< Chapter 3:1 Chapter 3:3 >
The road to alcohol dependence for me happened quickly. God, how I remember that warm feeling the first time I had a coke mixed with about 7 different kinds of liquor. I was around 12 or 13 years old. There was excitement, rebellion, fear, fantasy, and so much more. It seemed to take me into a whole new world. Not only the physical effect of the alcohol, but the way that I was doing what my religion and family had taught me was wrong. I had already been condemned to hell in my mind as I mentioned earlier. So now, I was turning back to the ideas and values of my childhood that I felt had abandoned me and in essence saying, “Fuck You!!!” That first drink was the beginning of my freedom. I was symbolically ending my relationship with all I had held dear before. Little did I realize what that would truly mean and where the depths of my alcohol dependence would ultimately take me.
One of the guys in Swissdale Tech who was the closest to my age, named Scott, had a job cleaning the local tavern on Mondays when they were closed. This tavern was one of the only real businesses in our community other than my grandmother’s store. It was Scott’s first “real job”, and a few of us used to drop by and help him. It was as much of an excuse to get together and hang out and listen to the music on their stereo and play darts, as it was to help. One Monday, something different happened, someone offered me a drink.
By this time, as you can begin to see, I had developed an attitude that was, tell me that I can’t do something, and I’ll find a way. I’ll prove to you I can. So when they offered me my first drink, without their knowing it, they did it in a way I couldn’t resist. They told me it was something that I shouldn’t do, and that I probably couldn’t handle it. Well there came my backbone. “I’ll show you”.
What we would do is pour a small amount of coke into a glass, then add just a little bit, maybe a half a shot glass, out of several different bottles so no one would notice that we were drinking the liquor. I swear to God, some of the concoctions we made… customers would NEVER pay for. But I still remember that warm, tingle that swept through my body the first time I drank one. And for some reason, in that moment, I felt accepted. Was it the smile on everyone’s face as I “passed the test”? Or was it the feeling of courage that I found in my new “friend” alcohol? All I know is that my alcohol dependence happened quickly.
It soon became no problem for me to down 2 or 3 of these mixtures. It should have been a warning of alcohol dependence when the others warned me of taking it easy so I didn’t “get wasted”. Instead, I took pride in my ability to drink and not feel a thing, except happy, and confident.
Then it happened; I was 13 when I experienced my first big drunk. Some of the older “kids” from the area were having a party just a few miles from my house. The “Tech”, as we were now called, was going to go and sleep over. It was a camp out, and a few of the guys having the party were the older brothers of some of my friends.
The party was in an area that was dug out of the mountain along the side of the highway. It was way out in the mountains and very rarely did any cars pass by. There was a bonfire and someone had their truck parked near the fire so we could blast music on his stereo. I was sitting on a log and drinking heavily. We had been there a few hours when someone pulled out a joint (marijuana cigarette for those of you unfamiliar with the term) and fired it up. Now with my mom being a nurse, I had been told stories of how people took one hit of LSD and went insane for the rest of their lives. So I was a little scared about “drugs”. But all they had to do was say the magic words... “You really shouldn’t do this. We will, but you shouldn’t” and the next thing that happened… was that I was asking for the details on how to do it.
I reached a state of Euphoria that night like never before that would dramatically increase my alcohol dependence. Not only did I finally “fit in”. But I continued to drink and smoke and watched as others passed out, or just gave up knowing that they had reached their limit. What a feeling I was getting. I was 13 years old, and I was “out drinking” everyone. You see, for me, this became a new “game”. It became a contest of finding out who could party the hardest. And it was a game that I was determined I could win.
The party had been going on for several more hours when I tried to stand up, and lost my balance falling into the bonfire. They rolled me out onto the grass, and people are slapping the small flames off of my flannel shirt and all laughing outrageously. But for what seemed like the first time, they weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with me. I was so wasted that I thought it was hilarious. There was no more embarrassment, for some reason it was ok to do something that I normally would have felt “stupid” over.
Many times, before that night, I would laugh along with their jokes, but I always felt the pain of being laughed “at”. It wasn’t that sense of laughing “with” them. It was more of that laugh that the out of place person uses when they want to seem like they are fitting in. This time I was really laughing with them, and in hindsight, the reality of what I should have been feeling was just the opposite. If I would not have felt so badly about myself, I could have laughed with them all the other times because the reasons they were laughing before, had the ability to be funny. And the reality was, this time I was truly being stupid and they were laughing AT me. My perceptions were already starting to become distorted because of my low-self worth.
By now… My alcohol dependence had contributed to distorting my perceptions of how the world really was. I can’t say where or when it happened. I believe that it was a combination of events that unfolded as I grew to that point in my life, but I was seeing the world in a very distorted way. And as each new event unfolded from my childhood to this point, I had created more and more doubt about myself, about God and about life.
It wasn’t long before alcohol dependence and marijuana replaced God and my religion. Now they became my Savior. I finally found a place that I not only fit in, but where I could win. When it came to drinking games, or the amount that someone could consume, I was finally THE BEST. God, how I reveled in that feeling. I’m sure if you talked to anyone who knew me then, other than my family, they would give you stories about how I was a falling down drunk. But in my mind, that was winning. I would think to myself, “You drank a 6 pack? Ha ha!!! I drank 3-6 packs.” I became determined to “Party”. And Party Hard. I also became determined to hide it from my mother and grandmother. Camp outs and sleeping at friends houses became the norm. And if they ever did suspect anything, they never said anything about it to me. Not until my late teens.
The road to alcohol dependence came quickly but quietly. It started by a couple of us getting a couple of 6 packs on the weekend to party with. But as my tolerance built, the parties and need for more alcohol grew. Soon it was, “Let’s get a case for Friday and Saturday.” Then we built to two cases for the weekend. Then, it became, “Let’s get a 6 pack on the weeknights, and a small keg for the weekend.” Finally we moved to, “Lets get a case for the weeknights, and a couple of kegs for the weekend.”
I can remember specifically one weekend when I was 14 or 15. We went fishing and took along an 8-gallon keg and a 16-gallon keg. We were only going camping for two nights, but we were there to party as much as to fish. There were 7 or 8 of us there for the weekend and by Sunday afternoon… all 24 gallons of beer had been consumed and God only knows how much marijuana was smoked. That was the weekend that I started to pull away from the Tech.
We had been getting ready to go fishing and I was totally hung over, more than likely I was still drunk from the night before, or on my way already to another drunk. I was walking behind the others because I had to get another beer before we left for the boats. I was making my way along the rocky shoreline on my crutches in an attempt to catch up to everyone. As I got to the boat, I staggered and fell into one of the canoes breaking my cousins favorite fishing rod.
That was the first truly negative consequence of my alcohol dependence that I remember feeling guilty about. It was not because I broke a fishing rod, but because of whose rod it was. In all of Swissdale Tech there was one leader. This was my cousin, Eric who we affectionately called Airhead. Let me say right now, that wasn’t because he was not intelligent. Actually it was the direct opposite. To me, he was the epitome of what a person should be. He was strong and intelligent. No matter what the sport was, he was outstanding playing it. He was a natural leader. And when it came to the Tech, he was the one that everyone else followed. Everyone else would act like they were the leaders, but he was the true leader.
There was something different about him from the rest of the gang. He never drank, and he never did drugs. Out of everyone, he was the one I most respected and wanted to be like. But I felt I could never truly be like him, so I fell in with the others.
Interestingly enough, this pattern of following the masses rather than the leader would continue for many years. Even though the person I most wanted to be like walked to the beat of his own drum, even though, inside, that was the person I wanted to be like; I felt I could never aspire to be like them, so I would look to win the approval of everyone else. (Remember what I talked about in the introduction about the ideals we create for children?) I can now see that pattern so many times in my life. Every time I was in a situation where I could have learned from or followed the lead of the person I most wanted to be like. I would sell myself short and abandon the idea that I could be like them. I would turn my attention to doing whatever it took to fit in with the majority. But I can look back and see that every person I ever honestly looked up to… I admired because they weren’t scared to do their own thing.
As I sat in the canoe feeling the total embarrassment of leaving my cousin down, seeing the look of disgust on his face as I climbed off of his broken fishing rod, I knew that I had fallen back into that place of doing “stupid” things. Winning the drinking game wasn’t a feeling of elation or fun anymore, but of disgust with myself. I handed him my rod, and walked away.
**Side note-- People often ask me, “Will, how in the world did you get the money to drink and do all those drugs?” Well, first off, you have to remember that when I was 14 years old, you could buy a case of beer for around $10. A keg of beer only cost between $25 and $36 depending on how many gallons it was. All of us were working, so for each of us to chip in on a case, or keg of beer was no big deal. Also you could buy a large amount of marijuana for $20. My family was strict in the belief of “not accepting charity”, so I never received any public assistance. I had begun working for Dr. Crisanti when I was around 11 doing landscaping work for him. I was always working in one capacity or another. And you will also find that when someone is at that level of alcohol dependence … you will always find a way to make sure you have it. Legal, or not.
< Chapter 3:1 Chapter 3:3 >
The Warrior Sage Chapter/Section
Who Is Willard Barth?
Preface - Exploring Strength And Weakness
Chapter 1:1 - The Process Of Self-Awareness
Chapter 1:2 The Stages Of Child Development
Chapter 2:1 The World Changed Forever
Chapter 2:2 The Vicious Cycle Begins
Chapter 2:3 Losing Faith
Chapter 2:4 My Dark Secret
Chapter 2:5 Where Is The Love I Was Promised?
Chapter 3:1 Seeking Paths Of Acceptance
Chapter 3:2 The Road To Alcohol Dependence
Chapter 3:3 Leaving My Childhood Behind
Chapter 3:4 Escaping Responsibility; The Joy Ride Ends
Chapter 3:5 Living A Duality Begins
Chapter 3:6 Out Of Control
Chapter 3:7 Crossing The Line To Insanity
Chapter 3:8 The Black-out Drinking Begins
Chapter 3:9 Facing The Music
Chapter 3:10 A New Beginning
Chapter 3:11 More Lessons To Learn
Chapter 4:1 The Final Party
Chapter 4:2 A Moment Of Clarity
Chapter 4:3 My New Life Begins
Chapter 4:4 Sober - Time To Face The World
Chapter 4:5 The First Year Of Sobriety
Chapter 4:6 Major Change Comes In Year Two
Chapter 4:7 My Daughter Is Born April 20, 1992
Chapter 5:1 Life Changing Decisions Follow My Daughter's Birth
Chapter 5:2 Recognizing The Voice Inside
Chapter 5:3 The Empress Hotel
Chapter 5:4 A New Chapter In My Life Begins
Chapter 6:1 Finding My Way Home
Chapter 6:2 Falling Into Place
Chapter 6:3 A New Awareness
Chapter 6:4 Personal Finances And Personal Development
Chapter 6:5 The George Washington Story
Chapter 6:6 Letting Go So Others Can Grow
Chapter 6:7 The Wrap Up
Jump HOME from Alcohol Dependence