February 16, 2015

14 years and counting

Sober - 100PedalsSitting at the table that particular night, a beer in my hand as the family went out for an early Valentine’s Day meal, I shared this was going to be my last drink. That was on February 13, 2001. Little did I know or realize the significance of that decision.

For my family, it was an exciting declaration, a relief. It was a commitment they hoped I would honor.

For me, it was simply a decision I made in response to a challenge from my therapist, who told me she would not treat me if I was “self-medicating,” whatever that meant.

Fourteen years later and successfully alcohol free and sober, I realize now how significant that commitment was to me, to my family, for my journey. I didn’t really think that going through a gallon bottle of Tanqueray every week, plus routinely enjoying happy hours with co-workers was a big deal. I knew I like to drink more than most, so what?

I didn’t know that sober dad was different than drinking dad. I knew I was unhappy with myself and my life, I didn’t even stop to think that drinking was interrupting or blocking my ability to happy. I didn’t know how much I could grow and learn about myself if I didn’t numb my emotions with alcohol.

Recently someone asked me,”Dave, when did you realize you had a drinking problem?” Funny, I didn’t think I had a drinking problem. I just stopped drinking because I of my quest to be a better man, a happier man, and I was willing to accept a professional opinion that  drinking didn’t serve me on this quest.

I was fortunate. My recovery took a single, solitary statement that successfully became a fourteen year accomplishment. I know I may be the unique exception regarding any recovery story. Regardless of the simplicity in my decision and ability to quit, I recognize and understand how challenging it is to honor any commitment like this. Fortunately, I also have discovered the powerful gift that comes being able to.

Since my recovery was so uncomplicated, I had to learn a great deal more about addiction and recovery from others. I know how much I craved a cold beer after golf, or a nice glass of red wine with that juicy steak, or a extra, extra dry double martini after a hard day. I also know that if I gave in to that urge, my life would change for the worse. I knew I had no desire to go backwards. I had worked way too hard to go forward.

The difference between my recovery and that of others is that somehow somewhere, my addiction didn’t own me enough. I had a clear vision of what my life could and needed to be. I was determined that it was possible for me to live and celebrate that kind of life and be that kind of person.  I was blessed with a therapist who connected with me and helped me learn a great deal about myself in a very short time. Finally, I was blessed with the gift of making incredible, rapid progress and was able to tangibly celebrate a transformation without being distracted by alcohol. I was lucky. I was determined. I trusted my “sponsor.”

Regardless of my story, I know one thing – recovery is not easy. Based on my experience, I thought it was. I was wrong. It was simple for me.  I was lucky, I am an exception.

I appreciate the tremendous gift that comes with being alcohol or drug free. I also know it comes with a daily commitment to stay that way, to believe that life can be better without my “drug,” and to find a way to keep moving when things go bad – even if bad is perceived and not necessarily real. More importantly, it challenges a person to find something else to believe in, to drive toward, to trust in, while embracing a truth that there is nothing in that reliable crutch of our “medication” that will help us.

Change is not easy. If it was easy, more people would embrace it. For those with the courage, desire, and hunger to embrace change – magic happens. I am grateful for my entire journey and all the lessons. I am even more grateful for the opportunities to continue to grow from the experiences placed before me.  Little did I know my alcohol free commitment, which began fourteen years ago, would be one of the first of many lessons to prepare me for where I am and what I live today.

Life is a gift, it provides us with many lessons, tremendous opportunities, and very unique challenges – embrace them, be grateful for them, and learn from them.  You will be stronger and wiser as a result.  Peace!

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About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.