James Olon

James Olon

Why I Had To Get Sober

I’m an alcoholic and I’ve only just became sober. It took me a long time to actually realize this. I knew I drank too much and for the wrong reasons but it never really dawned on me until I quit drinking. And even after 6 moths of not drinking I still hadn’t “dried out” as it were. I think this is important. Has of writing this I have 514 days with out a drink. Thats like a year and a half, and it took me a good 6 months to get myself out of that state mind, the one where I would make bad decisions and say things I didn’t mean.

Drinking for me was the only way I could function. I even joked about being a high functioning alcoholic. I’m a stay at home dad so it was super easy for me to drink at any time I wanted. Weekends were especially easy, I’d wake up super early to watch soccer and start my morning off with a Guinness, then move to liquor in the afternoon. If I had a function at my kids school I’d do a shot and a beer right before I had to be there. The thought of having to be there, and be social and be sober was too much to bear. My wife and I are known in our group of friends as the people that have all the best parties. Thanks not a humble brag its just what we do. Halloween, we shut down our street and have a festival, we get a keg and have face painting and hay rides its a scene. 4th of July we have a massive pool/block party with cooler full of beer and liquor everywhere. That’s not even taking into account the regular holidays. During the big parties I’d be black out drunk well before the end and on holidays well before the “main event”. I always knew I had a problem, I just thought I had it under control.

On January 1 2018 at 12 am I quit drinking cold turkey. The last beer I had was a bourbon barrel one. It was always one of my favorites. I had it around 8pm on the 31st. I didn’t get sick the first few days, and I didn’t have DT’s or anything like that. I just slowly came to realize that drinking wasn’t my only problem. It was just masking the real problem that was my depression and anxiety. All the social things that I had to do felt like these impossible tasks that no human could complete. My mind was still drunk, it had been soaked in IPA’s and brown liquor for so long it wasn’t ready for me to be sober. After that first month my wife thought I was going to start back drinking again, I had doe a “Dry” January in the past. I hadn’t told her that I was done for good, I hadn’t even said the words out loud. “I’m an alcoholic.” I hadn’t hit my bottom yet. That took a good 6 months.

It was during that 6 months where I nearly lost everything I care about. We were on vacation and I got in touch with an old girlfriend on our way home, it wasn’t the first time I’d done something so stupid. At this point I was lucky to still have a wife that loved me and let me see my kids. I disappointed her time and time again. I’d get drunk and wonder what an old girlfriend would be up to, so fucking stupid. I had no business doing it, we had had such a good time but my state of mind was still that of thinking I didn’t deserve this life. When we got home late that night my wife and I had a fight, a bad one, the worst one. I hit rock bottom, I punched a cabinet and broke my hand, and had to drive myself to the ER. My underlying problem, the reason I was drinking so much was because I was depressed, and I was making bad choices because I didn’t think I was worthy of the love and life I had.

From the outside looking in you would think why on earth I would feel that way, I have such a beautiful family and a wife that has put up with a life times worth of my bull shit. But still I drank and I drank. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to throw up and spend the day reeling from a hangover, and down right neglect my kids. During the first 6 months of sobriety I was helping my wife get our house decorated for one of our yearly parties and she asked me to get a table cloth, “The one we always use for this” she said. I had no idea what she was talking about I didn’t even know we had a table cloth. That’s when it really sunk in. If I had spent years not knowing about a table cloth, what else had I missed? As the year went on and my involvement in all the things that my wife does for us increased I realized I was too drunk to notice all these events. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas I’d been there, but I’d missed it. That thought alone was enough to make me want a drink. Although I cant really remember those events the thing I regret the most the thing that I just cant let myself off the hook for is disobeying my wife’s trust. I’ll carry that with me forever.

My depression was consuming me now. Knowing all the things I had missed, and all the people I had disappointed it was just eating away at me. I begged my wife to make me an appointment with a shrink. She flat out said no and that I had to do it. I’m really glad now that she didn’t do it for me. At this point she still couldn’t tell if I was serious about getting my shit together. The office where I go to get my antidepressants from also has a shrink I had to make more of a change and address my depression properly. So I made the call and went to my first psych appointment. That first appointment was so emotionally draining. I came home and went straight to sleep. When I woke up I had this feeling of relief like, I know is sounds cliche but it felt like a weight had been lifted in the short hour. My doctor was astounded that I had quit drinking cold turkey like I did. I was able to talk to my doctor about all the problems my wife and I were having my infidelities, my spending habits and all of my insecurities, as well as my feeling that I didn’t deserve this life. And while it maybe obvious to you reading this, my self destructive behavior.

During this time I was also seeing my pill doctor and trying to balance out my meds. I am a believer in meds, to an extent that is. I believe that they can be helpful but I also believe you have to change other things about how you’re living in a edition to them. Prozac for me, 20mg then 40mg and finally 60mg. I honestly see where it has helped me. My overall disposition improved. Sure I still get down and things still bother me but I’m able to deal with those feelings better now. The side effects are present, I’m lethargic sometimes, I had zero sex drive (I hardly ever think about it) I have trouble sleeping sometimes and I’ve been gaining weight but I’d rather those things than feel absolutely hopeless all the time. Getting my meds sorted out was a huge part of my recovery.

Major Mood Disorder was/is my diagnosis. Described by the Mayo Clinic “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living. More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy or both.”

Having a label for it, something tangible has helped me. Knowing that it can be helped and it can be treated, it gives me hope. My wife and I haven’t so much as raised our voices at one another in the past 7 months, not since that huge fight late last summer. That night while driving to the ER was the first time I thought about killing myself, like actually thought about doing it. I had thought about more passive aggressive ways in the past, let me run this red light or not wear my seatbelt. Better still, drink myself to death. I thought I could just steer the car into a tree or off an overpass. I think about that night often. Writing about it now makes me upset, I’ve never told anyone about that part of that night not even my shrink. I was ready to end it. I decided not to, I don’t know why. Maybe I was just too afraid, maybe I’m a coward, I think maybe it just wasn’t my time.

This isn’t the part of the story where I get self righteous and say God has a bigger plan for me, because frankly I’m sure sure I believe in that. What I do know is that isn’t how I want to go, how I’d want to be remembered. That night was awful, and so were the following weeks, I wanted to drink so bad. I wanted to roll over and give up. One night in late summer my wife and I went out for a date night, and it was really great at least I thought it was. Dinner was nice, we talked about all kids of stuff and then when the check came my wife gave me a gut punch to end all gut punches. If I didn’t sort myself out, and get my shit together, around the house, with the kids, and with myself, we were finished. She laid it all out so calm and collected. I was equal parts impressed and terrified. She played it cool the whole time, and then bam. Like she was ordering her food, audible, clear, and composed. I was shocked. I was frightened.

My whole life I felt like I was capable of being better. I thought that as long as I was changing I was changing for the better. I never lived a day in my life at my full potential. I half assed my way through 35 years of life and 10 years of marriage and 9 years of fatherhood. That’s what this was meant to be about, parenting. It quickly turned into this. I sit here knowing that things aren’t perfect, I’m not perfect. I know and accept that, I’m good with it. Ever since that dinner, I made a choice to actually try and live up to the person that my wife thinks I can be, that my kids think I am. I’ll always be an alcoholic. I may always have Major Mood Disorder. I know I’ll still disappoint people in life. But, I’m trying. I’m actually trying to be the best version of me I can. Its like I’ve rewired myself, I think back on those many past mistakes and I honestly don’t know what I was thinking, I cant even pretend to put myself into that frame of mind. How could I do those things?

Overall I feel like a much happier person, a much different person than at this point last year. Alcohol was ruining my life. It was determined to take away all the things that I was oblivious to, my wife, my three daughters, my everything. If I hadn’t quit I wouldn’t be sitting here at my desk listening to my kids play. I have no doubt that if I hadn’t quit I would be dead by now. Every time I think about having a drink, I think about that. Me dead. I know that if I do ever have another drink I can kiss my family goodbye. Cause I know I wouldn’t be able to have just one.

Some days its easier than others. Some days it feels like my life is in complete shambles. When my bank account is really low and my credit cards are near their limit it feels like the end. On the bad days I speak up and say so. I don’t feel guilty about having a bad day, or about sitting out on an event. When we go to friends houses and they are drinking and I feel like I’m close to having one I know I can just leave, I know that’s the right thing for me to do. If I’m nervous about something I say so. Changing my environment as well as changing my state of mind is key. I’d love to one day not have to take medication twice a day, but for know that’s just as key. Even writing all of this, is helpful. I keep coming back to this and wonder if its something I want to share. It’s naive to think that the whole world would see it and read it, I know that. I honestly can’t see it hurting anything for me to publish it. If I have and by some chance I don’t know you and you’re reading it and maybe you are in the same place I was and maybe you found it helpful. You are not alone in whatever struggle you are going through, things can and will get better.