It is the end of a year. On January 7, 2018 I had my last drink of alcohol. I don’t remember it or much of the preceding two days. In truth and unknowingly, I was poisoning myself. I would come to the next day in extreme abdominal pain and internal hemorrhaging. Fortunately, still alive. Very sick, but living.
This would mark the end of my three year struggle to return to the sober life of two decades that I had abandoned when my family was sundered by divorce. I began drinking again full well knowing where it would lead but convinced I needed to. Not wanted, needed. I had been sober for 20 years. On that night I made the conscious decision to drink knowing full well what the consequences were. A year and a half of on and off binging followed before I remembered that sobriety was the better option. I struggled with finding it.
That is behind me now as is the horror of my last binge. It was devastating. I had found the darkest corners of my being, indulged and nurtured it until it had taken control of my life and become my persona. I had found my Mr. Hyde at last and having met him, recoiled from the fear of his existence. I turned my back and left him in the shadows to fade away in time. I do not miss him.
The last year has not been easy. Recovery never is. Rising out of depression, grief, sadness, guilt and remorse is difficult. The simple act of making it through a single day can be intensely challenging and fearful but each one is a gift.
Life is an ocean, at times calm, still and permissive of easy sailing. At others it is a tempest, challenging our skills and will to survive. Through all that life’s waters bring us there remains the rise and fall of waves and swells. Tides ebb and flow. Weather comes fair and foul. The key is to build a sturdy craft with a stout mast and rugged sails then when required, take on a reliable and loyal crew.
I am one year sober now and my life is better because, if for no other reason, I am no longer making it worse. For me, this last year has all the value of the many years of sobriety I had forsaken. I am returned. I am whole again.
I think I was 13 or 14 years old the first time I got drunk. I remember quite clearly to this day. I remember what it did to me. How I felt afterward. I retrospect, it was a warning. Unfortunately I was much too young to heed it let alone understand it.
By the time I was 24 I was a full-fledged alcoholic, in detox, then rehab and therapy. 10 years. For half of it I was under age.
My grandfather died of sclerosis of the liver caused by excessive alcohol consumption. He was 72 the day I drove him to the hospital. I remember in particular the sickening yellow colour of his eyes and skin. I also have an Aunt, his daughter, she is an alcoholic. I have a brother and two cousins who are also confirmed alcoholics. All of them sober now and have been for years. There were many others in my extended family that could have easily been defined as alcoholic. My mother could not go a day without her “Happy Hour” drink. Every evening she would pour herself several ounces of her favorite liquor and drink it. Many nights it was followed by more. My father worked mostly out of town. He would start drinking when he got home on Friday night and stop sometime on Sunday. Every weekend. I presume there were several nights during the week that he also indulged.
I think it is fair to say that genetics played a role in my relationship with alcohol. Equally, environment had a very strong influence. Very few gatherings, events or social situations could occur without drinking. Truths couldn’t be told nor affection displayed. Conversely, alcohol fuelled arguments and fights that might otherwise be trivial. Any and almost every weekend was a journey through all the emotional highs and lows that life could offer. Never a dull moment. Never an honest one.
Through all of that, I lay no blame, offer no excuses or seek any sympathy. I made my choices. Certainly, as a young man I may have not had the capacity or understanding of my addiction or its historical background and consequence to pass judgement and find resolve but later I did, yet continued to drink. The insidious and compelling nature of alcoholism makes it a formidable foe. One I have battled for a lifetime.
I will not drink today because it does not provide escape or inspiration. I will not drink today because it does not take away the hurt. I will not drink today because I have memories and an obligation to myself. Today I will dispel the environment of my youth and recognize the flaw in my family genes. I will tell my story in three words. I don’t drink.
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