My father always said, even as a small child I had an unquenchable thirst. Little did he or anyone else know, that thirst would carry into my adult years, sending me into a downward spiral of alcoholism. Within those years, I tried everything possible to stop the insanity. Eventually, I realized, nothing was going to work, not even my brilliant idea of a marijuana substitution.
What’s The Harm?
Quite honestly, I didn’t think my drinking or pot smoking was much of a problem. It’s just what we did growing up. In our house, drinking beer on football Sunday or having a glass of wine with dinner was the norm as a kid. I watched my father manage it, so why couldn’t I? His drinking or my parents’ weekend get-togethers never stopped either of them from doing their jobs come Monday morning.
I remember sneaking a few sips of beer here and there, when my mother would ask me to help her clean up. At first I didn’t understand it. I thought it tasted terrible. I didn’t see why adults liked to drink that stuff at all. Eventually, like everything else in life, I acquired a taste for it, which soon became a tormenting thirst.
Growing up with the mindset that “I could drink because my father did” nearly killed me more than once. For quite some time I genuinely believed, “What’s the harm?” It’s just a few beers or a couple of joints. If I didn’t accept that beer, people may look at me differently. The difference though, I was never able to stop after just one. My friends’ wives even got privy to my habits and made sure to stock up on Coors before Sunday afternoon rolled around.
I figured I wasn’t harming anyone. I made it a point not to drink and drive; I always paid my bills; I made sure to visit my mother on the weekends. At this point, my habits were only that of weekend proportions; getting sloshed for three days straight, but pulling it together for work on Monday. So again, what’s the harm, right?
The Glory Days…?
I was living the life. I was in my late 20s, had a great job, had a girlfriend that I intended to marry, had a bunch of buddies, and had my pal, Rosco, my German Shepard who thought he was a lap dog. This is what most people dreamt of for their lives, and it was mine for the taking. The possibility of alcoholism taking over was not even a vague thought in my mind.
My friends and I had many rituals. Every week we would pass off football Sundays. One week I would host, the next week Ryan would take over, and so on; we always had a blast. Every February we took a guy’s trip to Vegas for a long weekend; to say we had fun would be an understatement. In the summers we would rent a house at the beach for a few weeks. My life was nearly perfect… and then, it all stopped.
Initially, I chalked it up to, we were getting older. It had nothing to do with my alcoholism, but rather my friends kept getting married and having kids. You can’t go to Vegas when you are on diaper duty. Honestly, I thought I was being an understanding friend. Boy, was I an idiot.
It wasn’t until Ashley, my girlfriend, put it into perspective for me. This was also after she found me passed out in a pool of my own vomit. As she was throwing all of my belonging in a clothes hamper, I’ll never forget the things she was yelling at me. “You moron, you’re friendless and close to girlfriendless because you are a sloppy drunk. Get it together, or I’m gone.” That was the end of my glory days.
And as they say, when one chapter ends, another begins.
Treating Alcoholism With Marijuana
Soon, my drinking problems landed me in a hole that I wasn’t easily able to get out of. The girlfriend left; my friends wouldn’t answer the phone; I consumed more alcohol in one day than I did water or food for an entire week. It was finally becoming obvious to me that I wasn’t my father; I couldn’t compare his habits to mine. My drinking had spiraled into full blown alcoholism.
Change needed to happen, and happen fast. If not, I was going to kill myself. Although I knew going to rehab was probably my best option, I simply wasn’t willing to give up my job to do so. A guy from work warned me of quitting cold turkey, and gave me a few tricks to ease the pangs of withdrawal. Taper down; drink plenty of fluids; take a sleeping aid to calm the nerves; and smoke a joint.
While this sounds completely moronic to most, at the time, it sounded brilliant to me. After all, I never had a problem with pot, just alcohol, so “marijuana maintenance” it was. Smoke a joint in the morning to calm down the shaking and one before bed with my over-the-counter sleeping pill. In my mind, this option worked for me. I wasn’t drinking nearly as much as I was once was, and really that’s all I ever wanted. Subconsciously, I never had any intention of completely giving up on the booze; I simply wanted to drink like normal people.
If you were an outsider looking in on what was my life, you would easily be able to point out how this lifestyle simply wasn’t normal. The entire point of smoking pot again was to stop drinking and get my life back together. Instead, that hole I was in only got deeper. I wound up losing that job I loved so much because I failed a drug test and eventually had to move back in with my parents.
Clearly, I had no idea what I was doing. Every time I had a bright idea, I only made it worse. I thought alcohol was the problem, but evidently, I was. I was 33 years old, living back with my parents, and struggled to hold down a job for more than a few months at a time. When I was able to secure something, I had to figure out ways to pass the initial drug test. My life was in shambles, and I had no idea how I got there.
Time and time again, I refused to go to treatment. What I considered sober was completely outside the realm of what “those people” would expect of me. I was willing to give up drinking. I understood that was a problem. Nevertheless, I still saw no harm in lighting up a joint now and again.
I was eventually forced into rehab due to some legal issues I found myself in. At first, I was skeptical and very cynical. I didn’t believe a word any of the counselors told me and had no intention of quitting anytime soon. My probation officer and the judge had other plans for me though. I was ordered to attend counseling for a minimum of one year, A.A. meetings, and random drug testing.
For a while, I was the guy in the back of the room who wouldn’t talk to anyone. I wanted no part in it. One day, my counselor must have had enough, and decided to set me straight. She looked me square in eyes, and said, “Just give it up! You gave up everything for drugs and alcohol. Why not give up drugs and alcohol for everything?” Sounds simple doesn’t it? I probably heard the same thing a hundred times in the past, but for some reason, it resonated that time. It finally started to make sense.
I wasn’t able to get it over night, but I made progress. I asked for help. I built a support group. I got honest with other people. I gave up on the idea that marijuana was a safe alternative to alcohol. It was only a crutch and furthered my using for more years than necessary.
How Much Do You Know About Alcoholism?
For more information on alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, check out the link below. ABC News had an exclusive interview with Dr. Deidra Roach of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and compiled the conversation into an interactive video.
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Many live under the assumption that marijuana is “not that bad.” We beg to differ. Marijuana is a drug and it is addictive, just as much as alcohol. If you or someone you love is suffering from a marijuana addiction or alcoholism, know that help is available.
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