Christian – 15 Months of Sobriety After A Lifetime Of Alcoholism

SOA 43 | Alcoholism Recovery

 

Christian, 45, has been at the Gault House Sober Living Environment for over a year. Christian has been addicted to alcohol, weed and a little bit of everything else. He started drinking and smoking pot early in life, and it rapidly progressed in volume and frequency. At his bottom, he was physically unable to walk into the store to buy more booze and resorted to paying strangers to bring him his booze to drink in his truck, where he was sleeping at the time. After numerous DUIs, a devastating divorce and a directionless life, Christian finally had enough and kick-started his trajectory to sustained recovery. Listen in as he shares his best and worst moments with alcohol and drugs with Paul Noddings.

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Christian – 15 Months of Sobriety After A Lifetime Of Alcoholism

Numerous DUIs And A Divorce Lead To Sustained Recovery

In this episode, I will be talking to Christian about his best and worst times using drugs. We are against the use of drugs and alcohol. We are asking these questions to our guests because we believe that our audience wants to know this information. Christian is a client at the Gault House Sober Living Environment in Santa Cruz, California. He has been addicted to alcohol, weed and a little bit of everything else. Christian, how are you doing?

I’m good. How about yourself?

I’m good. Thanks for joining us. What were your drugs of choice and how did you get started using them?

My big one was alcohol. I don’t recall how I got started using it. It was around the house during the holidays, especially dad building a deck in the backyard, it’s like, “Can I have a sip,” or “Here’s some Budweiser. Spit that out. It tastes like crap.” Your friends are using it, the ones that are drinking and you’re not, “How does that one tastes?” It progressed from there. For a long time, I was able to maintain. I could feel a buzz, “I’m good. That’s enough.” I see people get drunk.

What I thought was they were drunks, but they were completely annihilated and looked like they were having a good time. I’m like, “What do I get to do to get to that stage mentally in my head? What’s that?” They’re like, “We’re doing this.” During the holidays, the favorite drink of the family was the good old Crown and eggnog. When I was young, I remember having lost track of my eggnog, which didn’t have a Crown in it. I’m a little guy, so to speak. At the time, I was maybe ten at my uncle’s house. Everybody was rosy-cheeked and the fire is going and I couldn’t figure out which one was mine so I stole my aunt’s.

I found out that was my aunt’s the hard way because that’s what it felt like, but I didn’t drink anything after that. I kept track of my stuff. As time progressed, I figured out what it needed to get drunk. As I continued to drink, “Try this.” The next thing you know, I’m smoking pot. Everybody smokes a little weed, some people smoke a lot of weed in high school. That’s pretty much where I got started with that. I dabbled with everything else that you can think of except for the new synthetic stuff that’s out there but I tried everything else. I didn’t like it. I didn’t get addicted to it, thank God, but I stuck with alcohol mainly. I loved getting drunk.

How would you say that particularly in high school? Would you say you drank more than or equal to your friend group?

I could easily put them under the table. I found out later that it turned into a game. I was like, “Let’s see if they could keep up with me.” There were times I was walking around with my bottle and I had my own 30-pack of beer. I’m still talking to the police because everyone’s being obnoxious and I’m the one that sent out the deal with them because I’m still coherent. Even the cops sometimes didn’t pick up on it. Either I could maintain it long enough to get them to go away or I wasn’t at that point where they thought I was too intoxicated to be in whatever we were doing.

There was always a time that nobody was capable of talking to the cops and it was a full-out sprint and you’re directing every man for himself. I drank a lot. I’ve got two DUIs. Those are years behind me. I never had a car accident involving another vehicle while drunk. A lot of it was off-roading, crash into stuff, but nobody was ever injured, thank God. I learned my lesson after the last one. That was it. I’m done with drinking and driving, but I still drank.

At least early on, did you experience consequences? Did you complete high school?

Yes, I graduated from high school. I went to college for a little while at Cabrillo. It didn’t pan out. Everyone else is going through the whole motion with college of, “How am I going to pay for it?” I got tired of sweating over credits for classes that were required, “I did that in high school. Why am I taking that again? I just graduated. Why am I taking English 101? I did pre-college English in high school. It’s the same class and I’ve got to pay for it. Screw you, guys. I’m just going to jump in the workforce.” That’s where I’ve been since.

What do you do for work?

I’m an electrician.

In my understanding of the trade, maybe not the electrical field but there’s a lot of substance abuse in the trades. Have you experienced that? How was working while you were also in the midst of alcoholism or dependency?

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It’s funny in the trades, me personally or I can speak for myself, but some others out there could agree that certain trades have a certain persona of what they are known for using. If they’re using the same drug, no matter if it’s alcohol or something else, you have an idea that it’s consistent per trade. One trade typically as a heavy drinker, maybe a couple of them are. You can tell which ones are into certain drugs, types of alcohol, be it just beer, beer or booze or booze only. You can tell when you look at somebody who’s using and what they’re using. It takes a toll on your body, both ways, not even physically, but internally as well.

I was a painter for a long time and it is rife. I’d had people buying crystal from me and the people who would go away on the lunch break and you’d know they had a little pint with them or something like that. We’d all go out to lunch and they’d order maybe a bit more bottles of beer than a normal person would have on their lunch. I wonder what it is that attracts those fields. They seemed to have a higher percentage of substance abuse than maybe an office environment or something like that. Maybe that’s just my perception or because we’ve been in those spaces. Our experience maybe is different than somebody else.

In trades versus office or white-collar versus blue-collar, I think white collar, it’s more acceptable to have. You’ll go into your boss’s office sometimes and he’ll have his favorite drink and a couple of other choices for whoever he’s got to hire, fire or lighten the mood. That’s acceptable because they’re not operating anything other than a keyboard, a pen or a phone. Not much with other trades, but with trades, there is some power equipment where not only are you going to hurt yourself physically, but you could potentially hurt somebody else.

I heard it could go as far as and has happened, kill someone because you’re negligent and your reflexes aren’t as fast. You didn’t grab the phone that half a second. That isn’t going to change the world any. Now, if you didn’t take your hand off the go button or you didn’t yell, “Stop,” “Duck,” or “Watch out,” fast enough, somebody could fall, get hurt and you could ruin their life that way or end it. That’s why like you’re saying it when people are in the trades, they tend to hide the usage, as opposed to you go into a white-collar. The office guy got his own little mini-bar there and he’s not hiding it or they take you out and treat you for it.

Doing cocaine and on Wall Street and that stuff.

In some form or another, there’s something like that at all. You go to the restaurant industry, which is typically what I would call blue-collar because they bust our asses off and get paid very little. To me, anyone that works as hard as anyone in the trades, I don’t care if you’re a cook or a supervisor, you’re still in the trades. As opposed to somebody that sits behind a desk and hammers away on a computer all day. That’s not a trade. You went to school for four years to hunt and kill on a keyboard. Cooks, they could kill somebody by not paying attention to the menu. If someone is allergic to shellfish, it could be their last meal. To pump out what they have to as a short cook or to keep filling that shift for the waiter that drank too much the night before to cover his shift, they’re in their back take a little bump. It runs rampant in the kitchens. I hear from everybody that works in the kitchen restaurant. Sometimes it’s even provided by the owner. It’s readily available.

It keeps them going and working hard. It’s the Bolivian marching powder. At the high-end of your drinking and using, how much money would you say you were spending on alcohol and drugs?

I couldn’t even comprehend. I could tell you how much I haven’t spent in fifteen months of not drinking. That number right here if you want a basic idea on how much I was spending a year and this is a rough estimate. Since I’ve quit drinking, I have saved $22,850 in under 1.5 years. If you do the math, that’s almost minimum wage salary for a year. I would have spent 3,199 hours drinking. When you’re drinking, typically, you’re doing nothing. I’ll be better off staying sober inside and playing Minecraft.

That’s remarkable, by the way. Congratulations.

It’s the sixteenth of every month and August 16th of 2019 is my second birthday, as I call it.

Throughout your years of drinking and using, what would you say your best experience was while using?

I can’t say I have a best. I know I had some good times. I did some fun stuff because I probably wouldn’t have done it or came up with it had I been sober. Riding a keg down in muddy hill while drinking out of it and having photo proof of is cool. Doing something that was a little more challenging that I should, that inhibition goes away. Where you might stutter step, you go headfirst into it. Sometimes I’m glad I did. Other times I look back and go, “I’m glad I got out of that.” Some of the funny, like riding the keg, another one was helping a friend put some decorations on top of the local bar that I frequent. Someone comes out and goes, “Do you see that cow there running down the old town? They rode past the bar.”

I go, “Nope.” I looked at my watch and I saw it was 12:00, and my son was out on the school grounds in the same direction that cow was going, so I took off at a flat sprint. In my head, I’m going to charge and take on that cow just in case he’s going to go through a fence. I heard a bunch of school kids. He didn’t go into the school, but he did make a right and he made another right. I wound up tackling the thing right by the pumpkin patches at Soquel not once, but twice. The first time, it fell on me. The second time I held it down. Not everybody can say that they ran around Soquel Village chasing a cow. Some of you that might read this know exactly who you’re reading about. I have video proof of that as well, unfortunately.

SOA 43 | Alcoholism Recovery

Alcoholism Recovery: You can tell when you look at somebody who’s using and what they’re using. It takes a toll on their body both externally and internally.

 

Where did it escape from?

It came from a ranch up North Rodeo Gulch and the cow’s name was Rose. I did go and see her a couple of days later and said, “You stay inside the pen, would you?”

What initially caused you to decide to turn away from drinking and using?

It was health reasons and family point in that direction. I was eating less, not necessarily drinking more because I was drinking plenty. I wasn’t eating. I’m starting to lose weight, not looking the way I was. I did try and quit drinking once. The first time, I only did the 30 days and after I did the 30, I stuck for about 4 or 5 months.

This was in-patient treatment?

I stayed in in-patient. I slept in a room in bunk beds with four guys. It was a weak version of a bootcamp. You’ve got to get up, time to eat, do your chores, do your meetings, do your classes and I wasn’t happy with it, but I did the 30 days. I got out, I was like, “I can do this,” and was I wrong. I did make a slip, which I didn’t realize I had done until it was too late and it went downhill from there. When I went downhill, that was a roller coaster. It didn’t have a flat spot. It kept going down like a sinking ship. I wound up being like the Titanic. It got to the point where I was sleeping in my truck and my mom hadn’t heard from me for a couple of days.

She knew about where I was parked and came in. She knocked on the window and said, “You need to go to the hospital.” The problem was, I had been dilapidated and the apathy in my legs was bad that I couldn’t stand. I said, “Call an ambulance. I don’t think I’ll make it from where the truck is to where the car is, mom.” She did and here I am. The sad part was they were going to release me at the hospital. My friend was in there and she fought with the doctor and said, “If he goes back out tonight, he’ll die.” Possibly, I could have. I did have money in my wallet. I had money in the account. I could have bought a whole bunch of booze and just slept it off. I chose to go into a rehab center and I stayed the whole 90 days this time.

What rehab did you go to?

I went to Janus.

I love Janus. They have a good program. That sounds bad. What would your worst experience be? Was that your low point?

That was it. When you’re looking at your mom through the window of your truck when you’re asleep in it and you don’t have a job anymore, nobody will hire you. Being in the trades, word gets around, “He’s not doing too good. He’s not trustworthy. He might show up at the job site. He may not be drunk, but he’s going to smell like he was last night.”

How many years did it take for you to get to that breaking point?

It didn’t take very long. I was a consistent drinker and I could maintain, sometimes I’d go a little overboard. For the most part, I wouldn’t be a falling-down drunk and I don’t think I ever got falling-down. I passed out, standing up, sure. If I had a good fence to hold me up, you’d think I was taking booze snooze or maybe looking at my phone because my head was down. That I have done. Falling asleep in the middle of a beach out in the Pismo, I did that one time. They tried to take my beer from me and I woke up and said, “No, that’s mine.” I then staggered back to the campfire. It was not a good place to pass out. Other than that, it went downhill. I crashed hard after my relapse.

I went downhill quickly and fast. It turned into where if I didn’t have alcohol, I wasn’t going to sleep. If I didn’t have alcohol, I couldn’t hold my cigarette in one hand and my lighter steady in the other when I woke up. My body started shaking and then I was afraid to move. There’s where the apathy comes in. You’re afraid to move. You don’t want to get out of the truck because you’re afraid you’re going to fall down, even if you’re sober.

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You’re motioning for strangers to come over and you’re giving them your credit card to go in and, “Get yourself a pack of smokes. While you’re in there, could you get me a pint in a six-pack?” That would hold me, “Go get me smokes too.” The next thing you know, you’ve got four packs of cigarettes and three half-empty bottles and you’re waking up and going, “I got that for the morning.” I’ve got to take a couple of get right sips and be on your way.

Is that how they got you where the DUIs too when you were living in the truck?

No. The DUIs was one I call BS on and I should’ve fought that one. The other one, I crashed my truck, but I got the DUI because the fire department turned me in when they were trying to put me in an ambulance and I said, “I’m fine.” I was like, “Why are you grabbing my head? I was just in a wreck.” I was being a jerk, but I was still in shock that I had wrecked my truck. They caught me at the wrong moment. I was annoyed about my truck. I got the firefighter, he’s grabbing at my face and I’m like, “Backup, buddy.” Apparently, he didn’t like my tone and motioned to the cop. He’s like, “You’ve been drinking?” I go, “Yes, I just left the bar.” I didn’t hide it but I don’t think I’m intoxicated. I was over the legal limit. I’m a smidge of a blowfish, but buzzed driving is drunk driving. I was over the .08, “Book them, Danno.” Off I went and that was the end of that. My truck wasn’t repairable. I lost out on that one.

I’m curious if your drinking costs you anything in terms of a personal relationship.

Drinking cost me my marriage, for sure. I don’t see my son as often as I’d like. The marriage thing, a lot of that had to do with maybe both sides. I’m not saying it was my wife’s fault. I’m saying that something was weird going on there and I thought it was her giving me the shoulder. That’s a tough nut to crack on that one, but it didn’t help with my drinking, I’ll tell you that. The pure fact, she never sat me down and said, “You drink too much. This is what’s going to happen.” I never thought the repercussions were going to come that way. That’s in the past now. It’s done. We’re still friends.

Did she drink at all or use anything?

She would drink right there with the best of us. She had no problem with it, but she wasn’t a habitual drinker like me. She was nowhere near an alcoholic, I would say. She loved to have her beer. That was campfires in camping and she went to the bar with our friends and wine tasting with her family. That’s all. That’s normal. In the trades, you get off work, the first place you go to is the bar and you talk about work and you bitch about the painter, this guy. You complain and complain, you get it off your chest and then you go home. I had the problem of I’d never known the time to go home and when I did go home, I would stop and get some more beer.

When did you guys break up in relation to when you sought help and treatment?

Our divorce was finalized a couple of years prior to that. The divorce did not, by any means, trigger any of that. It didn’t intensify after that. It was already intensifying and it wasn’t slowing down, and I can’t put any of that on that.

I asked because oftentimes when somebody is in that environment, when they’re out of it, it’s taking the reins off a little bit. How was your experience of the recovery lifestyle been thus far over the last few months?

I can do a whole lot more. I can help a whole lot more. I’m sleeping better. My complexion has cleared up. I got hair growing. Now it’s coming out gray, but at least I have hair on my head. It’s starting to make a comeback. The body still hurts, which I did use alcohol for to numb the pain, but the alcohol, that’s what it does. I don’t like taking ibuprofen. I don’t like taking Tylenol. I don’t like taking pills. I never finished any of my medication anyway. When I do take it, it’s not out of fear of becoming addicted to that. I have never liked taking pills. You’ve got to hide it in a hamburger or something.

Other than that, now that my sleep has gotten more standardized, when I do get a good night’s sleep, it’s a good night’s sleep. I have two jobs though, two vehicles that are paid for. I’ve almost completely paid off all my debts. I’m still digging away, but it’s a 24-hour a day program. As long as I can get through the day, one step at a time, one day at a time, like I say, but you can’t worry about the stuff that could happen tomorrow. You could wake up, have a bowl of cereal, walk out the steps, fall and break your neck. You spent your whole day yesterday worrying about it. Get out the door and get to work on time and do your job one hour at a time. Slow and steady.

What advice would you give to somebody who’s maybe considering getting into sobriety?

SOA 43 | Alcoholism Recovery

Alcoholism Recovery: If you’re even thinking that you need to quit, you probably need to quit. Sit down with somebody who has been sober for a while.

 

Sit down with somebody that you know is sober that hasn’t used. Sit down with somebody that has more than a year, at least. Get their two cents and be honest with them. Tell them what you do and how often and you’re going to be judged a little bit. If you’re even thinking that you need to quit, you probably need to quit. Sit down with somebody that has a little time or a lot of time. It doesn’t have to be a family member. It could be a friend of a friend. We, as recovering addicts, are always recovering. Every day, you recover. Those are the people that will help you the most. Somebody that went to school that understands addiction, but them themselves are not in recovery because they still drank or smoke or do whatever they do. They’re not going to understand it. They won’t understand the actual physical addiction where your body is craving it. Talk to somebody and ask them. As I said, if you’re thinking about it, you need to seek some help.

I’m glad that you said the piece about that we’re always in a constant state of recovery. My first time, when I was in sobriety, I put a few years together and I was confident in my continued recovery and began referring to myself as having recovered in the past tense. That went to my head in a sense and eventually, I began backing away from the things that had reinforced my sobriety, going to meetings and being involved with all that. It was this gradual process and soon I was back in the spoon. You can’t see that happening until you’re in the thick of it. Looking back on it, it’s easy to see now. Maintaining a constant reminder that like, “Now, this is a lifelong thing.” As you said, it’s one day and sometimes one hour at a time, you take it bit by bit and resolve not to pick up to deal with whatever we’re going through.

The biggest thing is don’t pick up. I didn’t understand that until in this recovery. I come home from work and my car pulls me towards the bar. My truck will pull me towards the 7-Eleven, grab my fix and just sit up on a bench, go to the other bench or go here or there. It doesn’t have to be just that one. “What a day. Let me finish it off with an ice-cold,” but I know what happens is I’ll have that one. I then got to come back to this SLE that I’m in and I might not get tested or get tested. Maybe I could sneak through or I could hang out until a little bit before curfew. Zip into my room and nobody will know. That’s nonsense because it’s not worth getting a ride up. It’s not worth getting kicked out because if I get kicked out, it’s going to take me at least two days to find a place to couch surf that I’m cool at and then I’m sleeping on my truck.

I’ll then get used to sleeping on my truck and I know exactly where that’s going to lead to. I’m going to go right back down that rabbit hole. Just that one time, it’s not worth it. Even when I’m going to get out of here and get on my own, it’s not going to be worth it then because I’ll lose where I’m living there. Eventually, I want to have my own big bed and I don’t want to have to tiptoe through the room on my way to work at 5:00 in the morning, getting ready. I don’t want to deal with that. I want to be able to walk around my house and make whatever noise I want at whatever time. If I decide I want to wake up at 4:00 AM and watch TV for an hour, I can do that. I don’t have to worry about disturbing four other people.

That’s the thing that if we focus on that moment of what that drink or that high will feel, we’re not taking into account that as addicts and alcoholics, it isn’t that just one time. As soon as we reignite that fire, it explodes and there is no moderation for people like us. What gives you hope for the future? What are your goals in recovery? Why are you continuing down this path?

It’s because I want to live. I know that if I go back down that path again, I’m going to die. It’s because I’ll make sure that wherever I go, I won’t be as easy to find next time. I don’t need to put that stress on my family and friends. My phone never gets turned off. It’s always on 24/7. If anyone’s worried about me, they can call me or if I need to call them, I can call them. I don’t go far away from my phone. It’s my little comfort blanket, but it’s also handy to have for work.

The typical, stare at your phone when you’re bored, find something to do, get on Wikipedia, and make amendments to stupid things that people are writing on. Change that up a little bit. You find some fun, the key thing is don’t get bored because that’s where that little demon pops up on your shoulder like, “What about we do this? That’s good.” “No, I don’t want to do that. That sounds like a bad idea.” As far as goals go, I take it 24 hours at a time. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Sometimes I’ll take two nights or overnighter from here at the SLE just to sit in a hotel and everyone is like, “Isn’t that scary?” I go, “No. I watch whatever I want and I do whatever I want.” I get takeout fast food.

I treat myself to a bath and I don’t have a time limit on how long I can shower. I can watch TV. I can take a nap at 2:00 under the blankets. I can do all stuff that I can’t do here. It costs a little bit of money, but I worked two jobs and I’m not spending that money in one night at the bar and squandering as opposed to now I can justify and treat myself to something. I find a way to use my time when I feel like I need a break, I’ll take a break. Now, it’s to stay sober. That’s my main goal and to spend as much time with my boys as I can.

How’s your guys’ relationship been?

My kid and I have a blast when we’re together. We do man stuff, as he puts it. “Let’s do truck stuff.” He pulls out the tools and if he wants to wrench on something, “Here you go.” If he can’t put it back together, I will. His and my relationship is great.

Christian, I want to thank you for joining us on this show. To all our readers, we wish you to stay sober and be happy. 

One more thing. There’s something that I say to myself every morning when I get up and it’s a little phrase I picked up. “Success is never owned. It’s only rented and the rent is due every day.” When you get up in the morning to stay sober, you’ve got to pay your rent. You have to put in the work. It’s not going to be handed to you. If you’ve got any questions about your sobriety or if you want to get sober, you need to find someone or talk to someone. Thanks.

Thanks.

About Christian

SOA 43 | Alcoholism RecoveryChristian, 45, has been at the Gault House sober living environment for over a year. He started drinking and smoking pot early in life, and it rapidly progressed in volume and frequency.

At his bottom, he was physically unable to walk into the store to buy more booze and resorted to paying strangers to bring him his booze to drink in his truck, where he was sleeping at the time.

 

 

To learn more about recovery from addiction and to get started in the Recovery Lifestyle, join our mailing list here at http://www.ResponsibleRecovery.net and join the conversation taking place on our FaceBook group and follow us on Twitter.