First, I want to say thanks for the podcast.  It’s been a huge help on my road to recovery – it’s been 53 days!  I’ve been listening to RE since I decided to get sober and only felt compelled to write you after listening to the last episode about cognitive dissonance because it really hit home for me.

My journey has been somewhat interesting (as is everyone’s I’m sure).  To start, I’m 29, I live in Weehawken, NJ and commute into Manhattan for work everyday.  I live with my girlfriend of two years and our awesome Pomsky puppy named Mylo.

I started drinking when I was about 13, casually stealing beers, wine coolers or whatever I can get my hands on, and started binge drinking around 15.  The progression was somewhat slow, but the writing was definitely on the wall – even at a young age.  For all intents and purposes I had a great childhood.  Loving family, great friends, great high school experience – things were good.  I loved sports – especially golf – and played religiously.  This allowed me to earn a Division 1 scholarship to Seton Hall University in NJ.

My freshman year of college was unique I’d say. One of my teammates recognized himself as a born again Christian and I grew close to him.  I’ve always had a strong faith in God and the question of “why are we here?” is something that burns in me everyday – probably more than most – which has definitely been a driver of my drug and alcohol use.  I was attending bible study with other athletes, going to church regularly, reading St. Thomas Aquinas and Augustine in the library on Friday nights, and made the decision to not got drunk anymore – which is an interesting and tough choice for a college freshman.  That lasted the entire year until my one teammate from England was graduating and heading back home.  I got drunk that night and it was off to the races.

The next 3 years of college consisted of heavy drinking, blacking out, waking up and doing it all over again.  Since I hung out with athletes we got access to painkillers on a regular basis so I’d dabble with them every once and awhile and occasionally smoke some weed, but nothing too serious because we got drug tested.  I lost interest in golf and built this persona for myself around my group of friends – life of the party.  And I liked it and fed into it.  At this time, thoughts of being an alcoholic would creep into my mind, but I quickly made them disappear.  “I have a 3.7 GPA, I’m a Division 1 college athlete, I never get in trouble, I’m not hurting anyone. Everything’s fine!” – I’d tell myself.

Once I graduated, I had plans to backpack across Europe with one of my teammates.  It was 2010 and the job market kind of sucked, and I was in no hurry to go sit behind a desk.  Him and I decided to caddy all summer, save up and hit the road.  On my second day, I caddied for a man who worked on Wall Street – he offered me a job a week later, and I took it.  To this day, it’s one of my biggest regrets.

I fell into “Wall Street life”, and I fell hard.  I was 22 at the time.  It didn’t take long before cocaine became my drug of choice, and it went hand in hand with the liquor.  I’d spend every dollar I made and live paycheck to paycheck just so I can party as much as possible.  4-5 nights a week I was out, but I was young and living the life (so I thought).  The cocaine slowly led into pretty much whatever I can get my hands on (Molly, pills, K, whatever).  Anything to take me out of reality and into some other stratosphere.  I’d ride that high into oblivion – whatever it took.  My friends started to slow down and I just hit the gas harder.  I switched jobs 4 times during the last 7 years… constantly searching for some change or something to make a difference.  Little did I know that it was ME that was the issue.

Things really got out of hand during the summer when I was 27 years old. Looking back, I’m just happy I came out of it alive.  I got deep into gambling, won A LOT of money and then lost A LOT of money, didn’t go to work for days at a time, took a trip to Vegas, and it finally culminated with me getting arrested outside of a nightclub in NYC for possession of cocaine. I spent the night in central booking.  A fitting end I suppose – since I was simply playing Russian roulette every time I went out.  My family found out and led somewhat of an intervention.  I decided to go see a therapist and a few months later I met my wonderful girlfriend who filled a huge void in my life.  I never had any meaningful relationships.  I was guarded, walled off. I’d go from girl to girl never getting close enough to get hurt.

However, all of this was still not enough to quit.  I continued to drink and use, however, the incidents grew farther and farther apart, but when I’d go off the rails it would wreak havoc on my life.  Finally, on November 12, I had enough.  I went out for lunch Friday afternoon (the 11th) and came home the next day at 8am. I missed my niece’s baptism class, my girlfriend and my dog were gone when I got home, and I just sat on my bed and cried.  I finally couldn’t take it anymore.

As I go through my journey, I’m trying to understand my addiction and how/why I ended up here.  While I definitely believe there are some genetic factors (my aunt is 10 years sober and my grandfather was an alcoholic) I firmly believe it has a lot to do with emotional connection.  While I had a ton of friends my whole life and was always around people – I felt completely alone.  My first girlfriend cheated on me at a young age, my great-grandmother died when I was 20, my grandfather committed suicide when I was 23, my uncle died unexpectedly when I was 25, and my Dad suddenly passed away this August.  As each event happened, I walled myself off as much as humanely possible.  If I never felt vulnerable then I can never get hurt.  I’m realizing now that the secrets, the hiding, the lack of vulnerability, the inability to show any emotion, and my thoughts on working/life have been a very significant driver in my drug and alcohol use – along with the genetic dispositions of course.

Addiction is complicated for sure, but I also find it fascinating.  I’m excited about being sober and present for the first time in 15 years.  I’m currently going to individual therapy, attending a 12 week outpatient program, attending AA, reading, listening to RE and Sober Guy podcast and learning/talking to other sober people as much as possible.  Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve finally let go and told my family, girlfriend, and friends my history and it feels like a million pound boulder has been lifted off of me.  I’ve got a great support system around me, and I’m grateful for that.

Sorry if this was long! Haha – it’s actually been quite therapeutic.  It’s the first time I’ve written all this down.  Once again, thanks for what you’re doing.  It’s changing lives.

-James

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