I’m a husband, a computer software engineer and a recovering alcoholic/addict.
I wasn’t a big drinker growing up, but as life threw more and more lemons my way, I started to rely on the bottle to make it through some of the tougher days. Soon, I needed a bottle just to make it through the day regardless of whether it was bad or not. Heavy drinking became the norm.
I became a high-functioning alcoholic. I hid my drinking problem from everyone around me. It was obvious to myself at least that I wasn’t the same person without a drink. Before drinking, I’d be miserable. With a drink or two in my system, the world became a much happier place.
It was hard for me to get sober even when the people around me caught on to my secret. I didn’t think that I had a problem, and was adamant that I was fine despite drinking heavily every day. There was a point in time where I hid bottles of rum and whiskey — my liquor of choice — in almost all rooms of my house. It took me a long time to come to terms with my addiction, and it took even longer for me to seek help.
I’m sharing my story, so that other people like me know that there’s still hope out there. Even if you feel like you’re shackled to the bottle, you can break free of its chains. There are plenty of rehab centers out there that will help you. Some will even do it for free! Although the road to sobriety is long and difficult, it’s not impossible. All you need to do is have faith in yourself.
My Very First Drink
Everyone assumes that I must’ve started drinking at a young age whenever they learn that I was an alcoholic. Surprisingly, that can’t be further from the truth.
I still remember my first drink like it was yesterday. It was on my 22nd birthday. Up until then, I never drank a sip of alcohol. I resisted the urge in high school, and even during most of my college years. On my 22nd birthday, my girlfriend at the time ordered me her ‘favorite’ drink. It was a peach martini with two shots of vodka instead of one. She insisted that I needed it since she couldn’t understand how I had abstained from drinking for so long. After all, alcohol use in America can begin as early as 12 years of age.
Now, that peach martini wasn’t life-changing. It didn’t turn me into an alcoholic, but it did show me everything that I was missing out on. About halfway through the drink, I could feel a warmth beginning to grow inside me. I could feel my inhibitions melt away, as I began to feel more confident in myself. It was a delightful feeling. I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe that I withheld myself from drinking for so long.
From that day on, I started to drink more and more recreationally. I learned fairly quickly that I preferred rum and whiskey over other types of liquor. I liked my drinks neat with a little bit of ice. The frequency of my drinking kept increasing.
The First Signs of Heavy Drinking
Fast forward 5 years and I started to drink even more as my work life became increasingly stressful. With each promotion, my workload would double. To unwind after a long day, I would drink a glass of whiskey and rum every night. And then, I started drinking in the mornings and afternoons as well.
Soon enough, I had become a heavy drinker. It was probably due to a combination of stress and habit. This meant that I was drinking more than 14 drinks per week constantly. At the peak of my addiction, I was downing half a bottle of rum or whiskey in the mornings and another half in the evenings. My tolerance was insane. I would barely feel buzzed even after finishing half a bottle.
Since the alcohol barely affected me, I didn’t even limit myself anymore to a certain amount of drinks. I began spending a huge chunk of my income on alcohol.
Drinking became a daily necessity. I would crave it from the moment that I woke up each morning. I’d feel nauseous and anxious until I had my first drink. It was also during this time that I met my wife.
Although she knew that I liked drinking, I hid the amount that I drank from her. We weren’t living together yet, so it wasn’t difficult. I chewed gum all the time to mask the alcohol on my breath, and I hid all the liquor bottles I had whenever she came around. I even began waking up early to grab a drink, so she wouldn’t know that I was drinking when she spent the night. I took every precaution to hide my addiction from her for the next 3 years of our relationship.
She asked me some questions occasionally about my alcohol use, especially when she would find empty bottles I’d hidden around the house. I always lied. I spent an increasing amount of time finding better hiding spots in every room. At some point in time, I even kept a bottle of rum in the water tank of the toilet. I’d sneak myself a drink when I went for a shower or when I went to use the washroom.
The Day Everything Came to a Screeching Halt
They say you can never hide anything from your lady, and she soon found out about my problem. How? My body caught up to me. My liver was absolutely destroyed from the constant heavy drinking.
I woke up one day puking and feeling nauseous. I had a searing pain on side of my abdomen and a high fever. The pain was so intense that I couldn’t get out of bed. My girlfriend stayed beside me the entire day and for the rest of the week. She insisted on taking me to the doctors, and even insisted on staying in the room with me. It was at that time that my alcohol addiction finally came to light.
After more tests than I can remember, I learned that I had developed alcoholic hepatitis. This condition affects up to 35% of heavy drinkers, so it’s no surprise that it happened to me. Regular alcohol use had damaged my liver cells. There was scarring in some areas. The doctors told me that the alcoholic hepatitis would develop and become alcoholic cirrhosis if I didn’t stop drinking, let alone heavy drinking.
The problem wasn’t just with my liver. Upon further examination, it was obvious that the heavy drinking also affected other areas of my health. My muscles were weaker than before. Additional complications had also emerged in my circulatory and digestive system. I had high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat all the time. My body was slowly shutting down.
On top of all of the health complications, I also had to deal with a furious girlfriend. I had been lying to her the whole time and keeping my alcohol dependence a secret. She was absolutely heartbroken and livid. She begged me to get sober.
My First Day at an Inpatient Rehab Center
I checked into rehab filled with motivation and hope a couple weeks later. I thought that it would be easy, but it was probably one of the most difficult things that I had ever done.
Within 8 hours of my last drink, I started to feel anxious and nauseous. I was basically begging the staff at the rehab center for a drink. I even tried to bribe one of them to get me one.
The withdrawal symptoms only got worse from that moment on. My blood pressure skyrocketed, and I felt sick all the time. I was under constant supervision by the medical staff because I scored a lot of points on the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol. The chances that I would experience acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms was high. There was even a chance that I could die from trying to get sober.
The medical professionals prescribed an array of different medications to help curb the cravings and to lessen the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms. They even monitored my nutritional levels to watch out for and prevent me from developing Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Despite all the help they gave me, the entire process was still quite difficult. I had the chills, and I felt sick all the time.
After the physical symptoms dissipated, I learned that the hardest part of staying sober was having the right mindset. It was incredibly difficult to stay motivated. Even if my body wasn’t craving the alcohol, my mind was. At every opportunity and chance, I’d want to take another sip of rum or whiskey.
I’m embarrassed to say that I relapsed within a month of leaving rehab. I found one of those mini bottles that I had hidden in the pockets of a jacket that I never wore.
It didn’t take long for my girlfriend to catch on, and she begged me to go back to rehab again. This time, she signed me up for a twelve-step program as well. I partnered up with a mentor and attended all of the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. I’d honestly say that having a mentor and someone to hold me accountable really made a huge difference. It prevented me from relapsing and stopped my heavy drinking for good.
Rebuilding Trust in my Relationships
After checking out of the rehab center several more times, one of the hardest things to do was to rebuild trust in my relationships. It was clear that my addiction had hurt the people close to me, particularly my girlfriend. Trusting me was difficult, and I didn’t blame her. After all, I did hide a huge part of my life from her for a long time. On top of that, I had lied to her face constantly whenever I relapsed. The look of disappointment on her face is still burned into my mind.
Fortunately, the rehab center offered relationship counseling. Talking everything out really helped us mend our relationship. One of the first things that I had to do was to take responsibility for my actions. I had to acknowledge all the hurt that I had caused. I also had to show my girlfriend that I prioritized staying sober and understood how important it was.
I’m happy to say that relationships do and can mend. It takes time and effort. I was also lucky enough to have a girlfriend that stuck by my side. I was so sure that she would leave me on numerous occasions, but she a strong faith in me.
2 more years later, I proposed to her, and she accepted. We were officially wed on June 7, 2015 in a little ceremony with only our closest friends and family. It was beautiful and everything that I could ever hope for.
Staying Sober and Motivated
After relying on alcohol and heavy drinking for so long, having to abstain from drinking completely is still difficult. I can no longer go to a bar or a lounge or be near alcohol. I am careful not to put myself in tempting situations every day.
I’ve been sober for over 3 years now, and getting sober was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. It wasn’t easy, and some days are still a struggle. However, I’m definitely better at controlling myself. I don’t let me cravings control me anymore.
Getting sober showed me that I’m more than just the bottle. It showed me that I’m a very strong person and that nothing is impossible to achieve if I put my mind to it.
If you’re in a similar situation as me, know that you can change. There are plenty of recovery centers and counseling groups out there that will lend you a hand. You’re never alone because there are a lot of people out there who are going through the same thing as you. In fact, 1 in 8 Americans struggle with a drinking problem. The first step to getting sober is admitting that there is a problem, and acknowledging the damage that heavy drinking or alcohol has done to your life.