How Much is Too Much?
By Mike B.
Drinking has been a big part of all social life as long as I can remember and I'm sure it will continue to be so. At least we have come to a point in which we are questioning our safe use of alcohol.
Drinking can be fun.
Well, it can be at the moment we are partying, but we often do pay the consequences the next morning and have been willing to pay the price for a good time.
Of course, we don't always remember everything about the good time we had. Do we? We think, "Well this is just life. I'm young and it's part of growing up. Things will change when I get older and responsible."
Then there are those who might question themselves about their drinking. "Do I drink too much?" "Did I make a jerk out of myself last night?" That's normal, too.
But, when do we reach the stage when enough is just too much?
I want to make it very clear right now that I am in no way against the safe use of alcohol or against parties or against having a good time. Go for it!
However, I do want you to know that there is a time in our lives when we need to think about: "How Much is Too Much."
I am an alcoholic. What does that mean? Well, I'll explain a bit about that in a moment.
I want you to know that I am not writing this with any credentials on this disease, representing any 12 Step program, endorsing any type of program, or offering any counseling or solutions. This is not my intent. I am speaking only from my experience, strength, and hope.
I loved to party with the best of them when I was in school in the late '60's. I helped organize the parties and made sure everybody was having a good time. I was responsible, made good grades, held a good part time job, and got married during my senior year. I had a promising career ahead.
But, I did love to drink those beers and be around that keg. I held my booze well and seldom did anything for which I would be ashamed the next day. I always offered to set up and clean up. Little did I know I just wanted to be near that beautiful keg. I wasn't a falling over drunk. I was a respectable young college fraternity man in the eyes of most and I had no idea that I even had a problem at all.
There had been problems in my family, but it wasn't going to be like that for me. I was so darn fired sure it wouldn't be like that for me. I always knew if I ever got as bad as some of them or as bad as some of those old guys I saw sitting on bar stools, then I would quit right then and there.
There were times when I did, ever so slightly, question myself about how much I drank and why I could drink more than others. Those moments didn't last long. I always rationalized everything. I can only use hindsight and realize that drinking always controlled my entire life.
If I wasn't drinking, I was looking forward to when I could. If I was going to a party I would make sure there would be something to drink. I would always get a head start on everybody by having a few while getting ready and then would have a few when I got home to wind down from having such a good time partying.
After all, this was college and I was supposed to be enjoying my early care free years, "Wasn't I?"
So I guess by now you're wondering where I'm going with all of this or if I am crusading to get the "demon rum" off our streets? Not at all.
If you can drink and suffer no ill consequences then more power to you. If you don't hurt yourself or others, that's fine. Drink as much as you can hold if that's what makes you feel comfortable. I'm not judging you in anyway. That is not my intent nor is it my right.
I'll just give you a short history of my life and what happened when I failed to ignore my inner thoughts and the comments of others about my drinking.
I graduated, became a father, started a successful career that brought me a lot of money and a lot of fame. I rose from a small radio station disk jockey to a highly respected television news anchorman and producer. I worked in St. Louis, Nashville, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles. I had a small part in the soap opera Santa Barbara and did a bit on the Today Show. I wrote for several magazines on a freelance basis and did commercials all over the country. All by the age of 35.
My drinking continued and I continued to function. I also continued to hurt all of those around me and put the jobs of others in jeopardy by my actions. I was not giving it my all. My all went to alcohol. Some people label this as a "heavy drinker" and others as a "functioning alcoholic."
I now understand that the label makes no difference in what I think, feel, or believe. My actions eventually became those of a very irresponsible person. I became that person I said I would never be. Remember, "I'll quit if I ever get that bad."
What I found was that there was always somebody that was more "that bad" than me. I continued to do what I wanted to do and ignored the feelings of all those around me. You see, I couldn't be an alcoholic. I was too important, too famous, and way too intelligent.
I had acquired a lot of knowledge about drunks. I just had a lot of pressures and responsibilities from which I needed some relief. I always felt insecure and egotistical at the same time. I smiled and cried on the inside at the same time. I was totally empty and my whole life depended on who and what you thought I was and how good I looked on the outside. I was always "trying to find myself." I would be what ever I thought you wanted me to be so that I could please you and therefore be happy with me.
I went to self-help seminars, read self-help books, tried different churches and different ways of praying. I tried different ways of drinking and different types of booze. Drinking was a way for me to find relief. A way to quiet that internal upheaval inside my head. I didn't even know what the upheaval even was.
Now this is important! I didn't always drink everyday, although for some periods I would. I often wouldn't drink for weeks or months and one time for six years I didn't drink a drop. So you see, how could I be an alcoholic?
Eventually I learned that the frequency and amount made no difference. It was the internal affect on me and how I used those around me.
Some of you will understand this and others won't, but it is reality to me and part of my story. This successful media person drank his way through jobs moving from one city to another just ahead of being fired. This successful media person became willing to give up his wife and children so he could drink the way he wanted. This successful media person gave up a second wife and a top anchor job for the same reason.
I ran away from my problems mentally, morally, and physically. I twice disappeared without a trace for weeks on end with everybody searching for me and fearing the worst. And this successful media person burnt so many bridges and alienated so many friends, family, and associates that he eventually found himself living in a homeless shelter with nothing, but the clothes on his back. Everybody had given up on me including me. I had finally achieved what I wanted. I had wanted everybody to "just leave me alone" so I could do what I wanted.
My self-centeredness and selfishness had left me all alone, finally. I don't tell you this for pity, but simply for the reality of what happened to me. I won't go into all the ugly details of what happened in-between. Suffice it to say, my life was a living Hell. For years I tried to quit drinking and couldn't. I made endless promises to my family and friends that I had had enough and would stop "forever."
For over ten years I could never keep that promise. I attempted to hide my drinking from everybody. In some cases I was successful and in others I certainly was not. Of course I was only lying to myself, but I didn't care.
On October 7, 1994 at 2 AM I came to a point in my life where I could no longer live with alcohol or live without alcohol. I no longer wanted to live and I didn't want to die. I had barricaded myself in my apartment for over a week and decided to drink myself to death. I was about to be evicted. My phone had been disconnected. I had run out of food. I had run out of hope. I was at a turning point in my life although I didn't know it.
My family, friends, minister, psychiatrist had all tried to help me and just couldn't. I wouldn't let them.
But, that early morning a beautiful surrender came and my life has never been the same again. A moment of clarity lead me to ask God just one more time for help. Nothing more. No bargaining, no promises, just surrender. I gave up control of my life and put it in his hands. It was truly a spiritual experience. It's an experience only another alcoholic will probably understand.
Today I am happy and life is good. I have so much less materially, but I have so much internally. I have been blessed with a wonderful gift. I am happily married, have my own business (which is struggling, of course) and my children are speaking to me and I have a beautiful granddaughter that has never seen me drunk.
This is not the end of the story. Actually it's only the beginning. Each day I continue to work hard on my recovery and love every minute of it. I work with others. I speak about this wherever I can. I share my experience strength, and hope so that others will have hope that there is a solution. At times this is selfish since it helps me more than others very often. It also reminds me daily of what things were like and what I am and what I could be again.
So what's the point of this whole story? Why have I taken the time to tell you my secrets? Why should you care? The point is: There is help available. Call your minister, doctor, or look in the phone book for AA. It's no longer a secret that makes me feel unworthy. You may not care, but there might be somebody that will be saved from going through the living Hell I went through just if they know they're not the only one suffering.
There is a wonderful section in the book Alcoholics Anonymous on page 44.
|"If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer."|
Today there is a Higher Power alive in my life and it is not me. It is a very loving God. It doesn't matter how I think, feel or believe at any given moment. It does matter how I act. I must always act and not react. My actions must be responsible no matter what my thoughts, feeling, or beliefs. I must avoid rationalization.
I was once told the definition of rationalization is, "a socially acceptable answer for my socially unacceptable behavior." Being an alcoholic never has and never will be an excuse for me to display inappropriate behavior. No matter how tough the situation, how distasteful, or even how boring at the time, the situation may be, if I act appropriately I have a shot at recognizing my own inappropriate behavior and correcting it with the guidance of my Higher Power.
I'll be more than happy to point anyone in the direction that worked for me. I am not a doctor, counselor, psychiatrist, or minister. I realize there are many different ways to find a solution. I'm just an human being that suffers from what I believe is an incurable disease that I have under arrest just for today. I can only tell you what has worked for me and brought me out of a living Hell into a wonderful peace within.
You can visit my page, "Sunlight of the Spirit" or e-mail me.
God Bless all and may you find the inner peace that is there for the asking.