When I first got sober, I had no prior knowledge of alcoholism or the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I had never been to a treatment facility, intensive outpatient or sober living. It had never even crossed my mind that the reason I felt miserable and hopeless, that my relationships with friends and family were failing and that I was doing nothing and going nowhere was due to my drug and alcohol abuse. Drugs and alcohol, the one thing that I thought was making life worthwhile, were robbing me of my teenage years and my family.
My drinking and my drug use caused many consequences in my life. One of the biggest ones being that I had burned the bridges between myself and my family. I had no regard for how much my selfishness and dishonesty was taking a toll on them. Looking back on it, I can picture my mother. All of those sleepless nights, the disappointment of only wanting to spend time with her son, the feeling of blame she undeservingly put on herself. I can still see her eyes the day I went out to get drunk for my last time, pleading with me to not do this again, to not put her through all of that for another countless night. Yet I went out again and I had no control over it. For years, I thought that I was the one choosing to drink and use the way that I did. Yet after getting sober, I saw that drugs and alcohol were the focal points of my life; it was the only thing that was important to me and I would get high by any means necessary.
After years of heavy drug and alcohol abuse, I was at a breaking point internally. On the inside was where the real turmoil was. I had forgotten what feeling truly happy really felt like and I had not had a connection with anyone in years. On the outside, I could present well if I had to, but no one including myself would have thought that I was suffering from the disease of alcoholism. What drinking did for me was like nothing I had experienced up to that point. It made all of those feelings of never being good enough, the sense of discomfort and the constant thought of what other people thought of me go away. It made life bearable. Up until that point, I had always felt different, less than. But alcohol and drugs evened the playing field-until it didn’t.
The lifestyle that I had lived had taken a toll on me physically. I had to be taught at the beginning of my sobriety how to live in a healthy way. This meant eating three meals a day, staying on top of personal hygiene and incorporating a new sleeping schedule. All of this was foreign to me because for years the toll that I was taking on my body did not matter. As long as I was high, I was happy. I quickly began to gain (much needed) weight and I started to get the color back in my face. Every time I would see family, they would comment how much better I was looking. I remember my mom telling me that I had the twinkle in my eyes again like I did when I was a kid.
I experienced many internal hurdles in the first few months of sobriety. I was still in denial that I was even an alcoholic until I had months of sobriety. This was due to a skewed perception of mine of what a true alcoholic is. I thought you had to be sleeping under a bridge with a brown paper bag to qualify for AA. My denial was also due to my upbringing. I had lived with a practicing alcoholic my entire life and I was afraid of accepting that I was like him. The way that I worked through all of the denial and the delusion was through reading the big book and having an amazing sponsor. I tried to argue and justify and rationalize the idea that I was not an alcoholic. Yet one thing I knew was this: I did not want to go back to the way that I felt on September 18th, 2016. I had the willingness to do whatever was asked of me if it meant that I was going to feel better. I was willing to go to any length to not feel like a total loser anymore, to not be hopeless. When I understood that I was an alcoholic, I also understood that drugs and alcohol were only a symptom of a much larger problem. That I was unable to deal with life healthily. I had to try to find a new way to recreate the feeling inside of me that drugs and alcohol gave me without drinking. I had to find a sense of purpose-a sense of self, without the comfort of taking a drink. This came from doing the right thing when no one was looking, helping out other people when they were struggling and from the unwavering support that I had my entire way through New Life House. Whenever I did not feel okay, I always had someone there to help me through and to guide me. Someone who had walked the road before me and knew what it was that I was going through.
The thawing out process that comes with early sobriety was not easy to maneuver. The external problems and internal beliefs that I had to confront were scary. But through the support of New Life House and everyone affiliated, the love of my family and alcoholics anonymous, I have my life back today. I can finally hold my head up high and be proud of who I am. I can smile and laugh, I can dance and sing, and be the son, brother, and friend that I never was. I am able to care about others and let them care about me. Today, I am happy, something I never would have dreamed possible.