April is Alcohol Awareness Month. This month, we will publish stories from real people dealing with alcoholism. Click this link to view all of our alcohol-related resources and tools. Please also visit Alcoholics Anonymous in Vermont. Our first personal story is from Justin, who has been sober since September 19, 2010.
I have realized change isn’t easy, especially when dealing with addiction. It was a slow process for me, starting with the realization that I had a problem, moving to the decision that I needed to do something about it, to finally taking action. The outcome is that my life has improved dramatically. It was not easy admitting I had a problem with alcohol — and it was even harder to ask for help.
Before I started, I perceived drinking alcohol as a really fun thing to do. Family parties, horseshoes, laughter, and the cooler filled with spiked punch I wasn’t allowed to drink. This perception of carefree times is still true for many people. For me it was soon smashed with two DWIs before the age of twenty-one, and a third by twenty-eight. Alcohol drove me into a deep depression. By the time I realized alcohol was having a negative impact on my life, it was too late. I could not seem to stop for any substantial length of time. Drinking had also stopped working for me. It no longer helped bury emotions or be a social lubricant. I simply drank because I felt I needed to. It was the solution to all the problems I had in my life. Yet, alcohol was either causing these problems, or it was compounding them. See the vicious cycle? I like to compare this time in my life to a line in the movie Austin Powers where the fat guy says: “I eat ‘cause I’m fat and I’m fat ‘cause I eat.” That was me with alcohol. “I drink ‘cause I’m depressed and I’m depressed ‘cause I drink.” Yet, it took a while for me to decide to do something about it.
Two years after I realized I had a problem, I began what I like to call my “three-year misery tour,” which was my attempt at quitting on my own. It did not go well at all. It resulted in a broken relationship, lying to people about my drinking and a third DWI. At the end of these three years, I was at the end of my rope. I decided I was not going to be able to do this alone. I took action and went to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.
What AA did for me was put what I believe to be my disease (alcoholism) into perspective. It connected what was going on inside my head with the chaos of my life on the outside. It helped me understand why I cannot stop when I start drinking. Or more importantly, why I could not stop myself from starting to drink in the first place. I know now it was never the twelfth drink that got me, but the first.
Armed with knowledge of my disease and supported by people who understand me, I have not had the first drink since September 19, 2010. The framework of AA has provided me with a better solution to life’s problems, and I am now a happier person. In the long run, the program has proven to be quite simple, not easy, but simple. I now have the joy of helping others change their lives when they have made the decision they need help and have reached the action stage.
-Authored by Justin