The last few years of my life as an active alcoholic were spent in a repetitive cycle of self-destructive behavior. I had reached a point where I merely existed from one day to the next in a haze of alcohol abuse, minimal sleep, a horrible diet, and no exercise (unless you consider lifting a vodka bottle to be exercise). I spent most of my time in my dark apartment, curtains closed, with very little interaction with normal people. It was a very lonely and unhealthy life, and I needed help to climb out of the hole I had dug.
Through the grace of God and the fellowship of a 12-Step program, I was able to break the cycle of addiction that I had been drowning in for more than three decades, finally getting sober at age 43. Getting and staying sober has been the most difficult and challenging experience of my entire life, and I am forever grateful that I asked for the help I so desperately needed. I’ve been sober now for 12 years and can’t imagine ever going back to the life I once lived.
Gone are the days of suffering, loneliness and poor health. But how did I get here? How did I climb out of the dark hole and build a healthy, productive life for myself?
First, I had become sick and tired of being sick and tired. Before getting sober, I was miserable all the time, depressed, and constantly sick. Nothing made me feel better; not even the alcohol I consumed every day could lift me out of my misery. But, as any alcoholic will attest, I kept drinking, hoping that it would bring me the peace and comfort I so desperately craved. But at some point even the alcohol stopped working. Nothing made me feel better anymore.
During the final stretch of my addiction, I was in very bad physical shape (mentally and spiritually, as well). My body was starting to give up on me. My doctor informed me that I had fatty liver, dangerously high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels. My skin, hair and teeth were showing signs of early decay. I was grossly overweight and could barely walk up a short flight of stairs without wheezing.
I had been smoking up to two packs of cigarettes per day for years, so my lungs were sore and straining. My digestion was horrible, and I suffered from constant stomach pain and diarrhea (too much detail?). My sleeping patterns were erratic, and I always felt tired and fatigued. Over the last few years, I went to the hospital several times with chest pains (fortunately, these pains were from anxiety attacks and not actual heart attacks).
In addition to the vast quantities of alcohol and cigarettes I consumed every day, and the drugs I often took, I lived on a steady diet of junk food. My typical meals were burgers, fries and milkshakes. When I was low on money, which was often, I would skip eating altogether in order to buy my booze and cigarettes for the night.
I was living an unhealthy and desperate lifestyle, like a rat trapped in a cage of addiction.
Once I had a couple months of sobriety under my belt (with my belly still hanging way over my belt), I took a cold, hard look at my physical condition and was appalled. I knew I had to do something about repairing my body, as well as my mind and spirit. I knew I was still in a very dangerous and precarious situation because of all the abuse I had inflicted upon my body over the years. I needed further healing beyond just not drinking.
It was then I began to explore what had happened to me as a result of my addiction and what I could do to reverse the damage.
I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy path. I had beaten up my body for so long, and I wasn’t even sure if I could ever fully recover my health. But I was determined to learn and try. I wanted to live. And I wanted to live a healthy, vibrant, productive life free from alcohol and drugs, and filled with smart choices (including what I ate and how I could repair my body).
In terms of my own recovery, here’s a partial list of results I have achieved:
- Significant weight loss (40 pounds)
- Eliminated hypertension
- Eliminated high cholesterol
- Eliminated stomach pain
- Eliminated fatty liver
- Improved hair and skin
- Improved sleep patterns
- Improved muscle tone
- Improved cardio endurance
- Improved mood and temper
- Improved clarity and memory
- Improved state of mind (happier and more optimistic)
Changing your health habits can and will significantly and positively affect your body, mind and spirit. It’s never too late to start anew, no matter how old you are. You have been given just one body that should be respected and treated with care. Love your body as a temple, a unique form given to you by God (or Mother Nature, if you prefer). Sobriety is about new beginnings and new adventures. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So take the first step on your new journey of hope, health and recovery.
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The Final Days of My Addiction to Alcohol.In