Sneaking, lying, crashing in the tub and passing out under my desk. This is one I never want to forget.
This is an article I wrote for the Grapevine which was published in August of 2020.
I’VE been told that if you don’t remember your last drink, you probably haven’t had it yet. I don’t know if that’s true, but I remember mine well. And while the last drink I do remember may not be the last drink I’ll ever have, I can say with relative certainty that I won’t be having one today.
My last alcoholic bender began on January 9, 2014, when I guzzled vodka from a two-liter bottle. This bottle had patiently waited for me in the trunk of my car, which was parked at the airport for several days while I was away on a business trip. That evening would culminate in a series of events so painful that it would alter my perception of what I was willing and able to do to change my life.
I drove home from the airport that day with a headache so severe I could barely see. Arriving home, I sheepishly greeted my wife before rushing to the pool room in the back of the house to grab a beer in a feeble attempt to mask the liquor on my breath. My wife’s silent glare telegraphed her extreme disappointment. She had had enough of this insanity and we both knew it.
I carried my things up the stairs and placed the beer on the desk in my office. Checking over my shoulder, I snuck the remaining vodka out of my messenger bag and onto a bookshelf inside my office closet— out of plain sight but within reach.
As I slumped into my office chair and slid into yet another evening of sneaking more drinks and hiding from my wife, the thought occurred to me that this had to stop, but that thought died just about as soon as the next sip hit my lips.
I have a hazy recollection of downing several more beers and the remainder of that vodka. There are some hazy flashbacks of a sharp exchange of words with my wife. I vaguely remember thinking I needed to leave but not knowing how or where I’d go and then somehow falling into the tub in the upstairs bathroom. Then I see another flash of me pulling the shower curtain down around me as I fell, and then nothing.
I came to on the floor of my office, under my desk. Morning light streamed in through the blinds as my wife stood over me. I recognized that she had been talking for several minutes, but her words fell only on my unconscious ears. That is until she spoke the two words I knew were coming for quite a while. “I’m leaving,” she said, and did just that.
In my hungover haze, I wasn’t quite sure if she meant leaving for now, for work or forever. I lay there under my desk for a long time. My head was pounding, and I felt utterly defeated. I finally made it to my feet, but my ringing phone pulled me back under the desk.
“Hey, Mike,” a voice said. “How are you?” There was a long pause while my fogged brain tried to identify the voice. “Gene. It’s Gene, Mike,” he said,
breaking the silence.
“I just wanted to see how you’re making out—how are you?”
I had met Gene about a year earlier during a short bout of sobriety. He was sober too and we knew a lot of the same people. I paused because I was wrestling with the thought of letting someone else know how desperate my situation had become. I thought, Do I let him know? Can I get honest with another human being?
The moment I received that call was quite possibly the lowest point in my life. I don’t recall ever feeling worse than I did in those few moments, nor have I felt that way since. The religious or spiritual among you will struggle less with this next statement, but I’ll make no apologies to those of you who are neither. I genuinely believe that something more powerful than human power intervened in my life at that moment. I somehow made a decision to get honest with myself and with another human being.
“It’s really bad, Gene,” I admitted, choking up. “I can’t imagine how this has happened again. I’m sick and I think my wife just left me.”
Looking back now, I realize that I had surrendered at that moment. Gene chuckled a bit, which pissed me off.
“Well, I’m glad you’re still alive,” he said.
“Let’s get some coffee.”
Gene later described that meeting. My skin had a dead-grey hue and the whites of my eyes were awash in yellow, he said. My mind was so fogged that I could barely speak. That day, Gene shared with me the solution he found to his drinking problem in the hope that maybe it would help me with my problem. He and several other men I met spent a great deal of time with me over the next weeks, months and eventually years. For that, I’m forever grateful and indebted.
Today my life is good, even great. I still have problems, as everyone does. What’s different is that now I have tools, a design for living and a purpose. Today the most important things in my life are my relationship with something more powerful than myself, my ability to help others and my wife and two amazing children. Everything else is gravy.
I recently celebrated five years (written in 2019) of sobriety in AA. I want people to know that the possibility of changing your life is real. Also, I’m not a poster child for any particular method of getting sober. Pretty much all I know is that I’ve found something powerful that worked for me today and I’m pretty sure if I do the same things I’ve done for the past 1825 days, I’ll enjoy one more day sober, happy and purposeful tomorrow.
-- Michael L.