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I was jolted out of a blackout by the airbag of my car hitting me in the face. Later that night, after a long conversation with police officers at my parents' kitchen table, I tried to take my own life. A few weeks later I entered the first of what would be many treatment centers for my alcoholism. I was 19.
After six weeks of treatment, I relapsed almost immediately and continued to live in my addiction for another year. I then returned to treatment for another six weeks and then lived in a recovery house until I was one-year sober. Then I relapsed again.
I could never stop drinking on my own. I went to college at 22 and spent my three years there making up for lost time. I would drink at the slightest hint of a special occasion and for the final two years of the program, I drank every day. Incredibly, I managed to maintain a relationship for those two years as well as finish on the honor roll. I'm not really sure how. I even landed a job in my field of study before I graduated. When I moved off campus, I told myself that it was time to grow up. I felt confident that once I was away from the party-filled atmosphere of college, my drinking would taper off on its own.
I soon found out the opposite: My problem was about to get worse.
Instead of being surrounded by social situations at which to drink, I was now in my apartment drinking by myself. Every day. I drank myself out of my job in less than six months and was back living in my parents' basement. My dad offered me a job working in his warehouse, which I accepted under the premise that it was temporary, until I found another job in my field. After a few months, I found an apartment and moved out, but pretty soon I stopped looking for another job. It wasn't that I enjoyed the warehouse work; it was just that warehouse work was easier than looking for something else. Most important, I now once again had my own place to drink whenever I wanted.
After a year, I tried to return to treatment, but left after five days because I knew I wasn't ready. The following year I tried again — this time, I stuck through four weeks at the treatment center, only to relapse in less than 48 hours. I was completely hopeless after that. I became convinced that there was nothing that I could do about my drinking. It seemed no matter how badly I wanted to stop, I couldn't.
In November of 2009, I quit working and became a full-time drinker. I stayed up all night drinking and smoking weed, and slept during the day, often setting my alarm so that I didn't miss my chance to go to the beer store. I'd spend 23 hours a day in my apartment. The first few hours of my day were devoted to either throwing up or trying hard not to. My television became my only real friend. I was so depressed that I spent most of my nights out on my balcony trying to convince myself to jump, and the fact that I couldn't just made me feel like a coward. Of all the regrets I would constantly mull over in my head, my biggest became the fact that my suicide attempt at 19 had failed.
Then my mother came to me with what was essentially a final offer: I could go to a treatment center again, under one condition — that I stay there for an entire year. Almost without thinking, I agreed.
The first few weeks, I felt just as shitty as always. I constantly wanted to leave. Then one day I realized that there was nothing for me to go back to. I wasn't missing any parties. There were no friends waiting for me to come home. There was literally nothing but a slow death waiting for me back in Toronto. That's when I started to take the program seriously. I did 90 meetings in 90 days. I started to exercise. And the real key: I started to cut myself a bit of a break. For the first time in my life I started to be able to let go of the past — and this led me to be more open about the idea of finding a higher power.
I got a home group and a sponsor and began to work the steps. I became active in service at my home group. Slowly I started to act more like the person I wanted to be.
It's now been almost a year and a half, and it amazes me on a daily basis how much different my life is now. I work at the treatment center and help newcomers every day. I have two home groups and most weeks, go to four or five meetings. I've lost more than 50 pounds since I got sober and instead of struggling with a flight of stairs I now run half marathons. Most importantly, all of the friends I have today are in recovery as well — I've done my best to surround myself with people who actively work a program.
For the first time in my life, I have hope and optimism for the future. I'm 29 years old and feel like I've been given a second chance at life.