|That's me! Looking all serious. With gigantic interlocked hands.|
My name is Donny and I'm an alcoholic and former cigarette smoker.
As of this blog's creation, I have been sober for 18 months and have been nicotine free for 9 months.
I am also a bartender.
Yes, you heard right. A bartender. Well, more specifically, I am the general manager of a prominent bar/restaurant/music venue on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a place where smoking is still allowed inside and alcohol is king. Although my place of employment is mainly a restaurant during the daytime hours, it becomes a smokey room filled with toasts, profanity, ramblings and rants at night. It is within these night-time hours that my 40+ hours a week reside.
Upon hearing that I am sober, many people's first reaction is "But you work in a bar. How is that possible?"
It's simple. I love my job and I love maintaining sobriety.
Because I am asked this question so often, I've come to the realization that many people fail to understand this key fact: Sobriety or any type of recovery from an addiction doesn't have to be hard.
My ex-girlfriend used to say to me, "But you're different. It comes easy for you" as if I was somehow at an advantage to other alcoholics and addicts. She never knew me at the height of my alcoholic woes (when I was passing out at bars on a regular basis with my pants down), so I'll give her a pass. But this statement used to insult me, because it downplayed the severity of my addiction and cheapened my accomplishments, but mostly because it was partly false. Yes, it does come easy for me, but not because I'm different. I have no special advantage over any other alcoholic or addict. I had a very self-destructive relationship with alcohol and hit bottom just like any other recovering alcoholic. In fact, I'd say that because I am still surrounded by a virtual sea of alcohol 5 nights a week, the odds would seem against me!
I was born on February 13, 1984 and grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in a pseudo-Christian working class family. There is a history of alcoholism on my mother's side, so for those that believe that alcoholism is genetic, there's that. I made straight A's in school, but not because that came easy either (as my twin-sister used to say). I got good grades because I studied hard and applied myself. My parents divorced when I was 9 years old. I started drawing as a child, developing artistic skills rather early, and became a musician at 15. I fiercely attended a Baptist church (on my own will) during my teen years, up until I started smoking and drinking at 17 years old. I attended Mississippi State University for one semester as a computer science major before dropping out, effectively throwing away thousands of dollars worth of scholarships provided by the Air Force ROTC that I was reluctant to join. I returned to the Gulf Coast and got a (pretty much useless) 2 year degree in art as a pot-smoking punk rocker. I then worked a few different jobs before becoming a entry-level cook at the restaurant I currently work at. It is at this restaurant that I learned to drink like a "pro." I was in two failed rock bands throughout my twenties that were both torn apart by alcoholism and drug use. I somehow managed to work my way up to general manager at my place of employment within 2 years, making a wage that puts me slightly below lower middle class. I'm a left-leaning liberal, and after many years of introspective debate, an atheist.
It wasn't a bad journey at all, but hardly one that put me at any advantage when it comes to maintaining sobriety. As we all know, alcoholics and addicts come in many shapes and sizes. History has shown that alcohol and drugs can sink their hooks into anyone, regardless of class, upbringing, or status. Therefore, it is my belief that anyone can become an alcoholic or addict, and anyone can recover.
This doesn't mean that I believe that everyone that drinks or does drugs will become an alcoholic or addict, nor do I believe that everyone that has a problem will recover. Just that we all have a special set of circumstances unique to our own body chemistry and personalities, and when we fall, it is up to us (and us alone) whether or not we will stand again.
Although I will go into more detail about my road to sobriety in later posts, I do want to point out that I do not attend AA meetings, and what you read here may conflict with some of the views typically held by AA goers. I have nothing against AA and did find it helpful during my early months of sobriety. I'll even go as far as recommending AA to anyone looking for help. I personally just found it impossible to progress in the program because of my atheist beliefs. DISCLAIMER 1: If any of this offends you, or you feel a non-AA perspective may interfere with your own sobriety, I suggest you stop reading now. If you have an open mind, and/or are secure enough in your own sobriety to listen to a different perspective, then by all means please continue reading.
A key point of my personal beliefs directly contradicts the first step in the 12-step program, which is to admit that you are powerless over alcohol or your addiction. I personally believe that we are not powerless over our addictions as long as we abstain. It is also my belief that telling ourselves that we are in-fact powerless can directly lead to relapse. But we will get more into detail about that later.
I've had the idea of starting this blog for some time now, as I often have many thoughts and discussions on the topic that I'd like to share in hopes that it may help others. I feel that my unique perspective may be of benefit. DISCLAIMER 2: I cannot say that any of my methods, thoughts, or experiences will help anyone at all, but that they do work for me. In addition, I want everyone to know that I'm not infallible and could very well relapse someday. I do, however, find that sharing these experiences is something that keeps me sober. Although I do find sobriety easy, I certainly do not live a life without temptation. As a matter of fact, I have experienced more temptation in the last two months than I have in the entire eighteen that I've been sober. It is as a result of sharing and reflecting upon my experiences that these temptations are quelled.
So that pretty much sums it up. In the following posts I'll explore different topics as I reflect upon them. It will never be my aim to be preachy at all; I aim to be helpful by offering perspective. DISCLAIMER 3: Although I'm an atheist, I will not debate the existence of any god or gods through my posts (so be warned, if anyone tries to post a debate on this topic, any such posts will be deleted)
Welcome to my blog. I hope you might get something out of following along.