The first time I got drunk was with my best friend, we were about 14. He spent the night at my house and my parents went bowling. They had a fairly extensive liquor cabinet and we made it our mission to do a shot of everything. From whiskey to creme de menthe, I think we tried it all. It was awesome! We had so much fun and laughed so hard. Even throwing up my fruit loops the next day was totally worth it. It was so worth it in fact, I drank again, pretty quickly. I wanted that feeling again, so I did some shots in the middle of the day a couple days later when I found myself alone. You see, for me it had little to do with my friend and I having fun and more to do with the effect of alcohol. I wanted that feeling again, and eventually I wanted that feeling all the time. It didn’t really matter if anyone else was around. Parties and friends were great, don’t get me wrong. But eventually, years later, they faded away.

I turned into a sneak drunk because I nearly always wanted more than my friends. I wanted more and more frequently. My friends were getting married, buying houses, having babies. I really didn’t understand all of that. I did fall in love and get married, but I really had to hide my drinking problem from her. She was aware that drinking was an issue for me, but she had no idea how bad it had become. Neither did work for that matter. I hid from work and maintained something like normality. Construction leaves a little wiggle room, eye drops and breath mints provided some more. Friends were now a liability. I didn’t know anyone other than me who drank vodka first thing in the morning and all day after. So I hid. I hid from my wife, family, friends, work and the police. I felt like I was safer all alone. Just me and a bottle. Nothing was better than the feeling when I knew I had enough booze to last and wasn’t going to be bothered for a while. The sanctuary of isolation.

That changed when I went to rehab. I found out I was not alone. I was suddenly ensconced in a group of people with terrible habits just like me!  It was shocking and wonderful to hear similar, awful stories of misbehavior. I found it enlightening to know I was not unique in my suffering and freeing to be able to share the terrible things I’d done and been through with people who wouldn’t judge, as they’d done the same or worse. It didn’t matter if these were people with whom I would not normally mix. Camaraderie came easy to us, like the survivors of a shipwreck. I didn’t (and don’t) have to hide anymore. I attended meetings with them, had a social group, and was held accountable. I became ‘a part of’ for the first time in a long time, and at a depth I’d never experienced before. I still am, as much as I want to. That’s the thing, I have to continue to grow and evolve. I have to, or I will stagnate. Besides, life is good. Why wouldn’t I want to continue on this path? My old behavior has nothing for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like to be alone, from time to time. But not to hide, not anymore. Now when I find myself alone, it’s not because I’m hiding. When it happens now, I am in good company. I am safe by myself for short periods, unsupervised ;). Being an introvert by nature, I need time to recharge. In fact, being by myself now is healthy, I just have to avoid isolation.

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