Enthusiasm for Life
Randy R., Ohio
Hello, my name is Randy. I am an alcoholic.
I am 49 years old, and I am from the state of Ohio, USA. My sobriety date is August 17, 2006, and of course I have a sponsor who very wisely shares his experience and guides me.
Ohio is a Midwest state. It's northern border is Lake Erie, One of the Great Lakes. I live about seventy miles due south of Cleveland, and only thirty-seven miles south of Akron to give a better reference. We have (or used to) a fairly large industrial base. Ohio has a large amount of land that is used for agricultural purposes. I say this to let you know I didn't have to go far to enjoy all the glitz and glamour of the night life in the cities, and yet I was completely at home (and much more comfortable) in the rural countryside area's with a few cases of beer in the cooler, camping, fishing, or swimming in a strip pit.
There is alcoholism on both sides of my family. My grandfather on my mother's side lost his life as a result of this disease. I was five when he died. Can't remember his face, but I can remember him taking me to the bar, sitting on the bar-stool sipping on a soda while he drank something brown in a short glass. He never let me drink any, but I remember being curious.
Whether it was the innocence of childhood, or an omen of what was to surface in my life, I do not know.
I don't necessarily believe in the genetic component theory regarding this disease. To this day, I have never seen my mother or recently deceased father (due to cancer) drunk. I know I became an alcoholic all on my own. My childhood was good, we didn't have much, but all our basic needs were well
met. We took vacations once in a while, and did other family orientated activities. Wasn't a storybook life, but it certainly wasn't one of strife, yelling, fighting, no food, or any other condition associated with a dysfunctional family.
Dad came from that late 40's early 50's mold, where the man of the house doesn't openly show emotion in front of the family. I didn't really have a close relationship with my father, he was just busy working and providing for the family. He went to some of my football games and such. We used to go hunting together. I caddied for him on the weekends when he would go golfing, but I didn't really have that closeness with him. With that, as the oldest child. I used to run around with the other neighborhood kids and basically do whatever I wanted. As long as I went to school, got passing grades, showed up for dinner, did chores around the house, and came home at night. I was considered a good kid. My mother was basically just there, doing her motherly duties and going along with my father's wishes.
I didn't get into trouble at school, or with the law. I tried beer once when I was eight or nine years old, and I didn't like the taste. I couldn't understand how Dad drank the stuff. Well, that soon changed when I turned fourteen years old and began High School. Some of the other kids in the neighborhood had older brothers or sisters who would buy beer for us. I had this friend who was only three years older than I, but had a beard and looked like he was thirty. We could get beer anytime we had the money.
What started out as adolescent fun and just an occasional venture regarded as "something fun we thought we were getting away with", soon came to be a fairly regular habit. From the first days of my drinking, I had but one purpose, that was to get drunk. I didn't care about dancing, meeting girls,
or showing off. I just wanted to drink. Looking back in sobriety, I can now see my alcoholic tendencies were established well before what I consider my
"Step-up" to the hard drinker stage.
High School was alright for me. I played sports. I was not the outstanding talent, hero player, or anything like that. I had my days and sometimes played above average, but for the most part I was not committed to any work ethic necessary to excel. That was a pattern for me throughout school. Whether the sports or the educational (book work), I just did enough to get by and do OK. Actually, I was able to finish all requirements for graduation a year early and in 11th grade as a junior I graduated from High School. I was 17 years old and ready to leave the nest.
I decided to enter the Armed Forces and had to have my parents sign for me as a minor. I was off to basic training, completed that phase, and was assigned to my school squadron for training. The first night there, trainee's fresh out of Basic training were not allowed to leave the barracks except for one hour to get any necessary toiletries, snacks, or make a phone call. Back in the mid-1970's that we are now talking about, there used to be Beer and soda vending machines next to the area in the barracks designated for recreation. I used my hour to go to the PX and get a 10 dollar roll of quarters to feed into the beer machine. This night turned into what I remember as my first blackout. I remember playing pool in the recreation room, and waking up from a sleep under the pool table. That is all I remember from that night.
I had thought I achieved some pinnacle in drinking. I had gotten falling down drunk and "passed-out". Now I had something to chase, and I did. I was in communications and throughout my assignments, I was associated with hardworking maintenance/mechanic/repair type of folk that believed when you work hard you are entitled to play hard, and on many occasions we did. At the time it was perfectly acceptable. We used to have officers come and drink with us, because they knew where the "fun" would be.
This "work hard, you deserve to play hard" philosophy became the standard for my drinking, coupled with the belief that you didn't do it right unless you got slobbering drunk and passed/blacked out. I was 21 when I finished my time in the military, and pretty much an every day drinker, but only binging
on the weekends. I returned home to use my military benefits and attend college.
I joined the National Guard and enrolled into college. I had arranged my military benefits in a way that I had four years of undergraduate studies paid for 100%. In fact. I was making money. I wasted it all because I was now hitting the bars during the week, and getting drunk every weekend. After a year and a half of college I dropped out in the middle of a semester using the excuse "I had a drinking problem". I never said I was going to seek help and had no intentions of doing so.
The year is 1983, I got a job and basically did what I was doing for the next 6 years. Drinking off and on during the week and drunk every weekend.
In 1986 I was married to a women who had some of the same habits I did. We started a family and in 1989 our daughter was born. Of course with the pregnancy, my wife had stopped drinking. I had cut back on my drinking, and decided to return to college on a part-time basis before I lost my military benefits. My grades improved, I was doing much better in college and now much more committed. Our son was born in 1990. It was a hectic time, my wife was working full-time, I was working full-time, attending college part-time, and doing my National Guard military time. My wife worked afternoon shift, then midnights. I took care of the children as any good father would do. Loving them and caring for them.
In 1994 I graduated from college. It was a proud moment for my family. I was the first to do so. I know the only reason I was able to accomplish this was
I had become the "occasional drinker". After 5 years of attending college part time to keep me busy, I now had nothing to occupy my extra time. So, my good ole drinking habits started to surface. Instead of using my degree and seeking a better job. I was now drinking more and more. By 1996 I was drinking a 12 pack to a case(24 pack) of beer each night of everyday, 365 days a year. During my part time college days, one or two cans of beer every 3 or 4 days and the occasional drunk once every 3-4 months, had turned into an every day thing. To me it had become normal to drink everyday. I never thought about quitting, and had no resolve or desire to do so. I had passed into that state, that tragic situation, where the most powerful desire to stop drinking would be of no avail. I didn't even have the desire and I was unaware.
I squandered my education and years of hard work. How I was able to continue working and retire from the National Guard in 1999, I do not know. Actually
I do, it was GOD doing for me what I could not do for myself. About this time I had started to drink shots of alcohol and mixed drinks with my beer, because the beer alone was not getting me where I needed to be. You notice I didn't say "where I wanted to be". I was beginning to feel I had wasted my life and was questioning my purpose in this world. I felt as if I was watching my own life pass me by, almost as if I was watching a home movie. I was looking at my own life pass me by as if I were a person detached from my
own body. Even with these thoughts and knowing how much I was drinking, I was in complete denial. I didn't really have a problem, I'm responsible, I
show up for work everyday. My concept of a person with a drinking problem was the neighborhood drunk or wino sleeping on the streets, snuggled up next to the brown-bagged bottle. I didn't even know what an alcoholic was.
I got this idea that I could drink myself to death, and believe I began todo so on a sub-conscious basis. I know it was just the progressive nature of this disease. I was on a path of destructive drinking. My story is not one of big speed chases, crashes, or run-ins with the authorities. No geographic cures, failed marriages or relationships. I had no real consequences in my history. I had not hit my bottom. I came close a couple times, but jumped out of the shallow hole I had dug just to keep on progressively destroying my health. This is where I can speak firsthand about the chronic, progressive, and nearly fatal nature of this disease. Between 1999 and 2005, my tolerance to alcohol had gotten higher. The alcohol now totally controlled me, I could never get enough. I would stop by the bar after work and hammer down a combination of beer, vodka, Jeiger-Meister, and anything else somebody would buy me. Then, after drinking as fast as I could in a hour, I would go home and finish myself off with a case of beer. I would estimate I was drinking a case and a half of beer a day mixed in with half a liter of alcohol.
My health began a rapid decline. I'll list some of the issues I faced:
Extremely high blood pressure
Breathing problems, chronic bronchitis
Vitamin deficiency, improper diet, bowel irregularity
Morbid obesity, by 2005 I now weighed 357lbs
There were other issues; the shakes, the night sweats, frequent urination/bladder control problems, the dry heaves, getting sick after eating too much, nervous "tics" or "twitches", memory problems, and an inability to speak on occasion without stuttering because what I was thinking seemed to be short-circuited before it came out of my mouth. I was
a walking mess and just wanted to die in my sleep. I knew this was all due to my drinking. I looked at myself in the mirror and hated what I saw. I used to say to myself, look at what you have become. Through it all, NEVER ONCE, did I consider to stop drinking.
In 2005, the odds of getting caught drinking and driving finally caught up with me. I received my one and only DUI (driving under the influence). My blood-alcohol level was .303 and upon seeing the dash-cam on the patrolman's vehicle, you would never think I was that drunk. That's because my tolerance was that high. I got my sentence, had an assessment and lied, did the drunk-camp and lied, I did my jail time and lied. I played the victim and pretended this was only a one-time occurrence and got away with it because I had never been in trouble before. All any of the people I had come into contact with wanted to do was offer me help, and all I did was lie to them with the sincerity of a rock. I wasn't capable of telling the truth, my disease wouldn't let me, it just told me to drink more.
I kept things on the up-and-up and honored the stipulations of my sentence. I got my license back after six months and was off to the races. I took so many chances, it was like now the cat was out of the bag and I don't have to hide my drinking anymore. Matters did grow worse, and I was drinking more the ever. Then, on June 1, 2006 this disease tried to kill me.
I was home after a usual night of drinking, and for once made it to bed. I got up to use the bathroom, as I was turning around to sit down, I scratched or nicked a vein of my swollen leg on a sharp corner of the shower. While sitting there I suddenly felt something warm flowing down my leg. I looked down to see blood squirting out of my leg in a steady stream. It was shooting toward the shower 12 to 16 inches. I just looked at it and lifted my > leg up into the shower, thinking it would stop. It did not. I suddenly realized this was not good and attempted to stop the bleeding with a towel I had grabbed. It became soaked with blood. The bleeding did not stop and I was beginning to feel weak.
I knew I had to get help, for my wife was at work that night. I proceeded out of my bedroom and down the hall to the children's rooms. The trail of blood I had left behind looked like a blood splatter pattern the police analyze at a murder scene. The children came out of their rooms, and followed me back into my bedroom. I told my daughter I felt like I was going to pass-out and told her what to do. The next thing I remember I was lying on the floor of the bathroom in the puddle of blood I had left behind. Somehow the children got me off the floor, up onto the bed and applied pressure to the leg and stopped the bleeding. I was coherent enough to talk by now. I heard my daughter in a panic on the phone talking to my wife. She rushed home and took me to the emergency room. My blood pressure on arrival was 72 over 40.
The hospital put two or three units of saline into me to get my blood pressure back up to 110 over 70. They released me to go home. Between the date of my near death accident June 1, 2006 to my sobriety date of August 17, 2006. I was anemic, tired/fatigued, my optic nerve had hemorrhaged and I couldn't see well in low light situations, I had some medical tests done that left me with chronic diarrhea. I was absolutely miserable, I couldn't eat and through it all, I was still drinking. I felt total despair and loneliness.
Then, August 16, 2006 I became sick and tired of being sick and tired. The beer I was drinking didn't taste right, there on the spot, I put down the beer never to drink again. The next day I called our health insurance to find out what rehab facility they would pay for. I made all the phone calls, set everything up with the insurance and by 2pm that day I was in the treatment facility filling out the paperwork. For the FIRST TIME, in my life I came clean about my drinking, I became honest and didn't hide anything. I was beat, I surrendered. I later found out you have to surrender to win.
The first night there I was under observation and confined to my room. The next day passed by, and I was taken to my first AA meeting in a separate building. It was a Big Book study, open discussion meeting. As everyone went around the room introducing themselves, it became my turn. I said my name is Randy and I am an alcoholic. At that moment I suddenly became warm all over, I felt the burden of life lifting from my shoulders. I consider this to be my first spiritual experience, I realized I was where I should be. The obsession to drink did not suddenly leave me that day. That took a little more work on my part.
I was progressing through the out-patient treatment, doing everything suggested to me, I changed the people places and things I had been doing, I was going to meetings, and I didn't have the desire to drink. Yet, through it all I felt something was missing. I was 4 months into recovery and I didn't have a sponsor. I was doing everything I should be doing, but I wasn't working the steps, that was what was missing. I asked someone to be my sponsor and because of the time I had in already and graduating from the treatment facility. I quickly moved up to writing my fourth step. After two months I was ready to do my 5th step. After doing my 5th step, I was released from that burden of guilt, shame, and remorse I had been carrying in my heart. I saw the pattern of self-will run riot and where my self-centeredness manipulated those around me. My biggest resentment was against myself for not being smart enough to stop becoming an alcoholic. I learned that without help this disease would have claimed another victim.
I progressed up to my 8th and 9th step, and we all know that can be an ongoing process as more is revealed or people come back into our lives that we must make the amend to. I was practicing steps 10, 11, and 12 on a regular basis by the time I had my first year in. My life is so different now.
Almost all of the physical ailments I had previously mentioned were gone after 6 months of recovery. I lost 60 lbs of weight in the first 4 months. I lost 90 lbs by 6 months. I could get a good night’s sleep for the first time in years. My blood pressure has improved to the point I am on a minimal dose of medication. Now, I see my family practitioner once a year for a checkup. Mainly to watch my liver enzymes and keep track of any permanent damage I may have done to my liver. To this day my health is good, just getting old and some arthritis setting in.
I have acceptance, gratitude, willingness and a trust in GOD. I have learned patience, tolerance, and how not to be judgmental. I try to be humble and pray on my knees. I have come to know a new freedom and a new happiness. I have peace and serenity in my life that I never thought possible. I no longer walk through life in fear. I owe it all to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and the fellowship found within its rooms. I have been reconnected to my GOD.
Somewhere through my process of recovery I had the obsession to drink removed. I can't tell you when, but I think it was near the time I realized I had to smash the idea I could ever drink like a "normal" person. This realization was coupled with what the book tells us about no mental defense against the first drink. I know I have a disease I cannot beat. I can only keep it in check. I do that through maintaining my spiritual condition and working with another alcoholic.
My life is not without it's ups and downs, but through this program I have the tools to deal with life. I face life on life's terms. I am truly grateful to be an alcoholic. I have come to know a way of life I could never imagine in my greatest fantasies, and it is only possible through the effort I put into this program. If I want to keep it, I have to give it away and that is why I am telling you my story.
Once, my fondest wish was to die in my sleep. I now look forward to waking up each day and see the wonder of GOD'S creation. I have an enthusiasm for life. Today, I walk with purpose as I "trudge the road of happy destiny". My life means something at last and the most satisfactory years of my existence lie ahead. I believe this with all my heart and know it has only happened because of the "design for living" offered through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.