The Progression of My Disease
I remember the first time I had alcohol, I put the bottle to my lips, filled my mouth with beer, and swallowed. Immediately, it did something for me that nothing else had ever done, it was the most relaxing sense of relief I had ever experienced. I loved it! That feeling I had during my first time drinking, was the same feeling I chased my whole life.
As a teenager, I enjoyed going out after football games and partying with my friends. I enjoyed going to the mountains and spending the weekend fishing and drinking. I enjoyed a lot of things, but I enjoyed them a lot more when alcohol was involved. I never really got in trouble for drinking, other than a minor in possession ticket I received my freshman year of college. For the most part, there were very few consequences and I really enjoyed drinking. During this time, it was still fun.
In my early twenties, my drinking became a more common occurrence. There were many times, especially during the week, where I overshot the mark and would have to call in sick to work. There were also times where I woke up feeling horrible, and I told myself I was done. Of course, I wasn’t, I mean what 20 something-year-old gives up drinking?
At the time, I lived with four friends, and we brought out the worst in each other. We had fun every chance we got, and drinking and partying became my priority. Late in the summer, my friends and I took a trip to Vegas and we did nothing but drink the entire time. It was the first time that I could feel the physical effects of alcohol taking its toll on my body. When we returned from that trip, we all realized that it was time for us to move on. We all moved out and went our separate ways.
I decided that I was going to join the military. I did this for two reasons: First, it was something that I wanted to do as a child, and I didn’t want life to pass me by and I will be in my 40’s wondering what if. Second, I thought my friends were the problem, and if I separated myself from them, my drinking would slow down. Although enlisting in the military was the best decision I ever made, I found out that the common denominator to my drinking was ME.
I served for over nine years, and I am proud to say that. For the first couple of years, although I did drink, it was nothing like I before I joined. I was good at being a Marine and I was more focused on being promoted than wanting to party every day. As time went on, I began to blackout when I drank. I may not have been drinking as much in terms of days of the week, but I found myself making up for lost times through excessive drinking. I realized this, and for the sake of my career, I chose not to drink at times.
Even though everything that happened to this point, I still really enjoyed drinking and there was nothing that anyone could have said to me to convince me I had a problem. After all, I was respected and really good at my job. It wasn’t until I got back from my first combat deployment when my reason for drinking started to change. It was at this point in my life, where I stopped drinking for fun, and I started drinking out of necessity.
When I tell this part of my story, I have to put out this disclaimer, what I experienced on my deployments is NOT what made me into an alcoholic. Knowing what I know now, I have always drunk abnormally. What I mean by this, is that I was never able to have just one drink. From the first time I drank willingly, to the last time I drank begrudgingly, once alcohol touched my lips, it became the most important thing to me. There was no amount of alcohol that could satisfy my desire.
When I returned home, I was uncomfortable everywhere I went. I couldn’t be in large groups, my friends were the only people I trusted, and everyone else was out to get me. The worst thing of all is that I couldn’t shut my thoughts off. I was constantly living in the past and analyzing every decision I made on deployment. The only thing that turned this off was alcohol. I never drank at work, but I was constantly thinking about my first drink. Knowing that it was the only thing that would bring me peace, I fantasized about it.
This became the norm for almost a year and a half until I went on another combat deployment. While overseas, I didn’t once think about alcohol. The only thing I thought about were the men to the left and the right of me, and how their lives depended on my ability to do my job. After 8 months, I returned home and I was almost immediately back to my old ways. I managed to drink a year’s worth of alcohol in four months.
I was drinking for the same reasons as before, to turn off my thoughts. Also like before, it worked, until it didn’t. I remember it was a weekend, and sitting on my couch with my cup of Vodka. I couldn’t drink it fast enough to stop the thoughts from coming in. Before I knew it, I was pissed drunk and my thoughts were right there with me. What had always worked before, wasn’t working that night.
Eventually, I passed out and woke up the next morning thinking that the night before was a fluke. So I didn’t waste any time, and I got out of bed and finished whatever liquor I had left. By the time the morning chill left, I was drunk, and just as the night before, my thoughts were still with me. I remember being angry, the one thing that got me through all those tough times no longer worked. I decided that Sunday would be the last time I drank. After all, it was pointless so long as it didn’t numb me the way it used to.
To make an even longer story short, what I found out is that I lost the power of choice when it came to drinking. I would wake up every morning and look at myself in the mirror and tell myself I wasn’t going to drink. I would go to work and just like before, I would constantly think about alcohol. The difference this time though, was that I was thinking about how I didn’t want to drink. From the bottom of my heart, each and every day for almost three years, I meant it when I said I didn’t want to drink. Every day I failed. Alcohol was my master and I had no idea what to do.
Anytime I was off from work, I was obliviated. On the weekends, or during our extended leave, I was drunk before 0600am. There were times when I would wake up before the sun came up trembling. I would fill a 12oz glass full of vodka, add a splash of orange juice, and drink it as fast as I could. Most times I could keep it down and it would provide instant relief. Other times I would throw up, but instead of spitting it out as any sane person would, I would hold it in my mouth until I could stomach it. I was an alcoholic who had no idea what to do.
On the outside, I was a clean-cut well-spoken Marine, but on the inside, I was screaming for help. Nobody knew, except for my wife. I hated my life, and what I had become. As a grown man in my early thirties, I would cry myself to sleep at night. I would pray for myself to die in my sleep, and when I woke up, I cursed the day because I knew what lay ahead. Suicide became a constant thought, and the night that I went to my garage to hang myself, I just couldn’t follow through. I stumbled back into the house and accepted that I was going to die an alcoholic death.
On Thanksgiving in 2016, I blacked out and said some things to a very close friend that I am still unsure of today. I know that whatever was said was enough to scare him because when I walked into work on Monday, my boss and a few others were sitting there and we had the talk. I told them my drinking had become excessive and I just needed some time to figure it out. They gave me just enough time to realize that no amount of self-will was going to get me to quit.
On February 3, 2016, I checked into an inpatient facility where I was able to work on myself, and I haven’t had a drink since.