Hi, my name is Adam. I’m 35 years old, and my sober date is June 5th, 2015. Although I’ve done every drug, and even had an IV heroin stage several years ago, which was horrific, my spirit drug so to speak, was always booze. From the age of 12, I drank alone, stealing expensive liquors from my parents’ locked cabinet (two paper clips does the trick) and watching MA*S*H and taking shots of Napoleon Brandy. Story-telling and drinking were a magical duo, and I think are for most people, alcoholic or not. My older brother was home for the summer from private school, and we’d sit there in his room drinking shots of booze, and I’d listen to him tell stories of long snow-filled semesters at his northern Indiana school- about girls, and parties, and going to Chicago on the weekends with his pals. I knew then, in 7th grade that the hangover was worth it. I was perfectly willing to trade 6 hours of magic for a day of hell.
Fast forward 20 years to May 2015, Los Angeles California. I had been to a dozen treatment centers and half a dozen sober living houses, hospitals since 2008, the usual bit. I had just been kicked out of a sober living for drinking. My best friend had just passed away from kidney failure due to using alcohol, and I couldn’t take it. So I drank. As luck would have it, my aunt lived in the Sierra Madre which was a sleepy little hippie elite enclave just north of Pasadena. I called her and told her what was up. She came and picked me up and said I could I stay with her until I could figure out where I was going to go. She was moving though across the country in 3 months, so I had until then.
My folks back in Indiana had long stopped helping me so when they caught wind of my latest relapse they told me they weren’t interested in helping me anymore. I would have to help myself. I didn’t know what I was going to do. The second day at my aunt’s house I sauntered into the town to buy a pack of cigarettes and had the bright idea to stop in at the local bar, have a few drinks and “think things over”. When had that ever worked? Insanity I tell you, madness. I don’t remember leaving but I came to in Pasadena, about 5 miles away and I was walking up to a Jack-in-the-Box. I asked the guy at the counter how to get back to the Sierra Madre. He wrote out directions on a piece of paper. This moment wasn’t the first time in my life I’d wandered into a business drunk asking for directions out of a blackout.
Anyway, I kept getting lost and thought I would literally collapse into a ditch and stay there. Somehow I kept going and crawled into my aunt’s house at around 6 am. Thus began a two-month drunken spree. I drank mouthwash one evening when I had no other options. That was a first. The sad thing is, I’d drink and watch videos on sobriety with my phone and think “yea, my redemption is just around the corner”. Belly full of booze and a head full of AA, as the saying goes. Not a great combination.
One evening, much like the others, I was drinking a bottle of whiskey in the spare bedroom (my aunt was oblivious or so I thought) and the bottom of the bottle came faster than I anticipated. It was around 1 am and like any alcoholic would do, I decided I needed more. I had to have it. There is this compulsion to keep drinking that is so elusive, so indescribable. You go on autopilot. There is no option not to drink more. So I snuck out of the house and walked the 1.5 miles to the bar. By this time, they knew who I was and didn’t particularly care for me. It was closing time. The bartender gave me an attitude and said “Guy, we’re closing, whatever you order has to be finished in the next 3 minutes”. I slapped down $25 and told him to pour as many shots of bar whiskey as he could. I slammed them down one after the other and then I blacked out.
The next thing I remember I was on the side of the road sitting on the curb and two police officers were kneeling beside me asking me what my name was. Apparently, I had tried to enter someone’s house somewhere in the Sierra Madre, and it wasn’t my Aunt’s. They called the police, and they found me stumbling down the street. I do remember telling them I’m an alcoholic and I didn’t remember anything from the evening. They took me to Pasadena jail.
Two days later I was back at my Aunt’s house, and I had an awakening. It wasn’t a bright light experience or anything, but I walked to an AA meeting in the Sierra Madre because, well why not? I never shared at meetings. At least not in many years. That evening was different. I volunteered to lead the meeting and spoke a lot and shook a lot of hands. It felt different. I felt different. I was tired. I was also 32 and for all intents and purposes, homeless.
The next day I was sitting in a meeting, and I got a text from my friend. She was a friend I had met in rehab several years ago in Pasadena. We had had one evening together about a month ago. The text read: “Call me please, we need to talk.” I walked down the street during the cigarette break and called her. I assumed it was going to be her telling me she had relapsed or was in trouble somehow. Her voice was weak, and she just said: “I’m pregnant.”
I experienced several odd coincidences involving Georgia O’Keefe over the next couple of weeks. First, was a painting of hers that hung in my Aunt’s bathroom. I remember looking at it one morning. It depicted great big sunflowers. I went to a meeting that morning and there was a patch of sunflowers next to where people smoked. I hadn’t noticed them before. An old lady walked up to me and inexplicably said “See those flowers? They remind me of a Georgia O’Keefe painting.”
I thought “Are you serious right now?”
Some weeks later a friend and I were sitting in her therapist’s house having a “session” about the pregnancy and where we were at in the decision process. I looked over on the far wall, and there it was- a Georgia O’Keefe painting. Sunflowers.
I now have a daughter and over three years of sobriety. Very rarely does the compulsion to drink or use come back. When it does, it is supplanted by an immense experience from which I draw very much gratitude and perspective.
How did I stay sober through it all?
How do I stay sober now?
I can’t say precisely what it is. I’m not a religious person, but some things I just do because other people did them and because if nothing else they are explicit reminders or exercises of humility and gratitude- I thank “God” every day at some point, very briefly I say out loud- “God, thank you for another day sober.”
Do I think “God” is real or is listening to me? I’m not sure I believe either, but I do it because why not? My not drinking is so much more important than my being “right”. I also talk to other alcoholics at least on a weekly basis.
I do smoke cigarettes still and drink sugar-free energy drinks like they are diet cokes….but whatever.
I hope this is helpful to someone. You CAN stop using or drinking and you never know when that day will come or what is right around the corner if you do.