First and foremost, I would like to say thank you to Annie and Davey. Neither of you will probably ever get to read this, but regardless I would like to let you both know that without you I wouldn’t be here today, and I never would’ve gotten sober.
Saying that, alone, should make it fairly obvious that first, I haven’t always been sober, and second, I am one of many who can say that I never could’ve done it without people in my life who helped me. For years of my life I was an alcoholic. And, for the rest of my life one of the things that will continue to define me is that I’m a recovering alcoholic. That essential turning point is one of the most proud, and also one of the most terrifying, moments of my life. It was my sophomore year of college, I wasn’t even 21 and I had already had more to drink than most people consume in 10 years I’m sure. I had spent almost every night of the past two years, and several other occasions previous to that, blackout drunk. And almost every night, after I was dropped off at my room by a concerned friend who didn’t know if I would be able to make it home on my own, I sat by myself alone in a room and felt the silence and solitude weigh down on me. That’s what really gets to you, and that’s why I drank. I was constantly afraid of that moment that was waiting for me when I closed the door behind myself and realized that no matter what I couldn’t forget that feeling of being utterly alone. Every. Damn. Day.
At the end of the first semester of my sophomore year I hit a brick wall though. I still remember the whole thing like it was yesterday, not 2006. I was sitting in the campus bistro, studying for finals and chatting with Davey, who to this day I have no idea how to define so I’ll call him my best friend. Davey and I talked at the very least every night and sometimes all day too. And even though we lived in two different states, we always drank “together”. We’d text each other when we were headed out and all night long the drunken, stumbling conversation would continue through whatever medium we had – computers, cell phones, facebook, whatever. That night was no different. At least it didn’t seem like it when we started talking. At about 11 p.m. I stepped away from my computer for a minute to grab a coffee refill for the long night of studying ahead of me and bumped into an old friend that I hadn’t seen in almost a year. After I finally made it back to my computer, I noticed that while I was away Davey had written a small novel to me and was waiting for a response. I hurried to read and catch up on the conversation, feeling guilty that I had stepped away from the computer for so long without letting him know. But as I began to read I was almost immediately forced to slow down. I can’t say that I can restate that conversation exactly but it was a confession of sorts. In it he recounted his night’s events from a few days ago, where he, being depressed, had fumbled around under his bed until he fished out a half full bottle of whiskey and then proceeded to consume the rest of it, after which he removed a bunch of clothes from his dresser and arranged them in his bed until it felt like another person was there with him to give him company so that he wouldn’t feel alone anymore. He was so drunk that he thought this bundle of clothing was me, he had a whole conversation with me, and then blacked out.
My heart ached as I read his pain. I knew that pain. It was everything and nothing that I wanted to hear because it confirmed for me just how bad off we were mentally, but it also meant I wasn’t alone.
That was the thing I needed to hear most in the whole world: You are not alone, and someone out there does understand.
After reading what Davey wrote, I knew there was no point in attempting to continue my studying that night. I quickly told Davey that I was packing up my computer and that I would call him once I was out of the bistro and walking back home. We spent the rest of the night crying and talking to each other, or rather he talked and I had a lot of listening to do. The story that Davey told me had a point. For him, that night had been his turning point. He was ready to start fighting his alcohol and other past addictions that he had had. The reason he told it to me though, was because I was his closest friend, and he knew I needed to hear it and I needed someone to show me it could be better. I’ll admit it, Davey is and was stronger than me. When he identified his problem he went straight to a counseling center to get information on Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, found himself a group that he felt comfortable in, and started his own recovery. But he also knew that that wasn’t in me. I needed him, and I needed someone to come to me. Sometimes, we feel so low, we don’t think we can make it out again. The reason Davey told me that story that night was so that he could extend his hand to me and tell me that, if I wanted it, help was here. The only thing I had to do was admit that I needed it.
And there’s the stumbling block, the hard part. Because no matter how close I had just come to having someone offer to meet me in the middle and get me the rest of the way there, I still had to admit that I needed that help and that I did have a problem. But I was a straight A student, an athlete, very social and outgoing, and competitive. I was the definition of a type “A” personality, and I was stubborn and proud to boot. I didn’t then, and I don’t now, easily know how to say “I have a problem, and I need help”.
Thank God I said it that night.
From there on out, I won’t say that things got easier, because that’s just not the truth, but I will say that I never felt alone and I have never had such a sense of community as when I sobered up. Davey became my one man AA meeting and sponsor. Every day we checked in on each other, talked about times when we felt like we couldn’t make it through some situation without a drink and how we overcame those feelings. And every night he told me he loved me, that if no one else said it, he needed me to be there tomorrow too. Hearing that made every night that I went to bed seem less dark, and less alone.
Slowly, but surely, these rituals made me feel stronger. Still, it took me about a week before I told any of my friends on campus or back home about what had transpired, and the change I had committed to. When I did though, it was the biggest relief. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at the outpouring of support I received, I have amazing friends and they weren’t friends with my drinking they were friends with me, but truthfully I was amazed. For someone who spent their entire life believing that the only reason you had friends was because you shared something in common with them, and because I believed all my friends were only friends with me because we drank together and partied together, not because they really liked me or my personality, I was stunned that people stuck around. More specifically, I was amazed that they continued to stand by me when I told them I was an alcoholic, that this wasn’t some temporary phase I was going through, that I genuinely had a problem and it wasn’t going away. In their eyes, that confession changed nothing, for me… it was the world.
And today, here I sit, writing this to whoever is listening, or reading. This is six years later. This is six years sober. And I know you might not feel like you can do it, you might not feel like you’ll ever get better, or feel whole.
I really believe that. But I also really hope that it doesn’t take something to jar you into making that admission that you need change, or that you need help. Realistically, the chain of events that occurred and put me on my path to sobriety were sheer luck. Don’t wait for luck to get help, please. If nothing else, read this and let it be your turning point. From today forward, wherever you are, I love you and you can do this, you’re not alone.