Priscilla: Lila’s biological mother Katie: ex girlfriend (met when Lila was 2yrs old) Nick: Lila’s step-dad
Once I recognized that I am an alcoholic—I started going to support meetings right away. I know that some people stray from AA because of its belief system, but I happen to find being around other alcoholics helpful, specific to my recovery. I am not a religious person, nor do I feel comfortable working through the twelve steps—but what I do find comforting is the constant reminder, through meetings, of why I am not a person who can drink “normally” and that I am currently powerless over alcohol. Out of respect for the AA program, as they aren’t fans of promotion, I will leave it at that and simply refer to my time in AA as my “group meetings.” I am 80 days into my recovery—and I have spent a lot of time thinking about when my issues with alcohol began to control my life—when I became “powerless.”
It is interesting to think about because I realize, given my family history, that I never had power over alcohol or any other substance—it was instilled somewhere in my genetics to be more prone to substance abuse issues. Both of my grandfathers were alcoholics—my uncles and sisters were heavy drug users, and my family in general seems to lack, at times, the ability to practice proper self-control. I realize now, after years of denial, that I am an all or nothing kind of person in many ways. For example, if 12 beers sat in the fridge—those 12 beers would be consumed before the conclusion of the evening. I also have a sweet-tooth—and if a cake were sitting in my fridge—nine times out of 10, that cake would have no chance of lasting through the night. My mind, not just with alcohol, craves excess—alcohol just has the capacity to cause havoc more so than a chocolate cake.
In high-school, I liked to party with my friends. We lived for the weekend—and spent the week figuring out who would buy us alcohol on Friday night. Often times we would go to the more poverty stricken neighborhoods and find a junkie to go into a local bar and buy us some 22oz Private Stock beer. We would offer the junkie a couple bucks then drive away and find a friends basement to hang out in. When I was younger, it was more about binge drinking—my friends and I thought it was cool to get “wasted” and act like complete morons. I remember countless times where I would end the night puking on myself or doing something completely out of character. I never thought twice about that type of behavior becoming a problem in the future. In college, I was an even heavier binge drinker. I would black out almost every weekend—and the college I attended had a reputation for being a party school…it was normal for a lot of us to spend the weekends partying. I also played rugby—and we were known for our crazy drunken antics—so we loved to play that role…get drunk and fight. Again, drinking in excess was “normal” behavior for a person my age…well, that is what I told myself.
So, as you can see, I never had control of drinking—I just somehow justified its use and normalized my behavior despite the negative effects it was having on my life. I remember getting a citation for underage drinking, a DUI at 22, several disorderly conduct charges and waking up with bruises all over my face from a fight I couldn’t recall the night before. In addition, specific to fights, I had a gun pulled on me during a drunken fight—the barrel of a .45 dug into the left side of my chest and some guy saying “you think you’re tough now pussy?” I remember that night vividly, despite the alcohol in my system, because my life was put into jeopardy because I got into a fight with a couple of people over a knocked over recycle bin. In hind-sight, I never had a control—I was simply out of control every-time I decided to take a sip of alcohol.
After college I moved to San Jose, CA—it was 2005. I moved to San Jose to start a job tutoring ESL students in low-performing school districts—it was a very meaningful venture for me. I should mention that I was born in Philadelphia, raised in a suburb called Downingtown and attended college outside of Pittsburgh before making my way out west. Once in San Jose I moved in with two female roommates—they were really cool, and both were from Ohio, so we had that Northeast/Midwest connection. I was always a pretty hard worker—so I had no issue getting up earlier and putting in an honest days work. As I think back to my first year in San Jose—I recall spurts of problem drinking. For example, I would stop at the corner market for weeks at a time every-day after work and pick up a 40oz Bud Light. Then, for weeks at a time I wouldn’t drink at all—however, my binge drinking would resurface at times and cause trouble with my peers.
I would like to fast forward to 2008 when I became a father—as I think any reader gets the point that I was on the fast track to full blown alcoholism. On December 24, 2008—at 8:38am, my beautiful daughter was born. It was the greatest, yet most stressful time in my life. I remember holding my baby girl for the first time—I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I couldn’t help but hold her and cry my eyes out. My family lived in Pennsylvania, so my partner at the time and I had no grand-parent support—it was just her and I. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders—and it was heavy. To be honest, my daughters mother and I had no chance of making it as a couple and having a healthy relationship—I had accepted that before my daughter was born. However, neither of us was comfortable with the idea of aborting the pregnancy—so we decided to have our daughter. We tried our best to make it work—but in early 2010, when Lila was just one year old, we went our separate ways. We shared physical custody of Lila—she was with each of us half-time, and though complicated at times, we both love Lila very much. I think this is the time when I started using alcohol as a way to deal with stress and anxiety. As you may know living in the Bay Area is costly—and having a child is a very big responsibility. I experienced my first panic attack in late 2010—I actually thought I was having a heart attack…it was scary. I started to believe that alcohol helped my anxiety—and began drinking more regularly. In late 2010, early 2011—I was probably drinking 4-5 times per week. I also had a pretty good job, paid my bills and was in excellent physical condition (which would quickly change). I think the before-mentioned traits led me to believe that I didn’t have a problem at all—people with problems were sleeping in the gutter, not working full-time and considered a “great dad.”
This is my journey.