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My Journey to Sobriety

Churchill is a freelance writer and recovering alcoholic who shares unvarnished stories of his struggles and personal journeys to recovery.

I felt a sharp object piercing through my right arm, the stinging sensation it created was enough to wake me up from an alcohol-induced stupor. I rubbed my eyes and squinted as I adjusted to the light. I looked to my right and I immediately saw my brother.

“Let’s go home,” I faintly told him as I tried to make sense of what had happened.

“You can’t go home because you had an accident!” he answered with a concerned look.

Still disoriented, I lifted my right arm and saw the intravenous line (IV) snaking through it and being taped in place by a see-through dressing. I looked around and it became clear to me. I was in the hospital lobby!

I examined my body and found bruises, cuts, and scrapes on my feet, knees, and arms. They don’t hurt that much yet but I know based on experience that the pain will be unbearable once the medication wears off. I could not feel my face as I was touching it but there were some bumps and raised skin, especially on the left side of my eye. My memory was quite hazy. All I can remember was that I had been drinking since noon. I don’t know what time it was but I’m pretty sure it’s gone past dawn!

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It would be several hours before I would be properly assessed—X-Ray, MRI, blood work, the whole nine yards—understandably so because we were at the height of the pandemic. I would soon find out that I had no broken bones but I had a concussion. Which explained why I had very little recollection of the whole accident. Throughout the whole ordeal, my family was there to support me. My two brothers took turns in assisting me at the hospital even though they had jobs and important matters to attend to. My sister took care of the hospital bills and my mom was always checking up on me. Although they live halfway around the world, I could feel their presence and support.

If there ever was a rock bottom, this was it: Me, lying in the hospital bed, wounded and feeling sorry for myself for letting everybody down again. It wasn’t my first accident either. I had a similar incident a few months earlier. I fell in a ditch while I was driving drunk. I didn’t know how I got there or how it happened. I just found myself lying face up in the muck without the slightest idea of how long I passed out. So just like what a stupid drunkard would do, I got up, cleaned myself up, hid the wounds, and nursed my injuries secretly.

This latest accident though was the worst. You see, I can deal with the pain and injuries because things like these happen to me quite frequently. What I found difficult to deal with was the shame I felt for dragging my family yet again to my recklessness and stupidity. They deserve better. So much better! I felt emotionally overwhelmed and broken in that hospital bed. I was sick and tired of always feeling sick and tired. I was helpless. Something needed to change. But I didn’t know where to start.

I’m not a religious person but every time I’m emotionally, mentally, and physically bewildered, I always turn to my faith and pray. It doesn’t offer an instantaneous solution but it gives me a sense of relief--a respite if you will--and a sense of hope that things will eventually get better. This time though, I wasn’t so sure if my faith could pull me out of the darkness and the mess that I created. I know that I should also be willing to change for my prayer to come to fruition. So I prayed hard and made a promise to myself that I have to get my shit together and sort things out because if I don’t, I know too well how this story ends. This is rock bottom and beyond this is the dark abyss.

My late father was a raging alcoholic. I watched firsthand how he destroyed his life and drove a wedge between the members of our family. Our living condition was hell and although he constantly told us that he loved us, his alcoholism was too much for him to overcome. He died alone at home, with a half-empty bottle of rum beside his lifeless body. Months after he died, I tried drinking for the first time just to see what the appeal was. Looking back, I really shouldn’t have done that. I guess it’s true what they say, “Curiosity killed a cat!”

In some twisted way, every time I got drunk, I would look to the sky and talk to my late father. ‘Papang’ is what I would call him. I would tell him, “Pang, now I understand what you are going through.” No one understood him while he was alive. Alcoholism and depression were taboo subjects back in the ’90s and early 2000. I didn’t know any better because I was eighteen when he passed away. I was a kid with no real understanding of the world. So this was my way of reconnecting with him and letting go of my emotional baggage--a toxic method of healing wherein the cure is worse than the disease. I didn’t care because I just wanted to be numb. To feel nothing.

I was drinking mostly on weekends when I started but eventually, it turned into several days in a week, then every day, and before I knew it, I was a full-blown alcoholic! It was fun at first. Burning the candle at both ends when you’re young is manageable. But alcoholism takes its toll. It will eventually rear its ugly head as soon as you start feeling invincible. Problems began to surface as I got older. The hangovers were more brutal and unbearable. There were times when I woke up and realized I had bruises on my face or parts of my body and didn’t know how I got them. Or how I got home or who took me home. Soon my alcohol use started to affect my job and personal life negatively. I had several accidents, broken bones, and broken relationships—none of which have made me stop drinking.

Then fast-forward to the aftermath of the accident. Here I was, lying on a hospital bed asking myself, “Have I become my father?” Honestly, I didn’t know the answer to that question or I really wanted to find out. All I knew was I needed to make a change or things will end badly for me. I had several failed attempts at getting sober in the past but this time it’s different. It’s life-or-death!

The first few months were very challenging. I always found myself asking, “Who am I without alcohol? Or has sobering up made me uninteresting?” These questions, though straightforward, don’t necessarily lend themselves to easy answers. Truth be told, I may never know the answer to these questions but I don’t care. What I do know for certain was that once I got sober, I was able to feel everything; the highs and lows, the peaks and valleys of my emotions because there was nothing to numb them. I prefer it this way because I can react and make decisions accordingly. And contrary to popular belief, sobriety doesn’t magically make your problems and troubles go away. It doesn’t work that way. What you get, however, is a sense of clarity and inner peace. For me, those are great trade-offs.

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I’m proud to say that I’m eighteen months clean as of writing. Some days are better than others but I’m holding on and standing firm with my decision. I don’t crave it anymore. I don’t miss being drunk at all. Getting sober was the best decision I’ve made—not only for myself but for the people close to me. I don’t know what the future holds but I’m hopeful that I will be able to break this vicious cycle once and for all. I’ve been to hell and back and with the grace of God, I will eventually find my life’s purpose—my reason for being.

As the famous saying goes, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” I believe in this quote wholeheartedly. Sure, there will be challenges along the way and though I might stumble and fall, I know in my heart that I would be able to stand right back up because the worst part is over. This is my journey to sobriety. This is the new me. I will prevail because God is with me.