This is how it went man, no BS. the beginning of the end. 4/20/2018. I was down and out. Lost my job, my girlfriend relapsed on her DOC (drug of choice) and literally disappeared, the engine in my car blew and I was awaiting eviction. My life was a country song and I had absolutely no intention of quitting drinking that day.
I was trying not to drink for the weekend because my, then 14-year-old, son and I were headed to one of my lifelong friend’s houses for the weekend. I didn’t wanna be that guy. My buddy has a young family and he and his wife rarely drink. Anyway, he knew I was in a bad place and took us to the movies to cheer me up a bit. I lied to him when he picked me up and we stopped at the bar/restaurant that I would fill in for. I went in for the last shot of Yukon Jack that I’ll hopefully ever have in my life. I tried all day not to drink but between the shakes and heartburn and headache and severe anxiety came, I just couldn’t do it. That shot made me feel a lot better but at the movies that night, all the symptoms started coming back. I just kept telling myself “you’ll be fine in the morning.” I was not fine in the morning! I woke up with uncontrollable shakes that were like a 10 on the Richter scale! I later found out that those were seizures and that they gave me medication to make it stop at the hospital. I didn’t have insurance and there was a wait for inpatients so I was prescribed Phenobarbital and went home. I knew that morning that I had the last alcohol of my life the night before.
Mannn that Phenobarbital is some heavy stuff! I don’t remember much of that first week and I credit my kiddo for keeping me alive because I think I was in absolutely no shape to take care of myself. After the barbiturates ran out came the insanity. The anxiety was crippling at times and I spent a lot of time balled up on the couch; reading other people’s experiences for whatever day of sobriety I was on. It kind of normalized what I was experiencing, ya know? It was in there that I learned about GABA and started learning how alcohol affects the receptors in your brain and all sorts of cool and scary stuff about what I had done to myself. It was really reassuring that so much of what I had done to my brain was repairable.
The depression that came with early sobriety for me was intense! Very very harsh negative self-talk and suicidal thoughts. It was a dark place and the disassociated feeling was incredible. Sometimes I felt like I was just kinda there, floating through the world with the ghost of Christmas Present. After around a month of this, I started hallucinating one day. Terrible, awful, disgusting visions and thoughts. It went on for three days and I tried every day to get help at the hospital but I didn’t have a suicide plan so they wouldn’t take me.
On the third day, I called 911 and told them I was going to make it stop the only way I knew how. I spent the next month, highly medicated, in psychiatric care. My symptoms improved and it was seizures causing the hallucinations from what I can recall the doctor saying. I went to rehab from there. Rehab sucked! It seemed like the majority of the people there were just trying to stay out of jail and most of the side talk was “what does the doc have you on and what’s it do for ya?” I made it three days in that jail-like environment and I left AMA (against medical advice) and threw away all my medications.
I had a floor I could sleep on for a bit but it definitely wasn’t permanent. On my way to their place, I saw a restaurant that had a “cook wanted” sign up. The next day I had a job. I’d been a cook for years and years. I worked and saved and bought a car. I spent that winter bouncing from the tent to the car to a couch when I could find one and slept a couple of other places I won’t mention. All the while working as much as they’d allow me. I bought a tiny little camper in February 2019 and stayed in it while I fixed it up in a family member’s driveway. I paid for a season at a campground and moved in as soon as they opened in the spring. I continued to work and save and bought a decent mobile home in a nice park, with some help from the family member I mentioned earlier. I paid that sucker off in less than a year and a half.
I tried AA. I really did but I guess my atheist brain just can’t do those mental gymnastics. Besides… I am not a powerless victim of some made-up spiritual disease. Addiction is not, by medical definition, an allergy. I will not let some person I just met, while my brains are scrambled, that has absolutely zero medical or mental health training, direct my recovery. And I sure as hell am not gonna pray about anything.
I try to learn everything I can about addiction recovery. Even if it goes against the mainstream. I’m not a very mainstream person anyway and I like that about me. Why the hell would I want to change my core values and beliefs? So I looked into Life Ring, SMART Recovery, Recovery Dharma, Buddhist Recovery Network, Heilfigr, Red Road, Psychedelics in Recovery, Refuge Recovery… hell there’s even Satanic recovery material. Boatloads of online groups and all sorts of free information and worksheets and videos and blogs! Don’t let anyone convince you that AA is the only way. I don’t care what they say in their opening statements.
The things that have helped me the most along the way are goals! At first, I set small goals and tried to achieve them to build some confidence. Sometimes it was just to get out of the house a couple of times a week. Some goals were big, like finishing my divorce, getting a place, and maintaining bills. Learning how to love me and accept myself for who I am was huge! Also forgiving myself and learning to let go. Meditation has helped with a lot of this. There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. It’s OK to lose your mind, just make sure you come back.