BENEFITING: Hope Haven Foundation Inc
EVENT DATE: Sep 24, 2017
I am competing in IRONMAN AUGUSTA 70.3 to raise money to help people struggling with the disease of addiction achieve long-term sobriety. I have chosen two charities to support. The first, The Charlotte Rescue Mission and the second, Hope Haven.
IRONMAN 70.3 AUGUSTA Athletes start the day with a 1.2 mile swim in the Savannah River then take on a one-loop, 56 mile hilly bike course through Georgia and into South Carolina. The day ends with a 13.1 mile run through downtown Augusta..
I am competing in the 2017 IRONMAN Augusta 70.3 to raise awareness and money to support HOPE HAVEN, a foundation of recovery, provides life skills for chemically dependent adults and families within a supportive residential environment leading to independence..
THE WHY BEHIND THE WHY
I was always eager to please and ready to help others in any way I could. By all accounts, it was always with a smile on my face. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that my genuine happiness was being taken over by my addiction to alcohol.
Alcohol was a sneaky son-of-a-bitch for me. At first, it’s all about the fun. Something to cut the edge off a long day, perhaps quiet the noise, insecurities or add a little “let’s party” to my weekend – the fun lube. I drank for these reasons and many more. Hell, I’d pride myself on my ability to handle my booze. Like a drunkard’s badge of honor. So much so that many of my friends and family had no idea I had a drinking problem. To clarify, handle and problem are relative terms for this alcoholic. Because somewhere deep down I knew I couldn’t handle what was coming. It was easier to ignore it than to deal with it. Responsibility wasn’t a character trait that I possessed in large quantities. But hiding from my own problems? Yea, I was an expert. Ninja level style.
As time passed, the drinking became more frequent. Like many alcoholics I began to rationalize and reason my way through my addiction. I went through a phase where I would quit drinking hard liquor and drank only beer. Not your everyday beer either. I was into the craft beer scene. The higher the alcohol content, the further into oblivion I would sink. Sitting at a bar looking into the bottom of a pint glass was no different than sitting in a driver’s seat staring into the rearview mirror. The more I drank, the further away the booze took me from my problems and my lifelong friends. Here’s the kicker though – I would rationalize beer wasn’t hard liquor (my ride of choice was always vodka) and everything was cool. But in reality, I was gulping down just as much alcohol with beer as I was with liquor – if not more.
The more I drank, the further away I got from my friends and family. This is the not so fun next step. Shame and deceit. I had lost my badge of honor. I had abandoned beer for vodka after a brief romance with bourbon. I could no longer “handle” my drinking because I could no longer say when. If I drank one, then I would drink eight. My disease had a firm hold on me and I wasn’t going to bottom out without drinking my way there. That meant, I stepped up my game. No more social drinking – I take that back. I would drink socially as a kick starter. Then I would leave the company of my friends or whomever I was with and then drink alone. Yes. Alone. With one purpose. To be numb.
You see, by this point I was certainly ashamed about my drinking. Shit, I could see myself going down but was unable to do anything about it. That’s the power of addiction. That shame drove me to hide further from others as well as myself. It was easier to excuse myself from whatever the situation was and go drink alone than it was to deal with reality. Soon, the excuses to drink alone grew as did the distance between me and my family. The lies I would tell to hide my drinking were pitiful. At the time, I thought they were valid. Even fantastic. The deceit the alcoholic creates becomes a second life – and eventually, just life and not a very good one at that.
Whether it was hiding empty liquor bottles, sneaking out late at night to put them in the recycle bin or driving to different liquor stores so they wouldn’t think I was “one of those people.”
Think about the logic behind what I just said.
I would go to different liquor stores around town because I actually thought the person at the register would remember me, judge me or maybe I would run into someone I knew. More evidence the mind of this alcoholic was always centered on me, my secret and keeping it hidden.
But here’s the funny thing about that statement. If you’re an alcoholic you will understand what I am about to say. I actually thought I was keeping it a secret as long as I stayed away from people when I was drunk. Never mind that I would disappear for hours, slur my words, stink of vodka, or pretend to nap when I was really just passing out on the couch. That’s the plain and ugly truth.
As with most stories, some of the ugly parts are left out. My story is no exception. Some of them are just for me to know and the others are between me and my loved ones.
It wasn’t until my health had deteriorated and my family became scared that I began to worry. I had gained 60 pounds over a a few years’ time and I couldn’t even walk without something bothering me. I was out of breath, out of shape and out of options. I had extremely high blood pressure, I was clinically obese, my cholesterol levels were dangerously high, I had heart problems, a fatty liver, and the list goes on and on. So much so, that my wife thought I was literally going to die. I promise you that is NOT an exaggeration. She wholeheartedly believed that she would come home and find me dead from a heart attack.
I knew my bottom was fast approaching and that frightened the shit out of me.
That’s when I decided I needed help. That’s when I admitted that alcohol had complete control over my life and I was powerless to stop. Thankfully and by the grace of God, I had a high bottom and sought out a solution.
As of today, I’ve managed to string together a few days without a drink. Drop most of the weight I’ve gained and all but eliminated my health problems. All because I was given the gift of sobriety which has allowed me to become physically fit through diet and exercise.
There’s a quote I like to read that reminds me of that very fact …
“I like to think that, if sobriety is God’s gift to me, then my sober life is my gift to God. I hope God is as happy with His gift as I am with mine.” – Daily Reflections
Through the help of God, wonderful friends, a great therapist and a loving family I now see my addiction and the world differently. I am not ashamed nor do I regret my past. I am happy again and content with my my life.
I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.
I know everything may change tomorrow. But for the next 24 hours, I will be happy, joyous and free.
By opening up and sharing my story it removes the power the past had over me and perhaps it will encourage someone who is struggling with addiction to seek help or to inspire you to lend a hand to someone who is. Please know I hold those who wish to keep their sobriety private in the highest regard. While we share the same disease, we each travel our own journey in sobriety.