As I look back at my last year of drinking—I realize that some very important aspects of my personality changed drastically due to the excessive alcohol consumption.
I went from the guy at work who was likeable, outgoing and nice—to a person who just sat at his desk quietly, riddled with anxiety and discontent. I went from a partner who used proper communication to express emotions, whether good or bad, to a partner who sat on the couch and stared blankly at my girlfriend as she asked “Leif, what is wrong?” I went from a father with a clear thought process, high energy and ability to prioritize for the benefit of my daughter—to a father who took his daughter to the park drunk. I went from a young, motivated professional to an employee who just went through the motions that would ensure job stability…doing just a bit more than the minimum.
I missed out on a lot of smiles, hugs, intellectual conversations, weekend trips, outings with friends and other precious moments because cracking a beer or uncorking a bottle of wine became a priority…my body and mind were hooked.
My ability to express emotion: like short term alcohol consumption can make someone behave out of character during a wild night out—long term alcohol consumption can change someone on a more consistent, ongoing basis. I used to be comfortable expressing feelings and emotions—heck, when my daughter was born I used to cry tears of joy while rocking her to sleep as we listened to lullabies. I used to call my ex-girlfriend when she went on business trips just to tell her how much I love and miss her. At some point, during my darkest moments, my ability to express feelings and emotions started to wither away. I simply went through the motions of life on auto-pilot. I locked my feelings and emotions in some dark corridor within my mind and the only key that would help me regain access to them was abstinence from alcohol…but unfortunately that wasn’t an option at that point in time. I was convinced that my anxiety and head-aches derived from stress, and that alcohol was my medication…it made me feel better. Now, looking back, alcohol was the main cause of my health issues and each drink just made the problem worse. I vividly remember one of the rare dreams I would have while heavily drinking—it was me in the bathroom asking my ex-girlfriend to “help me.”
I had so many cues indicating that I should stop drinking and get help—but denial is a mother fucker. I started to get scared after a while—things that used to make me feel happy, generally good or spark some sort of emotion just didn’t have an effect on me anymore. Meaning, I just felt nothing. The one time I would feel emotion is when my daughter would say “daddy I love you.” And, those emotions derived from the fact that I knew I was letting her down. I think every alcoholic goes through the period where they begin to understand that they need help. For example, I would make a conscious effort during the last month of drinking to not stop and get beer or wine on the way home. Each morning I told myself: “Leif you’re not drinking today.” Well, what I told myself in the morning flew out the window by noon—as I was sitting at my work station thinking about picking up some booze. I don’t think my ex-girlfriend truly saw the extent of my alcoholism, as I became an expert at hiding it—but what she did see was the decline of my happiness and discontent with myself and everything around me. The echoes of the phrase “I can’t do this anymore, Leif” haunt me almost every-day. Frankly, I felt the same way.
I can remember sitting on the couch or walking down the street with my girlfriend—or even talking on the phone with my mother. Some-times I felt terrible inside and had so many things that I wanted to get off of my chest, but when I tried to talk, the words were trapped inside. I literally lost the ability to express myself—and ultimately became mute when it came to discussing my feelings.
The flip-side and glimmer of hope for an alcoholic is the fact that our bodies and minds respond quite well to the absence of alcohol. After about two weeks of not drinking, I started to feel again. It was over-whelming. Not only did that locked door open and allow my feelings and emotions to bless me once again—I started to see things clearer, more logically and rationally. I started to feel like myself again. It was bitter-sweet, as with the reemergence of feelings—I began to remember just how far I fell down. I had to begin coping with the fact that I treated someone I love so dearly like a stranger…breaking her heart. I have a million things I want to tell her now—but I think to myself: “would you want to hear that if you were her?” I think she made it clear that she doesn’t. I just have to cope with the fact that at my worst moment I became someone who wasn’t me—and even-though the regret is a constant reminder…I am keeping the promise to her that I will never drink again. I hope that means something to her down the road.
I think of the Serenity Prayer at this moment—and think of what I can change…and that is never forgetting where my alcoholism led me. My choice to excessively drink took me down an emotionless and dark path—it stole my ability to be myself, and truly love those that were closest to me. With a rational thought process—I will never allow that to happen again.