The fun was over at 19. I am Joe, and I am an alcoholic

by Joe W.

I drank for the first time when I was 13. I didn’t get drunk, but I felt a sense of connection with the people I was drinking with (3 friends of mine) and even though I didn’t like the taste, I couldn’t wait to do it again. That was the first sign looking back that I had an alcoholic frame of mind, obsessing about the drink even when it wasn’t around.

Fast-forward to age 15 in 2006 when I tied a load on for the first time. That experience was life-changing. I felt a sense of comfort, ease, and inner peace. Alcohol and drugs made me feel comfortable in my own skin. I drank fast and as much as my body would let me.

By the time I was 16-17 years old in 2008, I was drinking/getting high daily. It occupied 99% of my thoughts throughout the day. I began to experience blackouts (times when I would not remember things that happened while I was drinking/using drugs). My grades slipped, I began isolating myself to only hanging out with people who liked to drink and use drugs the way I did, and I began to distance myself from my family.

At 18 in 2009, I began to have manic/depressive episodes. I would punch my garage door, break cell phones, and drive around wanting to smash my car into a wall. I began to go see a therapist, but when he began to try and ask me about any substance abuse, I lied about my drinking. I stopped going to see him shortly after that. I was in community college at the time and I was failing miserably. It took me only 2 and a half semesters before I was on academic probation and was not going to be able to return for a 3rd semester.

One of the 3 friends I took that first drink with died. He was driving home from a party the morning after and smashed his car into a tree. Another 2 close friends of mine went to rehab and got sober. I got to see what sobriety looked like through them, and it was really attractive, but I knew they didn’t drink or do drugs anymore and I was not willing to stop doing what I was doing.

In June 2010, I got pulled over with a case of 40oz hurricanes in my trunk and lost my license for 3 months. I was able to obtain a special license so I could drive to school, and I lied about the hours I was taking classes and I continued to drink and drive while on a suspended license.

Fast forward to October 31, 2010. I went to my first AA meeting a mile outside of Shippensburg University (I was not a student there, but I did a lot of partying there because I dated someone who went to school there. She drank a lot and ended up getting sober on that date) I went to meetings to try and salvage that relationship. I managed to stop drinking on my own for 13 days before she broke up with me for good, and that was a good excuse for me to pick up again.

On November 14, 2010 I ended up getting sober and I don’t know why. I can only say that something out there was working for me when I didn’t want to do any work for myself (November 14th is the birthday of that friend who died). Since getting sober, my life has dramatically changed.

I have been sober for a lot longer than I planned on. I am active in AA and try to attend 3-4 meetings a week. I have since found a real, healthy relationship and this upcoming September 2017 I am going to marry the woman I have been with for the last 2 1/2 years. I am in my 2nd year of graduate school and I work in a treatment center to help people who struggled like me on the path to recovery. I have not had to hurt from alcohol or drugs since becoming sober and as long as I am willing to make meetings, talk with other alcoholics and addicts in recovery, and humble myself then I can live this life that I never would have imagined possible.

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