Getting Sober

On the morning of March 25 th , 2003, I came to still drunk from the night before. Let’s face it, I hadn’t drawn a sober breath in years. But this morning was different.

I had a meeting scheduled with the biggest client I had ever managed to arrange —and I looked and felt like I had been hit by a bus that was moving at 30 mph. My lips were stuck to my teeth from dehydration and it felt like there was hair on them. My head was pounding and there was no chance I could hold down food or water because my stomach felt like a hammock strung between two trees in hurricane-force winds. The only coherent thought that came to mind was: I can’t do this anymore. I am killing myself and my physical body is barely able to function. Utterly defeated, the  shame was so heavy I could barely stand with the weight of it. The one person in the world I most wanted to avoid was the person staring back at me in the mirror.

My life had become a selfish mess that was all about me, with little regard for those I loved and cared for. I had crafted a convenient tale that I wasn’t affecting anyone with my drinking, other than myself. I had also convinced myself that I could stop drinking anytime I wanted to. Well, here was my big opportunity to see if I really could. I had tried multiple times before and failed miserably, as in: try to quit drinking today and be back at the bar by 11:00 a.m. on the same day. I was twenty pounds overweight, bloated with a grayish skin tone, and barely capable of holding down food or water.  It wasn’t pretty and I felt about two steps from death.

It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life to have those brief moments of honesty with myself and to see and acknowledge the truth. I was an alcoholic. I had become my father—and I was going to die soon if I didn’t change my ways.

At that moment, I could have chosen to keep following the path I was on because it felt easier than the prospect of quitting drinking. But I didn’t. I had experienced those moments of honesty with myself, I had seen the truth, and there was no denying it now. For a few moments, I had woken out of the dream state of my life. Right here, this moment was the opportunity.  It didn’t feel like an opportunity, exactly, in the state that I was in. It didn’t look like an opportunity given I was mired in shame and defeat … but it was.

In the most unlikely of circumstances, here it was: the chance to change how my story would end. The only thing I had to do was be willing to walk through the door that had been opened for me.  I did. I made the choice and have never looked back since.

This is how life works. Things don’t show up in a pretty package with a bow on it. A deep reckoning with the truth is painful and messy but it is so worth it.  We all have this power to intervene on our own behalf and rewrite the ending of our own stories.