Cheers!

April 25th 2010 I made the conscience decision to quit drinking. At the ripe old age of 29 I realized I was an alcoholic. I woke up that afternoon and knew I was done before my feet ever hit the floor. I remember that day very vividly. I put my weary face in my hands and asked myself “What are you doing?” I remember shaking my head as the poison from the night before still resonated through my body. I shared this revelation with the person I hurt the most, the love of my life, my bride. Her reaction was dull and unexcited. She didn’t believe me. Why should she?

I had my first drink of beer as a young child. My dad drank beer and I asked if I could have a sip. He obliged and wa-la, my first drink. I used to blame my father for turning me into the monster I had become. It wasn’t until I was sober for a few years I realized it wasn’t his fault. He didn’t force me to miss my best friends wedding. He didn’t crack that 21st beer open and tell me to keep going. I guess that’s the tendency of an alcoholic, blame everyone but yourself. I got really good at this.

In 6th grade I made the decision that I was going to get drunk. I can’t tell you why, or how this decision was made. I took 1, sometimes 2 cans out of my dad’s fridge and hid them in my closet. By Friday, I’ve got myself a few beers. Granted it was old, warm, and tasted awful, but I was intoxicated that night for the 1st time. Me and a buddy sat outside and were able to muster down maybe 2 each. I guess I’m not even sure if I was drunk or if I had the illusion I was. At 12 years old, I was making decisions that would effect my adulthood. I had no idea that I would turn out to be an alcoholic. My son just turned 13 recently. I can tell you this, it scares the hell out of me. I hope he’s smarter than his dad.

I made it through my junior high years relatively alcohol free. I’m sure there are exceptions. I probably had a beer here or a beer there. Nothing that really sticks out though. My freshman year of high school sticks out. Started drinking at home while my parents were gone. That was the first time I experienced a party atmosphere. I loved it. Looking back on it, that’s the time I believe alcohol took over my life. At 14 I was an alcoholic and I had no idea. I was about to head down a 15 year journey full of lies, deceat, evil, betrayal, and culminate with forgiveness, love, trust, and friendship.

I’m sure someone out there remembers my 21st birthday. I’m really not sure I do. I may have been in Canada, I can’t honestly tell you for sure. I know I was drinking. At the age of 21, I had a son and a wife. I was a lot of things at that age. A father and husband was certainly not a title I’d give myself. My bride stayed home with our son while I drank and partied. She served me divorce papers before our 1st anniversary. This woman had seen enough. She knew after less then a year, that I was an alcoholic. She knew that I was a demon parading around her life. She knew I would ruin her life for the next several years. Sometimes I wish I would’ve signed those papers. I could’ve spared her and my future children from the misery I ultimately ended up causing. Me being the selfish alcoholic I am, I convinced her to stay with me. Somehow I managed to convince this innocent, over trusting woman to stay with me and I tortured her for years with my drinking.

In between the ages of 21 and 29 several milestones happened in my life. These range from having children to achieving success financially. Of course I maintained my drinking throughout these years. I was a functioning alcoholic. I went to work everyday. I was able to make enough money so my bride could stay home with the kids. This is something that I constantly hung over her head. I ridiculed her relentlessly for not having a job. That’s how sick I was. The mother of my children worked harder on a daily basis than I ever have in my life. I came home for lunch and a hot plate of food was waiting for me. I came home for supper to a similar scene. I woke up in the morning to go to work and she’d have my clothes all out for me. It breaks my heart knowing I took advantage of her. After everything I put her through, she still loved me. I’ll never forget the day she told me she wasn’t in love with me anymore. I finally broke her. Congratulations Sam, the one person who loves you unequivocally, now hates you. She wants a divorce, again. Except this time something’s different. She’s not the shy, bashful, or timid 22 year old girl anymore. Now she’s a confident, strong, pissed off woman.

Alcohol seems like fun. To some it can be. To others, it’s the devil. To me, it’s easily the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I allowed myself to be overtaken by 12 ounces of evil. I lost time with my bride, my children, and my family. I missed weddings of lifelong friends. Some of those weddings I didn’t even get an invite to. They knew how I would behave and they didn’t want that on their special day. I don’t blame them. My own wedding was overshadowed by my actions. I couldn’t be trusted at others to behave like a normal adult. I could list a plethora of things I missed over the years but for this particular post , I’ll spare the details.

As I sit here today I reflect on what is my life. Today my life is alcohol free. I’ve begun a spiritual journey with hopes of finding my faith. This summer I’ll celebrate my 14th wedding anniversary. I’ll take my family across this great state of ours while we play softball. I’ll grill food on my deck while my 2 sons play catch with the football in our front yard. I’ll yell at my dog while my two, beautiful daughters skip rope in our driveway. I’ll look over and see the person who changed my life. I’ll hug her and tell her thank you. Not only did she change my life, she saved it. She’s by far the most influential person I’ve ever met. She’s my rock. She’s my best friend. She’s my living guardian angel.

On April 25th I made the decision to take back control of my life. It started with a decision. I decided to not let this disease encompass my being. To not let my bride and children out of my life. To be a father and a dad (there is a difference). To be the husband my bride dreamed about as a little girl. Today I can tell you I’m damn near 4 years sober. That doesn’t happen if I didn’t make a phone call. That phone call changed my life. Without that conversation, I’m not sure I’m writing this today. Without his guidance and support, I’m not sure I am sober today. With the exception of my bride, this one person had the most influence on my sobriety.

After closing the bars at 2am the best thing to do is go to a house party and continue drinking. When its 10 am and you’re still drinking the best thing to do is go bowling. After bowling is over the best thing to do is go back to the house and make ramen noodles. After you’ve finished your stellar bowl of ramen, off to the bars! On a different occasion; I get a knock on my door at 8 am. It’s two friends of mine. My bride lets one in and tells the other “You’re not welcomed in my home”. Still groggy from the night before I’m curious as to why they’re here. Turns out the local watering hole has dollar drinks all day. Time to belly up to the bar for 12 hours!! These are the decisions he and I made. Today between the 2 of us we have almost 10 years sober. He got sober before I did. He’s the guy on the other end of the phone. The guy passed out at the bar face down, is now going to help me get sober. Who better to help me than someone who was doing it himself?

It takes a strong man to admit he has a problem. It takes a stronger man to fix it. It takes a special man to help someone fix theirs. He helped me more than I think he knows. When I called, he answered. When I text him, he replied. When I told him I wanted to drink, he knew the exact right thing to say. He let me vent. He let me spill my ignorance on him and then corrected me on the error of my ways. He showed me that just because you don’t drink alcohol, doesn’t mean you’re sober. He taught me that I had to change both mentally and physically. He took me under his wing and helped me become the man I am today. To this day I call him with problems. He’s always got an answer. He’s a smart guy. He puts himself out there. He’s more than a friend to me. I can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your sobriety to help me with mine. He showed me how to pay it forward. Occasionally I get a phone call from a friend battling alcoholism. I hope I can do them justice. I hope I can help them like he helped me. There’s no need to mention his name. I know he’ll read this. I also know he knows I’m referring to him. I know he’ll read this because he still checks in on me. So, to you friend, I thank you. I thank you for giving me the tools I need to reshape my life. Thank you for the countless hours of phone calls. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for showing me sobriety.

April 25th 2014 is right around the corner. My bride will surprise me with something. She’ll get balloons and candy. My kids will make me cards and I’ll cry. I’ll receive texts and phone calls of congratulations and I’ll cry. My bride will probably have family over and we’ll celebrate my sobriety at which point I’ll cry. Without April 25th 2010,I’m not happily married to my best friend. Without that date, I don’t see my kids everyday. I’m proud of my sobriety. I’m embarrassed by plenty of my actions when I was inebriated, but they helped shape the person I am today. I was angry for a long time. The only emotion I showed was anger. I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.

From time to time a craving hits. At that point I stop and think. I may look at my bride or hug my daughter. I may call someone or wrestle my son. I may go for a run or read an article. The point is, we all have options. I chose and continue to choose to be alcohol free. I’ve made more positive memories in the damn near 4 years I’ve been sober then the 29 years I wasn’t. For those of you I hurt while I was poisoned, I’m sorry. For those of you still with me, I thank you.

Tonight I’ll sleep next to my bride. I’ll feel the warmth of her embrace as she tells me “Love you, night”. I’ll bring my son to softball practice today. I’ll stop for a brief moment and watch him as he puts in work with a smile on his face. Tomorrow I’ll watch wrestling with my other son. I’ll throw him around and play with him all the while searching for that smile. Soon I’ll tickle my daughter as she giggles and kicks her feet. I’ll sit on the couch and watch my oldest daughter lay her head on my belly. For so many years I missed out on these type of memories. When I drank I often forgot what happened the night before. I don’t want to forget these memories so I think today I’ll stay sober.

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