My first year of Sobriety was the hardest yet best year of my life. I started the year in a mentally defeated position. I hated you, I hated everything around me and most of all I hated myself. I couldn’t look in the mirror and not think about what a piece of trash I was. I thought I wasn’t worthy of anything I had accomplished. I got advanced in the military; there must have been a clerical mistake. I got a degree; but it took me 14 years and at the end of the day, felt no smarter. The only time I could bear to look at myself and not think terrible thoughts was when I was drunk.
Towards the end I was getting out of hand. I was blacking out every night with vodka or whiskey. My wife would make promise I would “only have 2-3 glasses” tonight. So I would find the biggest mug and fill it to the brim with vodka and add a few splashes of Mountain Dew for flavor. I mean, I did what she said, I only had 2-3 drinks (until she would go to bed before because I wasn’t done and would make one or two more), but I still continued to black out nightly. I thought to myself “ You should just switch to beer so you don’t keep blacking out and have terrible hangovers”.
So beer had now became my drink of choice and for a few weeks that was fine. I started with some domestic brews but I had to drink so damn much to get that buzz and that feeling where I could tolerate who I was. I thought of a new solution, “I will start drinking IPAs” because you can only drink a six pack and still get that amazing buzz I had been missing. Before long, I was headed to the liquor store and shopping up and down each aisle, only looking for the strongest of beers. I found an IPA that was 13%. “That will do the trick”, so I thought. Before long I would drink that in 2-3 hours and ask the wife to take me to a gas station so could have a few tallboys to finish off the night. I was waking up with splitting headaches and would be sick and grumpy all day. Each time I would swear, “Im never dinking again”, only to do the exact same thing a few hours later that same day.
Eventually the booze were not enough to keep me from looking in the mirror and hating what I saw. I had gotten to the point where I didn’t expect or even care if I lived but maybe a few more years. I thought it would better for my family. Life would be better and easier for them.
I woke up on April 28, 2020 and new it had to stop. I had tried quitting so many times and couldn’t make it past 3 days. But, I knew if I didn’t quit, I would die. My kids and wife deserved to have a Dad around. Not only physically, but emotionally.
I reached out to an old shipmate of mine who I knew had gotten sober and he pointed me in the direction of AA. I didn’t care what it was, but I was willing to do whatever it took to get my life together. I went to an AA meeting later that day. Then I went again the next day. This was at the beginning of global pandemic and the brick and mortar rooms were still open. It was great. I went to a meeting, and continued to make it through the next day for my next meeting. The people in the rooms were so full of joy. So kind and caring. I couldn’t understand how they were so happy. I made it to 30 days sober for the first time in 15 years. However, I was miserable. I was looking at myself for the first time without that crutch of alcohol and it was not a pretty sight. The rooms were shut down due to COVID
I knew I had to get into meetings or I wouldn’t make it any further. I was looking online and stumbled across a local room called Early Sobriety Group. I knew this was the perfect meeting for me. It was an amazing meeting and I learned so much. The host of the meeting was a man named Christopher G.. He was someone I could tell right away was by the Big Book. I went to other online meetings all week and was excited to go back to the Early Sobriety Group the following week. Chris G. was speaking again and I stayed after the meeting to talk. I liked the way he hosted and he had a lot of Sobriety so I knew he would probably be a good fit as a sponsor. I asked him to be my sponsor and after a few questions, he said yes.
I spent the next 90 days reading from the Big Book and the Twelve and Twelve for a couple hours a day, with my sponsor. We started to work the steps together. I was finally starting to get that relief that I so desperately wanted. I started my fourth step. It was the first time I had ever taken a true look at my life. It was my first moral inventory. I had 2 weeks to complete the assignment as thoroughly and brutally honest as possible. I did. Then my fifth step came. I had to share my fourth step with another person.
I left my wife and kids at home and drove to his house. I was so nervous and couldn’t believe I was about to tell someone the darkest parts of my life. I had started feeling the relief and joy that the Big Book promises so I knew I had to do it. I told him everything. I cried more than I have ever cried. As I said those things out loud, they lost power over my life. In fact, some of them sounded silly say them out loud. It was hard to imagine I held all that hate and resentment in for so long. I left his house after about 5 hours and headed home. I had a headache and was emotionally exhausted. My wife and kids saw me and said I looked ten pounds lighter. Like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. The lines and stress on my face had lessened. I felt elated.
We continued to work the steps. I thought it couldn’t be any better after I worked my 5th step. I was wrong and the promises continued to come true as I worked the steps and the program. Steps 6 and 7 had me looking at all my character defects. I took a drop the rock workshop and realized that yes, I had many defects; I also had many great qualities. My life had begun to have real value again.
Now it was time for another list. I had to list anyone I had harmed. That list was long but the most awesome thing was that I would get to start making amends for those wrongs. The feeling of freedom after an amend is something I could never have expected. I still have some amends to make but I am well on the way of shortening that list. I am actively practicing steps 10, 11, and 12 everyday. I am able to do so much more with my life now. I know my life has value. I know I can deal with life as life happens. I don’t have to do it on my own anymore, because I literally can’t. I’ve already proven that. However with the rooms, my sponsor and God (My Higher Power), I can do anything.
I sit here, one year later in my hammock rocking back and forth from the motion of the seas. My daughter turned 14 years old today and I couldn’t be there to celebrate. I wish I was there but there is nothing I can do about that. I could be sad and upset, but instead I sit here grateful. I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful my family never gave up on me and I am grateful to my sponsor and God. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for all of them and the rooms. I end my first year of Sobriety happier than I have ever been. The promises of the Big Book absolutely come true if you are willing to put in the work. I will be gone a lot for the year with deployment looming but I can truly say I look forward to this next year of life, in Sobriety.
Dustin S. April 27, 2020.