“Looking back at the very first time I drank, I immediately showed signs of being an alcoholic, even though I was only 14 or so. I was on vacation with my family and my dad offered me a beer because it was a special occasion. I had two and I remember REALLY liking it. After he went to bed I stayed up and cleaned out the rest of the beer in the fridge. I even stole some of our family friend’s liquor. And this was the very first time I drank. But I still didn’t even begin to realize I had a problem for a long time. For a good while I didn’t get in too much trouble or have serious consequences, you know? I also remember in those years always feeling like the black sheep of the family. I remember always feeling like I was alone. Looking back though I can see that it was because I always isolated myself and was doing things that I had to conceal from my family. At first they would catch me doing things and I could talk or lie my way out of it. But they eventually started to catch on, or at least they knew something wasn’t right. When I lived at home, there were times I wouldn’t even see them for weeks at a time. I would do anything to just not be there while they were there. So of course I felt like the black sheep.
“In college I started screwing up, failing out of class… it was just one thing after another. I lived with a few guys I had grown up with and was good friends with but even with them, I started to isolate as I began to get loaded more and get into drugs that they weren’t cool with. Around this time I started taking adderall a lot to supposedly help me study. I’d be up for days at a time and I don’t think it really made me a better student. Toward the end of that I began to sense that this was a bigger problem and I’d slow down a little. And it would get better for a while but I would always go back to it. I also started doing a lot of coke and xanax together. I think that first two years of college was me slowly coming to realize that things were out of control and then the last year or so was me trying to fix it and realizing I couldn’t. It didn’t matter what technique I would try to limit myself though, none of it worked. And as this all got worse I started to get violent. I broke so many phones, tvs, windows. I smashed my truck into a tree intentionally. My family began to notice more and more and thankfully they weren’t real pushy but they did start to suggest that I try some meetings or go see a counselor. Finally though I went to jail for aggravated assault with bodily injury… and it was toward my girlfriend. I came to in jail and had no idea why I was there. That was the biggest wake up call I had. I just felt like that wasn’t the person that I knew I was or that I wanted to be, and yet I had clearly done it. Why was I doing all these things I didn’t want to do? And why couldn’t I stop when I did want to?
“I got out a week later and my dad and my brother picked me up and brought me to a hotel. I snuck out and got loaded that night even though I had spent that whole week in jail promising myself I wasn’t;’t gonna do this anymore. My parents moved me back home and I stayed with them for about two weeks, kind of like Mom and Dad Rehab, with them watching me the entire time. I was still sneaking away and doing anything I could find though. I just had no control. That’s when we started looking at rehabs and found Brazos. I initially was scared because I was going into a place with a lot of real drug addicts and alcoholics and I had never really thought of myself in that way. At first I really didn’t think I belonged there. The community there was welcoming and not overbearing though. It was also weird for me because when I went in I had no concept of God or a higher power at all. I had looked up the steps before when people recommended I try going to meetings and the God part scared me. That’s one of my favorite parts to talk about now though.”
“Understanding Step 1 came pretty quick for me with all the lectures and talks they give on it. They wrote this book in the 30’s but it described exactly what my life had been like. The God part though was gradual. I looked back at all the times I had quit and tried to control it and not been able to. So I started to realize I really couldn’t fix it and then I also just thought that maybe I would just give what they were saying a try since I was already in treatment. At first I struggled with it by insisting on understanding it all- understanding God. One of my roommates told me I was overthinking it and that I just needed to start praying. I didn’t know what I was praying to and I still really don’t. After a while though, I just started to feel different. More loving maybe. I noticed myself start to have a natural inclination to want to help people. Before I had never really wanted to help someone else unless it was going to help me too. And I remember one day we all went bowling, right? And I just felt this presence that was there with me. Because I had always felt alone, even when I was with people, even at a party. This feeling was like the opposite of that. There were people there and I felt like I was a part of them. But there was something else there that was bigger there and it was tying everything together. That was the day that I realized that something was working.
“After Brazos I moved straight to the sober house that I’m in now. One thing I’ve been noticing lately that’s really cool is that I don’t have many actual problems today. I’d heard people say that in the rooms before too. But my mindset has changed. I don’t look at things like problems but more like situations. When I look back at my day and something didn’t go right, I usually am able to notice myself getting upset and then I’m able to calm down and ask what I can learn from this situation. And I’ve still had some basic life challenges like with my family or my ex-girlfriend. But for the most part I’ve been able to try to look at those experiences and try to grow from them. Instead of saying I hate it or want it to change. Just learning from them.
“I’ve grown a lot closer to my family now too. I had tried to run away from them and avoid them for so long. That relationship has improved a lot though. And like I was saying before, looking out for other people now brings me joy. I actually enjoy helping people just because I have this bookmark over there and on it I wrote, “I am alive’. There’s this song that I listen to and at the end he says that. ‘I am alive in everything I touch. I am alive in everything I’ve ever done’. Before I went to Brazos and when I was out there using I had this idea that life was pointless. I felt like I didn’t ask to be put here on this earth, that one day I was going to die and be gone and that nothing mattered. That’s what I thought and that’s what I felt. And now I look at it differently. My life has a ripple effect. I am alive in everything that I touch. Even if there turned out to be no after life. I am still affecting things in the world around me and that ripple will live on long after me. And I want those ripples to be good ones.”