A: Center City
A: May 20, 2004
A: I was in treatment when I realized how much I needed help. I didn't realize how much trouble I had with family and life in general.
A: I didn't know how I would live without drinking and using drugs.
A: My name is Ken S., I am 54 and very grateful for the life I have today. I grew up always wanting to be the best and felt the need to be loved and liked. The reason I felt that way was because I was insecure and didn't know it.
I am an alcoholic. I started drinking at very young age, and when I started drinking, I did it for fun; this quickly turned into drinking for the effect and the way it made me feel. Drinking worked for a long time. I loved it. I would get into trouble, but I thought I was just having bad breaks. I had no idea that it would get worse. I had no idea what an alcoholic was, or that alcoholism was a progressive disease. I didn't know that getting drunk for the effect meant anything. As I got older my drinking got worse.
I got married at 19 and my wife had a baby girl. A year later, she gave birth to a boy we named Michael. It was a Saturday night, and he was going to be baptized the next day. We were watching a movie and he started to cry. I told my wife to let him cry himself out and fall asleep. I had a drink because I was thinking only of myself. After the movie ended, she went in his room to check on him, and I heard her scream. I ran in to see that Michael had died. I began drinking even more because now I was a real failure; that gave me the reason, and I began lying and not coming home. I would miss dinner. I would miss special events and activities with family. My drinking continued to get worse, and so did I.
I was in and out of treatment and AA—primarily to get my family off my back. I tried controlled drinking and was back to getting in trouble. I picked up right where I left off: the lying started again, and things were not going well at home.
Deep down, I believed that I could not live without alcohol. Now I was trying to live with myself and accept that I was a failure. It was no longer about fun at all.
I could not be honest, and I was not a good father, husband, son or brother. When the alcohol stopped working, I got involved with cocaine and crack cocaine, hoping these drugs would provide me with the effect I used to get from alcohol.
I believed my own lies, and I tried to convince myself that I was not that bad. If trouble came along, it was not my fault. This dismal life continued until I was 42 years old and in trouble with the law as well as anyone that knew or loved me.
I found myself going to treatment again. Again, I was trying to save my marriage.
I was at the airport, ready to leave for Hazelden and asked my wife for a check to pay for treatment. She said no. "We only have a little money left, and it's my money. This is your third time in treatment. What makes you think it's going to work this time?"
I got on the plane, thinking I should order one of everything on the cocktail menu. Life was over, and maybe she was right. However, a few minutes later, the thought came to me—out of nowhere—that ordering those drinks might not be a good idea.
In Center City, when I was asked how I would like to pay the bill, I pulled out my credit card and thought to myself that there was no way it would go through.
But the woman helping me returned shortly and said, "Thank you, it's all set. Your treatment is covered."
I couldn't believe it! A fog settled around me; I don't remember how long I was on the medical unit. All I remember is crying, saying my life is over, and thinking that dying sounded like a really good idea. I saw no reason to live.
Within a few days, I was transferred to the Cronin unit. I didn't know how to do laundry, I hated my life, and I needed to win my wife back. Two weeks went by, and all I could focus on was my wife.
The counselor asked me to put my wife's name in the God box. So I gave that a try: I had nothing to lose because life was over, right?
That night at 11 p.m., I sat under the pine trees by the lake, under a full moon. I looked up, crying, and called out, "God, please help me!"
I walked back in, went to bed, and in group the next day, I said, "Tell me what to do, and I will do it."
Quite simply, I gave up. I stopped calling home. I realized I was lost and dead inside, and that's when true recovery began. I got on my knees and asked for help and thanked God at the end of each day. Eventually, my son showed up to visit. I felt like he loved me—and I hadn't thought anyone cared or loved me anymore.
Two days before I was to leave, my wife showed up. We talked, and I thought that there was a good possibility we would be able to work things out. Then it was time to leave, and I was told I should live in a half-way house in my home area. I told the staff I thought they were nuts, and their response was, "I guess you don't want to stay sober!"
That was it. I thought about it for a minute and realized they were right, so I took their advice and did it. That was a hard thing to do, but recovery was now underway, and I believe now that God is and was doing for me for what I could not do for myself.
I lived in a half-way house for five and a half months. I went to AA, got a sponsor, and began doing the Steps and working to pay the bills. I then moved home and focused on being a husband again. As I look back, I realize my efforts have been like peeling an onion, layer by layer, year by year.
For the next few years things went OK, and life was getting better—provided that I was doing what I was told to do. At three years of sobriety, my wife accidentally started a fire by leaving a propane heater unattended.
My first reaction was to drink. Instead, I called my sponsor. He told me to call the fire department, and I told him I'd already done that. He asked what the problem was, and I said, "I am going to kill my wife!" He said "No, this is what you are going to do. Call your wife and ask her to come home. When she gets there, tell her you love her, and you will get through it together."
While I thought that was absurd, I did it. It worked out great. I realized the importance of not only having a sponsor but having the right one. And I realized that God was taking care of me; right away, He was there.
I also saw how off my thinking was, even after three years of not drinking. I realized I had a lot more work to do.
My life today is not anything I would have expected, or signed up for. It is completely different. Early on, I remember someone talking about the flowers, trees, birds, now in the forest and how beautiful it was. My thought was that they were nuts. Today, I see what they mean. I didn't realize how self-centered I was and how that blocked my vision to be able to see what a beautiful world God provided. I also remember people saying they were grateful alcoholics, and I thought they were nuts, too.
Today I can see change and progress in myself. I can care for others and realize that I am just a dot in the big picture. I have been given a life that is both useful and meaningful. I can help someone that is just as lost and lonely, and full of fear, and together we get through life's ups and downs, and continue to share the gift of sobriety, and have a much more meaningful life.
I was given hope, and today that is one of the things I have to give in return. I have a family that loves me today and accepts me. My grandkids have never had to see a drunken papa, and I have a wife that has been with me all the way from the beginning through 36 years of marriage. I have been to 47 states on my Goldwing motorcycle. My wife and I have been on many great trips together, and we are healthy. God has been good to me.
I have, and always will have, my sobriety up front as the number one thing in my life. Doing this keeps me and the program in line. Today my life is based on spirituality, God, and the program. I know if I keep it this way, it doesn't really matter what happens in life; I will be OK. I understand life will be life, and I will still be a part of all the good in life.
I realize today the change in my thinking and feelings. And what's really awesome is that I am still learning and changing, and this is something I could never do. Today I realize that God is doing for me what I could never do for myself, and he is doing a much better job than I could ever dream of.
A: I have a life I never could have dreamed of having.
A: "If you want a better life, do what we do."
A: Giving back is my favorite part of life. Having the opportunity to share my story with current patients at Center City makes me feel like my life has a purpose and is whole and complete.