I am not selling anything here - or profiting in any way. My only goal is to offer a ray of hope to others who are in a place similar to where I was years ago.
Initially penned as a letter to a dear friend struggling with alcohol, I offered my unwavering support and availability, emphasizing that the solution must stem from within. How might I know that? Because at the age of 44, I transformed my life from the depths of hell through a challenging road to recovery. I emerged on the other side, free from grasp of alcohol, to a rather extraordinary life.
As time passed, I encountered several individuals, including close friends, grappling with alcohol's destructive consequences. Some faced rehab, while others, sadly, succumbed to this affliction. If you or someone you know treads a similar path, I hope my words resonate and provide solace. Know that there is a way forward, free from the despair of addiction. I, too, have navigated the journey from destruction to recovery and contentment. Remember, we are perpetually evolving, and each day offers a fresh start. Above all...don't ever lose hope.
No illusions, the road to recovery is hard as hell.
And, worth every step.
Your road awaits you...
Go find it.
Go. Make. It. Happen.
I have been in your shoes. I know the path forward looks impossible. Trust me, it's not. But, it's a path that you'll have to walk by yourself. You can get help - and Lord, I hope you do- but it's still a path that YOU have to walk.
That said, I am here for you 24/7 should you ever want a friend to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, a soulmate to buy you a cup of coffee or a meal, or just someone to hang out with for a while. I promise that if you call me, anytime day or night, I will answer within a couple of rings. I can't stress that enough - I am here for you - and always will be.
I only started to walk the path towards total sobriety after I’d lost my wife and our children. And, the world should have lost me, too - on several occasions. It’s truly a miracle that I’m still alive.
I encourage you to start the trek now, while you still have your husband's love and support. Doing so now will not make it any easier, but the payoff is so rewarding - for both of you.
Regardless, it's still your journey. Deep down, you know that.
Please take a few minutes to read this. I am not here to judge you; I give you my word that I won't. Judging is for people who have not walked in our shoes. For the people who have been down this path, we know better than to judge.
I know - you're probably thinking: "No way. You think you know what I'm going through - but there's no way you really do. Nobody really knows."
Trust me....I know. Give me a few minutes and you'll know I've walked in your shoes. And, right now, the only thing I want is for you to walk in mine.
You can do it. I believe in you.
I'm telling you, I've been there. I don’t hide where I’ve been, and I’ll talk to anyone who asks me about it. Yet, it’s not something I advertise. I'd venture to say that most people who've been down a road of addiction and managed to walk away sober don't talk about it unless someone else brings it up. Unfortunate, yes, but that's the way it is.
Looking back on my twenties, I now recognize signs that an issue was looming. But, I wasn't concerned back then - everyone drank. And, I certainly didn't think I indulged more than my friends did. One by one, we got married, started families, curtailed our drinking. It was all normal.
For many years, I was what one would call a functioning alcoholic. I held a great job with a Big 5 accounting firm (on the consulting side of the business), had a good marriage, was an involved parent, and had a couple of drinks almost every night.
Things went south very quickly, though, after my entire department was dissolved and we all lost our jobs overnight. None of us saw it coming, and I certainly wasn't prepared for it. I spent months looking for a new career -and eventually spent months just looking for a "job." Any job. As our savings dwindled and my wife's support justifiably withered, I would have been happy to have scored a job working at our local grocery store or stocking shelves at Home Depot. For what I was really good at, jobs were scarce to non-existent - for more menial tasks, I was way overqualified. Life sucked - and I found myself drinking more and more to cope.
One evening many years ago, our best friends came over for dinner. By the time they arrived, I was so drunk I could barely talk. I hadn't planned on it being this way (at this point in my life, I had a couple of drinks almost every night, but it rarely went beyond that). But, one drink while I was tending to my barbecue early in the afternoon led to another, and another, and another. I lost track, so what the hell...I had another. Our friends hung around for 15 minutes and then left - revolted by my condition. They were so embarrassed and full of sadness for me…and especially for my wife. I was so embarrassed, too. But, not until the next day - because that night I was on a roll. All I wanted was another one. And, another one. Until I passed out.
A couple of days later, I called my friend to apologize - he immediately drove over to take me out for a cup of coffee. He is not a drinker. Oh, he drinks, but he doesn’t have a problem with it. This is huge difference that a problem drinker simply must come to terms with. Some people can drink whenever and wherever they want to - because they can (and do) stop before it becomes an issue. We. Can’t. Do. That.
However, little did I know that our friends were fighting their own battle. He had been finding wine bottles hidden in their closet, in the trunk of her car, in the basement, even under the trash bag in the kitchen trash can (she thought nobody would ever find it there since nobody but her ever emptied the trash). Over coffee, he pleaded with me to get help. He had known my wife longer that I had, and knew her almost as well as I did - and he cried as he reaffirmed how much, despite my drinking, she still loved me. And, he cried while sharing his fear that his wife would drink herself to death. He loved her more than anything in the world, but he detested what she was like when she drank. And, she drank a lot.
They eventually divorced and, sadly, she is no longer with us. She passed away due to complications from alcohol abuse in early 2020. She had been one of my wife's very closest friends growing up, and remained so until the very end.
And, no- this letter was not written to her. Regrettably, the two of us never talked about our issues with alcohol. It was not something she was willing to discuss.
I promised him I would get help.
I gave it everything I had.
I really, really wanted to quit. As much as I needed to drink - I despised it even more.
My wife and I found a marriage counselor who specialized in addiction. I HATED him. I drank more because of him
I tried AA. I hated AA the first time I tried it. At least I didn’t drink more because of them
I tried several different AA groups. Same results. Most people were mad. Really mad. Mad at their spouse, mad at their kids, mad at their God. Why would God do this to him/her? And, they replaced their drinking with smoking. Oh man do they smoke! One after another after another (I've never smoked). And, if you don’t “give it up to a higher power,” there’s no hope for you. While I believe in God, I also found it impossible to believe that if I just prayed a little harder, God would solve my problems. This was no way to go through life, so I quit going
We went to the pastor of our church, who told my wife that she should leave me. Divorce in the Catholic Church is acceptable if a spouse has an addiction issue
Looking back now- he was right, but I was mad as hell at him and the Catholic Church back then. I thought we had married for better or for worse. A "little" drinking shouldn't be reason enough for the Catholic Church to allow my wife to divorce me. Problem was, "little" was in the eye of the beholder- in reality, I had long ago passed that threshold.
I tried two more addiction counselors - no luck. Neither had been alcoholics, or addicted to anything else, yet they spoke as if they had all the answers"
"Just say no"
"Use some willpower, for God’s sake!"
"Only the weak drink"
"You are making bad choices"
"You’re escaping something through drinking." That something was anything they could come up with, and every one of them was wrong: bad childhood, boring job, failing marriage, I hated my parents, my parents hated me, middle child syndrome, I wanted a better lifestyle. You name it, they threw it at me… and none of them were true
"Addiction is not a disease - it’s a choice"
"Surrender to a higher power"
And, my all-time favorite: "You'll never amount to anything"
Oh, the bullshit. What kept running through my mind was the following...
"You have no f***ing idea what I’m going through"
"Don’t f***ing tell me I can stop if I really want to"
"It’s not like turning a f***ing faucet off, or flipping a goddamn light switch"
I knew deep down that I really wanted to stop - but something just wasn’t letting me
I scheduled an appointment with my primary care doctor, confiding in him about my drinking while in his office. I expected empathy, but instead, he abruptly left the room after I finished speaking. When he returned minutes later, he chastised me loudly enough for others to hear. Handing me the card of an addiction specialist, he directed me to take my "business" elsewhere. This was a doctor I had liked and visited for years. Exiting his office, I sat in my car, shaking and weeping, feeling frightened and bewildered, questioning my very existence. If my own doctor wouldn't help me, could anyone?
I finally checked myself into a well-known treatment center with a solid reputation. I really, really wanted to get well. Truly. So, I gathered my wife in my arms one evening and told her I’d made the decision to enter an in-patient treatment center the following morning, and then I went and had my “last drink.” The next morning, she cried as she kissed me on the cheek, told me to be strong, and then walked out of the clinic on her own.
I despised it, mainly because I doubted their genuine concern for our long-term sobriety. The experience felt akin to incarceration (no, I've never spent a moment in jail): constant surveillance (even in the restroom), ill-fitting clothes without belts (due to suicide concerns), three dismal meals, and minimal contact with the outside world. "Treatment" mostly involved group sessions where we shared underlying reasons for drinking, followed by poorly crafted PowerPoint presentations. While this was my sole rehab stint, many of my peers were returnees, viewing the experience as a temporary escape from home life and nagging loved ones. Most were court-ordered attendees, humorously anticipating respite from their family's complaints upon release. My disdain for the experience wasn't due to abstinence (nerve-calming medication was helpful), but rather the overall ordeal.
To maintain appearances, we departed sober, vowing to remain so for our loved ones. I upheld my sobriety for several months.
By the time summer was over, three months later, I was drinking again.
I attended my wife’s grandfather's funeral with my mother and father. My wife was not about to allow me to be with her and the boys. Can you imagine how insignificant that made me feel? We’d been married over ten years at this point. Her grandfather had been a part of my life - and I know he loved me. Yet there I was, ten rows back in the church, wondering what people were saying about me and wishing I was there for my wife in her time of need. In reality, I was fortunate I was there at all.
She filed for divorce shortly after her grandfather passed. The whole process was quick- six months later and our marriage had been dissolved. Neither of us had a penny to our name - we couldn't afford to be married and we sure as hell couldn't afford to be divorced. But, even more important, she could no longer live with me - nor could she allow her children to do so. Our children. My children.
At the time, I didn't grasp the courage it took for her to divorce me. When we first met, she was a single mother, raising her four-year-old while working and attending school full-time, living paycheck to paycheck with minimal sleep. Fortunately, she had roommates who assisted with parenting. Our situation had improved slightly, but she was still balancing full-time work and nursing school. Life was challenging. The divorce meant reverting to single parenthood, this time with three children of varying ages. Her resilience was astounding, managing it all gracefully.
The divorce was initiated as much for my benefit as hers, as she understood that I would never quit drinking if we remained together.
My situation worsened before improving. I moved in with my parents, drank from morning to night, and lost my job, depleting my 401k on child support, rent, credit card payments, and alcohol. In my final drinking days, I'd awaken hungover, dry heave in the shower, and swear off alcohol, only to resume drinking by afternoon. My ex-wife ceased contact, and I was unfit to see anyone, especially my children. I had reached rock bottom, unable to climb out of the abyss I'd fallen into. My survival, given my excessive drinking, is nothing short of miraculous.
Drinking, once an enjoyable pastime, had taken a sinister turn. I resented the injustice of my friends being able to drink without consequences while I self-destructed. Angry and bewildered, I couldn't comprehend the disparity in our fates.
Over the years, I had attempted various methods to curb or quit drinking:
Made smaller drinks
Gave it up for weekends
Gave it up for a week or even a month at a time
Switched to beer and when that didn't work, switched to Lite beer
Went to an addiction counselor; the first one didn't work out so I tried another one. And, then another one
Tried several different AA groups
Tried talking to my primary care physician about ways to reduce my drinking (what a disaster that was)
Admitted myself to a well-respected in-patient addiction clinic (for me, an equally bad disaster)
As much as I despised alcohol, I could not live without it. I hated the smell of it - taking the top off of a bottle of bourbon would make me throw up (empty or full stomach). Even knowing that, I couldn't wait to pour a really stiff drink and slug it.
Alcohol had destroyed my life.
At 44, I found myself homeless, living like a recluse in my parents' basement, divorced, penniless, jobless, and suffering from clinical depression. I saw little hope for reclaiming my life.
During moments of clarity, I'd reflect on my past and wonder how my life had spiraled out of control. I was once a well-liked, carefree kid who never faced trouble. I earned good grades, owned a successful business in my twenties, married my dream partner at thirty, and advanced through a prestigious consulting firm in my thirties. And...now this.
...I hated everything about my life. So much so, that I no longer cared if I lived or died.
Please, read that line again slowly: I no longer cared if I lived or died.
Fortunately, I found the strength to contact my older sister, who compassionately guided me back to reason. Remarkably, as she had assured me, my circumstances started to improve within days.
In the days following my conversation with my older sister, several events unfolded.
I discovered that my father, who enjoyed a nightcap every day, had quit drinking to demonstrate that a life without alcohol is possible. Although he never drank to excess, he had a drink or two each night for over sixty years. He stopped for my sake without telling me.
My mother, after discussing my situation with a friend, provided the contact information for a therapist who could help without judgment. Though not an addiction specialist, I was encouraged to call and schedule an appointment. Despite my apprehensions, I managed to do so.
A close friend of my parents entered my life at the right time. Having faced similar challenges thirty years earlier, he became a mentor and offered support when I needed it most. His temperament, a gentle blend of wisdom and understanding, allowed us to get along incredibly well. He checked on me daily, listened without judgment, and drove me to AA meetings near and far to find a couple groups I connected with. Despite not having attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in many years, he once again set foot in those rooms, solely for my benefit. His steadfast support felt like a lighthouse in the tumultuous sea of my struggle. If our paths had crossed earlier, during my denial, there's no way I would have accepted his offer of help. But in that hour, his presence was a gift I deeply appreciated.
As I mentioned earlier, I initially tried several AA groups but disliked the atmosphere, so I stopped attending. However, I soon committed to 90 meetings in 90 days and fulfilled that promise. A family friend, sober for years, spent hours driving me to various meetings across town, searching for a group I could connect with. Eventually, we found a couple I enjoyed, and we attended together – not for his sake, but for mine. If you try AA and aren't satisfied, I urge you to explore other groups, as each has a distinct personality. AA has been transformative for countless individuals and may be your key to recovery – it's completely free, so you have nothing to lose.
I visited my ex-wife on Mother's Day, 2005 (18 months after her grandfather died, and a year after the divorce was final). We were not seeing each other at all by this time, yet I would have still done anything to win her back. I told her I was finally going to get help. Real help. She held my shaking hands, looked deep into my eyes, and replied "I've always loved you, you'll always be a part of me, and I know you'd do anything for me. Except for what you can't."
I haven't had a drop of alcohol since that moment. Not one.
The following morning my primary care physician squeezed me into his schedule. I’d changed physicians after the encounter mentioned previously - and although my new doctor did his best to get me to stop drinking, he didn’t make me feel insignificant during my visits. When I called his office Monday morning and said it was important that I see him, that day, he personally called me back a few minutes later and said “come in, right now - I’ll make time to see you.”
Shortly after arriving in my doctor's office, we talked about Peggy, my therapist, who had reached out to him a few day earlier. She had informed him of a medication, proven successful in Europe for aiding individuals in quitting alcohol, that had just recently obtained approval in the United States. He had never prescribed it before, but he agreed to try it with me under certain conditions.
To make a long story short, I promised him that I would attend 90 AA meetings in 90 days if he prescribed the medication. He agreed on the condition that I would continue to see Peggy regularly and visit his office weekly. Over the next six weeks, I saw the therapist twice a week and my doctor every Friday, and I attended 90 AA meetings as promised.
During that first week, my doctor checked in with my parents to make sure I didn't need to be hospitalized for withdrawal symptoms. My hands shook terribly, but I wasn't hospitalized. The desire to drink to calm my nerves was overwhelming, but I managed to resist.
My shaking was so severe that my mother insisted I sleep on the main floor, forbidding me from using stairs. I vividly remember the hallucinations I experienced and the conversations I had with people who weren't actually there. As I began to recover, I bought a large container of talcum powder and sprinkled it in my bed each night to help absorb the sweat.
A few weeks later, my former boss offered me a summer job. With the exception of him, virtually nobody at the company knew anything about my history. He knew I had hit a low point and was trying to recover. I was grateful for a second chance he had given me months earlier (after that contract ended, I resumed drinking heavily). Now, I'm freshly sober again, and he's calling with a job for the summer - I knew that if I messed up, I'd lose the job and possibly my life. I was no longer reeking of alcohol or shaking, and my mind was clearing up. I had a regular job with a steady paycheck.
In early June, I started flying to Phoenix for work each week, returning home on Fridays. I stayed sober, saw the therapist on Saturdays, took the medication consistently, and attended AA meetings in Phoenix and Atlanta. Upon receiving the monthly child support, my ex-wife appeared gratified, acknowledging my efforts to abstain from alcohol. Yet, she maintained a non-committal stance, reflecting a sense of wariness.
As she ventured back into the dating scene, I found myself wrestling with the dual challenge of maintaining my sobriety singlehandedly and coming to terms with her moving forward.
I stayed sober throughout the summer.
The first time I knew I could live without alcohol was Labor Day weekend, just a little over four months after my last drink. After four months of sobriety, I knew I could do this indefinitely. There was something different this time around. I knew it wouldn't be easy; there were times I really wanted a drink, but I managed to resist the cravings. I remember the year mainly because Hurricane Katrina was hitting New Orleans as I headed to Phoenix for the last week of my summer job.
As with every other week that summer, I spent five days working. Then, I went on a solo nine-day vacation exploring northern Arizona, New Mexico, southern Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. While staying in a dumpy motel in Durango, Colorado, with a view of the Animas River, I realized I no longer needed a drink. I wanted one. I really wanted one - and if I had one, nobody but me would ever know. I was 1,500 miles from home, and my plane ticket out of Albuquerque was a week away.
But, I didn't need one.
Instead, I walked over to the Animas River, sat on the bank, and watched the Durango & Silverton train roll by. I waved at the kids who were waving at me while tears streamed down my face. I knew at that moment I was done with drinking, and I was euphoric.
As I looked out of the window on the plane ride home a week later, I could see the devastation below from Hurricane Katrina. I thought of the good people whose lives had been turned upside down or ended due to no fault of their own. And I thought to myself...
I’m lucky to be alive. I mean, I'm really lucky to still be alive. I know my drinking days are over. And, I am happy. I am so very, very happy. No matter what happens on a personal level going forward, I know I'll be ok. I haven't felt this way in a long, long time.
Upon returning from my vacation, I received a call from my boss. He was pleased with my work over the summer and had secured a long-term contract for me, along with a pay raise, health insurance, and no traveling. I accepted immediately.
My ex-wife let me spend Christmas morning with the family, marking my seven and a half months without a drink. I arrived at our old home before sunrise to be there when the boys woke up. She was genuinely surprised and happy to see that I was sober and content. This marked the first time since our divorce that we spent time together. She could see the sincerity in my eyes. Over the course of 2006, we slowly began to spend more time around each other. Trust is hard to rebuild once lost, and I had let her down many times. She was cautious not to enable me again.
In March 2007, my father passed away from cancer. By then, my ex-wife and I had started to reconcile. We had taken our boys to Disney World in February, and they witnessed my sobriety first-hand. A few days before my father's passing, I promised him that alcohol would no longer be part of my life, regardless of whether we got back together. He died knowing I had been sober for almost two years and that we might remarry, both brought him immense joy.
In September 2007, two and a half years after my last drink, we remarried—officiated by the same priest who had once encouraged my wife to divorce me. Our families were genuinely happy for us. Her father, who had seen me at my worst, was delighted for his daughter, our three children, and for me.
My mother passed away in 2015 after spending her last years living in an in-law suite with us. She couldn't have been prouder of both of us: me for leaving alcohol behind and my wife for forgiving and moving forward.
Forgiving is not forgetting. My wife has not forgotten - but she also never ever uses my past as a weapon…it doesn’t come up. But, again - forgiving is not the same as forgetting, nor should it be.
I stopped taking the medication on December 31, 2005, and haven't experienced an overwhelming urge to drink since then. Of course, there are moments when I think it would be nice to have a beer or a stiff bourbon and Coke, but these are just fleeting thoughts. When such thoughts arise, I remember the damage alcohol caused and how it would quickly regain control if I let it. Instead, I opt for a can of sparkling water, which is always available in our refrigerator. Drinking or the lack thereof no longer defines my life. Since we remarried, we have consistently had beer, wine, and liquor in our home, but none of it tempts me. Occasionally, my wife enjoys a glass of wine or a margarita, and I'm glad she can do so without any issues, as she doesn't have an alcohol problem.
Being able to drink alcohol is a great thing for those who can enjoy it without abusing it, or letting it control them. As I said before, this is huge difference that a problem drinker simply must come to terms with.
I am incredibly proud to have earned my family's trust. They know that I don't live my life one day at a time, and not drinking has become a non-issue. I am genuinely happy without alcohol, and my wife is as confident in this as I am.
Will I remain alcohol-free for the rest of my life? I can't make any promises. My biggest fear is that I might accidentally pick up a drink or unknowingly consume alcohol in food, like rum cake. Would that trigger something? I don't know, but...
I can honestly say that I have walked in your shoes. I understand what you're going through and the thoughts running through your head. Let's discuss a few of them...
Like the dread in the pit of your stomach when you realize you're running low on alcohol and it's not even noon yet. Or the concern about the judgment from the liquor store clerk when you show up for the umpteenth time in a week. And the anxiety about whether today is the day you'll be pulled over or get into an accident. Who will you call from jail? Your spouse? Your parent? It's not an enjoyable game of "Who You Gonna Call?"
There's also the constant guilt you carry, and the feeling that your life would be so much better without this unrelenting problem. You're overwhelmed and hopeless, unsure of where to turn. On top of that, your worrying consumes so much time that you struggle to remember important details. And let's face it - your friendships have likely changed as well.
And then there are those times when you drank too much, and your spouse gave you that disappointed look. You'd cry, promise to do better, and they'd be upset for a while. Things would eventually return to normal, but you knew the cycle would repeat itself.
You keep telling yourself that you'll address the problem tomorrow, but deep down, you know one more day won't make a difference.
Here's the thing, though - you can turn your life around. You can break the cycle and live a life free from addiction. I won't sugarcoat it. It will be the hardest thing you've ever done. Likely, the hardest thing you'll ever do. But, I promise you, in the end, it will be worth it.
I'm telling you - I've been there.
I did it - and you can too.
As I've shown, others can certainly help you along the way. Trust that you will be as fortunate as I was when it comes to the right people crossing paths with yours at just the right time. And, when they happen into your life, accept their help and caring with gratitude and humbleness.
But, don't kid yourself, the will to quit drinking must come from within yourself. The ultimate decision-maker on whether you live your life without drinking is you. No amount of cajoling, encouraging, or threatening by others will get you to take control of your life again.
The threat of losing your marriage, losing your job, even getting locked up - you name the threat – it won't be enough to do it.
You have to quit...for you.
Where to start?
Yes, it's true that I haven't touched it since my (at the time) ex-wife held my hands, looked deep into my eyes, and said "except for what you can't." That was the spark that finally kicked the engine. I made the decision at that moment to finally live my life without alcohol.
But, I made it for her; not me.
To be successful for the rest of my life, I had to quit drinking for me. Not for my ex-wife, my kids, my boss, parents, therapist or anyone else.
It had to be for me.
With that in mind, let's go back to the early afternoon when I found myself alone and forlorn in a dump of a motel, wondering about life, dreaming about lost love, and wishing I could disappear. ...
When I was taking stock of my life in the dumpy "motel" room on the Saturday before Labor Day, it was hard not to compare it to where I'd been for the past several years. The beat-up and worn-out motel that I'd been referred to by a nicer place in town (no vacancy anywhere) offered to rent me a long out-of-commission-room, but only after I checked it out first. The front desk clerk warned me it was "old and un-rentable" but she assured me it was clean. It was my only option within two hundred miles, and no doubt would be better than sleeping in my car.
The airless and dark room, smelling of years of cigarettes and spilled beer, was crushingly dismal - a worn vinyl floor, ragged drapes that had faded with time, a shower curtain for the bathroom door, and the bathtub was so narrow I wouldn't fit in unless I raised my arms over my head. Placed next to the bed were a couple of cheap white plastic chairs and over in the corner was an ancient television. But, as promised, the room was clean as a whistle. Grateful to have found a room at all, I took it for two nights.
As I sat in one of the wobbly chairs staring at the liquor store across the street through the open door of my motel room, four things went through my mind. I remember them vividly:
Both this room and myself have seen far better days. No amount of redecorating the room is going to ever help it. Someday, when this old motel is bulldozed to make room for a shiny new hotel, not a tear will be shed. As for me... I have a chance to remake myself. I've taken those first steps and proven to my family, my doctor and my therapist that I can do it. Now...I have to step out and prove it to myself. I know I have the desire - but do I have the fortitude? Damn it - I've wasted how many years? But, I'm only forty four years old - God willing I have a second half of my life to live... I'm not going to do it by living in a damn bottle. Yes - I can (and must) do this...
That rolled into (uh oh): I've just gone four months without a drop of bourbon - I deserve a celebratory drink. Just one. That's not going to hurt anything. I mean, come-on...I've gone four months without a drop. I can have one drink, right? Just one while I sit here and contemplate what I'm going to do next with my life, now that I'm effectively unemployed (my contract was over).
That rolled into (oh god, not again): I'm forty four bleeping years old; my checking account is empty, I'm unemployed, divorced, my kids don't want to spend time with me, and I'm renting a room in my parent's basement. What the hell- walk over to the package store right now, buy a BIG bottle of bourbon, a six pack of Coke, and just get plastered. Hole up in this shit-hole of a motel and stay drunk for a few days- then sober up, drive down to Albuquerque and fly on home. My life - what there is of it, absolutely sucks. Walk over to the package store, right now...nobody but me will ever know. Go on- get the good stuff, a big bottle of Wild Turkey or Maker's Mark and get hammered...
And....that rolled into (anger; gradually evolving into determination and self-affirmation)...WTF am I thinking? I'm coming around from years of self-inflicted hard times and I'm beginning to make something of myself again. Did I spend the last four months staying sober for nothing? I did a great job over the summer and I have a real shot at picking up a new contract when I get home, all my bills are paid with enough left over for a helluva vacation, and - most importantly - I feel really good about myself. I mean - really good.
So, did I do it all for nothing? Oh, HELL NO.
Was it hard? At times, almost impossible.
Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Are there going to be more times when it's hard as hell? Not any harder than it already has been.
And, by God- I stayed sober these last four months by myself.
Would I throw away how far I'd come and return to where I'd been? I had a week to myself - nobody but me would ever know.
No. No, I would not. I purposely walked past the package store with the flashing neon beer signs across the street and kept walking until I came to a park along the Animas River - the water glistening like diamonds in the mid-afternoon sun. I did this for me...
It was at that moment that I made the decision to live a sober life for me, not for my ex-wife, my children, my parents, my boss, or anyone else.
Good things may or may not follow. But, I knew if I walked over to the package store and returned to my dark and desolate room, nothing good would have come of it.
Watching the train roll by with dozens of little kids waving at me while I waved back with tears streaming down my face...life just couldn't have been better than it was at that moment.
As it turned out, my time in Durango, the run-down motel, and the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad became my salvation. I spent the rest of that afternoon and evening wandering the streets of Durango, simply enjoying my own company. I felt grateful for deciding to remain sober that afternoon and just grateful to be.
The next day, I rode the train to Silverton and back. Ironically, my open-air car was filled with Harley Davidson bikers who were drinking throughout the journey. They generously offered me their flasks at the beginning of the trip, and I explained the path I was on. I wasn't sure how they would react, but they completely respected my efforts to get my life in order, and no further mention was made of my sobriety (though they continued to drink). When we arrived in Silverton, they invited me to hang out with them, which I did. As we left the train station later that afternoon, one of the bikers removed the Durango baseball cap he'd bought that morning and placed it on my head, saying, "I'm glad our paths crossed - stay true to yours, and I hope the second half of your life is a blessed one." Then he and his wife, both Harley Davidson riders with tears in their eyes, gave me a hug.
That evening, I spent my second night in the same shabby motel room (wearing the baseball cap) before continuing my journey the following morning.
I began the weekend feeling alone, despondent, and doing my best not to cry.
However, that weekend, including the rundown motel, aimlessly wandering around an unfamiliar town for hours by myself, and the picturesque train ride from Durango to Silverton and back with the half-drunken bikers - those two days unexpectedly became the greatest weekend of my life.
It marked the beginning of the second half of my life.
So, where do you start? Well, your primary care physician is a good place to begin. Just ask if you can chat with him/her in their office (not in a cold, sterile exam room). And when you're talking, be honest about how much you're drinking, when you're drinking, and how it's affecting you. It's okay to cry - let those emotions out.
Now, let's talk about medications. There are a few different ones out there that might help. I tried one called Antabuse, which blocks your ability to drink. It worked, but man, did it make me an angry jerk. And it didn't really help me stop drinking long-term - only while I was taking it. But there was another medication I took that helped remove that deep-seated urge to drink (ask your doctor, he/she will know about it). It allowed me to resist those cravings for hours, then days, then weeks, and eventually months. Don't get me wrong, there were definitely times when I really, really wanted a drink during that first year. But unlike before, I was able to push off those cravings until they passed.
I also want to mention something about medications and alcoholism. I was pretty surprised by the reaction of some long-time AA members when it came to using meds to help with recovery. Some of them were totally against the idea, thinking it was just replacing one medicine (alcohol) with another. But seriously, guys? Come on.
In my view, Alcohol Use Disorder is a disease - and should be treated as any other disease would be treated - with medication. At least be open to the possibility. Please talk it over with your doctor and be open to suggestions.
I honestly don't think I'd be alive today if my therapist hadn't read about the wonders of a medication, discussed it with me, and then called my PCP to talk it over with him.
One more thing...
As hard as all of this is on you, you aren't the only one suffering.
Your loved ones are extremely sad, angry and confused.
The challenges of living with someone who is drinking too much are profound, and often include:
Feeling mentally disturbed
Wondering what they’ve done to deserve this
Physical or mental harm
Ignoring the issue, which simply extends it and makes it worse
For the life of themselves, they can't figure out why you continue to do what you do. It makes no sense. They know you're destroying your life- and they know you know it, too. Please ask him/her reach out to AlAnon. They don't have all the answers - but they can help.
Someday, I'm going to get back to Durango, the very place where I realized that I not only could, but would, live the rest of my life without drinking. I'll be wearing the baseball cap the biker gave me (yes, I still treasure it). Sitting on the bank of the Animas River as the train slowly slid by - it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. And, I will take my wife along. Naturally, she couldn't possibly understand what an incredibly moving experience it was for me, but she can imagine.
I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there. When I was at my lowest, I had all but given up on getting my life back on track - and I was utterly powerlessness against the force of drinking.
Thankfully, I clung to a thread of hope. With strong resolve, embracing good fortune when it appeared, and, looking back, a wife who demonstrated immense courage and strength, I overcame my "best friend" and "sworn enemy." I turned my life around. I remarried the love of my life (30+ years and counting!), reconnected with my children, and have been working for the same company for over 15 years (yes, the same one that sent me to Phoenix week after week all those years ago). Like everyone, I've experienced ups and downs, including the loss of both parents. And through it all, I've lived happily without a drop of alcohol.
You can do it, too.
There is a path forward. I've walked it. It's daunting, terrifying, and seemingly impossible.
But once you start down the path, you'll find it's entirely possible - and incredibly life-changing... and you won't have to change who you are.
In closing, let me reiterate what I said at the very beginning. I am here for you 24/7 should you ever need a friend to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, a soulmate to share a cup of coffee or a meal with, or just someone to spend time with for a while. I promise that if you call me, anytime day or night, I will answer within a couple of rings.
Take that first step, dear friend, and know that I am here for you. I can't do it for you - you have to do it for yourself. But, remember that you aren't alone. I've walked the same path, and I am here for you - and always will be.
Much love, always,
Thank you for reading my journey. If you found it compelling and you know someone who is struggling with addiction, please consider passing my story along to him/her.
And, don't lose hope.
DON'T EVER LOSE HOPE.
I truly hope you have a blessed life. And, one with a lot of incredulation in it.
Some guy happily living on a big round ballDecember, 2020
I'm a real person; if you want to reach out to me, I promise I will write back. And, I will keep whatever you write to me in the strictest confidence.
Mom & Dad's Friends
Since I posted this, I've informed the people who helped me along the way about this site. A couple of them have passed away, including the man who took me to many AA meetings. However, I had the good fortune to let his wife know about it. She shared the site with her eight children and more than two dozen grandchildren before she passed away. She was, justifiably, very proud of her late husband.
My boss moved on to another company a few years after extending my contract. It was a year earlier when he made a choice that greatly affected the latter half of my life. I don't think he knew at the time how significant his influence was on the second half of my life (he does now). When he caught wind that I had alcohol on my breath, he was faced with a decision about my fate: either sever our professional relationship immediately or grant me another opportunity. There was a valid reason behind it (I was unexpectedly asked to report to work on a Saturday afternoon. This incident led to a consequential conversation in his office, during which I disclosed a snippet of my personal circumstances.
He gave me a second chance. His choice provided me with a lifeline that I so desperately needed at that moment in my life.
His decision was akin to a George Bailey moment from It's a Wonderful Life, a testament to the ripple effects of goodwill. As Bailey's actions had a profound impact on the town of Bedford Falls, so too did his choice fundamentally transform my life and the lives of those I hold dear. Just as he saw my humanity amidst his corporate duties, I left his office carrying a beacon of renewed hope and a debt of gratitude that I could never fully repay. Like a lifeline thrown to me in a turbulent sea of despair, his choice became my salvation. His simple act of benevolence not only reshaped my world but also profoundly affected those I love most. The take-away: when given the opportunity, always do good, if possible.
Peggy Marateck (Roswell, GA)
Indeed, I owe my life to Peggy, my therapist. Despite the years that have passed since we last met face to face, her incredible patience and unwavering support continues to echo in our occasional text exchanges. It was a time in my life when addiction therapists were not offering the help I needed but were merely taking my money. Peggy, despite not being an addiction therapist herself, emerged as my beacon of hope in this darkness. It was she who persuaded my PCP to consider a newly released medication in the US that could potentially be my lifeline. Our weekly counseling sessions, which later transitioned to monthly, were as crucial to my recovery as the medication. They were characterized by her profound empathy, guidance, and wisdom. Now, looking back, I can unequivocally declare that Peggy's compassionate efforts are a significant reason why I am alive today. To this day, Peggy continues her noble work in the field of counseling, extending her compassion and wisdom to those who seek her guidance.
I understand that therapy might not be everyone's first choice, and some may even harbor reservations or outright aversion towards it. But, if you're in a situation similar to where I was, I implore you to consider it, even if the thought brings discomfort. Remember, therapy is not a sign of weakness or defeat, but rather a step towards understanding and healing oneself. It's about finding a safe space to express your feelings, confront your fears, and work through your struggles with a professional who can guide you.
My Mom & her friend
Had my mom's friend not urged her to have me try the therapist her husband was seeing, our paths wouldn't have crossed. So, thanks go to my mom for being brave enough to discuss my alcohol problem with her friend, and her friend for sharing the issues she and her husband were facing and encouraging my mom to have me reach out to their therapist.
Going back years to the afternoon when my friend took me out for a cup of coffee. Crying as he spoke about the pain his wife and I were causing with our drinking; it was deeply moving at the time. It was the first time I started to really think I had an issue (though I knew long before, I just didn't want to face it). In response to my "I've tried so hard... but I'm just not strong enough to quit drinking," he replied: "You'll never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice." Yes, I remembered his words while sitting in Durango, and they gave me added strength when I needed them. That afternoon was the last time I needed his words of wisdom regarding (not) drinking.
It's possible that after reading this, you might perceive me as a less than ideal father. I trust, however, that my children would not concur with this notion. Throughout those years, my habit was to drink in the evenings, allowing me to be present and active in my children's lives during the day. I was deeply involved, whether it was coaching their soccer team, crafting Pinewood Derby cars, or just splashing around at the neighborhood pool. Like any other family, we balanced our professional and academic schedules, striving to maintain a joyous household. Our faith was a cornerstone, and the house was never short of love.
Drinking escalated into a significant issue as I approached forty, despite it remaining an evening habit. This issue intensified, unfortunately culminating in the breakdown of our marriage. Despite a few intermittent periods of sobriety, it continued to be a profound problem, until my ex-wife's life-changing words.
For a stretch of about two years, I was largely inaccessible, lost in my struggle. Yet as time passed, my children and I began to tread the path toward shared understanding. Witnessing my determined pursuit of a life free from alcohol, they began to grasp the enormity of the battle I had been fighting. This understanding became the foundation for the slow but steadfast rebuilding of our familial bonds, a process I cherish profoundly. The journey to understanding brought us closer, weaving our ties stronger than ever. Today, we stand as a tightly-knit family, our bond reinforced by our shared experiences and an enduring love. This reality fills my heart with overwhelming gratitude.
My sister Kathy was a beacon of unwavering faith and steadfast support throughout my journey. Even when I stumbled or disappointed her, she never gave up on me. She was my rock during my darkest moments, always there with comforting words and a guiding hand. Her wisdom carried me through times when I stood on the brink of despair, giving me the strength to carry on. Her belief in me, her enduring faith, and her unconditional love no doubt played a monumental role in saving my life. Kathy's support was invaluable to me, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Some people believe angels have wings and live in clouds. Yes, I'm sure they do. But, look around - they are right here with us, too.
Speaking of angels reminds me of another one that I'd be remiss not to mention - my wife ❤️.
As I mentioned in my letter to my friend, my wife remembers the times I drank to excess. To her immense credit, she never, ever brings those times up. Not in casual conversations; not during the rare times we argue. If I bring the subject up, which I do on occasion, we'll talk about it. We can't change the past, so why dwell on it? Don't forget it; don't relive it; and certainly don't fall back into old habits. Instead, focus on the present and ensure that it and the future are everything we want them to be. Love one another completely.
My wife is a true angel, who has made me the luckiest person alive.
No one knows the impact they may have upon someone else, but everyone can appreciate acts of kindness. Do good, be kind, and think of others. Doing so may or may not come back around in the end, but hopefully your kindness will help in ways you never dreamed of (whether you realize it or not).
Our Trip to Durango!
My wife and I finally took a long overdue vacation out west in September, 2022. After visiting Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Antelope Canyon, we spent a couple of days in Durango. We rode the train from Durango to Silverton on a glorious fall morning, almost 17 years to the day after my life-changing day. Our trip couldn't have been more perfect - the sky was deep blue, the aspens were changing to yellows and golds, and the Animas river was running wild from heavy rains the day before. My wife cried. I cried. Life is beautiful.
Brett & Patricia
Oh, and one last thing. I like to say "Do good, be kind and think of others." Well, the first people we saw when we arrived in Phoenix were friends from way back. Brett & I lived together after college and before we both got married and started families. He and his wife knew how much this trip meant to us - and they had a gift for us to remember the trip by - a wonderful Cosanti bronze windbell made in Phoenix, close to where they live. Thank you, Brett & Patricia. It hangs today on our back deck where it reminds me daily of the beautiful time we had visiting Durango, old friends, and the wonderful National Parks of the desert Southwest...and of the important things in life...
Family and Friendship
Purpose - it is our 'why'
And, hope...don't ever lose hope
If you know someone who has quit drinking, ask them what day they had their last drink on (they'll know)...make note of it in your calendar and send them a birthday card next year. It will mean the world to them - I guarantee it.
A picture from our train ride from Durango to Silverton - such a wonderful day! It capped off a perfect vacation, made possible only because I quit drinking seventeen years earlier. Had I not done so, my children would have long ago buried me. Instead, my wife and I celebrated- and we're now looking forward to our retirement years, which are quickly approaching.
The Cosanti Reminder
A cherished gift from dear friends, this Cosanti Wind Bell from our trip to Durango. Each ring serves as a gentle reminder of my journey, echoing the mantra that has guided me - Do Good, Be Kind, and Think of Others. It's a daily call to kindness, a melodious reminder of the transformative power of change.
Through a Child's Eyes: A Testament to Redemption and Change
Among the cherished keepsakes on my desk, there's a special drawing sketched by our then 9-year-old child, a poignant portrait of my wife and me. It serves as a humble reminder of my past, a silent echo of who I was then.
In the portrait, my wife radiates joy and warmth, and there I am, on the right (use your imagination as to what he thought of me). A vivid testament of how the haze of alcohol can cast a shadow on our lives, subtly shifting our images in the eyes of those we love most.
But there's beauty in this memory too, a testament to growth and change. When I recently shared this drawing with my now 30-year-old son, he had no recollection. It's a testament to the transformative journey we've undertaken, a testament to the power of redemption and change. It reminds me that no matter how our past may have shaped us, it doesn't have to define our future.
Written with ♥ by some guy living on a big round ball.