I’ve been hit pretty hard with addiction and alcohol and drug abuse all around me in the past week or so. It’s hit me not because I have strong personal relationships with any of the people I’ve seen affected, it’s hit me because of the shame I still feel knowing that their stories were my stories. They’re just so shameful and embarrassing now, but there is also gratitude that quells the shame more and more with each passing month and year that sobriety rules my world.
I’m two and a half years sober now, but recent stories of drunk driving and relationships being torn apart and now, today, a probable suicide, have taken me back to a place I do not miss.
Once upon a time, I drove drunk. I drove buzzed with my child in the car. I drove so recklessly once trying to outrun my own sister that if there had been a child or someone walking in the subdivision street as I barrelled through going sixty plus miles per hour that I could have killed multiple innocent people instantly and gruesomely. I am unbelievably lucky to be getting this second chance at life a free man, not someone who is hated daily by scores of people because I let addiction cause me to do the unthinkable and kill somebody.
I could be in jail right now. I could be dead. I deserve both. But everybody says God had bigger plans for me. I think one of them was that He wanted me to tell my story. And if it saves one life or one family or one marriage or helps one man walk his daughter down the aisle after a fractured relationship is mended, it’s all the validation I’ll ever need that He was right to protect me.
But it didn’t save a life today.
The Probable Suicide
I will not use real names in anything I write here, obviously, and because of the nature of this, I won’t even disclose any details about how I knew this person or anything about him, but today a grown man – a father of young children – most likely jumped about six stories to his death.
I reached out to him a couple of times indirectly over the past couple of years, once through my wife and another time through a member of his family. I never actually talked to him after it got bad. His struggles were not just alcohol. He got strung out pretty badly from what I know.
I heard he was pawning off stuff, stealing stuff, pawning off stuff he’d stolen. All for the next fix, the next high. I remember those days. I also remember the days that were so hopeless I was ready to jump. I never did jump. I never had the guts; somehow I was never able to fully rid myself of hope. So I never did jump.
I’m so thankful I didn’t jump.
I get physically sick to my stomach when I think about the pain and heartache that will never go away for a mother who lost a teenage son this week at the hands of a stupid fucking drunk that decided to ram into a van going 90 miles per hour.
I get feelings of doom when I hear that young girl’s voice from her hospital room saying, “Please don’t drive drunk.” That was me. That could have been me. I was the stupid fucking drunk.
I’ve always had this inability to get all that sad when a really old person dies. The grandmother in the accident – that innocent, sweet grandmother – who was doing the grandmotherly deed of taking her grandkids home, was only 65. My dad will be 70 next year and he’s in better shape than I am. Sixty-five is YOUNG. That grandmother had YEARS of time ahead of her. And someone else’s alcohol abuse took them away.
God, I’m so thankful it wasn’t my fault. But empathy makes me ache for those families.
I wrote a blog post back in September about an old friend who I reached out to because I had this suspicion that he was struggling with alcohol dependency. I was right, of course. I have gaydar for addicts.
About a week and a half ago, he messaged me on Facebook to tell me he’d been dry for three weeks. I had not heard from him in at least a month because the last time I talked to him, I stressed for at least the tenth time that the only person that can successfully help an addict IS the addict. There is no help unless there’s a willingness to seek it and then accept it.
He never really wanted that help. He still doesn’t.
There’s a girl in the picture that loves him, but he doesn’t want her love. He’s got all he can handle playing footsie with the bottle. But she told me that he told her that he’d only “cut back.” But, but, didn’t he tell me he’d been dry for three weeks?
Alcoholics do not cut back. Not permanently. They lie permanently, but they don’t cut back permanently. None of them. They can say it, but they lie. That’s all they really do well. They lie.
I wrote a blog post early on in my blogging career about how I didn’t really think alcoholism was a disease, no matter what AA says. You’ll have to read it if you want to see the reasons why. I still stand by it. You can’t quit cancer, but you can sure as hell quit drinking.
But the love of a good woman isn’t enough. And I get it. I really do. My wife left me for nearly a month because I refused to quit. I could’ve lost my daughter. I could’ve never had these two new kids who have managed to swell my heart and my hope and my dreams to levels I never imagined.
All because I came to my damn senses and decided what I already knew: the bottle doesn’t hug back when all the people that used to want to hug you are gone.
Again I won’t go into details because, quite frankly, I don’t know all the details, but I know alcohol can make a man do things that are unthinkable when he looks back at a life – and a person – that he knows used to be him, but it’s also almost incomprehensible that it actually happened.
Mine was mostly noise. I think all that ever happened was that I pushed her down on the bed one time. I had to defend myself to salvage the addiction. She was only furious because of the lies. The fights weren’t her fault. If I was trying to be a better man but I was honest about my desire to drink, I can’t imagine it being as bad as it was. We might not have stayed together, but she would have respected the honesty. She might not have ever understood it, but she would have learned to respect me for saying, “You know, alcohol will always be more important than you. It’s time you go find somebody that will love you like you deserve to be loved.”
Remember that first story? The one about the guy jumping? If I had been that guy and let the most amazing woman I’ve ever known walk away, I would have jumped by now. There’s no question in my mind.
But to verbally and physically abuse somebody simply because they want you to be the best version of yourself, and they know that will never happen because of alcohol, is kinda like kicking a cat for rubbing against your leg. It’s just mean. Not only that, it’s cowardly. Any man that uses his brute force to hit a woman deserves it if she pulls out a gun and shoots him in the nuts.
What makes this one worse is that there’s a kid in the picture, and it’s a kid that sees this guy as a father figure. The mom will be okay. Women that are strong enough to walk away usually are in time. But I can’t stand hearing stories where alcohol was more important than those too innocent to understand.
The Next Four Stories
If you’re an addict and you somehow stumbled onto this blog post, your story is next. Somebody WILL be talking about you next. It will be embarrassing or sad or tragic or cowardly or altogether regretful, but if you keep at it, that WILL happen.
So when is it enough, huh? Do you have any idea how freaking lucky you are that you made it this far with maybe only a DUI or only one failed marriage or with enough employability to stay off the streets? The regrets and the shame will stay for a LONG time – trust me on that – but the joy of overcoming this thing that is completely ruining your life, and the joy of building relationships with loved ones and new people, will propel you. I promise, it WILL propel you.
So when’s it over, huh? When is enough, enough? Are you okay with being the next story? I promise you, I won’t be the only one writing about it, and I won’t be the only one thoroughly trashing the decisions you made to earn your place in the pantheon of stupid fucking drunks.
Quit. Now. Stop ruining other people’s lives.