For the last 20 years I’ve been sober. Strangely enough I look back and I don’t even know how I got here. My teenage years were a blur of drugs, alcohol and almost constant partying. As my friends from high school stayed on track and got accepted to Ivy League schools I went on a downward spiral into a nihilistic existence. And I loved every minute of it.
I loved eating out of dumpsters and living in abandoned buildings. I loved getting chased by cops night after night. I loved being totally lit out of my gourd and doing the stupid possible things night after night. Whether is was doing donuts in the front yard of a fraternity in a Volvo with no doors or dumpster diving an easy chair from the Starvation Army and keeping it in the bed of a pickup and launching it into the air while driving at high speeds over the jump going down Buffalo St hill. I remember spending all my time exploring rooftops and abandoned buildings and doing whatever I liked. We took trips to NYC and got into riots with the cops when our car got stolen. It was pure insanity.
Many of my friends from that era died from overdoses, suicide or literally drinking themselves to death. One of my closest friends, Mike Spike, dropped dead at 25 in the County Jail. When they did the autopsy they said his arteries were 99% blocked. I never saw him eat or drink anything but alcohol.
After Mike died something really shifted for me. I started to realize what most people realize after just a few months of partying. The relationships I was creating were pretty shallow compared to the ones I had before I starting down the path I was on. By this point almost 5 years of my life had been consumed. I had a dream that Mike came back from the dead and cursed me to try to keep me from following the same path he did. That week I started getting a rash. Over the next several months I rotated everything out of my diet to figure out what was giving me the rash. I had cycled everything out of my diet and I was stumped as to why I still had a rash. After a while I figured it out, it was alcohol. I thought of alcohol like most people think of water. It was my lifeblood, and while I meticulously tracked everything that went into and out of my body I was in total and complete denial about my alcoholism.
I took alcohol out and after a week the rash went away. If I drank it came back, when I stopped it went away. I hated being itchy all the time so I just quit drinking. Looking back on it now I suspect that the rash was totally psychosomatic. I also think it was the best thing to ever happen to me. The thing I quickly realized was this:
Alcohol consistently and insidiously undermined my every attempt to be happy.
So many people could drink and be social and not have it consume their entire life. At some point I had look into the mirror and realize that I was not one of those people. Now I see so many of the people who I love struggle with the exact same issues that I did in my youth. I’m afraid to tell them my story, afraid that I’ll be judged, afraid that I’ll be marginalized. Society always looks upon those who can’t control their drinking as being weak-willed. That is not my problem, sober for 20 years I have no regrets, but I don’t know if I am allergic to alcohol or if it is just something I tell people so they will stop offering me drinks.
At this point I don’t even think it matters any more. All that matters is that I am happy now and I am sober. I don’t think I could ever have one without the other.