Four years ago yesterday I was on the tail end of a pretty good three week bender. Four years ago today, I started my first twenty four hours without a drink. I haven’t had a drink since. Four years is a long time between cocktails. And I can honestly say that I KNOW I will never have another drink.
How can I make such a claim? I know many who have been in recovery facilities and twelve step programs would say this is a dangerous statement to make. That I am an alcoholic and always will be and the next drink is out there. Yes that is true, I am an alcoholic and yes that next drink is out there. But I won’t drink it.
So it has been four years after a lifetime battle to put it down. Each dry period lasting maybe several weeks to a month or so. This time it’s four years. What changed? Some would say will power. Not even close. I never had the will power to do it before, why all of a sudden would I be able to muster up the strength to stop so suddenly? What’s more to never put alcohol in my body again. Just because I haven’t taken a drink doesn’t make me sober, that would just make me dry. A dry drunk they call it. So you may ask again. What changed? My thinking.
I used to think like a drunk. Selfish and incoherent thoughts, hell bent on destruction and pleasure seeking. An ego that wouldn’t let things go and a determination to be justified and correct in all my actions. I was the general manager of the universe. Being drunk only inflated this thinking, this mindset. Being dry and meeting the people I have met showed me how to live without alcohol, not tolerate my relapses. That led to sobriety.
The focus, however, is what happened four years ago today that led to where I am now. As I said I was on a three week bender at the time. Now, my benders evolved over time. When I was younger I could drink and drink and still function, even go to work. Some would get a little suspicious, perhaps detect a little alcohol on my breath, but never a substantial reason to accuse me of being drunk. There were times, as a chef, that I would come out of a blackout and would find myself being congratulated for one of the greatest shifts I had ever run. Go figure that one out.
Into my thirty’s I began to lose that ability. I started getting sloppy. It was taking more for me to maintain my edge. My ‘trick’ was to take a gatorade bottle, pour most of it out, leaving just enough for color and fill the rest with vodka. Then I would go to work. That then progressed to the big water bottle. I worked in restaurants where drinks were provided for the staff. Then during my shifts I would lose my edge. My speech would get slurred, my actions uncontrolled. Still no one could figure out why. My excuse? Blood sugar was low. Cooked that one up and it got me out of a lot of scrapes. Low blood sugar. When things would get really bad I would go to the detox center for a couple of days. there they would give you a generic doctor’s excuse for missing work, but never gave the reason why.
After three Dui’s, time in jail, loss of jobs, eviction, debt, relationship disasters, loss of my vehicle and friends to the point where I was unemployable, forbidden from my mothers house and my phone never ringing I still didn’t stop. All of that gave me reason to drink more.
I was right! I am always right! And they were all treating me poorly!
My health was taking a dive.
I called AA, pleaded with God, began attending meetings and reading all of the literature. My dry spells got longer in which I was able to begin putting my life back together, ‘I’ was back in charge. I even moved into a “sober house” with other alcoholics and regular meetings. I did everything I could think of and I still ended up drunk.
I started working with a guy I met online who lived here in the Philippines. He hammered AA into me. Put me to work. After 17 months of chatting with him I moved to the Philippines and got married and was living with him in his house. Turned out to be a disaster, not because I got drunk, but many other issues. But as a result of that failure I went out and got drunk.
My wife held things together. I was in a strange country with strange customs and we didn’t have any money because of a scam. We moved around in between my benders.
Now my benders consist of drinking and nothing else. When I take a drink now I lose all control. And that’s where I was four years ago yesterday. For three weeks I would drink, pass out, get up sit in a chair and drink. I didn’t shower, I barely ate and I didn’t move. The only time I would move was to search the house for where my wife hid the money then go out and buy another bottle because she wouldn’t do it for me.
My wife had put in a phone call to a woman in AA here named Maggie. She is an american of Filipino descent. I had met her online through AA websites. She put me in touch with Jim. Jim became my sponsor. That was four years ago yesterday. He drove an hour down to see me. We talked, he bought me a coffee then dropped me back off at home. Little did he know, or maybe he did, that planted something in me in that brief meeting that started me on this path toward freedom from addiction to alcohol. Yes I say addiction to alcohol. I am an alcoholic, but that addiction is merely a symptom of a much deeper problem, my lack of spirituality.
In the Philippines, they have what is called Sari-Sari stores. They are everywhere. They are little stores for candy, cigarettes, soap..well pretty much anything you need including rice and canned goods. There was one right outside of my door and on the morning of September 18th 2011 my wife had given up on me and she was sitting outside of that store talking with the neighbors. I was still inside with a half a bottle of gin that I had bought from that very store. My wife wasn’t going to stop me anymore.
I hadn’t bathed in over week. I felt sick and I could barely lift my head. I grabbed that bottle of gin and finished it off. The panic immediately set in. I needed another bottle. It was a familiar feeling, one that I would get as soon as I opened a bottle and took a drink. How was I going to get the next bottle?
I wiped my chin and stood up. It took me a few tries. I was going outside to get another bottle. I knew my wife was out there, holding my infant son. I didn’t give a good goddamn. I needed that drink. I started to walk outside and before I got to the door I heard a voice. It was inside of me and outside of me. Above me and behind me. The voice simply said, as if with a sigh “That’s enough.”
I walked outside and I looked at my wife. Her eyes glared at me with a mangled hatred and disappointment that used to be love and respect. “Another bottle?” She asked me, dripping with sarcasm.
“That’s enough.” Said I. “Coffee.”
That was my last drink.
Only another alcoholic can understand the hopelessness, terror and gloomy damnation we face when we are drinking. The frightening moments in the middle of the night when we can’t sleep, shaking, sweating. Waiting until morning for the stores to open, knowing the jeers and the tongue clicking we will have to endure in order to get to that drink. Even we get drunk we remain painfully aware of the damage we are causing, especially when we are the head of the family. We are aware, but we simply don’t care. We ALLOW alcohol to take over.
Earlier I mentioned in my dry periods the word ” I ” a lot. That is what I thought it was all about. And that’s why I could never get sober and even today I know that ‘ I ‘ can’t do it.
To answer the question “What changed?” I allowed God to take over. I heard that voice.
The only way we can stay sober and live without alcohol is to undergo a spiritual awakening. The only way to undergo a spiritual awakening is to let go. Realize that we cannot do it.
Jim had said one thing to me I will never ever forget. The first step in AA is “We admitted we are Alcoholic and our lives had become unmanageable.” Seems easy and it is. Admitting it takes no guts at all, in fact I used it as an excuse to drink. People would say “Hey why do you drink so much?”
“Leave me alone, I’m an alcoholic! I admit it!”
But what Jim told me was we have to ACCEPT that we are alcoholic. He said to me as soon as you accept it, you will never have another drink. And I did just that. And I haven’t had a drink since. I am closer to God as I have ever been and am finding more ways everyday to get closer and stay close with HIM.
Some would say I am fanatical about God, and my religion is strict and strange. I can only answer: When you have been to hell, you will do whatever it takes to get to the other side. No matter what.
In four years I have not been to an AA meeting. In my area there aren’t any, the ones that do exist are very far, and the general attitude of the Filipino is that alcoholism is not a disease, but a lack of will power, so we can only hope at some point in the future they come around and join the millions of people across the world that sees this malady for what it is.
I still keep in touch with Maggie from time to time through facebook. My son is growing and I can be a father to him. My daughter was born 7 months ago and has never seen her daddy drunk. My wife is happier. My relationship with my family back in the states is strong. I have real friends now. I have written three books this year (a life long dream to be a writer) and although they may not be that good, my writing is maturing and I am doing it. I couldn’t have done it drunk, and I couldn’t have done it without God. Some would say many other writers were alkies and made it big. I say good for them. Most of them are dead now. I would rather write sober.
As for Jim, well he was murdered by his wife and her boyfriend on christmas eve 2011. I think about him constantly.
I left this essay raw and unedited. These are my thoughts for today. They may seem bland, rough and not well thought out. Four years ago my head was so foggy I couldn’t even put together two sentences. It stands how it is.
I am so grateful to God, to AA, to Maggie and Jim. To my mother and sisters for standing by me. And to my wife for not completely giving up. Thank you is all I can ever say.
Thank you and goodnight