About the author

If you are dealing with any level of alcohol dependence, I can write with certainty that you and I have some common experiences. I’ve been where you are.

In fact, King Alcohol had more than just a small hold on me. From the age of 18 to 51, alcohol almost completely defined who I was, where I went, who I spent time with and what I did in life.

Nobody wants to admit something like this - that somewhere along the way we have utterly surrendered our lives, our time, our relationships, opportunities - our freewill - to a chemical! We just threw up the white flag and said “you’re steering this ship, John Barleycorn.”

But as I finally began to break alcohol’s iron grip on me, I began to see this was the hard and inescapable truth: alcohol owned me. I learned later later on that it owns many, many people to varying degrees.

(If this rings familiar, go here for observations on the myriad and blatant lies society uses to sell us all a lifetime of chemical dependence.)

How I got here

If you’ve ever attended an Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step meeting, you’ve probably heard someone introduce themselves like this: “My name is (insert name), and I qualify.” Meaning, of course, that they’re a bonafide drunk or addict.

Well, I “qualify”, so here’s a rundown of my drinking life.

It all started many years ago in small village...

Scratch that. I’ll try and keep it brief.

I had what most would describe as an ideal childhood. My parents were loving and highly protective of me and my one sibling, a sister two and a half years older than me.

Both were professionals, stressed education, respect for adults, etiquette and hard work and the other ideals of the time.

We attended services faithfully, and I was involved in church groups and youth missions all throughout my school years.

Looking back, I can’t pinpoint any single thing that would indicate I would become a full-blow alcoholic by my early 20’s.

Except for one thing - an extremely nervous, seemingly restless disposition.

If you’ve ever read the stories in the back of the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, you might have noticed the term, “restless disposition” several of the writers use to describe themselves.

And so that term describes my nature as a child pretty well - almost perfectly in fact.

I always seemed to have a feeling I’d rather be anywhere other than where I was at any given moment. And I sensed an overwhelming, compelling desire for constant physical motion.

Alcohol removed that feeling.

When I had my first drink, a Coors beer in the classic 1980's aluminum can, it felt like someone had just released a giant pressure valve, and I felt me anxiety and fears dissipate instantly.

I chased that elusive feeling for more than 30 years; I never recaptured it to the same degree.

I found booze, along with my best friend, in the 11th grade. We drank five beers each on a perfect fall afternoon watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers vs The Florida Gators football game. I later described it to an AA sponsor as “a holy experience.”

I was an extremely heavy drinker from the start. I only drank beer - massive quantities, mind you - until my late 30’s. And then I “discovered” vodka, a cheaper and faster way to get to my desired state - oblivion.

From that point, I went on an accelerated slide - countless lost jobs, loss of marriage, homelessness, bankruptcy, home foreclosure, 22 sober living (halfway houses), significant health problems. On and on - the details are typical and mundane.

In a way, I’m grateful now that I found hard liquor. Otherwise, I might have remained a “functioning alcoholic”, trapped in what felt like a daily living hell, but still employed, married, etc.

Long road to the bottom

It took me over 10 years of drinking with complete abandon to finally reach my proverbial “bottom.” I went through eight or nine rehabs, lived at the Salvation Army for months at time and was homeless for several brief stints.

The years went by in a blur. I tried to stay in my two sons' lives but could not be there for them in any meaningful way. Today, it feels like a miracle that I again have a growing relationship with them. I don’t deserve it, but am so grateful for this gift every day.

During these years, I reached the point I could end all of it. I think most addicts and alcoholics eventually reach this point. But I was either afraid of death or just couldn’t get my mind around how to off myself with no loose ends.

In hindsight, I really think it was the enormous and constant sorrow of abandoning my family, my estranged wife and two boys that kept me searching for an escape from the trap.

The beginning of hope

After my last abbreviated stay at the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), I moved to a shelter in Dallas, TX with a mandatory and intensive program based on Alcoholics Anonymous.

I spent 18 months in three stages of that program - first sleeping on the floor, then moving to a shared room and finally to a shared apartment.

I got a good job in medical equipment sales, made a start at repairing the financial and emotional destruction I’d brought on my family and finally started to feel I had some value to offer the world.

Then, life happened to me. I was laid off from the job - although for once, through no fault of my own. I ran into financial difficulties and was reaching the end of my stay in the program.

The result: I went back to the only effective solution I’d ever known for the seemingly insurmountable waves of panic and fear - alcohol.

I spent three months on the express train of misery and self-pity (horrible and dramatic). And in a short time, I was as badly mangled as I was a year and half earlier.

Still, I’d known what sobriety felt like, and I was determined to get back there. So, I re-entered the treatment program, and started on the path one more time. I couldn’t know it at the time, but this was to be the final time.

Acceptance and surrender - the key to freedom

I’m convinced no one wants to see themselves as hopeless and helpless, as slaves to a soulless, mindless chemical. We seek freedom, hope and purpose - even when they seem so elusive and obscured. I believe it’s our natural state.

Even after all the destruction I’d wrought in my life and other lives, it was still exceedingly difficult for me to REALLY ADMIT THAT ALCOHOL DOMINATED ME. And I mean to my innermost self.

I am, if nothing else, an extremely willful person. All of us addicts are. How else would we find the strength to keep going for years on end in our hopeless state?

As I re-entered the program this time, I truly felt something was different:

  • I was finally able to admit that I didn’t control any part of alcohol. It completely controlled me. Even when I was sober it dominated my thoughts and actions.
  • Second, I heard a strong voice (it was shouting) in my head telling me that I had another chance - maybe my last chance.

And so, I got moving. I was driven by some power outside of myself, for I certainly had no power of my own at that time.

There were no spots in the shelter at the time, and so they allowed me to sleep on the floor for a week in the 12-step meeting room.

This was a blessing, it turns out. Every morning there was a prayer and meditation meeting in the room, and so I got up early at 5 a.m. because I had to and because I wanted to join in the meeting.

It was in these meditation meetings that I began my daily surrender to God of my lifelong problem. And by daily surrender, I really mean for that 20 minutes only. I was still mangled from the alcohol detox process, and my thoughts were a mess.

However, what the beginnings of these daily meditations did for me was to help me begin building a connection and open channel of communications with God. And I’ve continued this daily practice to this day. Every day.

Sometimes I’m into it, and sometimes I’m not. But the daily practice has set the foundation for daily surrender I know has kept me sober.

But it’s been so much more than sobriety for me. It gave me a framework for surrender. And surrendering myself to God has been my key to freedom.

Not only to achieve sobriety, but in finding a purpose - a true and meaningful purpose in life. And that purpose is to share my experience and hope with you - the potential or active alcoholic or addict.

I would not trade my best days drinking (and there were certainly a few of those) for one day today.

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