Opinion

Help for alcoholism

EDITOR’S NOTE: September is National Recovery Month. Sponsored by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the month is aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of substance use disorders and to celebrate the people who recover. The following was submitted on behalf of Link for Hope and Recovery Aroostook.

Hello. My name is Richard, I am an alcoholic.

This is very unusual for an alcoholic to write his story and share this with the public. The reason that I am doing it is because I believe that our communities are losing the battle against drugs and alcohol. I also believe that a lot of people out there who have an addiction need to know that there is help and there are success stories.

As I said, I am an alcoholic; alcohol is my choice of drug. I am a Native American and have lived most of my life thinking that I was different and that’s why I drank the way I did. I am the youngest of a large family and there was a lot of alcohol brought into our home. Not only was it brought in by my family, but also people from the surrounding communities found that they could come to our home and drink. Today I know that I was an alcoholic before I was a teenager. I hated what alcohol did to my family, I would come home from school and never know who was going to be there, how many strangers were going to be there, how drunk they were and if there was any violence yet because there usually was at some point.

When I was real young, maybe around 5 or 6 years old, I would just go from one person to another and take a sip from anyone’s bottle. One day I heard mother say, “Don’t give him anymore, he is staggering.” Even at that young age I realized that if I didn’t stagger I wouldn’t get shut off.

There was a time when I would come home from school and if I could get my hands on any alcohol, I would dump it out. One day I told an older friend what I was doing and he said, “Don’t dump it out, bring it to me and I will buy it from you.” That sounded like a pretty good deal. Soon after I started selling him the alcohol he told me that he didn’t like to drink alone so I started drinking with him. I thought that I was getting the best of both ends, selling him the booze and then helping him drink it.  

It got to a point that I wasn’t just taking the alcohol, I was taking what I could get my hands on. If I came home and people were drunk I would take their booze, cigarettes and what money I could find. If some stranger was there and passed out I would go through their pockets.

At a very young age I started hanging out with guys much older than I was. I was a comedian that could tell jokes all night long and I usually had something stashed that I could share.

At 12 or 13, I would skip school. I would work in the potato house so I would have money for alcohol during the weekend. I had always been a beer drinker but I have drank many different items that contained alcohol like vanilla extract or Canned Heat (Sterno), rubbing alcohol and even tried after shave lotion a couple of times.

I was drafted into the military and was headed for Viet Nam. My girlfriend was pregnant at the time and we decided to get married. I called the local military office and told them I was getting married. They wanted to see our marriage certificate and a letter from her doctor stating that she was pregnant. Right then and there they told me I couldn’t go because I had too many dependents. Like a good alcoholic, once again there was that feeling of rejection.

A couple of weeks before our wedding, I must have been concerned that I would have to stop drinking because one evening I remember telling my girlfriend that I came from a long line of beer drinkers and that I was going to continue to drink and if she had a problem with that the wedding would be off. We married and four months later we had our first child. For the next 25 years, I continued to drink alcoholically and occasionally ended up in jail because of my addiction. I didn’t go to jail every time I drank but every time I went to jail I was either drinking or drunk. Usually I would go to jail for operating under the influence of alcohol. The last time I got caught for OUI was in 1989 and I came into a self-help program just to try and show that I was willing to do something about my addiction and get my license back. I had no intention of quitting altogether.

They say that if you don’t get the program, the program will get you. That’s how it happened for me. I just kept attending those meetings and before long I was staying sober and enjoying it. I stayed sober for seven years and went back out because I wasn’t doing anything about my shortcomings. I know that now but I didn’t know it then. I was out there for over a year drinking heavily each and every day. My last drunk almost killed me. I could have easily died or I could have gone to jail, but was very lucky. I also have been very lucky that I have never hurt anyone while being intoxicated behind the wheel.

Thanks to what I have learned while attending those meetings, I have a whole new life. I live each day in peace and serenity, something I never experienced during my drinking days. I was full of anger and resentment. I hated most people and most of all I hated myself. Today I realize that I am not different or unique and never was. I was just sick with a disease called alcoholism. If I take care of myself and stay clean and sober I will continue to live the life that I am enjoying today.

I have found the promises of my program have come true for me and they can for you too. Sobriety has given me many things but most of all it has given me back my dignity.

Sobriety has given me a new freedom and a new life. Sobriety has taken away the fear that I had during my drinking days. Today I do not fear the people I meet on the street, thinking that it might be someone I insulted or owe money to. Today all of my bills are paid because sobriety has made me a responsible person. Today I am a spiritual person and have a higher power in my life. All I ask for today is guidance for myself and my loved ones.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you may find the help you are looking for at the following web sites or call the phone numbers:

http://csoaamaine.org/   Alcoholics Anonymous 1-800-737-6237

http://www.celebraterecovery.com/cr-groups/group-locator  Houlton, 532-2783, Presque Isle 764-5187

www.al-anon.alateen.org/al-anon-in-maine     Al-Anon 1-800-498-1844

http://www.na.org/  Narcotics Anonymous 1-800-974-0062.

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