60 days ago I had my last beer.
I used to be able to drink a beer faster than almost anyone else I knew. Actually, I may still be able to. I could pick up your pint of beer, and before you turned around the pint would be gone, leaving you wanting. Nobody ever got too mad at me for stealing their beer–normally they were impressed by how quickly I had made it disappear and would then inquire about how I had learned the skills to achieve such a feat. The truth is, I had learned how to do that because I didn’t want to be rejected by anyone, and (thanks to the groups I found myself hanging out in) I thought if I could drink faster than they could, they would accept me. This desire left me with a gift of being able to impress people at parties with what one of my friends lovingly referred to as “Matt’s Magic Trick.”
I never really thought of myself as an alcoholic. (Drug addict? Yes. Definitely. Alcoholic? No.) My friends and I used to joke about how we all drank, all day, every day, and it wasn’t a big deal because we were caught up on our bills, and most of us still had enough disposable money left over to do basically whatever we wanted. It didn’t matter if I started drinking at 11:00 a.m. on occasion. I was just doing what I needed to in order to feel what most people would probably refer to as normal. I always thought that since I had stopped using cocaine, ketamine, MDMA, heroin, and cigarettes, and was able to hold myself to only drinking, I was in the clear as far as addiction goes. I was wrong.
I’ve stated before, and will definitely state again, that nobody on this planet is as good at lying to me as I am. Truly, I am a thing of wonder when it comes to convincing myself of things I may not want to know or am afraid of realizing. I never thought I had a drug problem until my dealer told me I had one. I never thought I was a self-mutilator until Sally pointed it out to me. I never thought I had a drinking problem until I made a joke about the amount I drank, and a friend of mine told me I had a problem.
“I don’t remember the last time I went 24 hours without drinking.”
Twelve words that changed my life.
Hang on. I need to stop here. As anyone reading this can see, this story is titled “My Struggles With Addiction, Part II.” If you have not had the pleasure of reading Part I, then you should probably do so. If you want a personal copy of Part I, please comment on this with your email address, or email me, or contact me on Facebook, Twitter, whatever, and I will send you that story as well. Much of what is going to come up next is addressed in the previous story.
I, when I wrote Part I, embraced my addictions. I knew I didn’t want to be a drug addict anymore, but I also knew that my choices in life led me down a road of addictions I struggled with every day (hence the title of these two stories). I assumed that admitting I had these problems, actively attempting to control them, and not allowing them to get out of hand would be all I would need. I’m not going to lie, it worked – for a little bit. Until sometime in my alcohol-fueled existence, I had become dependent on the one thing I had been using in order to not use the other substances that had been slowly killing me.
It’s amazing how people will say something in an attempt to give hope to those who need it most, without realizing they are supporting the exact behavior that resulted in the addiction in the first place. “Congrats on being clean for a week. Let me buy you a shot to celebrate.” “You quit drinking! Good for you. You wanna hit this?” “Hey, no drugs are holding you back. You want a beer?” These people are trying to avoid this type of behavior but instead are being rewarded with it.
The easiest way to think about it is to consider a very intense relationship from your past, that was also very toxic. We have all had at least one of these. I have had three. This was that magical relationship where the other person was the most amazing person in the world for a very long time. They seemed to be the person who made all of the darkness go away. Every wrong you committed in your life seemed worth it because it had led you right to them. Slowly though, things started to change. They became clingy. They became jealous, and accusations were thrown wildly, like baseballs in a little league game. After getting kicked out of your own house at three in the morning, you decided it was time to break free of the person who was holding you down, back, and behind.
There are two schools of thought on how to handle such an event. You can either wean yourself off the person by attempting to be friends and slowly growing apart as you see less and less of each other and your mutual friends all start to pick sides eventually splitting the friend group. Or you cut yourself off from the person 100%. You don’t see your mutual friends, except in the fortuitous fashion, and slowly you are the one forgotten by the group. The latter way hurts more, hurts deeper, but heals quicker.
You now have that person out of your life. You can get back to working on yourself. You can attempt to be the person you’ve always wanted to be. If you have the proper support group, you can lean on them in the tough times, and hopefully they have the correct words of wisdom to get you through the nights when all you want to do is call the other person, tell them you are sorry, and beg them to get back together. Over time, you think about them less, and your desire to contact them wanes as the wounds heal bit by bit. Your friends say you look better, that you appear to have more life in your eyes, and they are proud of you for not faltering in your attempt to live a better life.
Now instead of imagining the end of a human relationship, imagine you just quit drinking or using drugs. You can try to be friends with your ex, but that typically leads into a backslide, and eventually you find yourself lying in bed, rubbing your head, wondering where everything went wrong. You can try to stay friends with the friends, but eventually you will see the ex and won’t be able to say no to hanging out with them. This will lead to another backslide, and you will wake up the next morning wondering how you got right back to the place you promised you would never be again.
I have been sober for 60 days. I don’t remember the last time I was sober this long. I can honestly say I don’t think I have been sober for 60 days since I’ve been 19, which was basically a lifetime ago. I should thank the people who had a hand in helping me make the decision to “break up” with my ex, but they know who they are. I have thanked them personally many times over the last couple of months.
When I wrote Part I, I said I didn’t know how long I was going to be able to keep up my sobriety and that every day was a struggle. I was not wrong. Every day is a struggle. Every day hurts. It hurt when I quit using blow. It hurt when I quit using ex. It hurt when I quit smoking. It just hurts. Every day I am forced to make a decision on whether or not I should have a drink, or go another day without one. I would like to say it’s an easy decision to make, but it’s not. Some days (like last night, and today) are more difficult than others. Some days I don’t think about it (much).
I can’t promise that I will never backslide. After all, I am human (an almost perfect specimen, but still human), and we are known to err. I can only say that every day I will attempt to make the conscious decision to want to remain sober, and hopefully whenever life gets to be too hard, whenever I want to break down and have a drink, or a bump, or a cigarette, I will have my support group to lean on. Luckily, I have a great support group who doesn’t want to see me accidentally dial my ex in a time of low self-esteem. I truly appreciate that because I don’t want to wake up one morning, stuck in the same predicament I have found myself in so many times in the past, wondering how everything went wrong.