I’m a childhood cancer survivor. I had one whole kidney removed and half of the other in two separate surgeries when I was about a year and a half old. I went through chemotherapy for a year. Whenever I tell people this, they inevitably ask ‘So you probably shouldn’t drink then, right?’ I usually give them a line about how I’ve always functioned about the same as anybody with two kidneys. They’re right though. I probably shouldn’t drink. Using that type of ‘should seem obvious’ logic, knowing that I’m a full fledged junkie and a drunk should cause me to be on my toes 24 hours a day to avoid slipping back into old behavior. If only it were that easy.
It’s hard to explain the type of thinking that precedes me drinking again. If the thought ‘I should go get drunk’ popped into my head, I would laugh it off. At the risk of sounding schizophrenic, the ‘alcoholic’ in me, is much more subtle than that. It generally takes advantage of situations I’m in. For example, if I’m having a toothache I start telling myself that I need some pain pills. Not to get high, just to deal with the pain. I actually tell myself this stuff. And I believe it. The minute I get my hands on the prescription, though, then it’s ‘I’d better take 3 or 4 just to get on top of the pain‘. Pretty soon, all pretense is lost and I’m out to get high again. With alcohol, the thoughts that work on me aren’t ’I want to get really drunk over and over again.’ They are more along the line of ’I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I want a drink. Just to relax.’ Again, though, once I’ve taken a drink then I’m off to the races. Anybody who has seen alcoholism up close for a period of time can see right through these justifications and rationalizations. Somebody who hasn’t been around it can easily be taken in by them.
A few months before Katie and I got married, I was having some pain due to a cyst growing on my wrist. I talked to a doctor and he prescribed me some pain pills. Right from the start I was taking them more than prescribed. I told myself that because I was in pain the guidelines for when to take the pills were more suggestions than set rules. In August of 2005 I had surgery on my wrist. I finished all of the pain pills, but I had the doctor refill the prescription when I didn’t need him to. I told myself I was still sober and this type of behavior didn’t count. A month before we got married, Katie had a prescription for the same pills for something or another and I found myself taking them on the sly. I was still in pain, I told myself. Despite my history of pain pills throwing me off, I didn’t think this was losing my sobriety. And so the wedding approached. The day of the wedding, I barely remember anything. I have only mental snapshots of the ceremony and the reception afterwards. For our honeymoon we went to Disneyland. There is much I could say about it, but I will only say two things: I had a great time and if I could do it again I would absolutely not.
When we got back, we fell into a routine. We worked during the week, went to her parents on Sundays to watch football and eat dinner, and I went to meetings almost daily. Katie’s dad and brothers were die hard Redskins’ fans, and that year for the first time in 5 or 6 years the Redskins had a decent team. I’d go watch the game with her dad and brother and often afterwards just sit around and talk to her dad. Besides his time in the CIA, he was an adjunct professor at the U of U in the political science department. I’d ask him about experiences that he had and he would talk for long periods of time. Sometimes he would interrupt himself and ask ‘Do you really want to know this stuff, or are you just humoring me?’ I definitely wanted to know. It wasn’t like me to spend any time with family like this. Our family wasn’t that close, so I just ate it up. In November, the 3 of us (Katie, her dad, and I) went to see the Rolling Stones play. On the recovery front, I was working with my sponsor and still going to meetings. The new year came and went and things kept on.
In February, Katie and I decided to go on a cruise to the western Caribbean. It was scheduled for the second week of March. The day we left, Katie’s dad dropped us off at the airport. I had been a little concerned about being on a boat with so much booze, but we found out that they had 12 step meetings on the boat. I had one or two hard days, but I got through it sober. The day we came back her dad picked us up at the airport. He took us back to his house where we had parked our car. We were showing him some of the souvenirs we bought when he got serious on us. ‘I have something to tell you' he began. And then he layed a bombshell on us.