My name is Matt and I am an alcoholic.
Here is my story of Relapse and Recovery
I grew up in Oak Park, a suburb on the west side of Chicago. My father was a hard worker, a great provider, and an alcoholic. I was the youngest of 4 Irish twins. That means there was roughly a year between each of our births. It also means that I did everything at an earlier age because I was the youngest. With both of our parents working, we pretty much ran wild during summer break. Between 7th and 8th grade, I got a hold of some amaretto. I drank enough to get drunk and to get sick. Because of my age, my parents assumed it was a weird flu, alcohol was not suspected. I knew better and learned my lesson.
The Problem: Amaretto makes you sick.
The Solution: Don’t drink amaretto.
For the next year I drank and drugged whenever possible, which was not very often. Pot whenever offered. Booze from my older brothers, older neighbors, or my parent’s liquor cabinet. But never amaretto. Before the start of my freshman year of high school, I got a hold of some PCP laced pot at a Grateful
Dead concert. My parents knew. They didn’t know exactly what I was on, but they knew I was altered and had been drinking. Up to that point, I assumed my parents would kill me for this, but they didn’t Kill me. My father (sober by this point and still sober today) hit me once or twice and grounded me for 2 weeks. In other words, no real consequences.
At the start of high school, I was living in two worlds; Athlete/burn out. Acid, speed, pot before football practice. Alcohol whenever I could get it. Early in the school year everything changed. I left campus at lunch with a known drug user. When I returned, I was stoned and carrying pot. I was confronted by a football coach. He said he would not search me that time, but I needed to make a choice. Wrestling
and Football or drugs and alcohol.
I chose wrestling and football!!! I developed and worked my 5 steps
- No drinking or drugs during football season
- No drinking or drugs during winter wrestling season
- No drinking or drugs on Thursday or Friday during the spring and Summer wrestling season
- 100% sober from the end of the school year until the national wrestling tournament in July.
- NO AMERETTO!
These simple steps worked. I succeeded on all fronts. Good grades, excelling at football and wrestling. I
would go kind of crazy in July and August, but I always survived. I stuck with this plan thru my
sophomore year of high school. At this point, I knew nothing about AA
I recovered from July and August for the start of my Junior year of high school. Things kept getting better and better. I loved school and got great grades. I started on a nationally ranked football team. I exceeded all expectations on the wrestling mat. This continued for the start of the spring wrestling
season. I was nationally ranked…then I sustained a serious injury. Once I could not compete, I went off the rails. I was working for my father’s construction company, so I
had money. I had a full beard, so I looked older. I could buy booze and drugs and I did. This continued all the way into the summer. In June, I was medically cleared to compete in wrestling and invited to represent Illinois in the national tournament. I could not clean up and had to pass on a great
opportunity. This was the first time I had real consequences from my chemical abuse. It’s also the first time I had to lie to myself and the world. I said I had to pass on the tournament because I needed more time to heal. By the end of the summer, I was ready to go back on the 5 steps. I sobered up and had an average football season followed by a disappointing winter wrestling season. By the start of the spring wrestling
season, I was able to hit my stride. I was sticking with my 5 steps and found huge success on the wrestling mat…until another serious injury. I went nuts again. For that grading period, I failed all my classes. I was drinking every day before school. I was taking any drugs I could get. Once again, a coach
intervened. With his help and the help of my parents, I started therapy for substance abuse.
I took to sobriety! I only needed a few appointments. No more 5 steps. What was I thinking? I had to
stay sober forever. There was enough time to rescue my grades. My spring and summer wrestling
exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. Finishing first in the state and forth in the nation. I
went on college recruiting trips and stayed sober. I started college sober. I was the only sober wrestler
on a European wrestling trip and it felt great. AA was not part of the recovery.
In the middle of my second college season, I had an injury that I didn’t think I could overcome. I gave up
wrestling and relapsed hard. Vodka every day. Pain killers when I could get them; I took any drug I
could get my hands on. I left school after failing all my classes. I came back to Chicago and worked and
Before I turned 21, I had had enough. For some reason, I put down the bottle. With no scholarship
anymore and parents not wanting to pay, I enrolled in college again. I had to work hard to pay for
school, pay rent and support myself; but it was worth it. I also started coaching high school wrestling. I
was sober and loving it.
This went on for 8 years. During this time, my wife and I started our life together and we started our
family. We relocated to Phoenix and bought our first home. We were young and happy. I still hadn’t
attended my first AA meeting.
It started slowly. For the first year of this relapse I drank only once every few months. When I drank,
though, I always drank the same amount; all of it.
For the next few year I drank, but only from the end of the workday on Friday until 3 PM Sunday. If I had weekend work I didn’t drink, at least not at first. The first exception I added was the AC exception. If I was on the roof of my Phoenix home working on my AC unit I could drink regardless of day or time.
That’s reasonable, right? Other exceptions followed and I was an everyday drinker before long. I’m not a fool though, I didn’t
drink any hard liquor at all, at least not at first. Most of my drinking was done alone or with strangers, never with family or close friends. I was able to work every day and always had a job and provided for my growing family. This went on for nine years.
Vodka was becoming part of my drinking ritual; my wife was fed up with me and my drinking. I didn’t respect myself either. Our marriage was basically falling apart when I crashed the car. I totaled the car but avoided injury. No DUI was issued, but I’m glad I wasn’t asked to take a sobriety test.
I knew I had to do something, or I would lose everything. I decided to go to AA, at least until things blew
over. I took my last drink two days before attending my first AA meeting. That was 12 years ago!