You might think my worst day was the day I permanently scarred myself hoping to score more painkillers. But it wasn’t.
I didn’t think I was much different from anyone I grew up with or who lives in my hometown. We all drank in high school and college, and we didn’t skip experimenting with other drugs when we could. But everyone has turned out fine. Mostly I drank. I never drank on the job, but me and my friends would go out after work and have a few. What I’ve learned is addiction isn’t the same for everyone.
I got my first DUI about nine years ago and my second three years ago. I got married between those years and hadn’t told my wife about the first DUI, so when I got the second one she was pretty upset. She had already been complaining about my drinking, so it wasn’t a surprise to anyone when I went to rehab. I did my 28 days and walked out sober.
I didn’t drink anything my first year. But in the second year I started drinking socially again. I told my wife one or two wasn’t hurting anything as long as it wasn’t every day. Around this time I also had a work injury. My doctor prescribed a painkiller. That was the kicker. Painkillers helped me relax. I mean I had a wife, a 9 month old baby and was trying to maintain semi-sobriety. So I kept having pain and kept refilling my prescription. One day, my doctor tells me he isn’t going to fill the prescription this time, because he feels I can manage on my own and doesn’t want to risk an addiction.
Two weeks after that, I was ready to gnaw my arm off. Things were crazy at home. Work was busy, it was the hottest point in the summer and I did manual labor outside. My wife was counting my drinks like a warden. Our toddler was running around the house now and into everything. He had to be watched every minute and he never slept in his own bed. I was losing it.
After I’d had a few beers one night after work, my wife is making spaghetti and she yells from the bathroom as she is giving our son a bath that I need to get the noodles off the stove and drain the water. I walked over and saw a large pot of rapidly boiling water. I got out a strainer and carried the pot to the sink. I don’t know what I was thinking exactly in that moment, but I just stood for a second, and then dumped the boiling pasta down the front of me. I was only wearing shorts; no shirt, no shoes. The pain was horrible, but I was also exhilarated. My wife rushed me to the emergency room where I was treated for severe burns and I was given painkillers. But like I said, that wasn’t the worst day.
Three weeks later, I’m lying on my couch with a beer and painkillers. My wife comes home from work and tells me she is leaving. No fighting, no arguing, just leaving. I acted like I didn’t know what was wrong, but the look in her eye told me she knew. And she was looking at me as though she were so ashamed. She took our son and left. But that still wasn’t the worst.
I spent the next month barely getting to work the next morning, but always getting home in plenty of time for beer and pills. So much so that when I went to refill my prescription, the pharmacy told me they couldn’t because it had been less than two weeks since my last refill and I would need to contact my doctor. That was the worst.
That night I was miserable. I skipped work the next day because I was drunk. Two days later with the fake flu, I looked myself in the eye and didn’t recognize myself.
Another 28 days, or at least I’m hoping to make it that long in my program. Thankfully my wife is participating in family therapy while I’m in treatment this time. One afternoon she said she couldn’t believe how far I was willing to go for my addiction (permanent scars from burns) but I wasn’t willing to go that far for my family by giving up the addiction. I heard her say that hundreds of times, but this was the first time sober. That was tough and her tears brought back all those feelings of shame and guilt. I want us to move past that disappointment when she looks at me. I think we will. I know I’m willing to fight for it. I have more tools and I’m learning more about my anxiety and triggers this time. I’ve also decided to participate in outpatient programs for several months after I leave the Addictions Treatment Center. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been there before and sobriety is hard. But they keep telling us to focus on what we can do today to control the addiction – that’s it. Just one day at a time. So today my wife is holding my hand and today I will focus on recovery. “And today I will love him through this,” says his wife as he kisses her hand.