A Long Overdue Thank You
BEST brother-in-law EVER
Towards the end of active addiction, I didn't want to listen to what anyone had to say about my drinking.
"I'm fine." "Leave me alone."
These were probably the two most common statements my family heard from me for months anytime anyone tried to approach my drinking and their concern for me.
I was spending a lot of time at my parents house after my brother died and I would wake up morning after morning not remembering going to bed (aka...passing out) the night before. Not remembering if I said anything to offend anyone in my family. I had a tendency to say whatever was on my mind and didn't care who it hurt when I was drinking.
Mind you, my entire family was trying to grieve the death of a son and a brother. The fact I was swimming head first down a bottle of booze to escape reality was the last thing anyone in my family needed to put up with or deal with. But they did. They were scared and they didn't know what to do. I could see it in all of them.
I've always been early to rise...even when I was drinking. I would make my way (probably still drunk) out of bed and down to my parent's house to get some coffee. I would sit on the front porch on a rocking chair and just look out over the field. My Dad, who is also an early bird, would be out riding on the golf cart around the farm and would make his way up to the front porch when he'd see me sitting there.
He'd drive up, stop the cart and say, "your mother is worried about you," and I would reply, 'I'm fine." Sometimes he would drive off and other times when he didn't I would get up and walk inside to avoid any further confrontation. In 49 days, it must have happened 29 times. It was like Groundhog Day.
I knew that they knew and that sucked. I had gotten away with hiding a lot from them until my brother died...and then I just didn't care to hide it anymore. I was okay with letting it destroy me. I didn't want to give up alcohol. I couldn't give up alcohol.
So, on June 10, 2012, a celebration was being held at my parent's farm to honor my brother's memory of what would have been his 30th birthday. I apparently thought it would be a good day to hit rock bottom. Happy Birthday, Will.
In retrospect, it was probably the best Birthday present he could have gotten because it made me change my life.
The details are foggy and I still don't like to hear about it from my family members who were witness to it.
But what I do remember is lying in the bed at the guest house...the same bed my brother took his last breath. I had probably had a minimum of 20 something BlueMoon beers and maybe some wine. I don't really recall. I had been drinking since about 10am that morning. I had passed out and woken up but still highly intoxicated. I don't think it was very late. I had passed out around 6pm...so it must have been around 9:00 or 10:00.
I remember my brother-in-law, Justin, coming in to talk to me. Justin was not only my brother-in-law, but one of my brother's best friends. I don't know if my family sent him up. I don't remember much of anything he said. I do remember asking him if it was bad and he nodded and said, 'yeah, Al...we're just worried."
He didn't shame me. He didn't belittle me. He didn't ask why I was doing it. He didn't ask all those questions that made it seem like I was doing this because I wanted to...or even that I had a choice in the matter. He didn't say anything that my mom, dad, friends and other family members hadn't said to me time and time again, but for whatever reason something clicked.
I passed back out and woke up the next morning and knew that I couldn't continue on. We were celebrating the life of my brother and I was in a complete black out state for pretty much the entire event. That wasn't living. That wasn't honoring my brother's memory. I was so ashamed of myself. I hated myself.
That morning, June 11, 2012, I decided to go to treatment for alcohol addiction. I have never officially thanked my brother-in-law for what he said. I don't know what it was. Maybe just a perfect trifecta of person, place and time, but I am forever grateful that he came to me and was honest with me. I know that couldn't have been easy or comfortable, but it was just what I needed to hear on that night.
Maybe you know someone who needs to hear the same thing.
“And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
The following Christmas...my first year sober, Justin drew my name for gifts and gave me this ring.
Infinity symbol with my birthstone, my sobriety birthstone (which is also Will's birthstone) with my sobriety date engraved.