- Friends & Family
My battle with addiction and alcoholism began a long time ago. I had a drug-addicted father and started my own use around age 11. The cards were stacked heavily on the side of me becoming an abuser of some substance. While the drug use didn’t last long, only a few years, alcohol and I became fast friends. Throughout my teen and early college years, I drank a little bit heavier than my friends, but it was normal then, right? And most people grow out of it? I never did. As I am a musician, my 20s were spent in bars and clubs and living every part of the heavy metal scene. As I dove deeper into my 20s, the behavior continued to get worse and worse. Even with health issues, problems at my day job, constant sickness and more money spent than I could afford, I still continued. It finally started to become unmanageable. A regular night of drinking was a liter of whiskey and a 30-pack of beer, and I started around 5am to stop the shakes.
When I was around 27, my health started getting bad. I was having liver issues, problems with processing foods and sugars, stomach issues, and more, so I decided to try and cut back for a while. I made it one month and thought I had it beat. I moved out of the house with my band to help my efforts, but as expected I went back to my old ways. I started having a lot of problems at work, and my boss was making it very clear that she wasn’t happy with my performance. I didn’t value my job so I didn’t care.
In May 2009 I lost this job of almost nine years for a reason unrelated to my drinking, and I was excited for what would happen next. Perhaps this would be a catalyst to some change in my life. I decided that I would spend the rest of that week just partying, relaxing, and start the job hunt the next week. I ended up getting a job quickly, but it didn’t start until July. This was an awesome excuse to just keep partying. My drinking got very extreme, and my rock bottom was fast approaching. I had very little money because of my job loss, I couldn’t sign my unemployment checks because I shook so bad, and I was sick all day. Even the booze wasn’t helping my symptoms.
Fast forward to just before my 30th birthday. On June 19, 2009, my band went to play a show at a favorite local venue in Denver. I woke up on June 24 with no memory of the previous five days. I could barely see, I couldn’t speak because I had been throwing up so often and my vocal cords were fried, and I couldn’t stop shaking long enough to even hold a glass of water or light a cigarette.
After finally gaining my bearings, I remembered my parents at the funeral of my big brother who had passed about three years prior. I remembered the morning I woke up to a frantic call from my parents about my brother dying. I remembered their faces at the funeral, and I then made a promise that my parents would not bury another child. I got sober home alone which was hard and dangerous. For the first three days, the DTs were bad. I was seeing things, sweating and having crazy heart patterns. I wasn’t sure I was going to live, but somehow I made it through. I saw my mom during that first week, and she hadn’t known how bad my problem was. She was coming to buy me groceries, and when she saw me, the way I shook and the panic attack I had in a store, she knew the problem was severe. I stayed the course, and day by day it got a little easier. Eventually I started feeling human again. I quit my band and started finding healthier activities and clinging to the little hope I had.
I learned how strong I was. I had no idea that I could survive so much. I learned that with a little hope and a little drive, you can accomplish almost anything. I was at the end-stage, but somehow I made it. Because of this my faith in God grew a little, and I also gave myself credit for the hard work. Is long-term recovery hard? Absolutely. Are there challenges? No question. Is it worth it? Yes. If you can just make it to where you start feeling human again, you’ll start to see that. Getting some type of peer support is crucial because it makes you realize you’re not crazy, that other people have been there and made it too. Perspective helps. If I had to do it over again, I would have gone to a hospital for medical assistance with my detox. It was bad, and I could have died during it. Because of it being so bad and because I survived, it made me strong and helped shape who I am today. For the atheistic or agnostic, don’t let the word “God” scare you away from peer support. God just means a higher power of your understanding and some acknowledgment that there is something greater than you. Focus on the fellowship and being around people who’ve been there.
When some people get sober, they talk about the pink clouds, how everything is so great with sobriety and how life is easy. A challenge usually comes up and knocks you down a little. Somehow I’m still all pink clouds. After living well over half my life drunk, I’m able to learn almost everything new, and I approach every day with optimism. It’s not that I don’t have challenges or days that test me, but by using a bit of perspective, I’m able to make it through and grow from those challenges instead of having them knock me down. I lost my job, my friends and almost my life, and then I gained a great career, real friends, optimism, hope and belief that my life has a purpose. My faith and connection with God grew in a way I never knew was possible after being an agnostic all my life. I’m now happily married with a wonderful family and almost six years of sobriety. How the heck did that happen? Hope and hard work can get you through just about anything in life. When hope and hard work aren’t enough, it’s okay to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are people who’ve been there and been through much worse and survived. Use their perspective to give you hope for even just one day at a time.
Recovery is worth it. I promise.