August 8, 2015

Without Alcohol, Who am I?


I remember a time in my life when the desire to consume alcohol was so strong that I would do anything I considered necessary in order to consume my next drink.

Not almost anything, or kind of anything, or anything within reason. No, I’m talking about anything. My addiction to alcohol controlled me in every way for roughly 30 years—and I do mean roughly.

For those of you who have never experienced first hand the wonders of alcoholism, I hope you never do—but imagine if you will such a compulsion that simply by indulging in it you behave in such a way that literally ruins your life. And there is nothing you can do, nothing you can say, to convey to the people around you that you really aren’t the monster behind the cheating and the lying, the broken promises, broken hearts, and the stealing. This was my world, everyday, for 30 years.

Forever, it seemed, I wished that I would just wake up one day and not want to drink anymore. I cried about it. Before I knew better, I prayed about it. I went to rehab for it. I’ve been incarcerated over it. I’ve been both feral and domesticated while engulfed in it. I’ve lost people and places and faces and time through it.

And now it’s gone.

For 30 years, the only question I ever really had was, “How can I get more alcohol into my body?” Now I question everything that I do. I’ve spent so long living by the seat of my pants that I’m not even sure I still know what a real decision is anymore.

It’s safe to say that my life is at least half over at this point, and I’m cool with that. But for the first time, I feel like there is nothing behind me or in front of me. It is both a liberating and terrifying feeling.

I often wonder if I became an alcoholic when I took my first drink at the age of 16, or if I’d always been one, from the moment I was born. A great man once told me that if you get shot it doesn’t matter if it was an accident or on purpose, the only thing that matters is stopping the bleeding. And I fear sometimes that I’ve let myself nearly bleed to death.

I don’t know why I became an alcoholic, and I never knew my biological parents, so I can’t say if they were a factor. But alcohol was what I lived and breathed for. It was what I did anything for, or because of.

And now it’s gone.

I didn’t stop drinking by choice. I just don’t have the desire to consume alcohol anymore. That’s it. I do not believe that I was delivered from being an alcoholic. I don’t participate in Alcoholics Anonymous. And I do not consider myself to be, or refer to myself as, sober.

I just don’t drink.

The taste of it, the sounds of it, the smell of it, the very thought of it makes me sick to my stomach. If I see an image of a beer in an advertisement somewhere it makes me want to vomit.

Am I happy about this? About not wanting to drink anymore?  Of course I am. I can remember most things that happen now, and I urinate on myself way less. For the first time in 30 years I don’t wake up everyday to that burning, gnawing, all-consuming urge eating at me, eating me alive in every beat of my heart and every thought that passes through my mind, in every drop of blood that runs through my veins.

It’s gone.

So yes, I’m happy about it, but at the same time it’s very disorienting. I’m not sure who I am anymore without alcohol in my life, or I’m not really who I thought I was. I imagine my situation is like that of an elderly couple, married for 50 years—one of them passes away and the other has to carry on. I’m aware that may be a tad dramatic, but I’m just trying to explain this the best I can.

Perhaps I am an idiot. But in my defense, for the past 30 years all of the knowledge I have been able to obtain has been filtered through my approximately one-third of  a functioning brain that actually gave a sh*t about something other than alcohol.

For the first time in my life I feel as though I can literally do anything I want, and I don’t know what to do. I honestly don’t know if I want to do anything at all. So I’m taking this opportunity to examine more closely the way I feel about things now. Call it an internal culture shift. I do not currently view the world through the same eyes I had at 18, 25, 35—through the same eyes of an alcoholic.

I believe many different things now than I’ve learned or otherwise been exposed to over the course of recent years. But to me, whatever this is that is happening right now was obviously meant to happen, and I believe there is something to learn from everything if we listen and if we pay attention.

Instead of seeing this as something that is wrong and needs to be fixed, I’m looking at it as a chance to take all the things I’ve picked up along the way, all of the bits and pieces that I’ve scrounged together to make the the person I want to be right now.

I’m looking at all of the things that have been sharing my mind lately, jockeying for position with old, harmful obsolete things, and moving them to the forefront, to the spotlight, where they can be honed and shaped into this new Dave—this more positive and open-minded Dave, this Dave who is an alcoholic no longer.

My message is simple, and it goes out to anyone who is currently struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, or knows someone who is—don’t give up.

I never thought I’d see the time where I didn’t want to drink anymore, but that time is here; it is now, and for this opportunity I will be forever grateful.


Relephant Read:

I Fell, Upward: What Happened after I Stopped Drinking.


Author: Dave Rich

Volunteer Editor: Keeley Milne/Editor: Travis May

Photos: Imagens Evangélicas/Flickr, kaelin/Flickr

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