March 11, 2015

That day was warm, from what I remember. Or maybe I was just numb from drinking a fifth of bourbon the night before. Either way, I couldn’t feel much of anything as the slow clarity of exiting a blackout set in. I was standing on a sidewalk in south Philly, a little before dawn. My hat was gone, my wallet missing, and my phone at 5%. My fiancé wasn’t answering. Pretty soon I would make the only decision; to walk the 5 miles back to Fishtown to get to my car.

Anyone who has ever gotten out of hand on a night out knows the slight guilt you feel the morning after. You’re not 100% sure what you’ve done, but it was probably stupid. Or maybe you do remember, and today you’re ashamed for acting like an asshole. I was out on a Tuesday night. Alone. And this happened all the time. That type of guilt and shame is different, and only alcoholics and other addicts can really understand it.

5 miles is a long walk when you’re still drunk, you’re not sure if you slept, and you’re barely in condition to stand up straight. It gives you a lot of time to think. It gives you a lot of time to really soak in that special brand of shame. Time to dissect your mistakes. Every single fucked up decision you’ve made. Every person you’ve let down. Every failure. Every shortcoming.

As I passed closer to Olde City, I could see the Ben Franklin Bridge towering in the distance. It seemed like a lot clicked in place at that moment. The endless cycle of my constant binge drinking. The anxiety attacks that plagued my waking hours and could only be fought off by a stiff drink. The inability to maintain a healthy relationship. The knowledge that I was different from everyone else. The depression. Dear god, the depression.

That bridge could be my salvation. One slow motion fall into the freezing waters of the Delaware, and no one would ever have to make an excuse for me again. I could never hurt anyone, never let them down, never fail my responsibilities as a father or husband or employer. Just a few seconds, and then nothing. Sure, there would be tears, but soon after, everyone would realize that I was a bane in their existence.

My phone was dead. Only an asshole would kill himself without at least emailing his dear, sweet fiancé to let her know his fate. Suicide would have to wait.

Where to go from there

I made it home in the early afternoon. My fiancé had packed my bags. There was no conversation to be had, she was finished with my bullshit. I honestly didn’t care. I collapsed in tears begging for help. I didn’t care if she threw me out or if she gave me another chance, I only wanted her to stay long enough to stop me from dying. Without her, I wouldn’t have gotten checked into a crisis unit, or into a psych ward. I would have slit my wrists in the bathroom and bled out by dinner.

I spent 9 days in a dual unit, attending group sessions 4 times a day; the realization that I had a serious drinking problem slowly sinking in. I had been broken, and I had been humbled. Every bit of bravado and control I exhibited had been stripped away, and I was exposed. Vulnerable and imperfect.

That place was my rebirth. The veil had been lifted, and for the first time in my life, I was ready to do whatever it took to get sober.

The changes I’ve made

The following year was a period of healing. I went to an outpatient rehab program for 6 months, attended AA meetings several times a week, saw my therapist weekly, and began to heal the damage in my own relationships. My fiancé stayed, and in October of 2015, she became my wife.

A lot of people think sobriety is an ending, some sort of punishment for not being able to have self control. For me, it’s been the opposite. It’s been a reward. For so long, I had been toggling the switch between drunk and hungover, and it had wreaked havoc on my mental state. I was cruel and dishonest, filled with so much hate for myself and others that I was constantly at risk of exploding. It was no way to live.

2015 was a time of deep introspection, where I was learning to be truly honest with myself. I learned that all negative emotions stem from some type of fear, and that the only way to overcome them is to confront that fear. This became a key factor in the direction my life has taken.

The one year anniversary of my sobriety brought a huge shift in focus. I became incredibly motivated and goal oriented. I read for self improvement and offer up any knowledge I have. I put myself out with no shame, in the hopes that I can be of service to others by sharing my story. An addict can get clean, but that doesn’t mean they’re in recovery. Recovery encompasses a new mindset, where you are no longer living just to get by, but living to thrive.

My life is now focused around living to my potential. Every day is spent improving on the foundation laid the day before. I still have ups and downs, I still see my therapist and take medication, but my outlook and self awareness have reached a different level. I use my experiences to encourage others to realize their own innate power. My life has done a complete 180.

What this means for you

If you suffer from mental health issues, there is help. If you suffer from addiction or substance abuse issues, THERE IS HELP. If a man who was on the verge of suicide and losing everything can turn his life around and be successful and happy, so can you. There are countless people you pass on the street every day who are suffering the same way you are, and all we need as people is understanding, patience, and love.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. Speaking your issues out loud is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of immense strength. Being willing to seek help when your life is out of control is bravery, and common sense. If you don’t know who to turn to, ask me. I know what worked for me, and maybe it can work for you. If I can be of service to one person and be a light to lead them from the darkness, then I have served all of humanity.