My name is George and I am an alcoholic. My sobriety date is August 26, 2000. I tell my story in hopes that it might be of some help to someone else. This is one way of giving back the gift of grace that was bestowed on me. I was taught to tell what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. I wrote one previous post on this subject, and plan to write more. I am working on writing my entire story, and these are excerpts. Today, I love and appreciate hearing people’s stories – their life stories. This is part of mine.
I really don’t remember my first drink (unlike most of my alcoholic friends), but by the time I was 16 my social life was pretty much centered around drinking alcohol. Within a few years, my entire life would become centered around drinking. During high school (mid-60’s) it was the usual “being cool.” There weren’t any real consequences; in fact, many “well meaning” adults actually enabled my drinking. I remember one high school dance where I was so drunk that I tripped over a parking lot entrance chain and literally fell onto the feet of the Vice-Principal. We called him Pinky for some reason. He helped me up and said that I needed to “watch myself”, and sent me and my friends on our way. I just knew I’d get called to the office on Monday, but it never happened.
Another time we were driving back from a beer run into downtown Detroit and got pulled over by Detroit’s finest just west of the Detroit-Grosse Pointe municipal line. Two cops made the four of us open two cases of beer and pour the contents down the street drain one can at a time. It was early evening and a small crowd gathered to watch. I remember on old lady pulling one of those two-wheel wire basket-carts gleefully shouting “They got them! They finally got them!!!” We didn’t know each other of course, and I don’t really think her comments were personal, but I do remember those 40 years later. The two officers then gave us a lecture about how they should run us downtown but that it wasn’t worth the trouble because our “parents would just come get us out and we’d do it again anyway.” We didn’t argue, and the truth is they were probably right.
At about the age of 17 our parents were now allowing us to drink occasionally at home. I think the “logic” was that at least they knew where we were. By the time I was in college, and whenever I returned home for a visit, I would meet up with my buddies to visit, and every parent served us drinks. I think we all enjoyed each other’s company better that way too. Alcohol had become a way of life, and quite honestly, it seemed like a good way of life…at the time.
By the time I was in my 40’s alcohol had complete control of my life. The truth is that I was either drinking, or thinking about drinking. I couldn’t wait to get home and get something to drink. It was the only relief I could get from myself. Outwardly I was still looking pretty good. I was a high school principal with a highly visible job and a good income. Nice home…several cars… vacations…beautiful kids…and all I really cared about was getting that drink.
Along with the drinking comes the lying. If there is one thing I have learned about alcoholics, it is that we are the best liars. And I was right there with them. My major life defense mechanism had always been to be successful, and to please people, and thereby keep them from getting to know me. My fear was that if they really knew me, then they would find out that I was no good, and stupid, and not funny and all that. I always got the highest grades in school, was captain of my high school hockey team, went to a prestigious university, and even as an adult was always outwardly competent and professional and generally highly-regarded by my peers. Promotions came relatively easy. All of my relationships were superficial. The only relationship that I could really trust and count on was with my alcohol; my real lover and love of my life. This is all true, and is all a part of “living the lie.”
I once worked as a psychiatric attendant at a major medical center. One of our patients was a chief cardiology resident and he had been admitted to the locked psychiatry ward with a drug habit. He was not allowed off the ward for any reason. One Saturday the Charge Nurse summoned me and said that she and I were going to escort him upstairs to his office to get some professional manuscripts he was working on. He had been given a 30- minute pass by the attending. This young resident/liar was charming and pleasant as always. We went into his office with him so that he wouldn’t do anything wrong. Later that afternoon he was totally high and messed up on drugs while under our watch on the locked unit. In a matter of seconds he had managed to somehow distract both of us just long enough to get some drugs and paraphernalia from his office, along with his manuscripts. Of course this didn’t look too good for the nurse and me. When the attending physician arrived, he sat us both down and reviewed what had happened. He was very calm with us and simply explained that the “smartest drug addicts were the best liars.” He then went on to give us a brief course in how we could expect that the oldest drug addicts (in terms of years of addictive use) were also going to be the best liars, or else they would be in jail, or dead. I never forgot his words – and how true they were.
I developed into one of those best liars. In 1999 I was unemployed but receiving sick leave benefits and spending my days watching “Wings” reruns on cable television, and drinking vodka from those tiny little airplane bottles. I would go to the liquor store every morning on my moped (no driver’s license at that point) and buy two 8-packs of the little bottles. They were easier to hide and to throw away somewhat discreetly. One drunken Friday afternoon I passed out briefly in the bathroom and hit my head on the corner of the vanity. Blood was gushing out from the gash. I wrapped my head and face in a towel and sat in the TV room bleeding profusely for about 30 minutes until my wife got home from work. She took one look and agreed to drive me to the local ER. On the way she asked if I had been drinking and I assured her that I had not. You talk about living the lie. Drunk as I was, I knew that they would discover this when they drew blood at the hospital, but it was just better to lie. Who knows, I thought, “maybe I can pull this one off.” In the ER one of the nurses commented on a “sweet smell” and asked about alcohol, but I firmly told her that I had not been drinking. After an MRI, and 16 stitches in my forehead, the doctor came in and said that my blood alcohol level was 0.24. He suggested that maybe I go to an AA meeting or something. I went home.
The next day several of my non-alcoholic friends came over to do an “intervention” of sorts with me. I had already been drinking that day. I assured them that all was okay, and that their worries and concerns were unfounded. Of course, I had a huge bandage on my forehead, and looked like crap, but I just kept on lying. The lying, as I later learned, was necessary in order that I might be able to get to my next drink. That was all that really mattered.
There are many more tragic drinking and lying moments that will be told, but for now, that’s enough. The picture has been painted. On August 26, 2000 as I sat in my father’s house, I realized that I was completely defeated and out of ideas. He and his wife had contacted my alcoholism counselor in NC and they were both now suggesting a 90-day treatment facility in a nearby state. But first I would have to go to court on the second DUI charge (the one with 0.30), and that was looking like 30 days to four years in prison, unless the judge let me go to the treatment center. Details on all of that in later installments. He did allow me to go to this residential treatment center (my third in one year), and I am forever grateful.
Those 90 days in rehab changed my life. After discharge from the rehab center I went to live in an Oxford House (aka group home) for a number of months. I will write about these experiences in detail in future installments. Whenever I tell parts of “my story” today I try to share my experience, strength, and hope. After a lifetime of alcoholism, and truly losing all hope and hitting my bottom in 2000, my life went in a different direction. For the first time ever I took some direction from others. I concentrated on my sobriety as a daily goal, and during my second year of sobriety, incredible things began to happen. Today I am sober, and most days are filled with serenity and peace. I have an active spiritual life, and a perspective. I appreciate relationships and people. I help other alcoholics. I work at my day job (some pretty amazing things have happened in terms of jobs). I was a high school principal again. I fish. In sobriety my son and I drove to Alaska and back, and camped and fished and rafted and talked. I got to take a group of college students to Belize for an incredible teaching experience for all of us. I pray everyday. I am grateful for life as it was, and is. This is all true.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share your story too.