Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Otero County, New Mexico
Lautca/My story - Nineteen years in late October 2016
I hope there are more than a few sober alcoholics for whom attaining sobriety and staying that way wasn't too much of a horror story. Maybe that can happen from first getting a lot of practice at trying to get sober? I dunno, I had a bit of practice first, and then later on skipped most of the horror story when actually getting sober and staying that way. I got sober and stayed that way in late October, 1997, exactly nineteen years ago.
Where the horror story comes in is what happened to me to become an alcoholic to begin with, just like a lot of others who self-medicate in what becomes the wrong approach to cope with what can often be a very confusing, nasty, and unforgiving world.
But first things first!
Because of a whole bunch of problems caused by a profoundly abnormal early childhood that isolated me from nearly all meaningful human contact, but was otherwise totally without violence or abuse (at least away from school), I never felt normal as a kid. Not feeling normal before ever taking my first drink continued on to high school, and after discovering alcohol, on through high school and college all the way until I was forty-seven years old when I quit and stayed quit. When I was probably 17, I discovered that a small amount of alcohol made me feel normal. At 17, how did I know my usual state was not feeling normal when I had never experienced feeling normal before? Easy! After I took a drink, all of a sudden I could effortlessly be just like everyone else without my knees shaking, my voice failing or stammering, and people were suddenly interested in me and they talked to me. A major thing was that no one knew I was under the influence of alcohol because my speech wasn't slurred, my balance was fine, my thought processes were still quick and normal, and I didn't become aggressive or behave differently. I didn't have to consciously control my behavior or "maintain", I was still the same kid intellectually, but now articulate. Being able to speak like normal people as well as be unflustered around others wasn't even remotely possible when I was sober. Finally! I loved being like everyone else! Being in a crowd was easy because I was relaxed and my words came easily. I could talk to more than one person at a time, I was not afraid to introduce myself to strangers, especially young women, and on-and-on with being able to do what everyone else could do but I couldn't without alcohol.
Alcohol never interfered with getting pretty good grades in high school and college, mainly because I wasn't old enough to get it on my own. I was going to university when I turned 21, and it didn't interfere then because my education was far too important to mess up. But when I finished going to university I was 25 and had a job waiting for me running a small farm where I didn't have to punch a time clock, set an alarm to get up in the morning, wasn't responsible for the well-being of any other person but myself. It was a drunk's paradise! I didn't dive into being a drunk right away, but I did have a little beer or whiskey to drink a few times a week whenever I was reading a detective story or Zane Grey western. I slowly slipped into being a professional drunk over several years and hit a peak of 1.75 liters of 80-proof (40% alcohol) vodka or whiskey a day, but because driving wasn't normally part of my job I was still always able to organize harvesting crops, take care of many late night/early morning emergencies when steers got out or the creek rose and was starting to threaten the house. After twenty years went by, a very lovely woman found me to be the man she was looking for, so we connected and shared our lives. Maybe eighteen months later, some time after I turned 47, she told me she loved me madly no matter what, but if I quit being a professional drunk she'd love me even more! I had tried to quit both drinking and smoking many times before we ever met, and I knew just how bad failing at something really important felt, and I was wondering how I was going to succeed this time. I had never had enthusiastic support before, and that made me feel real good about it. I decided I was going to succeed at quitting this time because one's state of mind is a pretty big part of pulling off something difficult, especially when succeeding is also important to someone else who really loves you. So I grit my teeth and got ready for an unknown period of torture from lack of sleep and irritability that I had already experienced from previous quitting attempts. I had never experienced anything close to convulsions or DTs before, so that stuff didn't worry me.
But right then fate sure intervened. Right then I also had a large basal cell carcinoma between my nose and my right eye growing out of control in a bad place to get to. Basal cell cancer very rarely ever metastasizes, but time was pressing to remove it before it involved my eye. The facial reconstructive surgeon I chose was a nice guy my mom knew. He had been an army doctor in World War Two and nothing phased him. He took a look at me and said he could do it okay, but he knew I was an alcoholic and smoker, which would make healing problematic. Instead of just telling me to quit smoking and drinking like doing that was no different than abstaining from lemonade and candy bars, he told me he knew doing that was going to be really tough. He said he'd prescribe enough Seconal for two days plus one more for the morning of my surgery. He also warned me that drinking and taking Seconal could be fatal and if I thought I couldn't do that we could call it off right now and I could go find another surgeon. I got the Seconal, and it kept me from going through the roof before the surgery. Not smoking was far worse than not drinking. I had the surgery, and when I left the office I was given a pain prescription for Darvacet (which is no longer used). A very strange thing happened as soon as I took the first Darvacet tablet. Within a few minutes my intense craving for both alcohol and nicotine totally vanished! I had enough Darvacet for seven days, so things were looking good. A week later I had the stitches removed, but at about 2:00 am the next morning a tiny artery where a stitch had been in the wound burst, so I had to make an early morning emergency trip back to have the wound re-opened to cauterize the bleeder. Because the wound was hurting really badly again, I was prescribed another seven days of Darvacet, which was about the maximum number of days it can be taken without causing physical dependency like morphine/oxycontin do. So, after fourteen days of taking Darvacet, I had zero discomfort, zero desire for alcohol, zero desire for nicotine, and zero desire for more Darvacet! That was exactly nineteen years ago, and I haven't looked back or counted my blessings since because the way I was able to painlessly and effortlessly quit both alcohol and tobacco on the same day was some kind of miracle I'm never going to question.
After I was sober and smoke free, my companion and I didn't break up like often happens when someone gets sober. Things got better instead. Because I loved someone who loved me in return was part of my life, I didn't need alcohol to feel normal like I had self-medicated with long ago. About validation by others, that IS something you can't do for yourself because people can't live alone as hermits in a vacuum and still be emotionally healthy. "No man is an island" kind of thing. Normally, you get validated as a person while growing up and later by the family you and someone suitable make for yourselves. But that just doesn't always happen because the people who are supposed to care for you when you are a child don't, the nasty uncivilized behavior of both playground and adult bullying and ostracism that goes unchecked and ignored by those who should know better, and on and on with barbaric behaviors that do no one any good are way too common. It is too bad some people have to wait until later in life to figure out how to get what they need to function normally, and we are all aware that some of us never get there.
As of fourteen years ago my companion and I aren't together anymore, but we are still quite fond of each other. She's responsible for me becoming able to feel normal from within, all by myself. She did it by finding and then cementing in the last brick I needed to complete my wall, the brick that should have been put in 60-something years ago by a loving adult care giver when I was a very small and still busy growing up. She's also one of the nicest people I have ever met.