I am an alcoholic, an alcoholic that has been sober now for over 2 years. But, I will be an alcoholic for the rest of my life, save future medical or technological advances that can cure this disease. Though I do not expect nor wish for such a cure (at least for myself).
I have accepted that I cannot drink so much as a light beer again without putting my life in danger of ending prematurely as has happened to so many. Occasionally (maybe once every other month) I will have a non-alcoholic beer, but that is the extent to which I touch a beer bottle.
Alcoholism runs through the maternal part of my family. My maternal great great grandfather died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 30. My great grandfather drank daily his entire life, except for Lent, and somehow lived a full life without alcohol doing more than making him a grade A asshole. My maternal uncle is a lifelong active alcoholic for which his nearly life ending cancer could be attributed to.
Though my grandmother, my mother and sister have never struggled with alcoholism, they all admit they have felt tendencies after drinking on a regular basis. This disease was not so kind to me.
From the moment I had my first drink, I knew it was for me. Alcohol brought me calmness, euphoria, and allowed me to forget my life problems if only for a night at a time. It was not until my last year in high school and first year as an undergraduate that the disease truly took hold of me.
I became somewhat popular my last year in high school. I was in multiple theatre productions, and I even got my first girlfriend (yes she was really cute). I was receiving straight A's. I was accepted to the University of Virginia through the early admission process (out of state) and even nominated for (though I did not receive) the Jefferson Scholar award which offered a full scholarship. Friends seemed to be almost everywhere as people saw and were attracted to my radiating confidence.
At first, drinking was a honeymoon that seemed to open social doors. Once I matriculated to UVA, I was rushed and inducted into a fraternity. My somewhat awkward social nature would have made it much more difficult to fit in without the social lubricant that is alcohol.
I was at the apex of my academic performance, all while able to party at the same time. Little did I know my honeymoon with alcohol was about to end and turn into a seemingly endless nightmare.
I began to develop a tolerance to alcohol. This led to me drinking more and more until I would fall asleep or blackout occasionally. I started to become belligerent, not physically, but verbally.
The things I said to friends were of the most base and despicable nature. Upon awakening from a long night drinking I could not even remember half of what I did the night before, let alone the horrible things I said.
It was not long before the number of my friends started to dwindle. Before I knew it, I found myself without any friends save one or two that for reasons I still don't understand, never gave up on me.
Even extended family started cutting me out of their lives and wrote me off as a lost cause. All the promise of my youth disappeared within a two to three year period, culminating with my withdrawal from the University of Virginia in the middle of my 6th semster.
I was finally legally old enough to drink. I was also out of school with a nice pile of debt and seemingly no prospects for the future.
I moved in with my mother across the country in California and continued to struggle with alcohol even then. Somehow, I managed to gather enough strength within the balance of 2004 and was able to return to UVA and graduate.
My struggle with alcohol however, was far from over. I did everything I could to quit drinking several times, never staying sober for more than a month or two until I was back to drinking as much as ever.
I came out of the prestigious McIntire School of Commerce at UVA. I had a good paying job before I graduated. Despite my heavy drinking, my career prospects seemed to be on track, even though I knew I was drinking in a completely self-destructive way.
My drinking continued. My behavior continued to deteriorate. I soon found myself once again without prospects as I quit my high paying job at 25.
For several years I continued to binge. My mother stopped being able to sleep without fearing that she would receive the dreaded phone call in the middle of the night that I had died, or worse, that I killed someone else while drunk and behind the wheel.
No one liked me anymore, least of all myself. I would cry for hours on a weekly basis praying for an answer to my suffering. The only answer was more alcohol.
In February 2011, I received my first (and only) DWI. My only friend left was my dog Winston. He was in the car with me during my arrest and was boarded by the State until I could pick him up a couple days later.
I had betrayed everyone and everything that had ever been given to me, risking not just my life but also my beloved pug, Winnie.
Still I continued to drink, even while I was mandated to take alcohol awareness classes for my DWI.
Then somehow I managed to stop drinking long enough to prepare for the LSAT and law school. I knew I would not be able at that time to work for a boss. I also knew that the only chance I had at making a prosperous living was through lawyering.
I was accepted to three law schools, for which I eventually matriculated to Gonzaga. I received the acceptance letter while in an alcohol treatment facility. I could not even complete the 30 day rehab program, leaving after two weeks for a myriad of reasons.
Still, I continued to drink.
Now in my first semester at law school, my drinking began to affect my body in a way it never had before. I began to have pain in my kidneys. I had been experiencing liver pain for years, but it was never so intense that caused me great concern. It seemed many people I knew had pain in their liver after a hard night of drinking.
At first, I brushed off the kidney pain as an aberration that could be attributable to many different influences. It seemed to go away and my drinking continued.
My third semester at Gonzaga Law I was drinking four 24 ounce cans of Steel Reserve a night, sometimes starting first with a six-pack of Bud Light Platinum or a bottle of wine.
Then it happened. I woke one morning with such kidney pain that I feared I was in renal failure. I was about to go to the hospital. First I drank a couple tall glasses of water and by the time I had packed my personal effects to take with me to the hospital, my kidney pain started to abate just enough for me to wait a bit longer before going to the ER.
Luckily, after an hour or two, my kidney pain while still intense, had calmed to a point to where I was able to stay in my apartment without being hospitalized.
The day was November 20, 2013. It is a day I will never forget. While in deep thought at my desk, I felt the call of death. I knew that morning that if I drank again that day I would not live to the next.
I was as close to death as I could come. And finally after more than 10 years of heavy drinking, my sobriety began.
The first month of my sobriety I went to AA meetings two to three times a week. The first month seemed never to end, and my body and mind craved alcohol more than ever. Yet I knew touching alcohol again was a death sentence. Somehow with the help of strangers and family I managed to stay sober and have been to this day.
So why would a future lawyer tell a story to the entire world that will most likely disqualify me from any future elected or appointed public office and open the door to the potential of stigma based criticism from the internet trolls?
The answer is simple. I hope to help those currently suffering the unimaginable pain that only an alcoholic understands. If I can so much as give hope to one person suffering, then this sharing of my personal fight and near death from alcoholism is worth more than anything negative anyone on this planet can ever say to me about my past.
Alcoholism does not just destroy a person's life, but a person's soul. But as I have shown the world, there is hope. For those that have the courage to seek help, your life can be restored in time as mine has been.
I'm developing new friendships. I've become a doctor of laws, and I've repaired old relationships I feared were lost forever all due to my sobriety.
Alcoholism does not have to be a death sentence. If I can survive so can you. However, without true dedication to maintaining your sobriety, all the help in the world will not prevent you from getting your hands on a bottle.
If you are suffering, I can help point you in the right direction as so many others who have been through what I have can as well.
Waiting until you feel death creeping over you is not when you need to get sober or it may be too late. I was lucky.
Even if you are not an alcoholic, alcohol can ruin your life as we have seen from video footage of Uber riders behaving badly while drunk. A 4th year medical resident may have ended her career over one night of atrocious behavior that never would have ocurred had she been sober.
Alcohol can facilitate relationships and social gatherings, but it can also ruin lives instantly.
Is alcohol worth this risk? No.
You do not want, nor need to journey to the valley of the shadow of death before you get help.
Make today the day your life changes for the better. We all need you alive and well.