From binge drinking to daily drinking – Michael’s story is one we can almost all relate to. Today with the help of This Naked Mind, he is now nine months alcohol free but it all began with his first alcohol free day.
My story really begins at about age 2. I was the second child of a young, poor couple that had moved from Ohio to Phoenix, Arizona trying to get a foothold. They ultimately separated. Placed in foster care at 2. The family I was placed with is my family today 38 years later! In the first grade, they adopted me. I have never considered anyone else my family. Over the course of my parents’ foster career, they had nearly 150 children come through their home. How I was picked out of those hundreds of kids to be adopted? I’ll never know. I’ll always be grateful.
I spent most of my youth in sports and I excelled in school even though I went through several moves with my dad’s job. Ashamed of being adopted for most of my childhood, I never fully felt a part of the family. There was always a thought in the back of my mind that said, “you’re not biologically part of the family so you can’t truly be 100 percent part of that family.”
Always feeling as if I needed to not disappoint my family or make them feel like they made a bad choice in adopting me. I never talked about it with anyone. Silently, I carried this with me.
I didn’t start drinking until September 1999 when I was in college. Growing up I was not shielded from alcohol at all. There was always some in the house. Beer was in the house. Beer was viewed as so ordinary that I barely recall it. My dad would have 1 or 2 drinks each night when he got home from work. Usually, my mom would have it ready for him, but she didn’t drink often. In high school, two thoughts consumed me: 1. Sports, 2. Grades.
When I wasn’t in a sport or doing homework, I was working. I had my first job at 14 as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant right up the street. The crew I ran with were athletes, but smart athletes. Some went to parties and drank in high school. Always afraid of being caught, I never had the desire to drink.
Going to college, I knew drinking was “required” as part of the overall experience. I was tentative about it though and went about a month before my first drinking experience. I drank enough to get drunk. It was a horrid mix of a couple of tequila shots, apple pucker, and beer. None of it tasted good at all. I remember not even enjoying the feeling. I didn’t sleep well. In fact, I woke up hours before everyone else just like how Annie describes in her book. That was my first binge drinking experience. This would be my pattern for the next 20 years. After that, all bets were off. We would go to house parties where it was $3 for a cup and all the keg beer you could drink.
Shortly after graduation, my wife and I announced our engagement. The next few years were kind of a blur. I was still drinking, although I was exclusively drinking beer and not at the levels I was in college. I was working, planning a wedding, training for triathlons, buying a house, and getting a master’s degree. Six months before our wedding we bought our first house. In early 2007 my wife became pregnant with our first son. Somewhere during the pregnancy was when I switched to vodka. I don’t know exactly why, but I do remember thinking it was because I had heard people say you couldn’t smell vodka on you. She was pregnant, not drinking (but she didn’t drink anyway), and I think I wanted to drink but also didn’t want her to know.
This was also when I started hiding it in the back of one of the cabinets in the kitchen. This marked a shift towards problematic drinking. Hiding alcohol was something that never stopped. I think it became part of my drinking ritual, something I could control, something I knew that others didn’t. My alcohol free days became fewer and fewer.
Our first son was born in 2007 and our second in 2009. We also moved into a new neighborhood with some other younger families that partied hard. Of course, I jumped right in and started hanging out with them. At work I felt very underappreciated and was getting bored. I was looking for positions in Arizona and was convinced that moving west was going to solve all my problems. With the stress of work and not enjoying the situation, I was drinking 4 or more nights a week. Then I would go a week or so without to “dry out” and then go back to it.
Searching for my first alcohol free days
In 2012, I went to check out a few AA meetings at my wife’s request. I wasn’t convinced that this was something I couldn’t control and stopped going. In late 2012 I received a job offer in Phoenix. I thought we could sell my wife’s business that we had started in 2011, our house, and move the family out there to live happily ever after. The business didn’t sell, the house didn’t sell, and I ended up working out there while my wife was at home alone with a business and two boys.
While in AZ I essentially went on a 7-month bender drinking almost every night, passing out, then getting up to go to work. My family was worried about me. I also unloaded a lot of emotional baggage onto my sister one drunken night about my feelings regarding my adoption. Looking back, it was me coming to terms with not trying to please my family and to live my own life.
During the last couple of months in AZ, I had started journaling and putting my thoughts onto paper. When I came back to Indiana, I finally stopped drinking. With my first alcohol free days, I felt like a great husband, dad, and professional for nearly 6 months. I got back into shape, lost a bunch of weight, and was doing well. Now I realize that I was white-knuckling it.
Back To Drinking
In 2017 I took a new job working remotely from home. The job allowed me to work from home but travel to Louisville once every month or so. My trips to Louisville were just benders in disguise. When I was at home I started to drink more as well including during the day. Several times I drank enough to pass out for a couple of hours. Lucky for me I managed to sober up enough so that when my wife got home, I wasn’t drunk. I knew this wasn’t going to be good for me long term. In 2018, I left that position and joined my current company. I was back in the office, but my drinking problems continued to follow me. I was very motivated and happy with my new position. By then I was in management, ran my own department, and was checking off some career milestones.
Hiding My Drinking
Drinking was a non-negotiable at home. It wasn’t supposed to happen, and my wife was well past done dealing with it. My kids were much older. I thought I was still hiding it from them. They knew, I just had no idea. I was going longer stretches with sobriety. I’d do 30 days here, 60 days there. But I would always fall back and have hard binges. I made all the resolutions one could. I could drink a full “fifth” of vodka on a weekend day. Classic binge drinker.
My kids were fully aware that their dad was a drunk who had passed out in front of them too many times. My oldest son wrote me a letter after one of these episodes that I still carry in my wallet asking me why I was a liar, a bad person, and kept drinking. So tired of my drinking. I was nearly 40. I had been drinking since 18.
Enough with the Drinking
By some miracle, I did not have legal trouble, career trouble, or lose my family. My health was starting to suffer and when I drank, I noticed pains in my right side. Convinced I was on my way to liver issues. Something had to change. In July 2020 I took my son to a travel baseball tournament and drank all through the first game and “napped” under my tent beyond the outfield fence. Something about that day, the trips to my car for more vodka, and the guilt were enough.
I’m not even sure how I found This Naked Mind. But that afternoon, under my tent, I read the first couple of chapters on my phone. Maybe it was the free sample you get on Amazon. Somewhere in the next few weeks, I ordered the paperback book. On August 2, 2020, I had my last binge, and August 3, 2020, was my first alcohol free day.
Are you looking for your first alcohol free day? Download the book preview! Start your own alcohol free journey just like Michael did!
Not Just My First Alcohol Free Day
I read This Naked Mind and re-read This Naked Mind. Each morning I check in on an online support forum where I say hello and commit to being alcohol free the next 24 hours. Before I start my work for the day, I write my daily affirmation, “I, Michael, am now FREE from alcohol.” I write that 15 times and I recite it to myself 15 times. Not every day, but at least a couple of times a week I listen to the This Naked Mind podcast. I’m 200 episodes in. Finally, I had the courage to reach out to This Naked Mind to say I was so thankful for what Annie has done and that I was willing to share my story if it would help anyone out there.
I’m over 9 months alcohol free. I don’t know if I will drink again at some point in the future, but I know that I don’t want to or feel like drinking now, and I am the best version of myself that I have been in 20 years.
My Alcohol Free Life
My kids have done a 180. They both are doing great! My wife is happy, I’m happy. I’m crushing it at work. Occasionally, I catch myself thinking of the “fun” I’m missing out on. A short-lived feeling. One of my biggest regrets is how much damage I was doing to my children and I had no idea. The impact you have on other people’s lives, no matter how much you think you have it under control, is so much more than you realize. I think that was one of my biggest catalysts for change. I didn’t quit just for them, I have done it for myself as well, but they are a huge reason.
Share Your Story
Whether it is the story of your first alcohol free day or what life looks like after years of living a Naked Life – your stories are inspiring and encouraging to others on this journey. Share your story and support others just like you!