Are You Tired of Being an Alcoholic?
I hadn’t planned on doing two hubs about alcoholism. My main fear was that I would be placed in a niche and people would say, “Oh, that’s billybuc, he’s the writer who writes about alcoholism.” Like all writers I want to be known for my writing ability and not because I chose to write about a particular subject. However, the responses to my last hub were so heartfelt, so personal, and so touching that I decided to follow it up with a look at my own drinking history. The hope, of course, is that by reading my story maybe someone else out there who has problems relating to alcoholism will find some comfort and/or understanding about this disease. I have found over the years that the stories of alcoholics have many more similarities than differences and so hopefully my story will strike a chord with some of you who may be struggling with alcoholism.
Having said that let me start by telling you that I never started out hoping to be an alcoholic. Not once when I was a child did I secretly wish that someday I would ruin a marriage because of my drinking. Not once when I was a teenager did I secretly wish that I would lose a job because of my drinking. Not once when I was a young man did I secretly wish to break hearts later on in my life because of my drinking. My goals and dreams were similar to many in that I wanted happiness and a great job and money and love, not necessarily in that order.
As an adopted child I had no idea of the medical history of my birth parents; no idea that my DNA was such that I should be cautious in my dealings with alcohol. In truth I didn’t have my first drink until I was twenty-four but I can tell you that the first drink was a dark German beer and I instantly loved the taste of it and how it made me feel. That shy young man who was so awkward socially found that with alcohol he became much more gregarious and with that first beer the love affair that would turn into a nightmare had begun.
I drank normally through my twenties, quite capable of having a couple beers or hard drinks socially and then not drinking for days afterwards. I would be hard-pressed to tell you when, exactly, I left social drinking behind and entered the world of necessity drinking. I do know that my drinking increased rapidly during my thirties, and as my then wife began to voice her displeasure over my drinking and subsequent behavior I began to hide my drinking on a regular basis. At that point, during quiet moments when I was able to take a close look at myself, I suspected that I had a problem with alcohol, but to admit that I couldn’t stop drinking was way beyond my ability. In response to the growing pressure from loved ones to stop I began “fine-tuning” my drinking. I would attempt to only drink beer or only drink on weekends or only drink with buddies; sadly all attempts to drink “normally” failed miserably, which led to more hiding and increased drinking and a new inner-response: self-loathing for being so weak that I couldn’t stop by myself.
There is no reason to go into detail about the losses suffered over the years. A brief look would show two failed marriages, two lost jobs, a mountain of debt, loss of friends and loved ones and most certainly a loss of self-respect and ultimately a loss of self-love. Finally, in 1990, I entered my first treatment center and after my release I remained sober for ten years. I would love to tell you that the success story begins there but it doesn’t. I was hanging on by my fingernails during those ten years and a relapse was going to happen sooner or later because I had failed to change the one thing that most desperately needed changing, namely myself. The relapse did, indeed, occur, and several others after that, until one day I decided to take a teaching job in a remote native village in Alaska. Separated from loved ones and my AA support system, it was only a matter of time before I began drinking again. While on a field trip to Anchorage I left the school group, holed up in a hotel, and after four days of constant drinking almost drank myself to death.
And that was the best thing that could have happened to me! The year was 2006 and I had finally reached the point where I had run out of answers, run out of excuses and run out of options. Back into treatment I went but I emerged from that month-long session knowing that I wanted to live and knowing that if I was going to live I would have to change damn near everything about me.
For the last five-plus years I have done exactly that. I have surrounded myself with a support system of non-drinkers; I have taken a look at my character defects and changed them. I have rebuilt my life, simplified my life, and in the process discovered that I actually like the person I have become. I have found love and reconnected with writing and found a passion for living that had been missing for decades. This is a story that may well have a very happy ending.
I would love to tell any of you out there who may have alcoholic tendencies that it is easy to break those tendencies but it is not! Stopping drinking is the easy part of recovery; changing who you are is a struggle that leads many back to the bottle. It is hard work and takes constant vigilance and it also takes a willingness to do everything necessary to remain on the new path to recovery. Many fail; many die trying. I am happy to report that I did not die and I love every minute of my new life; I love it so much that I am willing to do whatever it takes to hold onto it.
Today I remember who I was before alcohol entered my life. That person from long ago was caring and compassionate and capable of loving others and himself. That person is making a comeback and that sneaky bastard alcohol can just take a back seat and watch the show from a distance.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)