by Aries Writer
I was only four years old.
|Do you remember your first time? I do; I was four years old. I was still in day care. We lived in a little town just outside of Cleveland. Our house was on Spruce Street, a little cul-de-sac with nice houses, upper middle class families, dogs barking from the back yards. Not the kind of place you expect evil to live. But, as I would later learn, you never know what lurks behind the facade. I'm sure my dad never could have foreseen the ramifications; how could he? Maybe he just figured I was old enough. Maybe he was attempting to bond with me in the only way he knew how. I didn't know then, and thirty-five years later I still don't know. Any way you look at it, the stage was set. I was four years old. Four innocent years old, when he called me over one night, in the midst of a party he was throwing for his work buddies, when he gave me a can with blue printed words and pictures, cold and wet from condensation, and told me to drink it.|
I don't remember much else from my time in Ohio, but as I got older, our father/son time would often include hours of me and him at the officer's club; him at the bar and me at the arcade game. Back then they would give him one for the road, filled to the brim of whatever his drink choice was, in a very large plastic cup. We would pile back into his car and home we went, where more drink would ensue. With more drink came the violence. I remember him waking up for work. Me and my step sister were in the kitchen getting ready for school. The dogs, while drinking out of their water bowl, had pushed the bowl into the entrance way of the kitchen, which my dad had walked through and inadvertently kicked, sending water all over the floor. I remember him reaching for the first thing he could- my step sister, and with as much strength as he could muster in his still drunken stupor, slammed her head into the concrete wall. These were the daily events of our lives.
At thirteen years old I moved in with my mom. Years of traumatic experiences had left their mark; it took two years of therapy just to level off my tantrums, although they never really disappeared. Nor did that first taste of beer. Of course, for the next six years I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't drug, I was fairly normal. It wasn't until I turned nineteen when the past began to surface in my decision making and life choices. It was at this point that, like a rock in a pond, I had completely flipped upside down. I began hanging with the wrong people. Drugs and booze became a normalcy. I moved in with my sister in upstate New York in an effort to get clean. I quickly found myself homeless in the middle of February. I had only the pleather clothes I was wearing. I would stay with friends who would sneak me into their basements while their parents were working. I would stay for a day or two before I would leave for another friend's house.
I had eventually made my way back to Connecticut where friends of the family took me in. I had finally given up the drugs for the most part. I found a job at our local fast food restaurant where I would meet my future wife. I would also later move into a new career after landing employment as a subcontractor to a very large chemical manufacturing company. It looked as though, for the first time in years, my life was finally on track. Things were looking up. I was making decent money, had a loving girlfriend, rid myself of all the wrong people I had poisoning my life, yet through it all I could never give up drinking. My mom would often call me a "functioning alcoholic". I suppose I was; on our vacations me and my girlfriend would stop at every brewery or distillery we came across. We'd drink to Maine just to stop at one of my favorite brewers to buy cases of the Honey Mead they made.The bottom left corner of the fridge, that was for my beer, often a thirty pack of Busch or Bud. Right next to that would be a case of the beer from whichever specialty beer I happened to have. They would mostly be gone after a few days.
Never, at any point, did I ever think of myself as an alcoholic. I was able to "function" in my daily life. Alcoholics went to meetings. Alcoholics had shakes, drank mouthwash when they couldn't get their hands on any other alcohol. I wasn't like them. I was normal. They weren't.
We moved to Southeast Texas in 2012. I am up to a thirty pack a day. I would wash that down with a ten pack of Captain Morgan spiced rum nips. The weekends would often be a thirty pack and another eighteen pack to go along with the nips. Any event or outing had to have alcohol on hand or allow me to bring my own. If neither were offered or allowed, I wouldn't go. Still, I didn't have the problem. It was everyone who had a problem for not offering or allowing beer. Who doesn't drink beer for crying out loud?
I began to notice a smell when I woke up. I couldn't place it, but after my shower in the morning before work, it would still be there. It would linger until around lunch time. At one point I became so utterly inebriated from a hard night of drinking that I had actually fell asleep at work under a piece of equipment. My coworkers, all retirement age, covered for me. When the boss came to check on us they quickly herded him in the opposite direction from me.
"You need to be careful. You don't want to give them a reason to fuck with you, and right now, you are painting a very large target on your back. I can smell the booze coming out of you."
Whatever, I've gone this long without getting caught. I'll be fine.
And then, just like that, it wasn't. Everything in my personal and professional life exploded in one fell swoop, crashing into embers at my feet.
I came home from work one day to hear my wife telling me she was leaving. I had a choice, the alcohol or her. "If you have a problem with me, then get the fuck out", I told her. She slept on the couch that night.
The next day I awoke, took my normal shower, still smelling the odor of what I now knew was left over alcohol seeping through my pours. I was fine. I could see straight, I could walk straight, I was normal. I went to work. At seven thirty I was approached by two managers whom called me into one of their offices.
"We can smell you. We have a test person on the way."
When she showed up, all it took was the breath test to pull me out of service. I blew a .90. They wouldn't let me drive home. I drove with one, while the other followed in my car. Upon walking into the house, there was less furniture than the night before. My wife was gone. Fuck it. If they have a problem with me, they can deal with it. I'm normal. How fucking dare they pull me out of service...
I had my circle of barfly friends that would keep me company. Over the ensuing two weeks, I had run through my entire bank account. Hundreds of dollars a night, hours on end; I would often not know how I made it home. At the end of one night I found myself in the garage smoking a cigarette when I blacked out. I remember feeling the wind around me, the world beneath me getting closer, until the full force of my weight crashed onto the concrete pad. I'm pretty sure I fractured my sternum. I broke my watch when it caught on the washer faucet outlet.
Once the money in my account was depleted I would go to the bar and wait for my friends to show up. They would buy my drinks for the night, they would listen to me bitch about how unfair and ungrateful the world was for everything I've done for it. They would sympathize with me for the plight of my existence. I didn't have a problem, everyone else did. Being the good friends they were, they obliged me. Night after night, week after week. Through me losing my house and the rest of my possessions, losing my car, having to move in with my mom and step dad at thirty-four years old; they stood by me. Even my step dad would keep a bottle of Fireball in the cupboard for us to dive into when we came back from the bar.
I hated everyone, I hated everything. I blamed both for my fate equally. I would fill out applications in an effort to find a new job then rail against them when they denied me employment. The funny thing is all I had to do to go back to work at my old job was go through treatment. I didn't need treatment. I was normal. And so it continued.
One morning I woke up. I needed to clip my finger nails. I was shaking with such ferocity I cut two of my fingers. When I went to the kitchen for coffee, I could only fill my cup half way lest it spill. I put the coffee cup on the counter, staring at it for a length of time that caused my mom concern. She asked if I were okay. Pulling away from the coffee cup I looked at her, looked at the ground, and, without a word, made my way back into the bathroom. I walked to the sink. I grasped the sides, leaned forward, and got lost in myself. The... thing... staring back at me in the mirror... who was that? My god, he looked like death. I couldn't pull away. I couldn't stop looking. I couldn't stop screaming at it. I couldn't stop asking for God to save me from it. I asked God if this was really how I was meant to end my life, if this was all the best I could do? I asked that grisly, frail, sickened thing in the mirror if this was how I wanted my life to end.
Planet Fitness had just opened an outlet a few blocks from my house. I decided to go to my first treatment session and on the way back make a stop in to see what it's all about. When I walked out I had a new membership. I've never been in a gym before. I hadn't the faintest idea of what to do in it. I did know if I didn't change, I would likely not see my next birthday. When I got home I disrobed and stood on the scale. One hundred and twenty-nine pounds. I'm six feet, one inch. My resolve was hardened.
A month later I had returned to work after having completed the required treatment plan. I moved my shift to midnights so that I would have all temptation to spend my afternoons at the bar removed from my mind. I would spend my entire waking time watching youtube videos about proper lifting techniques and nutrition. I stayed as far away from alcohol as possible. I even saved enough money to buy a passport and a plane ticket to Germany for a two week vacation, the first time doing something big that didn't involve alcohol. It was something I had always dreamed of doing one day, going to new places, meeting new people, seeing new sites.
I had made it to several countries in Europe for vacations over the next three years. I was up to one hundred and seventy pounds of pure muscle. I had turned my life around. I decided I was good to go out one Saturday night. I would only have one drink. It'll be okay; my health is on track. My job is going well. My personal life is decent. I was normal. I could handle it.
That one drink turned into seventy dollars worth, but it was okay because it was only once. To hell with it, I'm rocking this life now. I own it, I control it, I can go out on Sunday night too. It'll be okay; I'm normal.
I could see it happening. I could feel it in my soul. I now had to sell stocks in my company in order to continue my Europe vacations. And to pay my bills. And to cover my weekends out. But I was fine, I was still making it work.
I made it work for a year and a half; justifying my actions by stepping on the scale and seeing my weight and muscle mass continue to increase, by continuing to make my bills on time and affording my vacations, I was back to managing my life, so I was good.
I left my normal bar one evening pretty early, early enough to know that, even though I had gone through an entire bottle of Crown Apple, I was still very much in the mood to continue the night. A little voice was whispering in my ear to go home. ignoring it, I made my way to an all-night bar that I hadn't been to since I originally quit drinking. Old friends were there and soon enough, so were the shots of Vodka.
I don't remember much about that night. I remember walking to my car. I remember closing the car door. And then I remember waking up in a jail cell with seven other people.
There comes a point where some serious introspection is needed in one's life and I'm pretty sure I had just hit that point, again. Looking back at my life, I have no choice but to reflect on just how low I have been. Everything I've lost, the humiliating events I've gone through, how many bottoms can one find before finally figuring out the way back up? As I sat on the floor of that jail cell, afraid of the people in there with me, I thought back to every point in my life that brought me to that day. How horrible it was to actually to go to a bar and expect to get drunk on other people's money. How I had lost everything I owned after drinking my bank accounts dry. How I chose alcohol over my wife because she was the one who had a problem. How I had to put a facade on my current sobriety from both the people who were still in my life, and myself, justifying it with lies and half-truths. And my mom, who lives with and relies on, me and how disappointed she must be. This is the event that finally broke the camel's back. I cannot continue lying to myself about my affliction. I realize with absolution that I am entirely not normal.
I am now two months and one day sober. I have a long road ahead with looming legal and financial troubles to come dealing with the arrest. But I met a great group of people who meet every night to discuss like-minded life events. None of them are ever going to be normal either. But they are sober. And they are supportive. I have learned how to give myself to God on His terms, and already some things are beginning to look up. The biggest thing I have learned over the past two months? I am not normal. I will never be normal. And that's okay, because knowing that I will never be normal means I can finally find peace within myself that I had never really found before; that I can actually live life on life's own terms, on God's own terms. While still anxious, I know that no matter what happens, God will put me where He needs me and I'm completely okay with that.
Who could have ever guessed one night at four years old would turn into a lifetime fight? Not me, but perhaps now someone without hope in a similar situation can look at me and see there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.