When I knew I was ready to change

The moment I realized I had a big problem and no answers for how to solve it.

When I knew I was ready to change

A familiar story

Almost forty years ago I startled awake. I was initially disoriented but then realized with relief I was home in my own bed. My head throbbed with another bashing hangover.

What the Hell happened last night?

Family and friends had gathered for the christening of my infant daughter. Jesus, the christening!

As I scrolled through the hazy memories of the afternoon and into the night I realized I'd fucked up again! Yet another night where I drunkenly lost my temper.

A hulking fisherman friend put me on the ground, sat on my chest, and pinned my arms to the floor to prevent me from going after my (now ex) wife from whom I was separated.

It was an ugly scene that was all too familiar to me.

I felt utterly defeated and full of regret and despair. I had been seeing a therapist but had not taken the process with serious intent or commitment. I was cagey, defensive, and at times grandiose.

There is a saying that the addict/alcoholic is “a raging egomaniac with an inferiority complex.” The description fit me all too snugly.

As I laid in bed I thought, I don’t have a clue how to live my life in any kind of meaningful way. I keep hurting the people who care about me and I keep hurting myself. Badly. I don’t want to live like this anymore. I need help!

I picked up the phone and called my therapist, “I need treatment. Please help me.”

This was the beginning of my change from a miserable, hopeless addict/alcoholic to a productive, happy, and hopeful person.

I'd tried to change before but always reverted to addictive behavior. Crisis would momentarily force open the window of my desire to be a better person, but as the latest crisis faded I would slam it shut and start drinking and drugging again. I'd convince myself that I could find some way to control my use enough to avoid consequences, a fool's errand as I see it now, but most addicts/alcoholics try this desperately wanting it to be true. I could patch together a week here, two weeks there. I even made it an entire month once.

But during these bits of sobriety, I was miserable without support and so couldn't tolerate my feelings.

I stubbornly refused to alter my surrounding circumstances. I still hung out in bars, maintained friendships with other people who used like me, and did little to reinforce recovery. As they say, if nothing changes then you won't change.

For the first time in my life, I completely opened up to help.

I was done bullshitting myself. My life was mostly scorched-earth. I had pissed through a ton of money, blown up a marriage, estranged myself from my daughter and wasn't functioning. I had a big problem and no answers for how to solve it. I needed help and was finally fully willing to accept it.

This was the beginning of getting well.

Want to learn about some of the elements needed to see problems with clarity? My next post dives into how to adopt successful change behavior; how to accept your need to change; and how to surrender to the reality of our problems and summon the necessary commitment that leads to lasting change for the better. Don't miss it. Subscribe.