I am a selfish person, emotionally numb, and narcissistic in the sense that I believe to my core that everything should be handed to me. I was the youngest of the three brothers and grew up protected by two older brothers and a successful dad that gave me everything a kid could ask for. Yet here I stood in an orange jumpsuit in front of a judge with my loving parents sitting in a courtroom with disbelief in their eyes. I could see their disgust and love. They officially were powerless over how to save their son. I was once again arrested for drinking and driving.
As the arrests piled up, the shame was insurmountable. This was no longer a “phase.” This was an issue that bled through my whole family, community, and self-care. Believing that I was only harming myself was a lie that I believed down to my core. Lying to myself was nothing new to me. I told lies to everyone for the game of it. I was honing my craft of being a dishonest person. No matter the consequence, even when telling the truth was easier, I clung to the fact that I could I get out of any situation by creating a story in my head and becoming a classic story teller. I lived in a fantasy world growing up. The stories that I made up in my head I viewed as truth. For every dream, there needs to be action to achieve it. Quitting became natural to me.
I was eighteen years old at college, on my own. The hooting and hollering was noticeable that first night. I walked down the hall to the common area where guys were gathered around a table with beer cans and liquor bottles taking up most of the space on the table. Drinking was not something I ever did up to this point, but I knew I couldn’t let anyone know that. I was welcomed by the guys as they made room at the table for me. Little did I know that sitting down at that table would change the course of my life forever.
I quickly realized that alcohol and drugs made me feel “normal.” I failed out of college, went back to college. Failed out of college again, and went back to college again. I floundered around life with a bottle as my compass. I got arrested several times, was bailed out of consequences, and went right back to drugs and alcohol. I spent several years in my twenties on “house arrest” as I moved into my parent’s basement and worked for my dad. Not having a driver’s license, being on house arrest, and/or watching the consequences pile up was no match for my addiction. I could not imagine life without drugs and alcohol.
By 2008, I was having thoughts that I may be better off leaving this world then to keep floundering in life. I was told that I was going to long term treatment. I did not fight it. My mom had packed me a care package, in it was a journal book. I was shattered as a person and completely lost as a person. I opened that journal book on my first night in long term treatment and wrote words that I will never forget:
“Here I sit in long term treatment. I am not sure if I don’t want to be here in treatment, or if I do not want to be here on Earth. I am going to stay here till I can figure it out.”
That was October 19, 2008, and I have not had a drink or a drug since.
What I came to realize, is that drugs and alcohol were just a hurtful solution for me. It was not just me that I was hurting, it was everyone that I had encountered. Vulnerability, authenticity, and connection are three things that I have built my long-term recovery. I never learned how to find a connection to anyone, or anything growing up. I grew up in a loving, supportive home but I never could feel connected. That connection was never made due to never feeling connected to myself. Once I was able to get a connection to myself, to feel comfortable in my own skin, I was able to feel connected to other people. To get that connection I had to become vulnerable. Now all I knew about vulnerability was that it was a sign of weakness, or so I thought. It never came natural, and it never came quickly. It started with a heart to heart conversation with a dog in long term treatment, which led to being open and honest with my counselor. Once I became somewhat vulnerable, people could finally see the authentic me.
My life today is built on providing hope and help to the hopeless and helpless like I was once before. As each day passes, I get more and more connected to myself and to others. Recovery has always come first in my life since I started my journey utilizing my personal recovery program. I still wake up with thoughts of “I am not worthy” and “I am not good enough” but recovery has given me the tools to deal with those thoughts. I walk through life today comfortable with the person that I have become and that is due to getting vulnerable with those around me. Being an alcoholic and addict is no longer shameful to me, and I refuse to hide my scars that have made me the person that I am today. I continue to pray for the courage to be vulnerable, which leads to me becoming more and more authentic. I no longer play one of the many characters that addiction forced me to be which allows me to get connected to myself and to others. I now know the meaning of “Be who you are.” Long term recovery gave me that.