I never drank regularly until I was 29. (I’m almost 44 as of this writing.) I never drank in high school, did drink in college but no where near as much as most (and this was wayback when the drinking age was 18). I started drinking when I was living in southern California and became friends with people who drank. Not their fault, it seemed the thing to do, and so I did it.
For the first few years I was just a social drinker, then turned to alcohol as a solution to my troubles when a failed romance with a gorgeous lady preceded a job loss. Alcohol seemed to numb the pain, and I was in a lot of pain. I remember wanted to commit suicide. I wandered to a liquor store at 8:30AM where I was going to get something to wash down the sleeping pills I planned on getting at the nearby 7-11. The liquor store was closed so I walked over to the 7-11 to get the pills. I looked everywhere, including where I thought they’d be. Nope, nowhere. By this time I figured the liquor store was open, which it was, and I proceeded to buy a bottle (probably at least 2) of Captain Morgan’s Original Puerto Rican Spiced Rum. That was good, I forgot about the sleeping pills and for the next month Capt. Morgan was my companion for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After this initial bout of practical alcoholism, I leveled out and became a functional alcoholic. I held various temp jobs, until I relocated home to be a caregiver for my elderly mother. The drinking was reduced for the next few years and was not noticeable by anyone. (Trust me on this, there were people around who would have loved to expose my drinking if they knew. I was not impaired while tending to Mom.)
I discovered a new and promising career after Mom got better, and I thought that things were going to be improved as the drinking was problematic at worse, lubrication and courage at best.
The new career was getting better. Making friends and getting a promotion seemed to prove I was getting established, albeit later than most. And the drinking didn’t seem to be in the way of anything.
The promotion became bad news. I was in over my head, and on a good day was treading water, on a bad day, sinking. Remembering the past, I turned more to alcohol for problem solving than for lubrication.
It was noticed once (on my breath), but I denied it and that was that for almost a half year. Eventually problems at work mounted, my response was more drinking. I drank when I woke up in the morning, I drank when I pulled into the company parking lot, I drank on breaks, during lunch, before meetings. This was obviously noticed, and took its toll. Eventually my denials were disbelieved. Falling asleep in the corporate cafeteria, in the men’s room, throwing up in the men’s room (heard outside), talking looooong lunches, irritable and erratic behavior was rendering moot my denials.
I was twice sent home early, both times escorted out of the building by veeps, and driven home by my superiors.
Eventually I was told to go to detox and rehab if I wanted to keep my job. I was assessed at a alcoholic treatment facility (yes, I have a problem) and they didn’t believe what I was doing to their breathalyzer. The BAC readings varied throughout the day. It went up. It went down. It went up. It went down. They had never heard of this. I couldn’t go home until I zero’ed out. They thought I had smuggled alcohol in. I didn’t. (There was some in the car, and I was worried about withdrawal.) Eventually I was transferred over to a place where I would have gone for detox, because they were open 24 hours, and I can stay there temporarily until I zero’ed out on their breathalyzer. But I was doing the same strange things to theirs. Eventually the BAC got below legal limit (but not zero) and I signed something waiving them of any responsibility in case I had an accident on the way home. I stilled any withdrawal symptoms when I got back to my car, and drove home.
Although I support any laws against drunk driving, and punishments for such can be as severe as society deems needed, I was one of those alcoholics that was able to drive while under the influence. Someone was watching over me, for whatever reason.
I rejected detox and rehab. I just felt that the rigidity of the controlled life in rehab (and the eventual halfway house) would not work for me. Years later when I saw the daily schedule of a Benedictine monastery, it reminded me of the rehab center’s schedule, only more libertine.
I lost the job, which was fine as I detested it (though I now enjoy the knowledge I learned which I find useful today. No, don’t ask what it was.) I started going to AA meetings. A family member found me a local daily meeting.
I went, listened, and read the literature. I love listening and reading. I am good at both. But I also loved drinking and kept doing it. Going to AA meetings was one way I could get out of the house to stop off at a liquor store and get vodka. Eventually, like after a few days, AA meetings stressed me and caused anxiety, so I had a few shots of vodka to get fortified before going in. It also gave me an infused knowledge of AA philosophy, which I shared at meetings. I could expound on AA.
After 7 months of this, the alcohol started taking its toll on my health. I was also making an increasingly bigger idiot at AA meetings. I was physically weak, and my drinking fell of as I found it difficult to drive to the liquor stores. I managed during days of some strength to get to one and stock up, but eventually I just could not do that. I went into withdrawal, had the D.T.’s and hallucinations (teeth falling out and later armadas of ambulances parading up and down my street, passing me by.) eventually a real one stopped, bound me up in a little white jacket and hauled me to the local hospital where I was a guest for 6 days and $10,500 (by now paid off, by my efforts).
That concluded my drinking career. (I relapsed 3 1/2 months later, but that’s a post for some other time.). I did not stop drinking because I did AA’s Step 1 (“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”). I stopped drinking because I couldn’t get to a liquor store, and stayed mostly stopped because I dried out in the hospital. The relapse story can wait.
That’s it for now. Not as shocking or as scary as you’d find in AA literature or told in AA Newcomer meetings, but that’s my story. Thank you for reading.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)