Partying became my life. I lived for it. I was always the drunkest guy in the room and I never wanted the party to end. I knew early on that I had a much different relationship with alcohol than any of my friends. There was one day in high school that a group from AA came in to do a presentation. I remember opening my locker and a bunch of the brochures that they had passed out were stuffed in there. For my buddies it was a joke and I laughed it off. What they didn’t know is that those brochures summed my life up completely. It was the first time I remember thinking that I “might” be an alcoholic. I was 16 at the time. I had 15 more years of struggle ahead of me.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe what would happen to my life. They say alcoholism is a progressive disease, but I never could have imagined that my life would spiral out of control in the way it did. New bottoms became the norm. Just when I thought I couldn’t get any lower, I would find myself in a darker spot and wonder “how did this happen?” The previous bottom would actually seem tame. My drinking turned into something that I never could have envisioned. I threw away over a decade of my life because of my alcoholism. Month long benders. Driving around drinking vodka all day. Sleeping with booze under my mattress so I didn’t have to get up to go to the kitchen to stop the shakes. Missing weeks of work at a time because I was too hungover or just too wasted to do anything. Getting arrested. Nights spent in the ER. Losing jobs. Losing relationships. Losing self-worth. Waking up never knowing what happened the night before. Making an ass of myself. Living in fear of what the day or night ahead of drinking had in store but not being able to stop myself. It was hell. It was exhausting. And I’m so glad that it is over.

On September 16th 2008, I finally gave up the fight. I was hiding in my bathroom chugging a bottle of vodka so I could get out the door and function at work. When I looked at myself in the mirror I saw a person that I no longer recognized. In that moment I had enough. I surrendered. After 17 years of fighting and suffering, I finally got to a point where I couldn’t go on. It was the greatest feeling I have ever felt. I wish I could bottle it. I have chills thinking about it now. I sobbed like a child. They were tears of joy. It was like a massive weight had been lifted. I had been so scared to ask for help. I had been so scared to admit I was an alcoholic. I was so scared of what life would be like without alcohol. But in that moment, I didn’t care anymore. I had reached my breaking point and it was time to get help. Rehab and the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life and I am forever grateful!

Sobriety has been the greatest gift I have ever received. Had I known what life would be like in sobriety, I would have gotten help sooner. Unfortunately, I was too scared. I was too scared of admitting I was an alcoholic and of the stigma that is associated with alcoholism. When I was drinking, I could justify passing out in public. But admitting I had a problem and needed help was out of the question. The label and stigma that I had in my mind of an alcoholic was way too much for me. After 9 years of sobriety, I have joined the fight to put an end to that stigma and shine a light on alcoholism, addiction and recovery. People need role models. They need hope. They need to see somebody who was just like them and is now living an amazing life in sobriety. I share my story openly and proudly. If my story can help one person find the strength to ask for help, then my job is done. I recently started a blog called The Alcoholic Next Door to share my experience, strength and hope. I feel lucky to be alive and want to help the recovery movement in any way I can. I am so grateful for my sobriety and the journey that brought me to where I am now. I can’t imagine my life being any other way!