- Friends & Family
- Mental Health
It has been nine months and 10 days since my last drink. The biggest positive change my life has been my overall happiness. I can focus better; my mind is much clearer. I am not paranoid. I am not constantly scheming. I do not have that persistent worry that I had when I was drinking. I am much happier — much more at peace.
The past nine months has been my fifth time in recovery. I have been in rehab four times prior to this time, and it didn’t really succeed long term. My last relapse was my rock bottom. I was drinking Listerine and rubbing alcohol. I knew just the right amount of rubbing alcohol to mix so that I would get a buzz, but not get sick. I just didn’t care anymore. I was very apathetic. I didn’t care about myself, nor did I care about anyone else. I just wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to be an alcoholic. I completely quit caring about me. “Just leave me alone!” I would say that sort of thing.
One week, I went to a baseball game, where, obviously, I was drinking. I woke up the next day in the hospital. All I remember is being at the baseball game. I remember waiting for my family to come outside to go to the game. The next thing I know, I woke up in the hospital. The doctor came out and said that my blood alcohol content was .5. “You should be dead,” the doctor said. “You shouldn’t even be alive. Your tolerance is so high.” He couldn’t believe it.
It was decided that I needed to do something about this…again. But I was just going to go along and appease everybody until this went away…again. I knew I needed some type of psychiatric help, but I mostly just wanted my family off my back.
The next day, I went out and bought another bottle of mouthwash. I woke up in the hospital again. I didn’t care. I just really didn’t care. There was nothing except despair.
The next day, I went out and bought some more mouthwash. And a third time, I woke up in the hospital. This time, I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t know where I was. My family knew, because apparently my sister brought me to the hospital. They left me there to detox.
Originally, they wanted the hospital to keep me there on an inpatient basis at a rehab facility they had on site. But, to my surprise, they had no beds. I couldn’t stay. I was set free, but my parents were really on me to do something. I said, “I’m going to do an outpatient clinic. I have done inpatient before, and that hasn’t worked for me.” So, I decided to go. I went in on a Friday to get screened. I remember that I drank that day, but after that, I haven’t had a drink.
From that first day, things have been going well. And that was it. That was my last relapse. People say that you can only relapse so many times before you’re dead, and I believe that now. That was my turning point.
One important thing I’ve learned in this journey is that people really do care about me. My family cares about me. People love me. People like me. I’m a good person. I don’t have to carry around that guilt and that shame and that stigma. It’s hard. It’s hard, and I deal with it daily. But I am learning to come up in a responsible way. I’m learning not to be so much of an introvert; I’m learning to reach out to people for help. The most important thing I’ve learned is that I can reach out to others for help, and I do not just have to rely on myself.
The thing that I’m most proud of in my life today is the fact that I’m sober. I’m clean; I’m sober. I look at that as something to be really proud of, because it’s hard. It’s not easy. If you haven’t been through it, and you’re not an addict, you don’t know how hard it is. I had to learn everything over again. I didn’t know how to deal with things in a normal fashion. I never dealt with emotions – I drank them away. This is difficult stuff. I basically had to relearn everything– how to be normal.
I had so many things to learn about living a normal, sober life. But I also have all the baggage from the addiction, and all the things that come with that. I am very proud of myself for coming through this time. I am very proud of myself for doing this, because it is not easy. I have a real pride in myself about that.
I used to feel stigma, and I would think that I would walk down the street and everyone would be saying, “Oh man, he’s an alcoholic.” but I don’t have that anymore. I don’t wear it on my sleeve, but I’m proud. I’ve done a lot of work, and I am proud of the work I’ve done. And there is more work that I continue to do.
My biggest struggle is dealing with various emotions. Not just the occasional urge to drink, or to test myself, or to rationalize, “You could handle just one.” The emotions definitely vary. I think the hardest thing is to rediscover who I am, and how to deal with problems that come up in a responsible and mature manner. That’s been a struggle for me, but it’s been going well. Every day it seems like there is something different. The stages of my sobriety differ at different times, but right now, that’s kind of what I’m going through.
The part of my life that I find most satisfying is I’m not scared to be around people anymore. I used to have to drink in order to be around people. I couldn’t talk to people. I just assumed that everyone who looked at me or talk to me just thought “Wow, what a drunk!” I know it’s not true, but I was what you would call a functioning alcoholic. I just had to have it in order to get to the day, until my last relapse. And I was just so afraid that everybody knew. I felt worthless, and I felt like everyone else looked at me the same way. The most satisfying part now is that I’m not so introverted.
I’m able to meet new people with no problem. I’m able to attend the meeting with total strangers and be confident, and not so self-conscious. I’m not scared of people anymore. I’m not scared to talk. I’m not scared to set boundaries. And I’m not scared to tell my feelings. It’s great to be more outgoing and friendly.
Through every stage of my sobriety, there’s been something different that I needed to hear. Sometimes it’s not even hearing something from somebody, but just knowing that they are there and they can empathize and understand. Every time I hear somebody’s story, it helps me.
I realize now that I’m sober, that my addiction had a huge effect on my family, on everybody. People would worry about where I was going to wake up, if I was going to be dead, if they were going to have to pick me up at the hospital. There were constant worries. And I didn’t know, or I didn’t care.
I think it’s extremely important to help others in recovery, whether it’s a text message or an email – anything, really. It doesn’t have to be about drinking or doing drugs, it can just be conversation. I will text a friend if I am feeling squirrelly. It’s good to have people around that I can talk to you or get out with. It’s important for me, and it’s important for me to support other people in their recovery. I don’t want to look at that decade and a half that’s a blur as a total waste. I am alive for some reason today. If I can be an encouragement to somebody, or a good listener, or empathetic, then it’s not so much of a waste. I like to relate to people, to listen to them. It’s not easy, but it’s possible to do. You can have a better life. I feel a lot better. Because I have my mental issues under control, I can have some control over my addiction. I would not have sobriety if I did not deal with my mental health. These are very much hand-in-hand. It is possible, and you are not alone.
The one thing I would tell somebody who is struggling or in early sobriety is the one thing that I hate when people tell me: It gets better. I hate it, but it’s true. It’s not easy. It’s hard. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing more difficult in life. I can’t think of anything that is harder than this.
But don’t give up. Don’t quit. I know it’s easier said than done, but stay the course. It’s possible. If you’re like me and have a dual diagnosis, go to a psychiatrist. Told him if you have panic attacks, or anxiety, or depression. It’s important to get that taken care of too. It can be a cause for people to drink or do drugs. Just know that there are people out there that care about you, and that are willing to go the extra mile, and that won’t judge you. There are people that won’t keep guilt or shame on you. Just know that there are people like you out there. Stick with it.