“It’s taken a long time for me to get here”

I haven’t written about this yet for a couple of reasons.  First, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t put any artificial time limits on myself — I didn’t want to declare that I was taking a 30/60/90 day break from booze.  Secondly, I wanted to see how this worked out.  Finally, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame.  I’ve learned that I don’t have to be ashamed because I’m taking positive action to make my life better.

I’d been suffering for a long, long time and I secretly knew it was time for a change, but I couldn’t bring myself to make the change.  On September 21 of this year, I woke up full of regret.  The night before, I’d had several glasses of bourbon, several beers and half a bottle of wine.  I didn’t count my drinks anymore, but I knew it was a lot.  The recycling told the story.  I was fuzzy on the details of the night before, but I knew we’d had some family over for dinner that I’d cooked and I was reasonably sure that we’d had a good time, that I hadn’t been an overt ass or hurt anyone, and I didn’t burn dinner.  I may have served steak that was so rare it was blue in the middle though.

I went about the morning business of getting my son up, making his breakfast and lunch and dropping him off at school. When I got home, I brewed some coffee and sat on the back porch to write in my journal.

September 21, 2015
Severna Park, MD / 65F, Cloudy

I cannot keep living like this. This is not living. This is a slow, painful suicide. What else can I call it, but that. Night after night of not quite enough booze to kill me has to be taking it’s toll.

I am terrified of the thought of AA. Terrified of not having a drink ever again. Terrified of the stigma that society puts on people like me. The ones who can’t drink within reason.

The first few gulps at the end of the day seem to put my world back on it’s axis. Level things out — but it almost always ends in guilt and shame.  Deep senses of depression.

So, I have to make a choice.  I have to stand like a warrior and fight against this foe who is trying to and eventually will kill me. It’s time to stop this madness.

It’s time for AA.

I didn’t have a drink that day. I’d planned to go to an AA meeting that night, but I didn’t make it.

See, it was Monday night, and we had soccer practice at 5:00. And I had to make dinner. And Mr. Grey hadn’t done his homework before soccer practice.  And I was tired.  And if went to a 7:30 meeting I wouldn’t be home to put him to bed.  And…there were a lot of excuses.

The next day I had a full day, complete with driving to Northern Virginia and back for an unproductive meeting.  On the way home I thought about stopping for a bottle of bourbon, but decided that I would just have one or two of the beers in the fridge instead.

I drank all eight of them and wished I’d stopped for that bottle.

I got angry with myself.  I felt that familiar sense of isolation creep in.  I felt myself slip into that deep sense of depression.

At about 8:30, I told Mrs. TKD that I was setting my alarm and going to the Wake Up Meeting at 6:00 AM.

And I did.

It wasn’t the first time I’d ever been to a meeting.  Back in 2013, after my 30 days of sobriety, I went to a few meetings in the fall.  But I wasn’t invested in it.  I didn’t really want to stop drinking.  I would look around the room and find the person who really looked and acted the part of the alcoholic (dirty clothes, unshaven, perhaps shaking a little, and not speaking coherently).  There was always one.  And I would tell myself that I didn’t belong there.

I was clean.  I shaved most days.  I had a really good job.  I had my car.  I had my house.  I had a wife and son.  I was in no danger of losing any of that.  I couldn’t be “an alcoholic.”

I took exception with many of the 12 steps, not the least of which was the 1st step.  I wasn’t “powerless over alcohol” and my life hadn’t “become unmanageable.”

I compared out in 2013.

My drinking ebbed and flowed (flowed more often than ebbed) over the next two years.  I had some brief times when it wasn’t that bad.  But as I wrote on the 21st of September, things had gotten pretty awful and I knew it.

I’d spoken with a very good friend who was in the program in early August and his advice was to go with an open mind and see if there were things that I could take from a meeting.  He told me that I didn’t have to accept everything in the meeting and that I might need to try a few meetings before I found one where I was comfortable.

So, on September 23rd, I found myself in the 6:00 AM meeting at a local church.  As is customary, the person who opened the meeting asked if there was anyone new who’d like to introduce themselves by their first name.

“I’m Damien; it’s taken a long time for me to get here.”

I couldn’t say anything else.

I sat through that first meeting and felt an amazing energy as many people shared what their experiences had been in their first meeting.  I went back the next day.

In the past 35 days, I’ve only missed that meeting 3 times.  Two times because I really needed to sleep in, and one time because I was out of town.

I haven’t had a drink since the night of September 22nd and I’m feeling really good, both physically and mentally.  I sleep solidly every night. The cravings have mostly gone away. I don’t have any time frame in mind for not drinking.  I don’t worry about never having a drink again most of the time, and I’m not counting the days.  My daily goal is to get through the day without a drink, and most days I’m not struggling with that goal.

I’m learning how to live again and I’m grateful that I am.

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