On May 4th, I celebrated six continuous years of sobriety.
Cue the happy dance.
“How did you do it? How did you get six years, Pauly?” someone asked me the other day.
I paused and gave him a short, but meaningful answer. It fell in line with where I am in my recovery and how I roll with things. It had wings, baby.
But as I thought about it more, I thought to myself, “How the hell did you do it, you wild turkey?” (Note: not affiliated with Wild Turkey bourbon). As I ruminated about it a bit more, I had to delve into my story a bit. I am not one to share my story much – I figure we all know how to drink. If you’re reading this, most likely you fell into the same jackpot pit I did, so it seems a waste of typing time and your screen space to get into specifics. But I figured what the hell. Sometimes it’s time to tell a story.
Here is how I got six years of sobriety:
Have a great early childhood. Change schools. Get picked on and beat up. Change school again. Get picked on and beat up. Feel defeat between your toes and in your soul. Equate being yourself to pain. Retract from life and your authentic self. Shy away from your gifts. Cry a lot. Hide in your room. Pick up a drink. Play music and write. Hide more. Pick up another drink. Listen to death metal. Crash your car at 19 because you were drunk. Keep drinking. Go to college. Meet a girl. Keep drinking. Have girl break up with you. Drink. Find empty solace with other girls who you like only because they like you first. Seek external validation. Feel miserable.
Get jobs. Keep drinking. Get back with girl. Get married. Buy a house. Drink more. Start feeling more and more empty. Work long hours. Drink after work. Stay out all night to drink. Worry your wife sick. Be an asshole to her. Be an asshole to everyone. Blame everyone for your problems. Get angry. Drink more. Be inappropriate with others. Act like a big shot even though inside you’re a small man. Hate yourself. Loath your entire being. Punch yourself in the face when no one’s looking. Call yourself every name in the book. Spit at your reflection. Drink more. Move up professionally while swirling down the sink of self-hatred and piss poor judgement from drinking. Fight with your wife. A lot. Zone out. Check out emotionally. Start blacking out.
Increase selfishness. Have a child. Swear you will never drink again. Then swear you won’t drink in front of him. Then swear you won’t drink a lot in front of him. Start drinking daily. Drink beers to settle shaking hands. Drink bottles of vodka straight. Hide everything. Have people remove themselves from your presence. Have people ask about you. Gobble breath mints. Feel the swirl of failure around you. Sense that the bottom if falling out but you can’t stop this train. Drink more. Soil your pants. Lie to everyone. Pass out. Drive. Get angry. A lot. Have withdrawals so bad you need to call an ambulance because you think you are going to have a heart attack. Have panic attacks daily. See therapist upon therapist to figure out everything except the drinking.
Consider suicide as a means of escaping for good. Get fired from jobs. Get hospitalized. Get arrested for a DUI with your 3 1/2 year old son in the back. Find out your levels were lethal. Have the police tell you that you should have been dead. Watch from the back of a squad car, while handcuffed, as an officer plays Thomas the train with your boy until his mother arrives. Sit in the drunk tank. Get kicked out of the house. Live in your parents basement. Go to meetings but drink again. Visit your son to make pizza but get drunk first. Watch his disappointed face. Get hammered on last time.
MAKE A DECISION THAT YOU’VE HAD ENOUGH.
Go to detox. Get the DT’s and pray for death. Get into treatment. Stay 21 days and watch as other guys come and go. Fear for your life. Feel that you can’t do this. Feel the cravings rake over your soul and skin. Hate everyone. Hate yourself. Go to meetings – sometimes five a day because you need them. Find a sponsor. Cry a lot. Miss your family. Get discharged. Find an apartment because your wife has separated from you. Live off savings. Work on the 12 steps. Walk around for hours on end because you don’t trust yourself alone. Contemplate suicide because it’s too hard. Be in court for 2 1/2 years and get convicted on your DUI. Lose your license for three years. Owe tens of thousands. Go to probation for 18 months.
Go to bed one day realizing you haven’t thought about a drink all day. Pray all the time. Watch others relapse around you. Stay grounded. Connect with healthy men. Learn to love. Learn to like yourself. Learn that all your troubles are of your own making. Make amends. Heal wounds. Have your wife ask you back. Hug your boy as much as you can. Stay grateful. Learn to live life again without alcohol. Get a job, a job where you will move up and gain much respect in. Write a lot. Start a blog. Start a podcast. Adopt a beautiful boy, a boy who’s biological mother struggles with alcohol and can’t keep him. Meet others like yourself online and in person. Sponsor other men. Smile a lot. Exercise. Help others. Let others help you. Be a kind citizen of the world.
Then, one day, order yourself a six-year coin. Do not open it until the day comes around. Then open it and hold it tight.
And on that day, you will weep on your way to work, early in the morning, when only the streetcars and crows are around to screech around you. You will weep because you know that you are blessed and that shit could have gone sideways so easily and that you were one car ride away from killing someone. Perhaps your own flesh and blood. You weep because you know that so many out there haven’t gotten to where you are. Some die out there praying for a tiny glimpse of what you have right now.
YOU ARE BLESSED. YOU ARE WHERE YOU NEED TO BE. YOU ARE LOVE. YOU ARE LOVE.
Thank you to all of you who are part of my recovery.
For further thoughts into this – please check out the latest podcast.