[Editor's Note: Brendon O'Rourke is the GaySocialites.com Substance Abuse Specialist. Each of his columns, like the one below, features editorial content from Brendon as well as a excerpt from a journal he kept during his substance abuse problem. Check it out below, and feel free to contact Brendon with comments and to find out how you can get treatment for your substance abuse problem. Make sure you come back every Thursday for Brendon's latest column!]
The following entry was written a few weeks after I had finished my stint in rehab. I had been smoking pot for a few weeks at this time and my boyfriend Erik had been drinking casually since we had gotten back together. Erik’s friend Tom, who we were staying with, was an active alcoholic who drank more than anyone I have ever seen. Tom was in his 40’s but probably looked like he was in his late 50’s thanks to the damage years of alcohol abuse had taken on his body.
When I first got out of rehab I was adamant about not going back to drinking. The plan was to only smoke marijuana. However, being around a boyfriend who drank casually and seemed to control it, as well as watching Tom get wasted on a daily basis began to play tricks on my mind. Slowly but surely my alcoholic brain convinced me that I could probably have a drink with dinner and be able to control it…
So I was having lunch with Erik and my friend Lindsay at Hamburger Mary’s the other day. Erik and Lindsay both ordered drinks and I decided it would be ok if I got one too. Lindsay encouraged me to get a drink saying that it was fine and I should treat myself. I had the drink and guess what? Nothing happened. The earth didn’t explode or anything and I’m still here. I actually ended up having two drinks at lunch. While we were there I ended up seeing someone from AA come into the restaurant. Luckily they were seated inside and I don’t think they saw me. Thank god! Definitely wasn’t in the mood for a lecture.
In all honesty I seem to be controlling my drinking pretty well. I haven’t gotten wasted once since I started drinking again. I don’t think I’m gonna go back to AA though. I’m not really feeling it anymore. Sharon [my sponsor] knows that I’m smoking weed, she told me that’s not really working a program. I think you can run your program however you want! What works for me might not work for someone else, and vice versa. It’s also not like I’m drinking like Tom. Tom is the biggest drunk I have ever seen. Falling down everywhere, throwing up for hours on end, it’s kinda pathetic. I seriously don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone drink like that. It won’t surprise me if he is dead within the next few years the way he is going.”
When I was first introduced to sobriety I had so many reservations. I couldn’t imagine going my entire life without having a drink or a drug. My sponsor Sharon told me that being sober meant abstaining from all mind-altering substances, including marijuana. I chose not to listen and do things my way. From my experience in order to be successful at long-term sobriety you have to be willing to do the work and to take suggestions. During the time that this journal entry was written I probably didn’t have an ounce of willingness in me which became my major downfall.
It’s funny how I was passing so much judgment on Tom and his drinking habits instead of looking at my own behaviors. In all honesty the way Tom drank was the same way I drank in the past. I know today that if I continued to drink I’m certain I would have turned out like Tom. At the time it was easier to pass judgment and focus on someone else’s problems rather than look at my own. My brain told me that Tom was definitely an alcoholic and that my drinking habits weren’t nearly as bad as his, therefore I should be able to control it. I soon found out of how wrong I was and today I know that I am definitely and will always be, an alcoholic.