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Chapter 4:4 Sober - Time To Face The World

  • 4/21/14  9:01am

    Facing the world as a sober human being. What does it all mean? When does a person take control of their destiny and how? How do you face the fears and recover? Stepping into a new world like sobriety, or a career change, or a new relationship, or parenthood, the list goes on and on, all require a leap of faith. You don’t know what life will hold for you, you don’t know what the outcome will be of your actions, but you feel compelled to take the step. For some people it is because they can’t stand the pain of life the way it is anymore, for some it is the excitement of what life will be. For me, I think it took a mixture of both pain and hope in most instances for me to finally make the decision to change.

    One of the most dramatic changes I ever made was getting sober. I had lived for 11 years under the fog of drugs and alcohol. Everything I did, I did while I was drinking. Socializing, dreaming, performing, driving, eating, working; everything you do in a normal daily routine, I did under the influence. That is not an exaggeration in any way. I had to reflect one time about all the judges I had been in front of, and what I said to them when they asked me if I was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time I was facing them. Logically my head said, “No your honor, I am not”. And I believed it. I mean, I had quit drinking around 4 AM; it was 9 AM when he asked me if I was under the influence. The speed I took to make it to court that morning had surely cleared my head. So I with all the certainty in the world I would answer, “No your honor, I am not.” When in reality, I was still half wasted.

    From 1978 to 1989, everything I did was under the influence of some form of alcohol or drugs. And now came the day when I had to look at living the rest of my life without being able to take a drink, or a drug. It was like asking me not to breathe. Whenever there was fear, the place I ran to was a bottle. And now I was full of fear and could not reach the one thing that I had used for the past 11 years to cope with it. I had lost my most trusted friend. How would I survive?

    But at the same time I also knew that if I didn't get sober, if I continued living the way I had been, I would soon be dead. I had truly accepted that I could not go on living the way I had been living. And I also accepted that I was going to have to do whatever it took to find a way to live without using drugs and alcohol.

    When I was drinking, I had spent so much time hiding from my past and hoping for the future that I never paid any attention to the day I was living in. I would fret for days over an interaction that may have lasted for 2 minutes. Or I would dream for weeks about the fantasy life I would someday lead, but was taking no steps towards fulfilling. It was a bizarre life. But I had become accustomed to it. It was a place of safety in the middle of hell. I was certain that I would always be in chaos, and yet, chaos let me know that I was still alive. As sick as that sounds, that was how I existed. So to leave that all behind was scary. Life, I was sure would still be full of chaos, but now there could be no diversionary trips into oblivion to escape it. As I looked at the choices between returning to a life filled with the consequences from my actions while drinking, and having to be responsible as a sober member of society I was caught in a growing struggle. Changes needed to be made, and I had gotten to a point where the process of being sober was really getting tough. Hell was starting to close in.

    One night in rehab I was discussing The turmoil I was feeling with another client when Bill, one of the counselors, approached me and said that the only way it was going to get any easier, the only way that I was going to grow in my recovery was to take “Step 3”.

    Now for those of you not familiar with a 12-step program, step 3 is “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God, as we understood him”. I had been sober by this point for almost 30 days and was really excited about the possibility of finally getting my life to work. And when Bill said those words, in an instant, my world went blank.

    Here I was, having my first major struggles with sobriety and they told me the only way I was going to stay sober was to turn my will and life over to God? There was one major problem with this. I hated God. I had turned my back on God and religion years ago, and had absolutely no time for Him. I told Bill that if this was my only way, then I was doomed. That was the moment I was introduced to the second profound truth that was revealed in rehab.

    Bill looked at me with the softest look of understanding in his eyes. This former biker who had lived a much rougher life than I did, told me that it didn’t have to be the God of my youth. It could be anything. Pray to a tree if I liked. But find something other than myself to believe in. Trust in some Power Greater than “me”.

    I sat there thinking about what he had just said. He knew I was openingmy mind to a small possibility. He asked if I believed that there was some creative Spirit in the Universe? Or if I just felt we were the result of some evolutionary process that started with a bang. I thought about what he was asking. I have to say that my Native American beliefs pulled me in at this point. I had always believed that Native American Indians were the closest to being right when it came to how to deal with life. They understood that there was a balance in all things and respected that balance. Their relationship with their “Gods” always intrigued me. So I told him that I believed in a Higher Power, I just couldn’t worship God and Jesus. He smiled and said, “Then you have the chance to stay sober.” It didn’t have to be Christ, or Buddha, Allah, or Ganesh. All I had to do was find a God that I could understand, a concept of God that I could accept, and turn my will and life over to it. That was all I needed, and from there everything else would build.

    It wasn’t much, but it was hope, so I trusted him and went to my room to think about my beliefs. That was when I started my journey into Spirituality and a new understanding of what it really was.

    I was coming to the end of my 28 days in rehab, and for the first time in my life, I really wanted to stay sober. I knew that because of this having been my 6th offense I still had to go back to face 3 months in jail. I begged and pleaded with the staff at the rehab to help me. I was willing to do my time in jail, but I wanted to work out some conditions first. I knew that I wasn’t strong enough yet to leave on my own. I hadn’t built strong enough of a foundation to stay sober. I begged them to find some way to keep me for another 28 days and to arrange it with the courts that as soon as I was released I would return to the rehab to re-strengthen and resolve myself before I went into the world, if I didn’t, I knew that all the progress I had made would be for nothing. My insurance was running out and I didn’t have the money to pay for another 60 days. I knew that I had to stay on in the rehab if I was truly going to have a chance at staying sober.

    Mary, Bill and others on the staff made some calls, and along with the help of my guardian angel, got me my wish. The judge agreed to allow me to extend my stay at Tallyrand for another 28 days before returning to NJ for my 3-month sentence. The staff also set up a grant that would allow me to return to the rehab after my time in jail was served. I approached my next 28 days there with even more intensity. I grabbed on to everything I could learn while I was there, praying, sharing, listening and building my foundation. I even found a way to forgive the God of my youth. I didn’t take him back as my Higher Power, but I found a way to forgive. That was a miracle in itself.

    At the end of my second 28 days, I was being released with 2 weeks before I was scheduled to return to court. On the day you are released, they would put you into what was called a “hot seat” and allow everyone there to give you their impression of you, suggestions for what you needed to focus on to stay sober and most of all support. What I remember most, is as the hot seat progressed I looked outside and noticed it had begun to snow. As we all began to look outside at the snow covering the ground, one of the clients said, “There’s your sign Will. God is giving you a clean slate, a fresh path to walk. This snow is a symbol that the past is gone, and you have a new life to begin”. I remember that statement every time I see new fallen snow. It continues to give me hope.

    I walked out of rehab that day to begin a new life, and I was scared. I was going back to work. My mother was picking me up and we were going straight from rehab, to a bar. Is that insane or what? But it wasn’t to drink. It was to work. I was back with the band. The staff at Tallyrand had done a great job in helping me to prepare mentally for what was to come as I returned to the clubs. It was the atmosphere I would make my living in for the next 9 years. As a matter of fact, they did such a good job, that it was a couple of months before I even saw a bottle of beer in a club. I swear to God. The power of the mind is amazing. It was like I was living with a shield around me. Until one night that someone in the front row held up a bottle of beer in front of my face while I was on stage. And that was the moment that I realized another miracle. I realized that the compulsion to drink was gone. No longer was I craving alcohol. No longer did my life revolve around it. And looking back over the past 20 years, I can think of maybe 10 times when I have considered a drink. But the compulsion, the NEED to drink, has never returned.