Fighting alcohol: A story about recovery

He sat at the table with a cigarette in one hand and a coke in the other. His troubled deep blue eyes gazed across into the night as he recounted his story. One that began as fun, he said, and then turned unexpectedly into a spiral of misery.

A turn of events eventually led Pat to hit rock bottom before he could even think of rebuilding his life. The cause, Pat said: Alcohol.

“I took my first drink when I was 4 or 5,” Pat, a recovering alcoholic who preferred not to mention his full name, said. “My dad would make me go get a beer and I’d drink half of it, I liked the taste, the way it felt.”

When he became a freshman in high school Pat said he began to drink consistently.

“Back then, the more you drank, the bigger man you were.” Pat said. It was easy for Pat and his friends to purchase alcohol. They had fake identification cards and hung around with men that could provide them with what they were looking for – an escape.

“I first started drinking for a good time,” Pat said. “Alcohol filled all my fears. I could dance, pick up women, anything I wanted.”

Pat said he and his friends thought they were invincible. One example happened when his friend drove a car into Pat’s parents’ living room.

“My dad was pretty cool about it,” Pat said. “The only thing he said was, ‘He can come in my house, just through the door.'”

After high school Pat decided to join the Marine Corps. He was 19 years old. “Marine Corps was the perfect place for an alcoholic,” he said. “I hung out with people who drank, and I even married a bartender.”

But his marriage did not last long and at the age of 25, he and his wife divorced. After that he started drinking more heavily, he said.

“I probably drank 12 or more beers in a day,” Pat said. “I was stationed in Japan at the time and once I got off work, I just went to the clubs.”

At the clubs, Pat said he would stay till closing time, go back to his room, pass out, wake up and repeat the process the next morning. For 15 years Pat said his life was an alcoholic cycle.

As Pat looks back on his life, he said he realizes now that “everything bad that happened at that time happened because of a beer can.” Yet during this time in his life he was blinded, he said. Instead of blaming himself he blamed others for his problems.

Pat said he began to realize he needed help when he began to seclude himself and ignore phone calls. “I got a beer so I didn’t have to look at myself,” he said. “It got to the point where I wanted to kill myself.”

With the help of family members Pat said he checked himself into a rehabilitation program March 1, 2000. “But,” he added, “It was not their place to stop it. It was mine.”

“AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) taught me how to live sober,” Pat said. “It’s given me my life back.” Pat talked about the 12-step program, the alcoholic’s bible. It’s a program, he said, that helps recovering alcoholics stay sober.

Pat dealt with his cravings for alcohol by attending meetings, changing his lifestyle, and working with other people in the same situation as him. “For an alcoholic to stay sober, means getting off your ass and helping others,” Pat said.

During his recovery process Pat learned that AA did not just cater to “low bottom drunks but to every profession. “There’s priests, lawyers, nurses, truck drivers, it could be your brother, sister or your mom.” This disease, Pat said, does not discriminate.

Once he began to sober up, Pat said he realized that good things started happening to him. “I met a woman I love who is going to be my wife,” Pat said. “I recently was promoted to a manager after two years.” Pat added that once he was bankrupt, finacially and spiritually, but now his bank account and love for God have grown.

During his three and a half years of sobriety Pat found himself only one time face to face with a beer can.

“There was a time, I was a year sober, and I started feeling sorry for myself because my family was having a good time,” he said. “It was dark outside and I went to a cooler and tried to open a Heineken, but the can opener was inside.”

For Pat this was a sign that he had to stay sober another day. “I don’t want to go back to where I was three and half years ago,” Pat said. “The only thing I have today is today. I have to stay sober one day at a time.”

As he looked back on his life, Pat realized how miserable and lonely his life had become when he drank.

“A lot of people don’t get it, alcohol will kill you real quick,” Pat said. “I didn’t give it much thought when I was younger, I had a couple of divorces, but I kept a job.”

He added, “Even though I had gotten two DUI’s (driving under the influence charges) I didn’t suffer any consequences. I never thought I’d go to AA, I thought I would drink the rest of my life until it killed me.”

But AA has given Pat M. a second chance at life he said. With AA he realized that when he was younger, alcohol was his liquid courage.

“I could do anything,” Pat said. “I was living like I was a god. Once I realized there was a God and it wasn’t me, I started getting sober.”

As he smoked one more cigarette and looks back on his life, Pat says he realizes that each person needs to figure one’s own life.

Pat has a simple test for anyone questioning whether or not they have a problem with alcohol: “Go to a bar and see if you can stop after two beers. If you can’t then there is a problem, but it’s up to you to fix it, because I can’t tell you, and no one else can tell you, that you are an alcoholic.”