The last time I had a drink was on April 13, 2014. Myself, like many alcoholics, have to experience loss before we come to terms with our addiction—once we come to terms with it, we either address it or we lose everything, including our health and family.
I vividly remember that day in 2014, as it was the first time I was able to look at myself in the mirror and admit that I had a problem with alcohol. It wasn’t the additional 30/lbs I gained, the high blood pressure, the constant anxiety or the bottles and cans spilling out of the recycle bin every week. It wasn’t the hangovers, the blackouts or the yearning to constantly be drunk. No, it was a simple statement from someone I deeply cared for, followed by the slam of the front door as they left.
“Leif, I can’t do this anymore.”
Once the door slammed, the engine turned over and the car backed out of the gravel drive-way—I knew that was the last time I’d ever see that person again. The house was silent—it was an eerie, all consuming kind of silent.
I felt alone, and I was afraid. I felt sad because I realized how much I hurt someone I loved deeply. Oddly enough, alone, sad and afraid was exactly where I needed to be at that point in my life. It was the only way I was going to recognize my problem—and it was in that moment of silence I said, “I’m done.”
My choice to drink alcohol stripped me of the ability to feel emotion—it was almost like I was on auto-pilot, just going through the motions of life. I didn’t feel happiness, sadness, love, anger, etc., toward any particular person, place, thing or situation—I tuned everything out. Well, almost everything. The only reason a little glimmer of light shone in my mind, body and soul, was Lila—the love I had for her never diminished, not one bit. Each time I was on the brink of a complete breakdown, I thought of her and that kept me from ending up in a gutter somewhere in the Bay Area.
I vividly remember a moment in time, while watching a Disney film with Lila, that I became concerned about my state of mind. We were watching the Lion King, and typically during Disney films I go through a range of emotions—I feel sadness, I feel happiness and often times I feel inspired. You may think I’m being sarcastic right now—but I assure you, I am not. During this particular viewing of Lion King—I felt nothing. I was concerned—and that is when something my ex said to me echoed through my mind.
“Leif, you aren’t the same person I met three years ago.”
She was right—and that is when I started researching the impact alcohol abuse has on a person’s emotional and psychological well being. I was literally shutting down my ability to feel and express emotion. Quitting alcohol was going to be a massive obstacle and challenge—but in April of 2014 it became a “now or never” decision.
I’m not going to lie—the first three months of sobriety were hard—they were painful. I still had the urge to drink—but each time that urge surfaced, I thought of Lila—I thought of her smile, laugh and the warmth of her hugs. I told myself over and over that “I want to make her proud,” and I couldn’t do that as a drunk. I told myself that “I want to be happy” and that was also something I couldn’t do drunk. I told myself “I didn’t want to hurt or lose anyone else,” and I would continue to hurt those that love me if I kept drinking.
Since I stopped drinking, my life has changed in so many ways. I lost that 30/lbs and lowered my blood pressure—I don’t do stupid, regrettable things while intoxicated. I am capable of having healthy relationships and more effectively able to hold myself accountable when I do something wrong. I still have a lot of areas that I need to improve in my life, but that will be a constant journey, and whether you’re an alcoholic or not, there’s always something you can be doing better. Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection.
I think back to when I decided to stop drinking—and am grateful of the support systems that exist for people like me. When I was at an all time low in my life—there was a collection of people that encouraged me to stay on the path of sobriety—and assured me that “things WILL get better.” I didn’t believe them at first, but they were right. Absolutely right.
I am alive and well today because of the choice to stop drinking—and I attribute my continued sobriety to those that have loved and supported me.
I feel again—and that is a huge relief. I feel like myself again—and that fear of never finding my true self again has gone away.