Alcohol was a huge part of my life. Like, yuuuge. I would have to say that I knew I was an alcoholic at the age of 17. My first drinks were out of a 1.75-liter bottle of cheap vodka. Quite the way to awaken the unsuspecting alcoholic. If only I knew.
The drink plagued me for almost 5 more years. In that time I fell off a 30-foot building, flunked out of college and got three driving under the influence citations. I was told that I would never walk again, wasn’t cut out for higher education and that I would never get to drive a car again in the United States. Today I can walk, have a college degree and a valid driver’s license.
I managed to get sober for about 4 years on my own. Well, I had some help from the criminal justice system as well as support from therapists. I became a professional ski instructor in New Zealand and taught lessons in Colorado, shot professional photography, and made pizzas at the Pizza Hut in South Park. However, life in the mountains was not intellectually fulfilling so I decided to return to school.
The community college in Greeley, Colorado offered a solid education in chemistry and biology. It was about this time I fell in love with soilless agriculture, hydroponic food production if you will. I was soon off to study at the University of Hawaii, Manoa under the tutelage of a biochemist where I learned how to culture both fish and plants. We helped farmers build aquaponic farms and I found my passion to help others and grow food.
My sobriety was washed away with a margarita on the first Christmas holiday. It started with just one, then two a few weeks later and eventually a 1L bottle after two months. Three events were all it took to rekindle the fire underneath the alcoholism. My Hawaiian years saw a paradoxical mix of physical and emotional anguish alongside academic excellence. Scholarships, Dean’s lists, a research award, and a STEM degree accompanied by months spent alone twisting bottle tops, breaking into buildings to sleep and hovering over porcelain furniture.
Return from abroad did nothing to fetter my addiction. In fact, it blossomed, almost exponentially. I would not only get another DUI but I would make multiple trips to the hospital and jail. Relapse became so routine that I began to drink to avoid the pain of relapse. I bounced from house to house with a desperate cry to get help. Help I knew I needed but hadn’t yet succeeded.
My last drinks were taken in Sanborn Park on April 19, 2017. I passed out underneath a tree and accosted the cops who were only trying to help take me to the hospital. I spent months in jail because I tried to bite both officers like a rabid dog unaware of its ailments. Isolation and contemplation among degenerates like myself allowed me to gain some perspective.
I wanted to live and I was willing to go to any length to get it. This meant I would have to do things that I hadn’t done before. I would have to change my thinking in order to change my life. I had to come to the realization that true happiness comes from communion with the Tao and community with mankind. Surrender, be humble and help others.
An admiral once told a class of Navy Seals that if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. So I woke up each day and I made my bed. This little habit reminded me to do the little things that make the day go. Once little things became easy, I knew I could handle more difficult tasks. No matter what the day threw at me I always knew that I could come home to a well-kept bed, comfortably fall asleep, and start the next day over again.
After being able to form healthy habits, I desired to improve my mind, body, and spirit by adhering to a specific set of principles. These principles have been shown to help those that thought they could never overcome their afflictions or lack of success. I thought I could never overcome my addiction. But, if I wanted to become a better person, I had to surround myself with those who had what I wanted.
I found solace in attending self-help meetings, doing volunteer work, helping strangers and finding employment outside my area of expertise. Time was occupied with things to better me and the community. This was the surrender and humility my recovery needed. I was out of my comfort zone which forced me to grow in ways I did not expect.
I regularly gather with others like me and we have found strength by sharing our experience and hope. It helps to be around others who have a desire to quit drinking and be healthier human beings. I have found a beautiful path to recovery amongst those that are most like myself. There is something among them that works, probably because I put in the work each day. And what I do today, makes for a better tomorrow.