This is my life.
Recovery, Love and Life.
Change is constant.

 

There and Back Again

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When I was little there was something that I looked forward to every single summer. Without fail, I would look forward to the day that I got to board a plane and fly across the country. Every summer we would go to Maine to see family that we had there.

We went every summer. It all started when I was about 5 years old and lasted until I was 15 years old. The summers were filled with family, friends, the outdoors and pretty much everything that could make a summer for a kid like me. Other kids that I knew went to Hawaii, New York City, camping, winter skiing trips… but I always thought that my vacation was so much better then theirs.

People would ask where I was going and I would let them know. They would say how beautiful that Bar Harbor was and a lll that I could tell them was… “Yeah, I know… I have family there..”

The last time that I was in Bar Harbor was when I was 27 years old. The year was 2007 and it was the last year of my drinking. I was there for over a week but I have no recollection of anything that I did there…. except drink. This was the summer before I would hit my bottom very hard.

If you can imagine a very small vacation town were pretty much EVERYTHING gets around very fast. If someone trips and falls it is probably going to be in the newspaper the next day and your family is going to know even before you walk in the door. The town is very little and everything goes around.

My behavior got around the town. My alcoholic adventures were pretty legendary. I remember staying in a hotel on one of the main streets in Bar Harbor. The bars were a bit further down the street from my hotel but they were close enough to walk to. You can walk to everything in the town because its so small.

I was out very late every night. Staggering my way back to my hotel after a night of heavy drinking. That was the story of the last year of my drinking. Staggering home from whatever bar I was drinking at the night before.

This year, I went back for the first time since that summer. Over 6 years of sobriety was under my belt.

It was like I was seeing it for the first time with a new set of eyes… because that was what exactly was happening. I was seeing it with the eyes of a kid who was on his summer vacation. There are so many beautiful things to see that I just glossed over the last time that I was there. My eyes were filled with an alcoholic fog that was difficult to clear in the days that I was there in 2007.

So many things have changed since that year.

I did this

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Hello everyone. I am sorry that I have not been very present over the past couple of weeks. There are somethings that have changed in my life and have been monopolizing my time.

This is a very good thing for me. At the same time it has taken my attention off some of the things that are very important to me. I have been traveling a lot over the past 3 months and been working… a lot. In comparison to what I was doing before I feel like I am working much more then I ever have.

I have an all or nothing mentality when it comes to things that I am invested in. Well.. most of the time. When it comes to work, when I am given responsibility, I am fully invested. When it comes to my recovery, I am fully invested. I have had a hard time managing my time in the past and I think that this position that I am in has helped me with prioritizing and time management immensity.

Over the past couple of months I have had a direct hand in helping to expand my companies reach across the country. Its something that I would have never imagined that I would have done in the past. I am having a direct impact and I really like it. When we are done launching our service in a new market I can see tangible results right in front of me.

I have a pretty awesome job. Its a lot of work but that is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be able to have an impact.

I have had the opportunity to go to meetings in other places too. I have gone to meetings in Santa Monica, Austin and now Boston.

For someone who really had not traveled that much I have had the opportunity to go to many different places over the past couple of months. I have my recovery to thank for this because without it I am pretty much nothing. I have met some amazing people along the way that I know will be life long friends.

Its amazing how good I feel when I sit down and write out how I am feeling.

A Very Special Day

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Everyday in my recovery is a very special day for me. There is no denying that. Everyday is a miracle. There is something that is very special about today though.

What could be so special about June 10th?

Today is the 78th birthday of Alcoholics Anonymous. This was the day that Dr. Bob took his last drink and adventure began.

I always think about how this all started. How the organization that helped save my life and the lives of so many others started. How it was something that could have so easily not started like it did. I think about that day that Bill Wilson was in Akron and walked into that hotel. There was a bar that on his right and there was a directory of churches that was on his left. He chose the directory and made a call that got him hooked up with another alcoholic.

How did he even think that this was going to be some that would help him when all that he had ever thought about doing before that day was to drink. It was so hard to not make a right and head on into that bar. I don’t know what I would have done on that day.

There were so many times that I wanted to make the right decision and walk in a different direction only to have my feet and body turn right and walk straight for the bar. That was what had always been my remedy for so long. I am so happy that one day I chose to make the left turn like Bill Wilson did that day in that hotel. He reached out and wound up at the home of Dr. Bob.

I really wish that I would have been a fly-on-the-wall for that conversation. Wait, I feel like I have had that same conversation with countless numbers of people in my life. It has been repeated over and over again when one alcoholic talks to another alcoholic.. and the magic begins.

What a feeling it must have been for them both after they had been sober for a while and went out to recruit the third person for the fellowship.

I am very glad that he made the choice to turn left…and made that phone call. That call saved Bill’s life, Dr Bob’s life, my life and the lives of millions of amazing people.

I have many friends in my life. I would have none of them if it was not for the miracle that is Alcoholics Anonymous.  Happy Birthday old friend.

Thank Goodness this is not Willpower

Willpower?

Willpower?

So I have been sober for awhile now. At least when I look at my whole experience through my minds eye.   For me its just how it is now. This is what my life is and that is how I think of it.

I really don’t question it because it always just works. When it was presented to me at the beginning I really didn’t have any other choice. I just knew that I didn’t want to die and this what was right in front of me. I have something that is bigger then me that has just taken care of it.

Everything that was up to me…. was taken away from me. All of the choices that I had once enjoyed I had lost the privilege to make anymore. These were now squarely made by something that was not me. I like it like that.

Sometimes I forget this.. but it will always come back around to remind me.

The reason that I am bringing this up is that someone who I had just met told me that I had incredible “willpower”  when they heard that I had been sober for 6 years. We had talked about drinking and alcoholism. The person even had someone that was in their life that was alcoholic.

All that I could keep thinking was how lucky that I was that it had nothing to do with willpower…. whatsoever. If it were up to me I would have messed this thing up years ago. If it were up to my willpower I would probably be dead right now.

Bill Wilson always said that self-knowledge was not enough. I made that mistake the first time that I left the Beacon House. I felt that I had all the knowledge that I would ever need to brave my new sober life but obviously I had another thing coming. No matter what I thought of myself my higher power always had a better plan.

I am very thankful that this who thing does not depend on my self-will. In most cases my self-will will destroy this whole thing.

Amazing Distractions. Are the worth it?

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There is something that I have been wanting to talk with everyone about in this forum. It is something that was a very essential part of my early recovery and I wanted to give my experience to anyone that may need it.

What is this major topic that I want to talk about?

I want to talk about dating and romance in early sobriety and how it effected me.

When I got sober everyone who knew anything about sobriety told me that it was a very bad idea to get into a relationship with anyone during that time of your recovery. I listened to these people and I decided that I was going to do what I wanted to do. This was really the only thing that I did on my own.. something that I didn’t follow other peoples suggestions on. Of course it was something that I had to experience to get the full story of just how bad it was for me.

One of my first sponsors asked me a pretty simple question when I asked him if it was a good idea to get involved with anyone at about 3 months sober… He asked me to “examine my intentions” with the person. What was it that I wanted to get out of the relationship. Why was I entering into it?

I could not answer the question. All that I could say was that I was not entering into the relationship with any ill intentions. I knew that I didn’t want to hurt anyone.. but I could not answer his question.

I had a couple of different relationships in my first year of sobriety.

I can tell you right now that one of the major effects that it had on me was a distracting one. It distracted me from what it was that I should have been doing in the first place. I should have been listening to the experience of others and not getting into anything.

This was a perfect example of my “self will run riot”. I thought that I knew what was best for me in my early sobriety on certain subjects. I really thought that I knew everything about relationships even though I don’t think that I ever had a healthy one in my life with a female.

The moral to this story is that early sobriety is the time to get work done. I used woman as a distraction in my early sobriety. If you asked me if I regretted it I would tell you that I didn’t because I met some life long friends that I might not of ever would have met. I could have done without the distraction though.

I hope that this experience helps some people out there that have questions about it. I know that I did..

Tunnel Vision

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I don’t know why it takes death sometimes for me to take a look at what I have in life.

I am very good at being grateful for what I have but sometimes I feel like I lose a little perspective on it. I fail to take a step back and really take a good look at just what has happened to me over the past 7 years or so.

Where I was… what happened to me… and where it is that I am right now. I was having a conversation with someone that I know from work.  We were commenting on just how different that our lives are now from what they were just a couple of years before. All of the things that have changed for the better and for the worse. Mostly for the better.

I lost another friend of mine way too soon this evening. She did not pass from alcohol related issues but that really doesn’t matter to me right now. The point that I am trying to make with this post is that it takes something like this to happen for me to just stop and take a look at what I have and how it can be taken away in an instant.

I was close to death and I have encountered other peoples deaths. Sometimes it takes something like this to just shake me out of my tunnel vision.

Saving you a seat Rich

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I want to dedicate this blog post to some very special people in my life that were there for me in the very beginning of my recovery. They were there to reassure me that this was the right path for me and to show me that there are really amazing people in recovery. They showed me that there was an amazing alternative to the desperation that I was living in.

This one is for Gail and Curtis. You guys are awesome. Congrats on 11 years Gail!

I was sitting on the stoop of the bar that I worked at and I had a Miller High Life in my hand. The sun was out and it was making my beer warm. The sun light streaked into my eyes and matched the color of the beer that was settling at the bottom of the bottle that I loved so much. I had just finished a shot of Fernet and all that I could think about was having another one as soon as I got back into the bar. It was about 11:30 AM and I was a big fan of day drinking. I was a fan of any kind of drinking…. day, night, weekend, alone, with people, Tuesday, sunny, foggy… I was all about equal opportunity.

A friend of mine that worked at the book store that was right next to my bar had some family in town. They were visiting my friend so he introduced them to me. They were cool, I remember thinking, but not as cool as me. No one was a cool as me. I was wearing a wifebeater tank top and was drinking during the day on my day off. I was cool.

I don’t remember that much more about the encounter with these people but I would be reminded of this encounter a couple of years later.

These people who I had been introduced to were in recovery. They saw me that day and saw themselves years before. Right at the end of their drinking. They knew exactly what was going on with me even if I had no idea what was going on with myself. They were saving me a seat in AA. They knew that I would be in the club soon enough. They just hoped that I didn’t die first.

I almost did. Twice.

Fast forward to early 2008…. I was just fresh into recovery. I had made it to the party and I was about 2 months sober at the time. I was invited to go to a young peoples AA conference in Sacramento. I was pretty scared and apprehensive about going because I was new to this whole thing. I did not really know how I would be around a big group of people but I knew that this was something that was suggested that I do. I was at the point where I was not in the business of questioning suggestions from those who had been around longer then I had.

I walked into this hotel in Sacramento and the first thing that I noticed was all of the hot girls. This was a pretty big eye-opener to me because I really didn’t know what to expect when it came to young people in recovery. My image of being the coolest person in the world had been shattered pretty throughly when I was hospitalized for 8 days and was on deaths door. I remember thinking…. “damn, these people look really cool. I think that I belong here”

Everyone was hot.. and had tattoos. I could dig it.

At the registration table someone came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder… he was pretty familiar and had a head set on which I though was kind of funny. He was wearing a name tag that was attached to a lanyard thing around his neck. It said that his name was Curtis and that he was a “Host”… whatever that meant. He looked pretty official and I had no idea what he wanted with me. I didn’t think that I was in trouble yet.

It was my friend’s brother… who had visited that day at the bar. I didn’t recognize him because I was petty drunk that day and didn’t really remember anything between 2006 and 2007.

He was so happy to see me. He hugged me and kept saying….. “YOU MADE IT! YOU MADE IT!”

I had no idea what was happening at that moment… but later on in my recovery I would knew exactly how he felt as I would do the same thing to others that started the journey. Pure relief and utter joy is the only way to describe it.

He got on his fancy headset and yelled into it…. “GAIL TO THE REGISTRATION TABLE! HE MADE IT!”

The other person that I met that day at the bar came running around a corner and gave me a huge hug. We talked about all of the things that had happened to me over the past couple of years. They nodded their heads in agreement. They knew what was up.

The rest of the conference was a life changing experience for me. It showed me that there were amazing people who were just like me. I was just like them. We had so much in common. These were the cool people that partied their asses off and then one day they just surrendered to the fact that they were either going to die… or they were going to try something different. They didn’t want to die, they wanted to live. This was our ticket to freedom.

I was cooler then ever before.

It’s amazing how this whole thing works… and at the same time its not. These are the things that I expect now. Things that seem like a funny coincidence but I know that somehow they were meant to happen. They were put before me for a reason. I don’t know how or why.. and I don’t even question it anymore. It just makes me smile and remember how grateful I am to have this thing and these people.

 

You Consume Me

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There is a social stigma that comes along with being an alcoholic or an addict. There are many people out there that think that being one of these things is something that should bring shame. Like they are going to have a sign that hangs around their neck that announces their disease to the rest of the world and everyone is going to look at them differently.

In my experience there are a couple of ways that people react to me when I tell them that I am an alcoholic in recovery. There are different ways that I bring up the subject tot them also. There has to be a certain level of trust that has to be there for me to tell someone that I am in recovery. I am one of those people that is pretty open about the subject with people because I think that by me being a living example I am help others that see me. It has worked pretty well so far in my recovery.

Here is an example of one of the ways that I told a group of people that I am in recovery and their reactions.

I told a group of people that I work with at a company retreat. I had been working for the company for about 8 months and I figured that it was about time to tell everyone. I was a little tired of having to explain it to different people over and over. I waited until I felt a level of comfort and trust with the group before I let it fly. This group of people had become my family over the last couple of months. They had become more then a group of people that I happen to work with and I figured that they needed to know about this major aspect of my life. I had no doubt in my mind that everyone would be receptive to what I was saying. Everyone has been amazing to me. They were honored that I would have that level of trust in them to let them into this part of my life.

Another way that I would bring it up to someone is a little more direct and here is an example of that.

I have someone that I know that has let it be known that he does not want to have anything to do with alcohol. For whatever reason he has put it out there that this is what he wants to happen. I introduced myself to him and let him know that I understand exactly how he feels and that if he ever needed to talk to anyone that I would would be there to help. Thats about it.

It is such a personal thing to let people into this part of my life. Sometimes it necessary and beneficial for everyone.

I was talking to a friend last night as we were walking to a baseball game about people who were less receptive when they found out that I was an alcoholic in recovery. These were usually the people that did no understand why you would want to live your life without alcohol. I used to be one of these people and can totally understand where they are coming from. I pose a sort of threat to them and their alcoholic security blanket. I used to make fun of people that had stopped drinking.

I just could not imagine what the heck you would do with your life if you were not drinking. Alcohol is all-consuming and anything that poses a threat to that had to be destroyed or completely separated from my thinking.

People that take offense to my recovery or just don’t understand it are people that I usually do not need to be around. These are people that I am saving a seat for.

My alcoholism consumed everything that I was and now my recovery is consuming me. I like it like that. Recovery… you complete me.

You Will Like It

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I read a statistic from the National Council on Alcoholism that young people that have a drink before they are 15 are 5 times more likely to become alcohol dependent then those that start to experiment when they are 20.

I think that this is a pretty true statistic, at least when it came to the age that I started to experiment with alcohol and my dependence on alcohol. Looking at some of these statistics really made me think about the road and where it all started. What I do know was that when I started to compare my self to other people that were in recovery I saw that I had started pretty late. I had my first drink when I was about 15 years old. At least that it when I think that I had my first drink.

I had my first drink at a hockey tournament. I was on a team where I was one of the younger guys on the team and we were on an overnight trip. I always loved the overnight trips because I got to be away from home and I could just be with my friends. There are guys that were older on the team and I always looked up to them. They had girlfriends and they seemed to know how to be cool and that was what i wanted.  They listened to the cool music and I wanted to know what the cool music was.

On one of these nights that were in a hotel on the central coast of California someone had brought a bottle of Goldschlager and it was being passed around. I can remember thinking that it was a big deal and that there was no going back after I had taken this drink. There were messages that I had heard in DARE classes about how my entire life would be ruined with a single sip of alcohol and how everything after this was going to be a slippery slope.

I remember the tasted of it and the burning that I felt in my throat, down my esophagus, and in my stomach. I remember thinking that I was different somehow… I would feel the same way a couple of years later when I would lose my virginity. There was a feeling that the would would never be the same.

I hear people talk about their first drink and say how they knew from that moment that they were going to need to have alcohol. I never felt that. I felt that I had changed somehow now that I had opened this door. There were no thoughts about when I could get another drink or when it would happen again. I just wanted to be accepted by the cool kids and I thought that this was going to be the way to do that.  I really didn’t like my first drink. I didn’t like the taste of alcohol really. I didn’t get drunk or feel the buzz with that first time.

I remember the first time that I got drunk…. I was on a beach in my hometown and I had been drinking a bottle of tequila. Looking back on it.. with what I know about alcohol and drinking.. I have no idea why a bottle of tequila was my weapon of choice that night.. but it was. Again, it was probably because I wanted to look cool. I think that I was smoking Marboro Reds too… what an idiot.  I remember falling over into the and and sleeping in my truck. I remember how bad that I felt the next day and how I lied to my aunt about where i was.. and then when I came home she knew exactly where I was and what I was doing.

Looking back on it.. I don’t know if by experimenting with alcohol at the age that I did contributed to how I turned out… but I am an alcoholic so that pretty much answers that.

Alcoholism is progressive. I am the case study in that for sure. The way that I consumed alcohol and did drugs changed dramatically over the years that I was actively in my disease. It had a lot to do with what was happening in my life and who I was hanging out with. Most of the time it all came back to my quest for social acceptance in any form that I could get it.

What was the age that you had your first drink? How do you think that it effected you now that you are looking back on it with a bit of life experience?

Acutely Aware

Lottas Fountain on Market Street in San Francisco. Taken by Richie Fredell. One shot at a time.

Lottas Fountain on Market Street in San Francisco. Taken by Richie Fredell. One shot at a time.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month so I am going to do a bunch of posts this month all about alcohol awareness .

I never needed a month to make me aware of alcohol really. I understand that there is a lot of misconceptions and down right ignorance when it comes to alcohol and its consumption. We will talk about binge drinking versus maintenance drinking. I have discovered a lot of stats that have blown me away when it comes to underage drinking and the effects that it has on the US health care system. I am going to talk a bit about how alcohol was introduced to me at a very young age.

There are so many misconceptions about alcohol and alcoholism out there. It seems to me that there is a stigma surrounding alcoholics and alcohol. There are so many alcoholics out there that are part of society as a whole.

I was reading an article about a published study by Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health where 60% of people over the age of 20 with a chronic alcohol disorder do not seek help because of a perceived stigma.

There are so many things out there that try to point us away from alcohol when we are young but there are so many things that take us into alcohol also. I want to talk about those this month also.

Im looking forward to bringing some of these things into the light and relating some of my personal experience when it comes to them. Please feel free to comment and become part of the discussion. This always works better when there are more voices of experience then just mine.

Happy Alcohol Awareness Month everyone… until next time.