Monday, July 26, 2010

2 years

I thought long and hard before posting this.  Some of you know this part of my story, for others of you, it will be new.  I wasn't sure if I was ready to share this in such a public forum, but then I realized that if any one of you asked me privately about this, I would share, so why not share it publicly?  I also realized that some of you have indicated that I should someday write a book that tells my story...if and when I write this book, this would be part of my story that I would definitely include.  So I decided to share it.  I don't know if any of you will look at me differently after reading this...honestly that was one of the reasons I didn't want to publish this, but then I realized it doesn't matter how you see me, because I'm not who I was and how you see me doesn't affect in any way how G-d sees me. G-d has done a work in me and I've been changed. If you want to judge me for my past, do so, but it's my past and I bear it no more. The old is gone away, the new has come! And maybe, just maybe, it will give some one hope.
With that prelude, here is the story:
I don't remember when I first figured it out.  It was sometime in high school I think.  If I ate certain foods I felt really good, really, really good.  I'd be really happy, nothing could hurt me.  I was invincible. Then I'd crash and feel miserable for a time, but I could fix that miserable by eating the right foods again.  These foods didn't seem to affect anyone else I knew in this way.  It was weird, but I didn't really care.  I couldn't quite describe what it did to me, but I knew I liked it.  It felt good.  Surely it couldn't be a bad thing.
In college, people would ask my friends if I was drunk.  They would ask me if I was drunk.  The answer was always the same: No way.  I never drank.  I was just really happy.
Sometimes it was dangerous.  I would believe firmly that I was invincible. I would climb everything and anything. I'd try to fly. I would have no concept that something was dangerous.  Nothing could harm me and I loved it.
Then I started to get sick.  I was tired all the time.  I was in pain.  I went to doctor after doctor and none of them could find anything.  One accused me of drinking too much.  Told me my liver was failing and that if I didn't get help for my drinking problem, I was going to die.  I told him I didn't drink and he told me I was lying and needed help.   I told my friends about him and they said he was crazy.  The tests didn't lie though.  My liver was failing.
In the days before Christmas of my sophomore year of college I was given a diagnosis. I had a bizarre and relatively rare medical condition in which my body turned certain foods into alcohol.  The wonderful feeling I'd been enjoying since high school, the feelings of invincibility, the erratic behavior, it had a name - drunkenness.
The doctor who had told me that I needed help for my drinking problem had been right.  I did need help.  I was an alcoholic.  Knowing it didn't really change anything, except that I had to be sneakier about it. I was torn...part of me wanted to get better, but part of me didn't want to lose what I had.  I liked being able to feel good.  I had been drunk for so long that it was part of who I was, it was how I dealt with life.  I didn't know how to deal with life sober. Looking back the doctors figured it had been 5-7 years since I had been sober for any length of time.
The journey to sobriety was hard.  Because I could get drunk in non-conventional ways, it was easy to get drunk.  I could do it even on a dry campus.  I could (and often did) get drunk in the dining hall.  I remember my friends begging me not to do it, reminding me that I was slowly killing myself every time I got drunk.  I didn't care. I didn't want to deal with life and if I was drunk, I didn't have to.
At some point, something clicked inside me. I think it was a work of G-d, answering the prayer of those who loved me. I wanted to get better.  I didn't want to die of alcohol poisoning or as the result of reckless drunken behavior before I graduated college.  I started trying to get sober.  Sometimes I'd make it a day or two, other times a week or two.  Alcohol withdrawal sucked.  There is no other way to describe it.  I've been through some pretty horrid stuff and the withdrawal from alcohol pretty much tops the list.  There was one night when I was convinced that bugs were eating my brain and I had to make a hole in my skull to let them out.  Somehow a friend found out what I was trying to do and stopped me before I did too much damage.
The road was hard and long, but I had great friends supporting me along the way.  There have been many times, some as recent as a week ago, when I've longed to go back to that happy place, to be able to drown my troubles.  To be drunk.  I remember what it was like to not have to deal with life, and sometimes I want to go back to that.  But I also know what it is to be sober, to be fully in control of myself, and that is truly the better choice.
Tomorrow, July 27, 2010, I will have been sober for two years. It hasn't been an easy journey and I didn't make it alone, but it has been well worth it.  I wouldn't have made it if it hadn't been for amazing friends and the grace of Jesus Christ. There will be many many many more sober years to come.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! (Phil. 4:13)

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