November is a special month for me. It’s the month I sobered up.
Nov. 3, 1989, at 2 o’clock in the morning, I was so intoxicated in my own home, I fell through the glass top of my coffee table, cutting myself to smithereens, and almost bled to death.
It was the best thing that ever happened to me. The handwriting was on the wall. I had a serious problem with alcohol and drugs and, what’s more important, I realized I needed help. I could not quit on my own. I had tried it many times and, always, after a period of sobriety, returned to alcohol.
I put myself into a treatment program and, for the first time, took it seriously. The most important thing I learned was: I could not take the first drink. When I did, because I was alcoholic, it set up a chemical reaction in my body that I was powerless to control. It wasn’t the 10th or 15th drink that cooked my goose, it was the first. Once even an ounce of alcohol was in my system, I didn’t want to stop drinking.
The idea that I could drink like a normal person had to be smashed. The treatment program took care of that. I got a sponsor, attended meetings on a regular basis, and turned my life over to the will and care of God as I understood Him.
My whole life changed very rapidly, as if a magic wand had been waved in front of my face. I remember that first Thanksgiving. I was alone, separated from my family. I called and told my family that I was fine and that everything was going to be all right.
They asked me if I was high. I wasn’t high on mood altering substances, I was high on life, on the knowledge that everything was going to work out as long as I didn’t take that first drink. And I haven’t, for 23 years.
Some friends brought Thanksgiving dinner to me that day. Hallelujah!
Alcoholics and drug addicts are some of the most talented, creative, hard working people you will ever encounter. When they are sober. So why do they use and abuse drugs and alcohol? Good question. I can only speak from my own experience. For me, alcohol was an extremely powerful stimulant/sedative. One drink, and it was like an explosion going off in my head. Because it was so powerful, it was extremely addictive. Unlike normal drinkers, alcohol gets into my blood stream quite rapidly.
“Can’t hold his liquor,” is a pretty good description of me (and the kiss of death with “drinking buddies”). I spent my entire drinking career, trying to drink like “normal” people. I never got the job done.
There are some pretty good movies out about alcoholism and drug addiction. “Leaving Las Vegas” with Nicholas Cage and Elisabeth Shue comes to mind, along with “Days of Wine and Roses” with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. There’s a new one out, “Flight” with Denzel Washington and Kelly Reilly.
It’s an unbelievably poignant movie about the trappings of alcoholism and drug addiction. Note: As is in real life, each starring alcoholic has an able-bodied enabler.
The holiday season can be an awfully rough time for alcoholics.
Family gatherings are often ruined by the drunk in the bathroom throwing up, or worrying where (fill in the name) is and hoping he/she isn’t wrapped around a power pole somewhere.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Alcoholism is a brutal, deadly disease, but one of the easiest to cure.
Get help, and don’t take the first drink.