My first attempt at college didn’t go so well. It started off fun, then become fun with some consequences, then by my 7th year of school it was just all consequence. I had been to detoxes, I was failing courses, going to classes I wasn’t even registered for, and drinking myself into oblivion. Life was getting bad and drinking was my only solution. I don’t mean to gloss over my first few treatment experiences but I want the focus of this to be on the importance of staying plugged in to my program.
I went to a state school in southern Minnesota along the Mississippi river. I don’t know what other people’s experience was like with their freshmen year, but I thoroughly enjoyed mine with minimum consequences. I partied a lot, didn’t study much, and explored and discovered aspects of life that I had been missing. I became pretty popular, and seemed to be the life of the party. Wherever I went, we had a good time and we played and partied hard. The experience seemed normal, and the people I had surrounded myself with were doing the same things I was, so nothing seemed wrong or out of place yet. The real confusion came towards the end of four years, a typical length of time to be in college. All of my friends were starting to get internships, study for tests, and look ahead to graduation all the while still partying.
Due to a mini intervention from my parents and some concerned friends I found myself at 25 entering treatment for drugs and alcohol. I spent 28 days thinking it would get people off my back and quickly returned to drinking after leaving. After a summer of misery and trouble I admitted to myself that I was an alcoholic and needed help. From the Twin Cities my parents drove me to a treatment center in St. Louis Missouri where I stayed for 7 months.
After my 7 months in St. Louis I moved back to the Twin Cities and was living in a sober house in St. Paul pondering what to do next? By a chance meeting I found myself packing my bags and moving to Duluth Minnesota, to go back to school. The College of Saint Scholastica was starting a collegiate recovery program and I had the opportunity to help get it off the ground and enroll as student number 1. I love Duluth, I loved my time being a part of the recovery community in Duluth. For the two years I lived there I experienced, and was part of some amazing things that furthered my recovery. I helped start a young adults 12 step meeting, managed a sober house and attended school with some really great people. I had established myself in a program of recovery and the promises were coming true.
After graduating, moving back to the Twin Cities, getting a job, and getting married my alcoholic mind started to think that I had this figured out. It had been over 6 months since I had been to a meeting and I was placing a priority on everything else in my life except my sobriety. Maybe I could drink normally? Maybe I really was fixed? I first got sober so I could get all these things, and now that I had them, drinking seemed like the next right thing to add back to my life. I remember in a job interview I was asked why I had been involved in collegiate recovery and why had I help start a sober house, both of these things I was proud of and were on my resume. This was a pivotal moment for me, I knew I could tell the truth or tell a lie leaving the possibility of one day drinking open in the future. This being a sales job, I knew drinking would be part of the culture of my work. I wish I was stronger, I wish I had stayed connected to my friends in the program, but I had been away from working any sort of 12 Step program for too long and my natural instinct was to lie. I told myself, “I will just drink normally.” Which of course meant hiding it from my wife and my family. Looking back it amazes me how quickly I went back to leading a double life. I was acting one way around co-workers and clients, while attempting to live a complete lie around my wife and family.
This “normal” drinking I was struggling with quickly led to, drinking alone, sneaking drinks, drinking before client dinners, drinking during client dinners, and drinking alone in my hotel after client dinners. I was a mess, lying to everyone and trying to keep track of my lies. It was mentally exhausting. This couldn’t go on forever and I was begging to be caught, to be found out, to not have to live a lie anymore. I was finally ready to surrender. The final push came one night when my wife came home found me I passed out on the couch with an empty bottle. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for her to come home and find the man she married, the man she thought was sober passed out in a puddle of his own piss. It didn’t take long to convince me I needed help. I needed to get plugged back in to the program I thought I had accomplished and no longer needed. The next day I found myself walking in to The Retreat, in Wayzata Minnesota ready and excited to find myself and to find my Higher Power again.
I am an alcoholic. I am a slow learner. During my 30 days at The Retreat I learned how to live in the solution, I learned how to engage and find support in the fellowship, and I learned that I never have to do this alone. I learned that this is something I get to do for the rest of my life, each and every day when I wake up, I have a program of recovery that I can follow. Today, 4 years later, I talk to another alcoholic every day, I pray, I meditate, and do my best to live in the 12 steps.