I didn’t drink when I was in high school or when I first arrived on my college campus. I told all of my friends because of my family’s history I was not going to be drinking. I was claiming to be a teetotaler. That is an English term for being absent from alcohol. It turns out I did consume a large amount of alcohol. I was a championship swimmer in college and when I arrived at the end of my first season, my friends thought that this was deserving of a big party. I thought so too. Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen.
That party began eight years of drinking. And I did a lot of damage in a short amount of time. I think for me it wasn’t about drinking until I became homeless. That is not my story. My story is that you can drink yourself until you become spiritually depleted. Where you have nothing going on except this deep need to consume alcohol, to reward yourself, it was a game of sorts.
Reel ahead many years later and I looked into the mirror and who I saw was a twenty-eight-year-old person very similar to my old relatives, my aunts and uncles who are alcoholics. I had despised them for so long and I realized I had become nothing different from them. The passion and life in my eyes was gone. I thought to myself, “Well that was it.” This is what was becoming. I had all these ambitions and I could talk a good talk but I never did any of those things.
It turned out that my girlfriend was an alcoholic and she came to realize it before I admitted my own problems. She decided to go and seek help. For many months, I would go and drive her to the self-help group and I would sit in the car and wait for her. Eventually she told me that I also had a problem and wondered if I wanted to come into the self-help group. This happened thirteen years ago.
For many years I just stopped drinking. I have seen the phenomena in many people that love something, whether it is food or heroin or marijuana and we hold ourselves so tightly that we are able to stop. But although I was able to not consume alcohol, my life did not get better. I think this is very common. If only we stop the addiction nothing really gets better. In fact, my life started to get worse because alcohol was a very nice smoother. I was much more social, much more gregarious, outgoing. I was in many ways a better partner. Alcohol had a lot of good functions for me.
When I didn’t drink I just became grumpy and self-centered until I was helped. This is the essence of my story, I don’t believe we are meant to live alone in this world. I don’t think I am meant to solve all my problems by myself. So, I was able to seek help through other people. They would encourage me by saying, “You are a beautiful person, you are going to get well if you seek god.”
God, was what changed my life. My friends told me to start getting down on my knees, which felt like a very religious act, a ritualistic act and I did not think that was in me. I was not a religious person. They explained to me that getting on my knees was a way to ‘right size” myself. I needed to recognize that there is somebody larger than myself who is controlling the show. If I was able to do that by putting myself on the floor and praying to a higher power, this could make the difference.
I have had the most incredible journey since first getting down on my knees. It has been wonderful for me and a transformative moment happened two weeks after I started to pray. I told you that for many years I had a sort of grey outlook on life. I saw myself, there was no light in the eyes. After two weeks of praying, something lifted. All of a sudden it was as if I were a child again. I could see all the colors in the world. They were so intense. I saw the sky for the first time as an adult and I saw flowers and I could smell things and I could hear birds. I saw the beautiful thing about these little creatures that I hadn’t paid any attention to. I think that is what god does for us.