May 27, 2021
5 mins read
On May 27th, 2011 my new doctor told me I was an alcoholic. He was the first person to name me thus and I'll never be able to accurately describe the compound emotions of deep shame, rending grief - and busted-ass relief - that I experienced at his utterance.
He asked me if I'd ever tried to stop drinking.
I replied, "I've tried, but my life didn't get any better. So I gave up."
He looked right at me and said, 'You don't quit for your life to get better. You quit because you have a disease and it is your responsibility."
I'll owe this man a debt of gratitude for the rest of my life.
It's impossible to sum up ten years of continuous sobriety - no alcohol, drugs, or intoxicants of any kind and that includes ten years' of births, deaths, illness and health, parenting and marriage and family woes and celebrations, beautiful milestones, depth-of-despair nights, and regular old boring-ass days - it's impossible to sum this up in a pithy post and a big part of me wanted to just make short mention and move on. I do have a life. I have stuff to do, today. I have a career, a family, and a host of friends and they keep me busy.
But today is a day people might listen to me. And if they listen to me, they may save a whole fucking life.
Maybe even their own.
We addicts are a blight, a punchline. When we're in active addiction we are mocked; labels slapped on us, nasty nouns that are murderous, that cut to our heart. We are a joke at best; sub-human or monstrous at worst. We aren't treated as ill - that is for sure. We are ignored in mental health social justice circles. Let's get real. We're just pieces of shit, even if people aren't saying it aloud.
If we die, the story is hushed up. Families write in our obituary: "died suddenly", "died after a short illness" after we've drowned, confused our medications while lit up, after our livers have blown, after we've succumbed to stroke, after we've shot ourselves in the head, after we've driven ourselves into oncoming traffic. Our surviving families think more of their reputation than the truth. Half the family hushing it up doesn't want to look at their own addictions; the other half hates us for who we are and what we did. By sanctifying us and whitewashing our stories they do their part to keep this scourge unabated: eating up lives, destroying happiness, devouring families.
I hate this. Cowards! Name the battle we lost. There's nothing shameful that we did.
But: some of us recover.
And when we recover, we're ignored. We're a little bit of inspiration-porn and that's about it. Post on socials that you've got thirty-four days and you get lots of love. Post that you've got thirty-four years and you get lots of yawns.
Sometimes I think the only people who truly understand us, are others who've recovered.
But I want you to understand us. I want you to understand me.
So I want to talk about my recovery family for a bit.
That's who this saintly doctor handed me off to: to meetings, to a collective group that taught me everything worthwhile I've known about toughness and compassion; a group that taught me how to wait my turn, to put in good work without dominating the show. A group that taught me when and how to stick up for myself, and the importance of refraining from harmful action. A group of people who helped me through each step of the way. They saved me misery and death, and they saved my loved ones from bottomless agonies.
Most of my friends and family have no idea what they were spared.
Stay sober long enough and one day you'll get your ass kicked good - and you'll stay sober through it. I sat in a candlelight meeting in 2014 after the worst shock of my life and and I couldn't speak; all I could say was, I am grateful for my sobriety. The comfort and love in that room, the experience of being Known in how deeply I was suffering, was a precious gift I still can feel today. I was safe that night - I've been safe ten years' worth of nights. The thought of picking up never occurred.
I've been a member of many groups - paid, volunteer, professional, non-profit, et cetera - and as wonderful as these societies have been, nothing has come close to delivering what my recovery family provides. Until the day I die I will never forget these individuals and the way they helped me - and still do - and I won't deviate from the principles they demonstrate. I'm a member in good standing. I re-commit to this every day of my life.
There are millions of addicts and alcoholics suffering, still trying to make it work, still trying to "moderate" or shifting to another drug or complex cocktail. It's all a desperate game. On May 27th, 2011 with the help of this doctor I perceived the utter futility of continuing down this path.
Then I spent ten more straight years of doing something about this - every single day.
That's why I have my life to share with you, today. I like to think I've helped others, too.
If someone you know is making rules, writing dates on calendars. If she tells you, "Oh I don't really drink" and next weekend you see it in her hand. If you just know something's wrong and nothing seems to be adding up:
She's probably just like me.
She's going to incur misery after misery and she may very well die (and take out others on the way) and you'll be so angry and confused about the waste of it all.
I lived, and I plan to keep on living. I like living for myself - but I'm here to live for the next person who's ready.
To be a bit cliché: and forgive me for this, but it really is my birthday:
It is an absolutely wild fucking ride!
Thanks for my sobriety, homies.