The First Six Months…

Not picking up adrink for the first few days of my sobriety was not terribly difficult from me-I had not been a daily drinker and didn’t drink much on the weekdays. Thatfirst weekend I avoided going out with anyone and laid low. At the time, Iplanned on taking a brief hiatus, picking back up when I had things figuredout.

One of the firstthings I did was connect with a counselor through the Employee AssistanceProgram at work. I met her and we discussed what was going on in my life and myconcerns with stopping drinking – mainly that I wouldn’t be able to keep mysocial circles and would lose relationships I had spent years building. Duringour first conversation, she told me she didn’t think I was an alcoholic basedupon what I had told her and that it sounded like I didn’t know how to managethe stress in my life. We spent our six sessions talking about self-care andhow I could balance out my life, which was really helpful for what I was goingthrough. However, I was scared of drinking and didn’t pick up a drink.

After the first fewweeks, I got into a groove without drinking. I was able to go out with friends,go on vacations and didn’t change much in my life. Looking back now, I felthealthier but my life wasn’t improving overall. I shifted my stress relief fromdrinking to eating and noticed that when I would get stressed out andoverwhelmed, I would go eat something. I knew I couldn’t drink, but lacked thetools to center myself.

Over the course ofthe 6 months before I started a program. there were two occasions when I found myself overwhelming wanting a drink – both towards the end of the period before beginning my program The first was during Charlotte Pride- I was in charge of a booth, dealing with kickball registration, and working on planning a 5k. I was so overwhelmedand wanted to get drunk and forget all my problems. Luckily I called a friend who walked me through way drinking again because I was stressed probably wasn’ta good idea. The second time I wanted to drink was over labor day weekend. Ispent all day on the lake with some friends and I was the only person not drinking and I felt uncomfortable. By the time I left, all I wanted to do wasdrink. I went home to be alone and slept for several hours until the urgepassed. I could tell this was going to happen more frequently and get stronger.I wasn’t sure what to do.

A few weeks later, a family member of a friend of mine passed. I won’t get into too many details, but they were involved in a program. During the memorial service, a lot of people who spoke were in the program (I could tell by everyone saying “Hi & so’ after they introduced themselves). I felt a presence and a strength from these individuals that I wanted. It dawned on me that a recovery program might provide that for me and keep me from drinking. At that point in my journey I didn’t know what else to do.

Later that evening Iwas at a housewarming party talking to a friend about this and he mentioned he knew someone who was in recovery and worked a program He suggested I reach out to them with questions. This person would be the one to take me to my first meeting and help me begin the journey to finding my way in sobriety.

The Mountain

This weekend I attended a sober retreat and it was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. I spent 2 days with people in various stages of recovery and was able to make connections in ways I haven’t before. At the start of the retreat, we were asked to set intentions for the weekend – I chose to focus on ways I could find balance in my life and be comfortable being still.

I’m still processing this experience, but I needed to share some initial realizations I came to over the course of the weekend. Throughout the coming days/weeks I will have more to share, but the two biggest takeaways were:

  1. I am not comfortable being vulnerable with others. I share my experiences and thoughts with others in meetings and through this blog, but I don’t truly allow people to see my raw emotions. I am good at letting people in just enough where they feel they know me, but not in enough to see what I’m actually going through. This approach worked for me in varying degrees in my life before recovery, however it is causing me to stall through recovery. If I want to be able to make progress and grow, I’m going to have to focus on letting others see the real me and not just what I am comfortable showing them.
  2. I am always taking on tasks and staying busy, trying to prove my worth to myself and to society. I feel that if I am not being productive or working towards something, I am useless. I find myself judging others on this, considering people who don’t contribute to society a waste of space. I’m starting to realize this is me projecting my insecurities. I’m not exactly sure where this stems from, I’m still working that part out. What I do know is that I need to spend time reflecting upon my intentions.

This weekend wasn’t just about realizations, it also was filled with love, joy, hope, and light. Every single person on the mountain understood what I was going through and invested in my recovery and happiness. It was a spiritual experience – and I hope to be able to share the love and joy I felt with others in my every day life.

Out of Control

St. Patty’s Day of 2018 started out like most others had. I made plans with friends to pre-game before a bar crawl we were attending. I knew it was going to be a long day of drinking, so my plan was to pace myself by avoiding shots and sticking to beer (fun fact – drinking 20+ beers throughout at day will get you just as drunk as a few shots). I was controllable for most of the day, but got really drunk following a friend’s birthday dinner and blacked out at the club. I later learned that I made out with some random guy and ended up in the parking lot with my pants off trying to get into an uber. When I got home, I locked myself in the bathroom and passed out on the toilet with the shower on. My roommates had to pick the lock on the door to get in to make sure I was alive.

The real story starts the next day – there was nothing special or different about the night I had, it wasn’t my craziest night and I didn’t really do anything I regretted. However, when I woke up I had a terrible feeling (in addition my hangover) that I couldn’t place for most of the morning. As the morning progressed I realized the felling I had was dread and impending doom. It felt like I was going to die soon from the choices I made and in that moment I knew I couldn’t live my life the way I had been.

I knew that my life was out of control, but I wasn’t ready to admit I had a drinking problem or that I was an alcoholic. But I knew I could control whether or not I picked up a drink. In typical Kevin fashion, I started to read everything I could on alcoholism and blacking out, avoiding any literature relating to 12-step programs or recovery. I wanted to collect all the data possible before admitting I might have a problem. I decided that for that day I wouldn’t drink.

My decision to not drink one day, turned into two days and then a week. I met with a counselor through the Employee Assistance Program and we discussed what I was going through. The conclusion that we came to was I didn’t have a drinking problem, my problem was with the fact I didn’t manage my stress well and it manifested itself in my blackout drinking. However, I knew that I it was more than that.

I kept not drinking for about six months, but my life didn’t get much better. I wasn’t blacking out, but I was still stressed out, angry, and felt out of control. Mostly I felt confused and conflicted – I didn’t resemble the alcoholics I read about or saw in popular media. There was no big rock bottom for me- I had a job, hadn’t been arrested, or alienated my friends and family. I didn’t know where I fit.

A Pride to Forget…

A more recent time my drinking was unmanageable was during Charlotte Pride in 2017. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Pride is an annual celebration where LGBTQ+ individuals gather to celebrate the struggles we have overcome and typically has a large party scene associated with it. 

Pride weekend 2017 started out pretty normal for me – there were two nights of moderate to heavy drinking and being hungover the next day. I was helping with the booths for both work and Stonewall Sports at the festival and managed to show up to both and march in the parade. 

The real event of the weekend started Sunday afternoon. After the festivities had ended, I decided to close the weekend out with some friends at a new drag bar that had opened up that weekend. When I arrived around 7pm, I was sober and decided that I was going to get trashed and started drinking a beer with a 9% ABV. I had no concern of what would await the next day and how I would feel at work. 

After a few beers, I was feeling good and decided to join someone who was with us in the bathroom to do a bump of cocaine, then I continued to drink. Now this is where the night got blurry and I’m telling the story as it has been described to me from various individuals. 

We stayed at the drag bar for a while longer and then migrated to another bar nearby and I continued to drink. At some point, we ran into someone who had been involved with a friend of mine casually and I proceeded to tell him how terrible of a person he was because things had ended and shared things I had been told in confidence loudly. At some point, I also took off my pants at both bars. 

The next day, I woke up late and ended up driving to work still feeling a little woozy. As the day progressed, I ended up being extremely hungover and finding out I had betrayed the confidence of my best friend. At the time I felt a little bad and thought I might need to slow down the drinking, but I didn’t. Even in the face of consequences, I wasn’t ready to give up the drink. 

On a lighter note, I’m happy to say that I have made amends to all parties involved and have repaired my friendships. Some stories have a happy ending.  

Dirty Myrtle

The next big event in my life that should have been a indicator to stop drinking happened the spring of my senior year. I went to Myrtle Beach, SC for a Student Legislature Session (I was really cool in college y’all) with this guy that I had been hooking up with on and off with since my sophomore year. We were planning on sharing a room that week and I was looking forward to it.

The day we traveled down was the 21st of one of my fellow delegates and we had plans to go out to celebrate. Naturally we started drinking heavily as soon as we arrived at the beach, followed by shots at dinner, and then hitting up the bars. The night started out fun – there was drinking and dancing and everyone was getting along. Then the issues started – the boy I was in love with was on the dance floor making out with a girl that was on the trip with us. I saw this and became enraged and started drinking more.

At some point during my angry drinking, I blacked out. What follows is what I have pieced together from various people who were witness to this escapade. After I blacked out, I began to tell everyone in earshot the relationship I had with my friend (who was not out) and how I was going to ruin his life. I made a scene at each bar we went to and then in Walmart. I came to on the beach alone later that night. I found the people I was with and they started to fill in the details – at the time I wasn’t upset. I figured my friend got what he deserved. My mindset during this phase of my life was very vindictive and I did not like to be crossed.  The next day I apologized, but the relationship with my friend was fractured and has only recently been repaired.

This was another sign that my life was becoming unmanageable due to alcohol. I ruined yet another relationship and didn’t really care. What should have been a wake up call was just a blip on my radar.

Taking a Bite

You hear a lot about people hitting bottom before they stopped drinking & using. What I’ve come to realize is that most people don’t hit one bottom and stop digging. There tends to be a build up of events leading to the realization that sobriety is the only way one can survive. I was in this camp – there wasn’t one event that shook me and caused me to get sober – this realization that I had a problem and would problem end up jobless, homeless, and dead occurred over time. The next few posts are going to be dedicated to the big events that should have been red flags for me that I ignored. Theses stories are not going to be inclusive, but will highlight those events which stick out to me. When possible, I will not use names and will change them if it is unavoidable.

The first instance I can think of where my drinking was out of control and there were consequences occurred on reading day of my junior year. I decided that I did not need to study, since the only exam I had the next day was my HR exam and felt I could pass it with flying colors. It was also the weekend of the Abbeville Spring Festival, which I had worked on the marketing for through my internship and was determined to see how the event turned out. I texted a few of my friends and we decided it would be a good idea to pregame. We got together and drank a few bottles of wine between the 5 of us and had a fantastic time at the Festival.

I thought it was going to be a quiet night, however when we returned to campus some of us decided it was a great idea to go to this club in the neighboring town, Jose Bananas. At Jose Bananas everyone was 21 and $10 would buy you unlimited house liquor for the night. For college students, this was the perfect scenario. My friends and I found a designated driver (at this time I would not drive no matter how much I had to drink) and headed to the club. The first part of the night was a blast, we drank and danced and acted like we had no cares in the world.

The trouble began when we left the club – one of my friends was almost passed out drunk and we managed to get them in the car and head back to campus. Approximately halfway back they started to hit and kick me- which I did not appreciate, so I grabbed their arms to keep them at bay. They did not like that and proceeded to climb on top of me and started biting me. I tried to push them off and get the driver to pull over to no avail – they kept going and I was too drunk to fight back.

I woke up several hours later extremely hungover and late for my HR exam. I ran to the exam and was able to start taking it. About 5 minutes after showing up, I ran into the bathroom and vomited. I lied and told the Professor I had a stomach bug and he graciously agreed to let me take the exam the next day. I spent most of the day recovering and finally had a friend bandage my open wounds. There were six bites where the skin was broken and I still have a scar today. I was physically and emotionally wrought – the person who had done this was someone I had considered a close friend and I wasn’t sure how I could forgive them. I never got closure and was not able to fully discuss what happened. This was the first major relationship that alcohol ruined for me.

Looking back on this situation, I can now see how my actions and alcoholism lead me to the situation in which this occurred and take responsibility for that. I also see a pattern of behavior of the individual who attacked me and how alcohol effect their life and I have finally forgiven them for what happened and acknowledge my part in the situation. The point of telling this story is not to blame anyone, but to illustrate how alcohol was slowly causing problems in my life.

This is the first example of many of the ways I was powerless under alcohol and how my life became unmanageable. It was also the first time I tried to stop drinking for a while. My plan was to wait until I was 21 (it was only 3 months at this point), however I only made it 3 weeks until I was able to get my hands on alcohol.

9 months

9 months ago I woke up and decided I was not going to drink that day, and the next and eventually it turned into 276 days of not drinking. When I made that decision I had no idea how much my life would change in such a short period of time. I’m grateful that I was able to celebrate 9 months of sobriety today and want to thank everyone who has supported me thus far.

Blackout or Backout!

“Blackout or Backout!” I still remember hearing (and repeating that) at various college parties and events. At the time, it was our way of rebelling – at a small,private, dry Christian College this was the way those of us who didn’t fit in came together. During college, that was my party motto and I always chose blackout over backout.

For those of you who have never blacked out, there are two types of blackouts: en bloc (complete and total memory loss) and fragmentary.  When someone blacks out, it can often be hard to tell. They can carry on conversations and act as if they are just slightly intoxicated – they just aren’t able to form new memories. For more information on alcohol related blackouts, click here.

I remember the night I first blacked out – I had gone on a blind date, which turned into a group date with my friends and we went to the Mellow Mushroom. The date was a train wreck, but the calzones were amazing. When we got back to campus we started drinking pretty heavily, joking about the awkwardness of the night and how delicious the calzones were. The last think I remember is sitting on a couch in the coffee shop and them being back in my room, completely wet. It turns out we walked through the rain so I could go back and heat up my left over calzone. To this day, I still do not remember what actually transpired.

That was the first time I blacked out, but not the last. During college I would experience blackouts every few weeks, when I went a little too hard or had something to celebrate. At that time, they were the exception, not the norm and I thought it was fun trying to piece together the night. Nothing too embarrassing or dangerous occurred so there was no need for me to change my behavior.

As my drinking progressed, my blackouts became more and more frequent. For most of college they resulting in funny stories of what I did the night before and it seemed like most of my friends experienced the occasional blackout. Even though it happened to me more frequently than everyone else, I chalked it up to being in college. However, the blackouts continued after graduation and occurred almost every time I went out and they became more dangerous. One night, I went out in SouthEnd with a friend from college and I woke up outside of her apartment, covered in blood and mud without my cell phone. This was just one of many nights I experienced after college.

Still I thought that this was a normal life and everyone blacked out. It wasn’t until I began to think I had a problem that I asked my one of my best friends how often he blacked out and he told me he had never experienced. I realized that blacking out frequently is not the norm.

Service Keeps You Sober

I’ve heard thephrase ‘service keeps you sober’ countless times since I’ve started my recovery. I brushed it off as putting good energy into the universe and it will comeback to you. I didn’t pay much attention to it and figured that my involvementin Stonewall and the occasional volunteering I did was good enough.

Last week was toughfor me – I was busy, stressed out, and wasn’t keeping myself spiritually fit.This culminated in an intense craving during a board meeting. We were talkingabout a Corona sponsorship received by Stonewall Sports International and how thiswould effect us in Charlotte and I could suddenly taste the Corona. Thisfreaked me out – while I have had cravings before, nothing was ever as strongas this. After I left my board meeting, I got into any argument with a friendand really wanted to drown my sorrows in a glass of wine. However, I did what Ihad been told to do: called my sponsor and found the nearest meeting. Once again I heard those words, we believe service keeps you sober.

When the weekendcame around, I was feeling a little better, but still not 100%. I had forgottenuntil late Friday evening that I had agreed to help a friend move. I would havemuch rather gone out and stayed up until 6am, however this commitment kept me staying in. Looking back now, this commitment literally kept me sober. Ienjoyed helping my friend move and was in a better place spiritually than I hadstarted the day at.

Sunday morning, Ihad plans to meet my friends for church and was awoken by a message saying thata sub was needed in Greenhouse (Children’s Church) because someone’s kid had afever. At first, I ignored the message because I did not want to give up my plans.Eventually after no one responded, I gave in and said I would help.

I arrived at themeeting place and we were locked out. Normally something like this would sendme over the edge and compounded my bad mood. However, I was not effected bythis and was in a good mood. Reflecting back on this, I realized I was in asignificantly better place than I had been all week. The only thing I diddifferently was to serve others.

Party, Party, Party, Let’s All Get Wasted

After that first night, I spent virtually every weekend (and a lot of weeknights) drinking and partying for the next 9 years. I loved the feeling of going out, warm alcohol sliding down my throat, and being drunk. I felt like I was the life of the party – I spoke to and joked with everyone and there wasn’t anyone I couldn’t get along with. I was in heaven. This feeling stayed with me for quite a while. Getting drunk was fun and I didn’t see the point in doing something social without having a few (or many) drinks. I started drinking before and at every party, social outing, movie night, whenever I could – and so did most of my friends. Looking back I didn’t start out drinking more than everyone else, it gradually progressed and I eventually noticed I would drink more and faster than everyone else, resulting in me being drunker than everyone else.

I’m going to pause here and note how alcoholism is a progressive disease. Often, it doesn’t present when someone starts drinking. Check out this post on progressive alcoholism.

It wasn’t until about two years after I started drinking when I first thought I might drink too much. I didn’t think I had a problem, I just thought I overdid it occasionally and needed to slow down. So I slowed down for a while for the first time (of many attempts). This worked for about a month or so and then I found myself getting drunk again (even quicker this time). I partied on for many years with little or no consequences. If nothing bad happened, why would I stop?

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