Thursday, September 21, 2023
In My Footsteps Podcast Episode 113: BONUS - Interview with Producer Frank Durant: What He's Been Up To, New Projects He's Working On, Life After the Lady of the Dunes Documentary and the Case Being Solved(9-20-2023)
Saturday, September 16, 2023
Thursday, September 14, 2023
In My Footsteps Podcast Episode 112: My Cape Cod Roots; Celebrating 3 Years of Sobriety; Bob Barker & Price Is Right; Weird Vermont Laws(8-13-2023)
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Today marks 3 years of being alcohol-free.
3 years ago I finally ran out of excuses as to why I NEEDED alcohol every single day for months and years on end.
There was a joke on an episode of Seinfeld about ending a relationship being like pushing a vending machine over. It doesn’t go in one push. You need to rock it back and forth and get some momentum and eventually, it goes over.
This was my journey to sobriety. At least in the waning months. I would go one night without drinking and think I had it beat but then something stressful would creep up and I found myself as I’d done countless times before, pulling into a liquor store parking lot and grabbing my drink of choice to numb that stress.
It’s funny, when I was growing up I never had a desire to drink alcohol. My father was for the entirety of my life an alcoholic and seeing the grip that booze had on who he was made me vow to break the cycle.
Then even when I did drink it was always with friends, maybe once a week. It was under control, and never an issue. Drinking with friends, in a social situation is one thing. Drinking alone, every night, as a way to run from stress is another.
It began in late 2017 with the sudden and shocking death of one of my oldest friends Matt. There was an overwhelming sense of guilt on my end. I had seen him at a store the night before he died, and rather than speak to him I went the other way. I was tired and worn out from work and figured there would be another time to chat. There wasn’t.
Alcohol dulled that guilt.
My reliance on booze only grew in 2018 as I was having financial troubles. I wasn’t making enough money as a trainer due to lack of hours and my boss refused to give me more hours. I had blown through all of my savings, maxed out credit cards, and even had to borrow money from a training client just to make rent. The final straw was when I didn’t have enough money to buy a protein bar and water at Shaw’s. It was embarrassing to tell the cashier that I had to put the bar back.
From 8 years old I wanted to be a writer. As I got older and began to write books and articles I kept hoping for the big break. In the meantime, I needed a day job to pay bills. For years it was restaurant work. However becoming a personal trainer was a better path in my mind as I could help people become the best version of themselves while I was doing the same in my own life.
Here I was in 2018 with literally cents to my name. I had to leave training and go back to restaurant work. I loved the people I worked with at the retirement home, but hated cooking. So booze dulled the embarrassment of giving up on training.
Then as 2018 drew to an end my Grampa, my hero, began the quick and shocking slide due to Alzheimer’s. Seeing my definition of a man, my definition of strength, the person I tried to be like, turn into someone who had to be barricaded in his house at night because he had begun wandering away, it was a lot to handle. Booze helped push the trauma away.
Grampa didn’t get better, he only got worse. Because he was my hero, and because I had been to traumatized to visit my Nana more than once when she was near the end, I was there nearly every day. I watched the decline. I had my Nina begging me to help them when there was literally nothing I could do but sit and watch Grampa slip away. Booze helped me remember who Grampa was and forget what I was seeing.
Then in May 2019 he passed. I was there near the end, but didn’t want to feel anything. I went to the facility and said my goodbyes, and then went back to work. Booze would be there to help later.
From that point on it got worse. Stress piled up, it was not talked about or dealt with because most men don’t want to open up. Hell, even this I am writing I am tempted to delete after virtually every sentence.
My drinking kept getting worse. Losing Grampa was a trauma that I still haven’t fully processed. I would drink every night without fail. So much so that liquor stores began to know me and my typical orders. When I got something different they’d remark that it wasn’t my ‘usual.’ I, the one who had been so cavalier and confident that I’d never succumb to the alcoholic gene that ran in my family, now had a ‘usual’ order at liquor stores.
One of the worst parts was that I was aware. I knew where this path had taken me, and where it was going to go. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I had gone from the kid that took his SATs at age 13, to a 40+ year old man that needed alcohol ever night to cope with life. But I kept it quiet.
Despite drinking every night I was a master at keeping it hidden. The funny thing is looking back there were hints I left all over social media. Random sunset photos with a nip in the shot. Me always saying it was time for ‘a drink and a sunset,’ hoping people noticed the sunset and not the drink part.
|Photos like this dotted my social media.|
I knew exactly how much I could drink to avoid a hangover. There would be nips in my car’s center console waiting for me after work. Anything I brought home was hidden in something else, and held tight so that cans or bottles didn’t clink against each other. Booze owned me and I had times when I thought that this was now my life.
I tried to rally. I left the retirement home cooking job to take another similar job. It was closer to where I lived and fewer hours. My goal was to start doing more in-home personal training. This would start the comeback. I switched jobs at the end of February 2020. Covid locked things down a few weeks later.
My in-home training was shut down. I was now full-time cooking again. Worst of all, my Nina was a resident at the job I had left. So in the midst of a pandemic I left her there when I could have been on the inside to be there for her. Granted nobody knew what was coming, but in my mind, I had abandoned my Nina. But I’d never abandon booze.
Covid was a built-in excuse to keep drinking. It was a once in a century world event, you cope with it by any means necessary. As summer dragged on I had a moment. I had cooked for so long that I could quite literally do it well even when hungover. But I noticed certain jobs taking longer than they should. It was frustrating. The problem was that for years my brain had been in a constant state of processing alcohol. My brain was slowing down.
I also began waking up to the overwhelming toxicity of the place I worked. When you’re down, when you’re drinking all the time to cope, you accept things the way they are because it’s easier than trying to make a change. There’s always an excuse not to do something.
About 6 weeks before quitting I had a shock to my system. I had wanted to hang out with a friend and help her brainstorm finding a new place to live. I was stunned when she said that we shouldn't hang out because she needed to remain focused and all I wanted to do was drink. I was hurt and offended. It didn't stop my drinking though. It actually made it worse, like a last rush toward the finish line. I figured I'd show her who had a drinking problem. Eventually, though I began to reflect on what she said and it got me thinking that maybe it wasn't her, maybe it was me.
My last excuse came on September 11, 2020. My booze that night was in memory of 9/11. A ‘noble’ thing in my mind. I popped a nip and took some amazing sunset photos in Truro. It would be the last sunset that was tinged with alcohol.
As I drove the highway home I knew that something had to change. Drinking heavily in your 20s is one thing. You can chalk it up to being young and making your way into adulthood. Drinking heavily in your 40s, alone, that’s where you become a cautionary tale for others. I wanted to be a positive role model for my family, not someone used as a threat. ‘If you keep up this lifestyle you’re going to end up like Chris.’
So September 12th I decided to at least try to stop drinking. I had to virtually tie myself down to keep me from hitting a liquor store. The first few days were hard, my brain and body were angry that they weren’t getting their medicine. That began to dissipate slowly.
|Eventually, the brain fog lifted.|
My brain began to clear and regain its normal speed. It was at this time that I got the idea to do my own podcast. The work on that basically took up any time I’d have used for drinking.
I also became more aware of my toxic work environment. It got so bad that I ended up giving my notice in the middle of a pandemic with no backup plan. My mental health was not going to improve in that environment. I ended up getting back into training at a great job I’ve had for well over 2 years and despite still needing a day job I’ve had 9 books published including a very important true crime book associated with Cape Cod’s infamous Lady of the Dunes murder.
|My portfolio thus far. I have much more I want to accomplish.|
Circling back, I am now at 3 years alcohol-free. I have no desire to ever drink again. As I look back I realize that nothing good in my life came from drinking. There is no event that I think was made better with alcohol, not one.
Stressors in life haven’t gone away, I just deal with them without alcohol. In the last few years, I’ve lost my Nina, my Uncle Eric, my old friend Pete, and Brenda who was like family. I’m in my mid-40s still chasing my writing dreams. I would love my own house, and maybe a family, there is so much I have left to accomplish. But my defeat of the alcoholic gene that permeates my DNA is one of my proudest achievements. Sure, I’m not proud that I got into such a dark place, but I now can serve as an inspiration for those who might currently be in that place.
Not everyone who drinks has a problem. For many years I fell into that category. However with the alcoholic gene you truly never know what event, or what drink, is going to flip the switch. I am happy to leave that switch turned off for the rest of my life.
Here’s to 3 years alcohol-free. If by sharing an in-depth look at my journey I help even one person it will have been worth it. Thank you for reading!