grif -

grif -
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
September 17
One of my favorite places to go is about 12 miles out in the Atlantic my little 20 ft. skiff. The clear water is a deep emerald color and the sunlight bounces around and shimmers randomly. I meet survivor sea turtles, bow-riding dolphin, silent sharks, giant rays rocketing out of the sea and backflipping, schools of porgies, sea robins, slashing blues and Spanish mackerel, the occasional whale, and stray birds. I love the quiet and solitude and vastness. I am a way too veteran educator - special education teacher, high school principal, college professor and some other fun waystops. A political junkie, a cowboy in a previous life, a lover of synchronicity in daily life...meditation and prayer, and a believer that the best days are still ahead. My plan is to finish strong. ************************************ I love following politics and current events, but they all take second place to watching a hockey game. I write occasional Op-Ed pieces - usually on educational issues. My two kids are the true loves of my life. ************************************

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Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 16, 2008 12:37AM

My Alcoholism and the Movie "W"

Rate: 12 Flag

I really had not wanted to see the movie "W" but went to it tonight with some friends.  I have had all I can take of W and the Bushes.   I found myself quickly tuned-in to W's drinking-like-an-alcoholic, his spiritual born-again moment, and then his life after that as an "untreated alcoholic."  And to think he became President of the United States of America...yikes.  I tuned into the portrayal of his egocentric thinking, his chronic feeling of being "less than" or "not enough", and his unwavering need to gain approval from his father.  He had to fill that "hole inside ", and every night it drained out, and he had to fill it all over again the next day.  These feelings, coupled with some genuine narcissism, entitlement (he was born on third base but thought he hit a home run) and privilege, are usually dangerous combinations unless some serious intervention occurs. I can relate.

I am a recovering alcoholic. I crossed the line from heavy drinker to alcoholic sometime between the age  of 16 and 30.  I really think it was about 16.  It's a line once crossed that was not returnable for me.   I tried...many times...nothing doing.  During college is was cool to be able to drink all night and never get sick, and hardly ever get a hangover.   That was really the last time it was cool. 

I have learned a lot about personal motives in terms of their impact on my behavior.  I have learned that I only need to reveal my alcoholism if it might be of some help to someone else.  It is a killer of a disease, and it does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, age, intelligence, culture, and all that.  I have been wanting to write about my alcoholism and recovery for sometime.  My motive is that my story might be of some help to someone else.  It is one today of hope and grace.  I decided to start writing the story tonight.  This (OS) may not be the forum for my story, but it's my start on what will take awhile.

 At age 16 several of us had gone to Caseville, MI for a summer weekend.  I recall waking up on the beach in the morning with a vague recollection of 14 beers, girls, car broken into, and a general feeling that something happened...but I couldn't really recall.  I later learned it was the first of many blackouts.

One spring a group of us drove from Durham, NC to the Kentucky Derby.  We were late in arriving due to spending the night in the London, KY jail and a Saturday court hearing.  Peeing on the side of the highway while my beer can was propped on the car roof sort of attracted the attention of a  state trooper.  An ominous warning failed to heed.  Twenty years old.

Drinking was not only a way of life - it was my life.  Drank everyday for 35 years.  Managed to pick up a Ph.D. and a respectable professional career. 

At age 25 was driving back from a friend's wedding with my then fiance after drinking "only champagne" because I knew I had a 75 mile drive home.  It was night and she had fallen asleep with her head in my lap when I fell asleep  too at 70 mph.  Came to as the Gremlin was sliding along a guardrail after careening off a concrete bridge abutment.  To this day I can see the windshield glass cracking into a slow-motion spider web.  The entire right side of the car was ripped off . Glass pieces somehow got embedded in my sportcoat  lining without even leaving entrance holes.  I continued to feel the pieces  inside the jacket for years afterwards.  No serious injuries for either of us.  We walked about 200 yards across a field to a nearby diner and called the police.  A state trooper drove us home (about 5 miles) that night.

Married, divorced. re-married.  Two beautiful children.  By the time I was 40 I "knew" I was an alcoholic.  Couldn't really admit it, so just hid it.  Everyone thought I was just a heavy drinker.  I knew differently.  A DUI in '98 and another in '00.   Blew a 0.30 on that second one.  Job loss in '99 (finally).   Hit my bottom in August 2000.  Kicked out of the house and at age 49 I am staying in my father's basement and "not drinking."  When he leaves the house for awhile I get on a bicycle and ride to the nearest liquor store about 3 miles away and buy several bottles a day.  I hide them in the bushes outside the house and go out for drinks as needed - which is now day and night.  So this  married Ph.D. professional with two beautiful children , a home, a career, yes, a dog too,  is hiding liquor in the bushes and living in a parental basement , and all the while too proud (aka scared) to get any help. At this point, alcohol has total control of me.  Living to drink and drinking to live.  Admitted to a local hospital August 25, 2000 for "heart attack-like" symptoms.  The truth is that I was withdrawing from alcohol and I knew it, but I just continued to "live the lie."  That's what we alcoholics and addicts do.

 August 26, 2000 I was sitting in my father's kitchen at about 5:00 pm.  He looked at me and said "You need help."  My reply was "You're right.  I'll do whatever I'm told to do."  Those words came out of my mouth, but they were not mine.  I had surrendered but didn't realize it at the time.   My sober life had begun and has continued since.  For me it has been a slow and steady recovery.  My story since then is one of grace.   Getting there isn't.

To be continued... 


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alcoholism, addiction, health

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You write with honesty. Thanks for sharing the first part of your story. I look forward to reading more.
Wow, undertow is right; you write with honesty. It must be a difficult thing to admit something like this to yourself, and then to others. Substance abuse is a real enigma, I think. It is better understood today than in decades past, though.

You have a lot to lose, and so, a lot to gain by getting yourself the help you need. Hang in there, and like undertow, I will certainly look forward to catching up with your progress.

Thank you for this post Grif. Honest insight and I learned from it.
I agree, while watching "W", I actually learned more about him than I had before. I sort of felt sorry for him, but then I smacked myself into reality. Hard.

Highly rated
I appreciate the comments - very much. My apologies for one large error in the story. I wrote August 26, 2008 when in fact what is now my sobriety date was August 26, 2000. I have lived a sober life since August 26, 2000. I wrote the post late Saturday and was tired and just didn't notice the incorrect date.
Thank you so much for posting this. I wish my father would hit this moment but he just hasn't/can't. I know for a fact that he greatly admires people who have managed to overcome addiction but so far, he hasn't been able to do it. It makes me so happy to know there are stories like yours out there because they keep the hope in me.
Bless you, Grif. I've spent my entire life around alcoholics and addicts. Thankfully, most of the alcoholics/addicts in my life now are clean and sober. Some are in the program, some are not. Those that are in the program are doing much better, generally.

I think so many people will recognize themselves in this story of your alcoholism and the dangerous and heart breaking situations you have lived through. I do believe it helps to hear from someone who has been there.
Congratulations my friend. "Editor's Pick".
Kudos on an important subject...

Just saw this column on my blog a few minutes ago and just wanted to praise you for a well-written column.

I'm hoping Part II tells us about an inspiring comeback story. And congratulations for achieving what you achieved despite all the adversity you had to overcome.

Reading this has helped me. I have a 32-year-old daughter who is beginning to have blackouts, saying and doing things she doesn't remember while drinking. She has no tolerance for stress when she is not drinking. She only likes other people who drink and has lost most of her high school friends. She wants nothing to do with me as I don't really drink at all and she assumes, and I have told her, that I disapprove. She is highly functioning, is working on her PhD during the week and waitressing on weekends. You're so right about it being a killer of a disease, killer of relationships, vital organs. My whole family drinks and it's what I grew up with, fighting and partying while high, distant and miserable while sober. It was awful but I never would have dreamed of calling it alcoholism, oddly enough. I'll keep reading.
Rated. An honest and up-front portrayal.

Yours is a moving story, thanks for sharing it. I popped over to your blog after you left a comment on mine yesterday. After reading a few of your posts on your alcoholism, I just wanted to leave a quick comment and let you know I stopped by.

I find your story a little different from the one's I have heard (I'm the I.T. guy in a human services office that includes a D&A, so oia have heard quite a few stories), because you don't seem to have taken that self-righteous turn that so many in recovery seem to take. The whole "I've been through it so now I'm the expert" always bothered me.

I wish you the best in your sobriety and in all else.

grif - I decided to come back & start at the beginning of your OS posts. your writing is honest and direct and provides clarity and insight that is particularly welcome and useful to me right now.

I think OS is the perfect forum for sharing your story and I'm glad you have.

grif - I decided to come back & start at the beginning of your OS posts. your writing is honest and direct and provides clarity and insight that is particularly welcome and useful to me right now.

I think OS is the perfect forum for sharing your story and I'm glad you have.

Very moving. Thank you for posting this...and for also teaching others that addiction does not discriminate.
George, I will be reading your story, looking for answers, but mainly, looking for hope.
Thank you for your friendship.