This blog entry is about my struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. My timelines aren’t always completely accurate, but I’ve done the best I could. My goal is to help others who are struggling to understand that you are not alone! You can recover and live a beautiful life full of purpose. I am new to recovery and have relapsed a few times over the last 8 months. I will be blogging about my struggles and accomplishment throughout my recovery in an effort to stay sober and help others stay sober as well.

I am from a small town in the south. If you drive through it and blink, you’ll miss it. But you won’t miss much. You can hear the neighbors chattering about the latest gossip. Being raised in a small town of 400 people, nothing is private. Everyone knew who the “bad” kids were and I was one of them. This is a label no child should have posted on their forehead, but it’s a reality we all face as children.

My parents were 19 years old when I was born. They struggled with money and we grew up poor, but we always had food and a roof over our heads. They tried their best, but what parent is ready to raise a child at 19? Throughout the years, I felt very alone. I was a willful child that no one could control. My parents did not have the skills or knowledge to raise me and my brother, but they tried their best. All I will say about my childhood is that it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I will not put blame on any of my family members.

We were constantly going to church. I was raised Missionary Baptist and taught that if you were gay, did not believe in Jesus or simply were not following “the word of God”, you would burn in hell for eternity. However, if I was baptized and repented my sins, all would be washed away during that little 15 minute dunking. That must have been some powerful water! My parents took the “spare the rod, spoil the child” approach. Back then, that was an “acceptable” form of punishment when you were raised in the south. However, I do not and have never accepted it, but understand that my parents disciplined us in the way they were disciplined.

At the age of 12, I started hanging out with the older crowd and drinking. I wanted to be anywhere but home with my parents so I started drinking to gain approval of older friends. I felt dismissed when I was around my parents. They seemed to have much more on their mind. I only have a few good memories from childhood and wish I had more. I have blocked most of my childhood completely out.

I was not very popular in school and hated everyday I attended. My drinking continued throughout my teenage years. I would find bottles hidden by my family members and steal a few drinks. My great grandfather would offer me drinks at a very young age and I took them. This was typical southern living! Eventually, it turned into smoking cigarettes, then progressed into smoking pot and drug abuse. I wanted to escape the pain I felt from feeling dismissed at home and unpopular at school. This fueled my need for approval and when rejected, fueled my alcoholism and drug abuse.

Beginning at the age of 12, I noticed that I had an attraction to women, but didn’t understand it. I struggled quietly with these feelings as all gay youth do. I couldn’t speak to my family or friends about this issue and felt very isolated.

I went to live with my grandparents when I was a young teenager. They checked me into rehab when I was 15 years old. Looking back now, it was a joke. We woke up at 5:30am, stood in a line with one foot on the grey line and one foot on the blue. If your foot slipped, you were on the ground doing push ups. Each minute your team leader led you into class late, 10 more push ups were required for every minute you were late. I was in great shape, to say the least. We had 5 minutes to take a shower or staff would come in to get you. Every morning, pills were pushed on you without choice. They said “If you want out of here, you’ll take your meds.” Medication for depression was part of your breakfast. No one dealt with the core issues of why you were depressed. They thought discipline, medicine and a couple of therapy sessions would lead you on your way to a successful, sober life. After I was released, I went home and smoked a joint while my family picked up the $28,000 bill.

When I was 16, I dropped out of school, only turning back to shoot my middle finger into the air. In my mind, I had to get out of my situation and get out fast. I could no longer deal with what I was going through. I ran away a few times, but always came back. I moved around quite a bit – Shreveport, LA, Lubbock, TX, Dallas, TX, Memphis, TN. I finally moved to a small town in West Texas at the age of 16 with a very loving family that took care of me for a while. I saw a spark of hope at that point, but the partying continued to get worse. I came home to Arkansas and began to do heavy drugs until I was 21 years old. I looked in the mirror one day and I looked like I was going to die. I was 5 feet 7 inches and 105 pounds. You could carry luggage in the bags under my eyes. At that point, I decided to stop the heavy drug use and I did this successfully, but I became a raging alcoholic with no want to stop. I moved back to Dallas, TX, began bar hopping and the drinking continued to get worse.

I moved to Boca Raton, FL in 1998 and by the time I was drinking daily. I was very unhappy in my current relationship and drank to numb myself emotionally. In 2000, I ended the relationship, began a new one and moved to Miami, FL. The woman that I was dating would not put up with drinking, so I only drank occasionally, but I always drank too much. We started a successful business, but a very stressful one which added to my list of reasons to drink. This relationship lasted 8 years, but she could no longer deal with me. I began a new relationship where we drank heavily 2 to 3 times a week. That relationship ended 3 years later and I spiraled into a terrible depression. Needless to say, I drank heavily to kill the pain due to the loss of the relationship.

During the 11 years of living in South Florida, I ran a successful business and started 2 more. I was very lucky to be financially stable during this time, but the stress was killing me. My drinking continued.

I began AA in December of 2011. I’ve relapse a few times and am now in a new recovery program tailored to my needs. AA is a great recovery program that has helped millions all over the world and I use it in addition to my current recovery program. The struggle continues on a weekly basis and I am learning a few important things that I hope will help my readers:

1. A thought is just a thought. You do not have to act on your urge to drink.

2. The urge to drink is like an unruly child that wants everything NOW and will cry until he gets it. This child needs to be dealt with lovingly, compassionately and with patience.

3. Do not put yourself in a position where you are surrounded by people who drink. People, places and things must change in your life. Be brave and move forward.

4. Meditation and quiet time is necessary in order to connect with yourself and your true nature.

5. Making amends is not about saying “I’m sorry” to the ones you’ve hurt. Most of the time, it’s about becoming a responsible, sober adult and your actions will most likely mend the relationship. Actions DO speak louder than words.

6. Anger, resentment and frustration will propel us into drinking. Honestly, they are reasons we give ourselves to drink and do drugs.

7. The only thing you have to do today is not pick up a drink. Do not overwhelm yourself.

I have mended my relationship with my family. I love my parents dearly and am compassionate and understanding of their struggles as I was growing up. I still hold a little anger at times, but as I gain a deeper understanding of compassion, those feelings fall away. I still own the 3 businesses I started and am becoming more consistent in my actions on a daily basis. I realize now that the tough experiences I went through in my past turned me into a resilient, compassionate person with a good understanding of others. Being a recovering alcoholic will end up being the biggest blessing I’ve ever been given because when I am ready, my purpose in life will be helping others with their addictions. I am far enough down the road to realize this.

The scariest part of not drinking is facing the fact that your social life will change. You will lose your so called friends and you’ll need to change your social setting. I am still struggling with this. I only hang out with good friends that do not drink in front of me. I stay away from bars or any place or person that triggers me when possible.

It’s scary to put your life out there for others to read, but I feel that being honest and open gives others hope. You are not alone!

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