Valentine’s Day Eve

A year ago today I entered an alcohol treatment center. I had actually stayed sober over the previous few days – out of fear, more than anything.

Backing up a few days to my last drinks. (I refer to them in a plural sense because I don’t actually remember my last drink. Does anyone in recovery?) It was Friday. Work was over and I was at the bar across the street from the office. I was there with about 20 – 30 others from work to throw a going-away party for a long-time account planner who had taken a new job. Ok, really, I barely knew her – let’s be honest – I was there to get drunk.

It had been a long week (read: drinking every night, coming into work late and hung-over every morning, and coworkers were not happy with my performance), so I was more than anxious to get stupified / sloshed / away-from-it-all with a few Belvedere-tonics.

I was on number 3 or 4 and not feeling it. My week of drinking had upped my tolerance, or rather, I was probably still in a low-level drunken state all week, so I had to do something to kick-start my night.

Finally! Dave showed up. Dave was another of the agency’s resident party-guys. I was sure he’d spice up the night.

He did. We decided to head down the street to some of the more lively / hop’n bars and get the partying on.

From there I remember just a few tidbits. But what I do remember was enough to give me one of the biggest guilt trips of my life. I had decided to pull a prank on my boss. I had gone back to the agency and decided to move all of his furniture down the hall.

Stupid, huh? Yeah, I’d say so.

I went in to the office the next day to try to repair the damage I had done. I tried to move everything back into my boss’ office, but I couldn’t find it all. The new number 2 guy at the agency was in the office over the weekend and witnessed what I was doing. He didn’t ask questions.

I had broken things. I had left beer cans and cigarette butts everywhere. I had scratched up the newly remodeled flooring. I had misplaced a few computers. I had cracked CDs and picture frames.

I was shaking. Sweating. Stomach in knots. I needed a cocktail.

I went to a card party on Saturday night. I was sober going there and as I arrived they were just about to start playing Texas Hold’em. I prayed that I wouldn’t draw the high card because I was still sober – and that meant shaking. I was shaking so much there’s no way I could deal the hand, let alone shuffle the deck. I picked the high card. Everyone noticed. Nobody said anything.

We left the house an hour or so later. I don’t remember anything for the rest of the night.

I woke up at 4:00pm on Sunday afternoon. I was home. I was alone (amazingly). A huge rush of guilt over what I had done at the office rushed over me. I was sure I would lose my job. I knew I needed help. I suddenly realized that it wasn’t just that one Friday night that I had fucked up. My life had slowly, without me even realizing it, gone down a blackhole. Everything was being sucked out of it. And it hadn’t hit me until now, but I was sure that my problem was liquor.

I knew three people off the top of my head who were (or had been at one point) sober. I didn’t know how or why they had gotten sober, but I knew they would know what to do in my situation. One was my uncle – scratch that – he was a year and a half into recovery and was living with my parents. I couldn’t take the risk of them finding out.

The second was my good friend John. He had been sober nine years and had begun drinking about a year prior to this time. I called him at home and on his cell phone – no answers. I left voicemails begging him to call me back. He never did.

The third person was my friend Rich. I had met him a few years back at a college job I had. He had been sober for almost ten years. I called him. No answer. I left a voicemail – again, begging that he call me – this was important.

I was in a panic and didn’t know what to do. I started researching treatment on the internet. I knew there was a treatment center for GLBT people in town called Pride Institute. I looked up their website and began reading.

Holy shit. This looked hard. Did I really want to get myself into this? What’s with all of this ‘God stuff’? Maybe I could control my drinking on my own.

I didn’t leave the house the rest of the day – not that there was much of that left by the time I had woken up. I didn’t drink that night, and I could hardly fall asleep.

I didn’t go to work the next day, and as it turns out, I wouldn’t return there for another three months.

I woke up on Monday and called Pride Institute. I was crying on the phone. I told them I thought I had a drinking problem and that I needed help. I gave them my insurance number. They told me they had to run some paperwork through, but that I should go get myself a physical in the meantime and they would call me when the paperwork was completed.

I called my roommate at work and explained to him what was going on. He was shocked. “But Danny, you just need to cut back a little. Now that I think about it, I wanted to say something, but didn’t think it was any of my business.”

Rich called in the early evening. I told him about my problem. He was a little surprised but said he would meet me for coffee to talk about it.

A short while later I was down at Muddy Waters coffee shop sitting with Rich. I told him about the events of the past few months. How my drinking had escalated, how I’d trashed my boss’ office, and how everything was just sorta falling apart.

He said something that’s stuck with me since that time. He said, “I can’t tell you if you’re an alcoholic. Only you can make that determination. What I can tell you is that if you are an alcoholic, and you continue to drink, everything you value in your life will be taken away.”

That hit me. It hit me hard because as he said it, I realized that everything in my life had already been taken away, or would be very soon.

Friends rarely called. I had pushed my family away. My home was a complete disaster. I was behind on all of my bills, mortgage included. I hadn’t dated anyone seriously in 4 years. My body had gone to shit. I looked like shit. My habits at the bar had destroyed any chance I had at developing any sort of respectable reputation. I had just barely made it through a 6 credit semester at the UofM with a D and a C. All that, and, I was about to lose my job.

I was an alcoholic.

I thanked Rich and headed home.

The next couple of days are a little fuzzy, but I didn’t drink. I got a physical and finally Thursday arrived – the day I was going into treatment.

My roommate arrived home from work around 6:00. He was going to take me there – I didn’t want to drive myself because I didn’t want my car there, and the subsequent urge to leave at any time.

I hadn’t packed a thing. He helped me shove a bunch of necessities into a suitcase, but all of my clothes were dirty. I decided that since I didn’t have anything clean, we may as well go shopping – and that we did.

I went crazy with the credit card at J.Crew and walked out of the mall with multiple bags in hand. We were off to Pride Institute.

We arrived there about 20 minutes later. It was lightly snowing. I walked into the treatment with a carry-on bag and a plethora of shopping bags in hand. I looked like a train wreck.

To be continued

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