I had a twenty-six year drinking career that began on my eighteenth birthday and ended in August of 1990. The last year or two were the worst. I was failing at work, my personal life was a mess, and I kept getting into one scrape after another. I was doing the kinds of things that hurt people, ruin reputations, and cause pain to everyone involved. There was one thing that would relieve the pain, but it was also the thing that caused it and so on, and so on…. Finally, I reached the point where alcohol no longer dulled the pain, but I continued to drink anyway. I had to. When I drank enough, it produced the relief of oblivion.
I convinced myself that all of my problems were caused by my wife, my family, my job, in fact just about everything, except me. I just wanted to be a good guy in a good world, but all these other people and things in my life kept screwing it up. At no point did I ever make the connection between the pain and the alcohol – never.
One night in late August, I was sitting in my living room, drinking, of course, when I was interrupted by my fifteen-year-old daughter appearing out of nowhere. She was standing about ten feet in front of me, nervously fiddling with a piece of paper in her hand.
“Dad,” she said with a tremor in her voice, “what did you think of the poem I read for you on the deck before? You said you wanted to think about it for a while.”
“What Poem?” I said. I couldn’t remember even seeing her earlier, let alone any poem.
She extended the paper in her hand, “This poem, Dad. I’ve been working on it for days.”
I looked at the floor, pretending to remember, and muttered something that I hoped was appropriate. I can’t remember what I said. When our eyes met, I watched her expression change from hurt to anger, then from anger to disgust. I saw myself, and what I had become reflected in her eyes, and suddenly I knew that she knew I was a complete fraud.
She crumpled the paper into a ball and tossed it onto the rug between us. I remember how her hair swirled as she wordlessly spun on her heel and ran from the room. I couldn’t remember the poem, but I still remember her sobs.
I looked around the room, and realized that this was all coming to an end, and damn soon. We were living off sales I had made two and three years ago. There was nothing in the pipeline. I saw things that night that I had never admitted, or faced before. Not only was I a liar, a cheat, and a phony, I understood I was one of the few people in my life who wasn’t already aware of it.
I wanted the world to just stop. If it would do that, for just a little while, I could get myself together, and begin to make all these things right. I didn’t want to drink any more that evening, I really tried hard not to drink, but somehow the glass continued to fill itself. I drank until the pendulum clock on the wall bonged one, then stumbled up the stairs, undressed in the dark and fell into bed. As the room began to spin, I was filled with panic, because I knew I couldn’t face life without alcohol to kill the pain, and yet I knew that I would die if I continued to drink. I saw no third option.
I didn’t put a gun to my head, nor did I continue to drink beyond the next day. Instead, I found door number three. I discovered that there is a life out there that doesn’t require constant alteration of reality. Powerless No Longer is the story of how I discovered that life, and how most addicts discover it either completely on their own, or with minimal help.
Pete is an author, blogger, and podcaster who makes his home in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. His primary interest is in helping others recover from self-defeating behaviors.