My name is Brian and I am a recovered alcoholic

My current sobriety date is 8 September 2010. (I say "current" because as addicts we know that we only have a daily reprieve from our addiction(s). My mantra is definitely "one day at a time!"

I first discovered alcohol at an early age. My dad was an alcoholic (he died sober!) and alcohol was always present in my life. "Can I have a sip dad?" was a common question for me, because I found that I liked the taste and, while I didn't know what it was doing, I knew that it was doing something! The craving was there from almost the first sip.

My family was loving but dysfunctional. I came to believe that I was accepted if I did what I was told; but not accepted if I didn't. In fairness, this was not the reality, but it was what I believed. So I became a people-pleaser. However, in so doing, I lost the person who was "Brian." I became the "Brian that you want me to be."

All of us do this to some extent, but I made it a mission. If I wasn't the "Brian you want me to be" then you would reject me and I couldn't live with that. (If you want to explore this concept, have a read of The Looking Glass Self at Wikipedia.)

I grew up wanting to be like my dad. He was "accepted," so if I did what he did, I would be "accepted" too.

And he drank alcohol! And he was accepted! And alcohol was a man's drink! So! ...

Alcohol is a depressant drug. One of the short term effects of this type of drug is that you tend to feel relaxed and less inhibited.

So here I was: a people-pleaser who was always on edge waiting for you to reject me, and not able to "be myself" because I was so busy being who you wanted me to be. What do you think a few glasses of alcohol did for me?

To state the bleeding obvious, I found that, after a few beers, I could tell you all to go and get stuffed (to put it mildly) and not worry about the consequences. This feeling was so good, so different, that if a few beers could make me feel like this, then what would a few more do!?

And so it began.

Sure I got drunk. Sure I had hangovers. But the feeling while I was drinking ... Wow! It overcame any and all of the "nasty" side-effects. What was feeling a "bit crook" every so often compared to the wonderful feeing of "freedom" while I was drinking?

However, there was another side-effect of alcohol to which I was oblivious - once I started a drinking session I didn't want to stop! Some people can have a few drinks and be done with it (bless 'em); I just wanted to keep on drinking! In the early days there were only two reasons to stop me drinking: closing time or being "paralytic".

A quick definition of an alcoholic: "one's too many and a hundred's not enough." Once I started drinking I couldn't/didn't want to stop. In a drinking session I drank myself to oblivion and thought that was normal.

In the Alcoholics Anonymous Fellowship we talk about our desire for imbibing as "fun; fun & trouble; trouble." It's a progressive addiction which I found to be very true. The progression is fast or slow depending on individual circumstances.

For me, the pure "fun" lasted about ten years. Then "trouble" began to creep in. But in my desire to maintain the "fun," I just ignored the "trouble" bit - until it was too late! After not too long, the "fun" completely died and I was left absolutely in "trouble."

I knew it, but I still couldn't stop. And, frankly, I didn't want to stop! My thinking was that trouble sucks! The problem was that I had stopped "controlling" my drinking. If I just get control, I'll get rid of the trouble and things will go back to being fun.

I tried - I really did. But I just couldn't make it work. The "control" would last for a few days but, every time, the craving for more would click in and I'd be off and running.

Ah shit! So this is my lot in life. May as well get used to it! What else could I do? I couldn't control it and I couldn't stop!

In 2003 my family got so worried that, unbeknown to me, they contacted a nearby rehabilitation centre and (in what I now think of as a "God moment") happened to find that an old friend was the manager! With them he arranged for an immediate intake but I had to ring him to confirm it and I had to go to detox before I was admitted.

I was so despondent about myself - the state of my health which had deteriorated to the extreme, and my full-on wish that I would just die - that I decided it was time! I really didn't know what I was getting into, but I didn't care, as long as something happened!

I went to detox, which did make me feel better, and I went through the rehab program, which I really enjoyed. I thought I had it made. I found Alcoholics Anonymous and identified with the program. Got as involved as I could, did all the suggested things, found myself a Higher Power - but looking back, I can see that it was all in my head. I thought I was honest, open and willing, and I think I genuinely was as far as I was able. But because I was so used to managing my life it was second nature to me, I was deceiving myself and was not really turning my life over to the God of my understanding.

Even with all the sincerity I could muster at the time, I was still living on self-will and making decisions that I thought were right, rather than truly asking for guidance from God. This was an innocent but fundamental mistake.

While I was in rehab my wife contracted lung cancer. I'd like to say I was devastated, but I wasn't. Looking back, she may as well have said she had a migraine for all the emotional effect it had on me. I don't know why I had no feelings about it. Speculating, I could have been numbed by the announcement, but it wasn't until I left the rehab that it had an effect on me.

I graduated from the rehab in March 2004. Full of "gung-ho" I embarked on my new life of "recovery."

In my own way I was sincere and full of my own spirituality. However it was shallow and self-absorbed. Everything revolved around me. I was what we term a "dry drunk."

A "dry drunk" is someone who stays sober but without the underlining foundation for recovery. It never works!

I found the thought of my wife having cancer quite hard to deal with. I coped for a time, but being a dry drunk and not doing the suggested things, I was destined for a fall. As the months went by, I found I couldn't stop thinking that a "couple" of drinks would help me settle down. Until one day I decided I'd just get a "small one" (375ml - 13 floz.)

Six years later! My wife died in 2007 (Christmas Eve!). I was devastated. I was virtually drinking around the clock. It was shades of 2003 all over again!

My daughter took me to hospital and I was placed in the acute-care ward. It took them some time to stabilise me - in fact after I went to rehab some two weeks later, I was still detoxing!

I was grateful for the rescue, but I was extremely worried. This was my last chance. If I didn't get recovery I was destined for an early grave. I had to get serious. And I did.

At my first group session in rehab, a young lady named Rachel commented "I have to listen with different ears!"

That comment hit me right between the eyes! It was my real "God moment." The young lady helped save my life. Somehow, I went from my head to my heart. I let go and let God. It was the first day of the rest of my life.

At the time of writing (Christmas 2012), I have been sober for just over two years, I haven't had a cigarette for three months, I go to five AA meetings a week, I have a paid job as a Program Manager for an AOD rehabilitation program and I am fully doing the suggested things!! - even when my head goes crazy, which it does with regular monotony!

It has been a long and very difficult struggle and I envy those who can find peace at an early age. But it takes what it takes and I am grateful that I am recovered before I die.

If you can relate to some of my story, then I know that you too can discover the same peace as I have. Send me an email or just find Alcoholics Anonymous in your area - there's sure to be one.

May God bless you and keep you in peace

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