HD / @hdbigjourney
August 30, 2015
Well, here we go....
How did I miss the signs? Or more to the point, how and why did I ignore the signs?
Several years ago I bought a book called, Beyond the Influence: Understanding and Defeating Alcoholism. It's a great book. I have read it at least twenty times. No joke. Every month or so another bad drinking episode occurs, I wonder if "it" could be true, I read the book (or the sections that seem most applicable to me) and somehow…somehow!…I haven’t followed the signs.
In church one day I prayed (literally) for some signs ("yes or no!") of my condition. How is it possible that these were not enough:
- Reading that book so many times
- Having two employees call me in tears the morning after getting DWI’s
- The running list of "episodes" I have listed in my iPhone notes. Episodes that have scared me or worried me about my drinking over the past few years. 56 episodes strong. And those are just the "bad" ones worth writing down. (Wow)
- Having a childhood friend die of liver failure at 54
- Taking every alcoholism "quiz" too many times to count. (Even when I am less than completely honest the result is pretty much the same)
- The prevalence of alcoholism in my family
- The reading of literally every alcoholism memoir of which I am aware
When partying, a favorite saying of mine was, "I rarely lead but I will always follow."
(Not true, incidentally). Translated, this means, "you looking for someone to close it down with? I'm your man!!" I prided myself on my stamina. One Saturday last summer, at the beach, I arose at 9am (actually had 8 hours of sleep after shutting it down at 1am), poured a Bloody Mary, and proceeded to drink literally all day. When I was "full" from probably twenty beers, I switched to tequila and then red wine "with" dinner. I don't remember much of that night. But I do remember that this occurred one week after my most recent promise of, "never again."
I quit drinking for eight years from 2001-2009. Eight years! And yes, it was mostly a positive experience. I decided in 2009 (summer, I think) that I was ready to "try to drink normally." I had quit in 2001 on my own, (pretty easily except for the years of worry leading up to it LOL) and I think I successfully ignored the cravings in 2009 for about six months before giving in. I actually think I succeeded at "normal drinking" for awhile but…of course…this is progressive. I'm not sure how soon it was that I first started worrying again, but I know I've gone on for several more years since the reoccurrence of that "nagging feeling."
A quote I love, obviously paraphrased: "I'm not drinking alone if I go to a bar and there are other people there." That's me. I haven't drunk by myself in my house "much,” though I am certainly no stranger to knocking back a few alone on a bar stool at a local watering hole. On a business trip this summer, I spent $200 on dinner…by myself. The steak was good, I think. My expense report listed three "customers" who in actuality were not there. In the quizzes and books, this is a classic case. Does it count as sneaking drinks when you drink a couple of beers with your wife, and then when she goes in to take a shower you decide to have a few tequila shots, cleaning up all evidence before she emerges?!
How is this for crazy? Knowing I was "going to quit soon," my drinking actually escalated. "Hey, by such and such a date, I won't be drinking any more, let's go for it!" Not: "Maybe I should cut down." No, let's really go for it since it is ending soon. Ugh.
I have been frighteningly lucky: No DWI (pure luck), no car accidents (actual miracle), no injuries (actual miracle). No noticeable job problems. Good-Time Charlie. Meanwhile, I am slowly killing myself. So much energy expended on regret, shame, hangovers, guilt, etc. Yuck.
The lack of a change will kill me. Maybe not this year, but certainly too early.
I can recite this from memory from Beyond the Influence: "Alcoholism is a progressive disease that will only get worse if the alcoholic continues to drink." It's a sign.
The most recent book about alcoholics I have read is Mother's Milk, by Edward St. Aubyn. There is a passage about the main character which aptly describes the past few years for me:
“He had achieved the pseudo-detachment of drunkenness, the little hillock before the swamps of self-pity and memory loss. He saw that he really must get well; he couldn’t go on this way. One day he was going to drop the whole thing, but he couldn’t until he was ready, and he couldn’t control when he would be ready. He could, however, get ready to be ready. He sat back in his chair and agreed at least to that: his business for the rest of the month was to get ready to be ready to be well.”
Here we go. It's time. I'm ready.
About the Author
HD is a 53 year old native of Virginia who now lives in North Carolina. He and his wife of 30 years have 3 grown daughters, ages 26, 25, and 23. Hearon loves adventure and being active. He and "Mrs HD" do as much travel as possible, and his primary hobbies are running, cycling, reading, and sailing. They and their friends are live music lovers who see as many shows as possible.