Hello, I’m an alcoholic and this is my story. Why start my story in such a strange way? Because as an alcoholic I have a disease of denial that tries to convince me I don’t have it. I need to remind myself, not you, that I am and always will be an alcoholic.
Although I had my first drink at 16, my journey with booze started with my call to the bar in the early ’70s. These were the days of the power lunch and the extravagant expense account. I joined in and jumped right to the three-martini lunches. Alcohol was my friend. It made me happy and confident. I felt part of, not less than, and most of all alcohol let me numb my fears and lessen my insecurities. No matter how much I drank, I rarely got visibly drunk, passed out or had hangovers. I never blacked out. I was proud of my ability to handle large quantities of alcohol. Perhaps because of this false pride I never tried to hide my consumption.
Sometime, I don’t know exactly when, but a long time ago, something changed and alcohol turned on me, It was no longer my friend but became a daily necessity. Drinking wasn’t any fun anymore. I drank alone, at home, starting at lunch and continuing until day’s end. I couldn’t get enough. The next day, I did it all again. I didn’t have a life, I had an existence. I had no idea what my drinking was doing to me, much less my family. Rarely did my family attempt to confront me about my drinking because they knew it would fuel my rage.
I had a perception of an alcoholic as a “loser”, someone who drank out of a brown paper bag from morning until night and passed out in a dumpster. I was not a loser. I was a partner in a law firm and had a house in Shaughnessy, a house at Whistler and four cars for the family.
My health belied my belief that I was not an alcoholic. My weight had ballooned, my cholesterol count was off the scale and I finally had a liver enzyme test. How well I remember my fear when my doctor explained the results and told me that I had, or soon would have, cirrhosis of the liver. I knew if I didn’t quit drinking I would surely die. I had never tried to quit drinking but I decided I would quit cold turkey. After all, how hard could it be? Turns out it was impossible. After getting this news I went home. Before I knew it I had poured myself a stiff drink. I remember saying to myself, “What the hell are you doing! Oh, well, it’s been a tough day, I’ll quit tomorrow.” Tomorrow came and there I was drinking again. More denial as I told myself I would quit on the weekend. The weekend came and for the first time I was drinking in the morning, pouring gin into tomato juice to hide it from my family. I couldn’t quit, and I didn’t understand why. I sank into a deep morass and drank even more. I felt hopeless, yet I couldn’t ask for help.
Unbeknownst to me, my wife and my partner had contacted LAP On July 2, 1998, 1 answered my doorbell to find I was the subject of an intervention. Rather than being thankful, I was furious. I didn’t want to hear what they said, because I was not an alcoholic. My partner gave me an ultimatum: go to treatment or the partnership is finished. My wife said: go to treatment or leave the house and don’t come back. Notwithstanding my hopeless state of despair my denial was so strong that I intended to exit the firm and the marriage. Then I had a moment of clarity when I heard my young adult children tell me how they grew up in fear of my alcoholic rages. They told me how much they loved me, but if I didn’t go to treatment then they didn’t want to be part of my life. My rage turned inward to guilt and shame.
So I decided I would go to treatment, for them. Later that day I arrived at Edgewood in Nanaimo. How well I remember my conflicted feelings of rage, guilt, shame and, above all, terror. After several days I came to realize that I was not in control of this environment into which I had been catapulted. I was told that although I came for my children unless I wanted recovery for myself, treatment wouldn’t work and I would drink again. My denial of being an alcoholic was so strong that it was 21 days before I realized that I didn’t need to drink. Being around others with the same disease gave me hope and I realized that I wanted sobriety for me. I finally accepted that I was an alcoholic. I looked at the effects alcohol had on my life, the carnage that it had caused my family and those around me. I learned that I was a fear-based person who used alcohol to stifle my fear and help me cope with life.
Forty-three days later I left Edgewood to start my sober life. I was frightened and anxious about everything from attending AA meetings to returning to my practice and returning to my family. I had to do all of this without my crutch of alcohol. I was determined to go to any length and do what I had been taught because I had been told if I didn’t I was sure to drink again.
My life has turned 180 degrees, but it was neither quick nor easy. I have learned that sobriety is not a shield from the realities of life. It was difficult for me to get motivated and committed to the practice of law as I realized that when I drank I was not as effective a lawyer as I had thought. Notwithstanding months of counselling, my wife and I decided to end our 28- year marriage.
Today I live a sober life, happily attending the AA meetings I once feared. I am a volunteer for LAP. I have assisted in an intervention and appeared before the benchers to help in LAP’s quest for additional funding. My children are a part of my life.
With sobriety, I have joy and hope in my life. So, yes, I am an alcoholic, but to quote an AA cliche, I wouldn’t trade my worst day sober for my best day drunk.