“Daddy, what’s wrong with you?”
Those words still echo in my head to this day. I don’t remember much from that night….when I was driving home from my local pub after getting loaded with a couple of friends.
I don’t even remember driving home, but I do remember stumbling into my house as my ex was dropping off the kids and the look of fear, confusion, and morbid curiosity on their faces. Like they’d just seen me shoot up and were absolutely shocked by it.
They shouldn’t have had to experience that. They shouldn’t have had to wonder why they, at that point 8 and 10 years old, why their dad was coming home reeking of booze and bad decisions.
The night was a blur, but what wasn’t, was the looks my kids gave me. And it’s burned into my skull.
My kids hadn’t seen me this blackout drunk before, sure, I’d drank in front of them, but as of that point, my drinking was getting worse. I was drinking heavily at least 3-4 times a week, to the point where I had a growler that I would routinely fill and drink by myself on nights I was at home without the kids.
The auto pilot drinking life, the bar flies, the people who filled my life with “have another one” because their own lives were filled with it, was the cornerstone of my social game with women, with my friends, with everything I was doing. If I didn’t have a drink in my hand, I wasn’t having fun. If I didn’t have a drink in my hand, I was offending those who were just “having a good time” and “blowing off steam”.
Along with my being overweight, this was a lifestyle that I had cultivated for most of my adult life. From the time I was in my early 20’s, it’s all I knew, it’s all I did. Very seldom, during the tailgates, bar trips, clubbing, or winery and bar crawls did I think that someday I wasn’t going to be taking a sip. This was an automatic in my life, as was just eating the shit out of everything. It was me. I had gotten so used to these things defining me.
But I had to make a decision. It seemed like a hard one, but in the bigger picture, it was the easiest decision I ever made.
I was going to stop drinking. COMPLETELY stop.
Yes, I had to, for my sake, but also for the people who depended on me, the people who look up to me, and the people who were looking for a healthy, strong example in their lives.
I finally realized my kids were watching me, and this was the biggest stage of my life.
I’ve heard many things in the addiction world, but the one thing that stuck with me was that addiction goes away easier when you find something more important to be addicted to.
And for some, it’s easier to “snap out” of an addiction than others. But, they all have to have their “come to Jesus” moment. And some never get that moment, and even more aren’t strong enough to break away.
And it was this fact that I had to come to terms with. I didn’t want my kids, seeing a father addicted to bad food and alcohol, getting addicted to things the same or potentially worse than those things.
The behavior cultivates their behavior, and if I was going to pull out of this, it wasn’t just going to be for me. I had to do it for them too.
And at that point in my life, my addiction to alcohol was getting worse by the day.
I drove home drunk multiple times (over 100 as far as I can remember). The consequences for doing bad things would eventually haunt me, even if I wasn’t getting caught.
So as I laid awake and still buzzed with my kids sleeping in their beds, I got up and I walked my house for over an hour. I watched them sleep, kissed their foreheads, and made a promise to myself.
It was immediate.
The very next night, when my kids were with their mom, I went to my normal bar.
When my usual bartender asked me if I wanted the usual drink I usually had, I stopped her.
“Water, no lemon.”
She looked at me like I had just shot someone at the bar.
“Yes, Lisa, really”, I responded.
So she filled it up. And as I sipped it, I saw all the people I had hung with during those drunken nights. And they weren’t very interesting on no buzz.
It was like taking the beer goggles off and never putting them back on again. The whole world was different. The women I had been hitting on weren’t as attractive without the buzz. The guys I’d been talking to while blitzed had very little to say except what alcohol they loved, the sports teams they were betting on, and why they hate their home lives with a griping wife at home.
Sports wasn’t interesting anymore. It wasn’t even a topic for discussion. I figured now that I wasn’t drinking, the novelty of it all was wearing off.
And it certainly was. So, slowly, I stopped going to the bar. A bar that I had frequented 4-5 days a week, a bar where my visitation points were going to get me a personalized mug. A reward for being a drunk.
So 5 days passed, and while not craving a drink, I was craving the life again, so I went to the gym.
Every time I started to feel like I was falling back, I kept thinking of my kids and those faces the night I walked in drunk.
As the days turned to weeks, I started noticing my weight dropping. The hundreds of dollars a week I had been spending on booze was put towards debt. I could go places without having to worry about driving while drunk. I cleaned out all the mugs and growlers in my home. It’s like taking all the bad food out of your house, you know it sucks, but you know it’s for the best.
My weight loss, a result of focusing on fitness, was accelerated without all the extra calories. I felt better, was sleeping better, and had more energy. I was more confident in my body so I didn’t need the liquid courage to talk to women, I had my improving physique, my improving finances, and my improving outlook on life was gaining the attention of more attractive, but also more healthy, women.
We as humans tend to look more longingly at the short, 30 second montage than the months and sometimes years it actually takes to get over something, achieve a difficult goal, or break through a tough obstacle.
But it’s hard. It’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be for everyone. I’m firmly in the camp that there are just some people who will succumb to addiction because they just aren’t strong enough.
But I also believe that people CAN become strong, they just have to either avoid or disbelieve the lies they are being told. It’s on them, but it also takes good friends and family that provide good influences.
But what do you do when you get there? Many people become bored and fall back into the addictions, because they achieved then fell back to what they knew, instead of pushing further.
The Next 1000 Days
I don’t take 1000 days, or 1000 anything, lightly. Nearly 3 years ago, I decided to make a choice, a choice for me, a choice away from a life that, at least for me, wasn’t fulfilling at all.
It was bouncing from one manufactured high to the next, trying to escape a mediocre life through booze.
So I decided to rewrite the story to one that, even if minute and insignificant to most, is of great importance to me.
My journey has always been about righting the wrongs of my past, all while trying to show men that a second chance is always there for the taking.
Your life story CAN be rewritten with you as the hero walking away into the sunset.
You just have to pick up the pen and start writing.
It will be the hardest thing you will do, changing a book you are writing in the middle of it to something that you can be proud of, something that you can say you achieved, something that you can say fulfilled you.
But don’t throw the writings away in the fire. They are there because they represent you, a different you from the current you, but you nonetheless.
Learn from those pages. The years you were addicted weren’t lost, they were a lesson for you to navigate this life, a map for you to follow to the point you want to be at. It taught you that things aren’t easy, but they can be overcome.
But more importantly, look who is watching you. Many times, we can’t see who’s watching our journey, but they are out there, rooting us on to make a better life, wanting to be a part of the rocket takeoff, wanting to succeed right along with us.
They’ve seen us at our worst, but they still hope for our best. That was the reality I was dealing with on that cold, autumn evening when my kids stared back at me in disbelief.
My kids are watching me. They are counting on me. They are on the journey with me, and I owe it to them to make this journey worth it. My success is their success. My happiness is their happiness. My world is where they live.
They need to thrive, not question. They need to be protected, not lost. They need strength and stability, not consistent doubt and confusion.
And they’ll now get it from me, after years of wondering.
My addiction is over.
The next chapter of my life is being written being high on life.
So, I raise my glass of water to the next 1000 days, may they be the best of my life.