I’m sneaking this final installment in my Voices of Recovery Series in on the last day of the month. It has been a great priviledge to have these voices speak in honor of National Recovery Month. I hope that something in one of the stories has touched you and, if you are struggling, perhaps there has been something that helped you to reach out for assistance.
My name is Jeff and I have been sober for 22 years. My recovery started when my fiancée pushed the ring across the table to me saying, “I can’t marry an alcoholic.”
That was the first time anyone had used the “A-word” on me. The word had crossed my own mind very early. I think I was about 17 when I first thought to myself I don’t drink like other people. But at the time, I thought, yeah, but I’m too young to quit. I’ve got too many friends, too many parties and too much fun to have before I quit. Maybe I’ll get sober when I’m 30 and have no life (funny what our perspective is at that age).
My dad was an alcoholic and it was the DT’s and having a grand mal seizure at the age of 36 that got him sober. We were visiting relatives and he hadn’t been able to drink. They found him writhing on the floor at 5 a.m. and took him to the hospital. I was following my dad’s progression at 24 when I got the engagement ring back. I was nowhere near where he ended up, but was drinking the way he did when he was my age. Fortunately, because of my dad’s experience, and that he had explained there was a genetic component to alcoholism, I had a fairly good idea I was headed down that road.
Even so, if you had told me one week before I got the ring back that I’d be sober next week, I wouldn’t have believed it. I had no intention to stop. I knew I was screwing things up in the relationship, but I blamed just about everything other than alcohol. Plus, outwardly my life was pretty good. I was 24 and in graduate school with a 4.0 GPA, had just gotten a big raise on the job, and wasn’t facing any DUIs or any other number of “not yet’s.” I was a very high-bottom drunk.
But that was the outside. Inside, I had become increasingly isolated. Because I really didn’t know how I would behave once I started drinking (friends called it “The Dark Side”), I often woke up in shame and embarrassment from what I had done the night before. Or, if I had blacked out – which I did quite often – I had to call a friend to find out what I did the night before. . . and it usually wasn’t pretty. So, my solution to this wasn’t to quit or cut down, but to stay home. If I drank until I passed out in front of the TV, I couldn’t make a fool of myself. In reality, I never drank socially anyway. Drinking to oblivion was my preferred course, and people, with their judging and disapproval, just got in the way.
At the time I got sober, I was renting a room in a house and my landlord/roommate was an Episcopal minister. I came home with a distraught look on my face and she said, “You look terrible.” I said, “My fiancée just gave me the ring back. And I’m an alcoholic.” She said, “I know.” Because she had referred people from her church to AA, she had the meeting book in a drawer and told me there was an AA club nearby. I went to my first meeting that night. I’ve been sober ever since. I know a lot of people struggle “getting it” but I feel blessed that I got it on the first try. When I went to my first meeting that night, what I felt was a profound sense of relief. I thought to myself, there is an alternative. I don’t have to live like this anymore.
I was amazingly fortunate to have a group of friends, who, like me, were twenty-somethings in recovery. Though we were young, we were all very committed. We mostly attended old-timer meetings and they called us “The Brat Pack.” As a group of friends, we stayed very close and supported each other in recovery. We created our own social life and sober identity. I didn’t feel the tug of “old friends and old places” – though it helped that I had just moved to a city 1,500 miles from home and from my drinking buddies. I’m still friends with most of those I got to know in early sobriety. Most of them, like me, have 20+ years of sobriety and the gifts that come with it: generally stable lives, kids, good jobs and, most importantly, powerful spiritual practices.
I’ve been a servant in many ways within AA from starting meetings to chairing meetings, to being the coffeemaker or the speaker-finder for a speakers’ meeting. I’ve served as a GSR and a district representative, attending assemblies and conventions. And I’ve been a sponsor, which is the most important service position.
Along with some friends in recovery, I’ve also invested in sober living homes. People may think it’s a little crazy that all my retirement money is invested in these homes, that I’m putting my life savings in the hands of a bunch of drunks and drug addicts, but it can’t be much worse than Wall Sreet. I’m not convinced most of Wall Street doesn’t belong in the rooms, anyway.
Jeff is a Denver-based non-profit industry consulting company owner and lover of the Colorado outdoors.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or codependency issues, Contact me today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation to talk about how we can work together or find the right person for you.