Downfall of a High Functioning Alcoholic: My Personal Story
I remember the day as if it happened yesterday. Thoughts racing through my mind as I effortlessly complied with everything asked of me by the police, as I was being cuffed and placed in the back of a police car in front of those peering eyes, hidden between the openings of my neighbor’s window shades. These neighbors have all they need to make fun of me and call me whatever they want. Now great! What else can I do to make this day any worse?
This was the day I would be placed on an involuntary psych hold as they call it in California which basically means that the state thinks I am too dangerous to myself to be able to have any normal human rights for 48 to 72 hours. This is not my life. I thought to myself I was a good daddy. I was a caring person. What brought me to this? I was successful. I had everything I said I ever wanted. I had done everything I was supposed to do. I was even a gospel preacher for four years, preaching in the streets, getting hit spit on in, yelled at for the name of God.
Doesn’t that count for something? I mean aside from the occasional speeding ticket; I was a pretty upstanding guy. I followed the damn rules. What else do you want from me?
This day is taking forever. I thought to myself as we pulled away from my beautiful home in Northern California with my wife sobbing uncontrollably, standing in the front door, watching me Bob back and forth in the back of the police car. Unable to keep myself steady. I sure I’m glad the kids were at school already. The last thing I would want is for them to see all this. We were planning to move across the country in about a week and we’re just finalizing the sale of our home here in California. Aside from making a bunch of money online, no one knows it but I’m really flat broke. The sale of our house in Northern California is the last attempt to secure a home in Florida and pay off the bills that I racked up over the last few years.
And just a few days ago we got word that we needed to double our down payment which left us with pretty much nothing to move. With the thought of being without a place to live for my family was terrifying, not just one of those little scares but the kind that hurts your bones and makes your head twitch.
WHAT THE HELL HAVE I DONE WITH MY LIFE? I made over five million dollars online and now I have to think of what life would be like if my kids had no place to live. What am I thinking? What the hell is wrong with me? One of those moments where you can see a glimpse of the fog through the stress hit me like a ton of bricks. What was I doing to my family? What did I become but a blithering mess of a man who can’t even provide for his kids. No wonder life seems better off without me in it. Oh hell not this hospital.
The car pulls into the emergency lane of Vacaville is notorious ripoff hospital. I’ve been there before and I tell my story to the sympathetic police officer who listens as I go on and on about how to pay 64 bucks to pee in a cup and take a blood test here about three years ago. If they’re gonna get another penny out of me this whole fucking thing is a joke. Ripoff hospitals, insane taxes. Who’s going to look out for me? I mean I’m the good guy here.
All the while the cuffs are digging into my wrists and I can’t get comfortable and this fucking anxiety is going to kill me. Have you ever had anxiety so bad that you wanted to either piss your pants, run away, die or just about anything to get away from it? That’s how I was.
I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t think. I wanted to run away fast. My mind was racing a million miles a minute and I couldn’t stop it. I could never stop it. It just goes and goes and goes which is pretty good for business ideas but bad for normal functioning life. All I could think to myself is damn I’m sure I’m glad. I had those wine boxes hidden in the garage. There wasn’t for downing. Those I wouldn’t make it past 9 am. It was now 10:35 in the morning. You see back then, I drank every morning to take the edge off and because I had to on the outside, you would think I had it all together. People used to tell me you’re the wise one. You have everything together. My friends and colleagues came to me for advice. They called me the centered one but on the inside I was a total mess, crying myself to sleep, read that. Sobbing had become a normal occasion. I had plenty reason to cry, that’s for sure. My alcoholic grandmother who almost killed me twice, my aloof mother, abusive stepparents and totally narcissistic father who can’t help but talk about himself all the time, who moved me out at the ripe old age 16, of with absolutely no life skills whatsoever. I had to take care of my older brother too. Not to mention I have an overbearing wife yelled at me and the kids all the time. Even my therapist was a whack job who stopped charging me because I was quote-unquote helping her more than she was helping me. So she stated.
I was plagued by my past, my present and lack of a future. I could believe in and in my darkest hour of need, no one was there to help me. I couldn’t even sit and finish a meal in public because I was abused with food so bad that my throat would bleed often from having Forks shoved down it. I was afraid of damn near everything getting pushed around in school, for ten years will make anyone like that especially when you’re only five feet tall, full grown. I think it was like four, eight or something during high school.
I remember one time when I was in PE class sitting on the grass, depressed with my head in my hands and all the sudden, Wham some kid starts kicking at my head. I got up after having pissed my pants out of fear, hoping no one noticed and the damn teacher sends me to the office telling them I should be kicked out of school for getting kicked. Nothing happened to the kid who kicked me though, so I just left that school. Never mind visiting y’all and that was the last time I took school seriously.
That’s how life was for me. I was a victim and I had every reason to be. Life had dealt me an unfair hand and I made good on it. I did what I was supposed to and this is the thanks I get, handcuffed, can’t get my own pants, taken involuntarily to the rip-off hospital. I mean come on when I first met my wife for the first time and got her pregnant, I didn’t run like my dad said, I should. I stuck it out and I took the little hundred dollars I had in my account and made over five million dollars online. I could have ran but I made good on it. This can you take my cuffs off, please I won’t hurt myself or anyone else. I’m not supposed to but you seem okay. Click the chair.
After about six hours of sitting in the hospital, having no idea what’s going to happen to me, where am I going to live, what the hell is going on. Finally, the ambulance arrives. Seriously an ambulance? What’s this going to cost me? Whoever thought it was a good idea to take a suicidal person and pile up a bunch of bills for medical expenses is more delusional than I am.
I’m the one being strapped to this stretcher thing. So full of anxiety. I can’t even sit still. I begged them to let me walk out but it’s against policy sir. Perhaps they wouldn’t be able to charge the 151 thousand dollars they eventually tried to charge me if they couldn’t put me on the stretcher. Seriously, 151 grand for one ride in an ambulance. I could buy an ambulance for that much. I could buy a fucking helicopter. I could pay a doctor to live in my house. There’s a lot better things I could think of to spend my hundred and fifty thousand dollars on, than a seven mile ride in a cramped ambulance shit. At least let me sip on the morphine or something well.
The good part is that these straps holding me to the bed are not as uncomfortable as the cuffs were and I got to walk outside a bit at the hospital. I could have left but you know where would I go. I feel like there’s nothing left of me. I’m starting to regret not killing myself sooner. When everyone was gone to me, my life was worth less than my life insurance policy.
At that time, all these thoughts going through my mind as the ambulance speeds and bounces, making anyone who isn’t got sick, ready to throw up everything they ever ate. Not to mention, you have to look out that little window backwards shit. What if someone sees me in here? What if they recognize me? I mean at least a million people online have seen my videos. This could be really bad. Breathe Marcus breathe. We’re almost there, almost where I have no idea where we’re going or what to expect. For all I know, they could be taking me out to the desert to throw me in a hole. Then we arrived. The ambulance turns around and the two doors are opened to this concrete building with two doors and no windows. Just a fence. A big huge fence. the doors open and all I see is the chair.
This is the part where if you haven’t yet surrendered to the fact that you are batshit, crazy ass motherfucker, you’re going to right now because this chair is metal. It has hand straps, feet straps. The whole nine yards. I feel like I’m in some M night Shyamalan movie where the same person is about to go crazy because everyone tells him he’s crazy and they all make him so crazy. That now, he really believes it. But I’m saying, I think to myself as they remove my shoes and give me state-issued non-slip socks, take everything out of my pockets. I mean, what the hell, I’m not going to kill myself with my socks. Is that even possible? What’s with the Nurse Ratched over there in the corner looking at me and the chair is ready for me? This chair was the scariest thing I’ve ever faced.
Imagine you know you’re totally saying you’re fine and you’re about to be held against your will and strapped tightly to a chair. What if they give me some lobotomy or some weird jackoff drugs or something like Cuckoo’s Nest? Okay stop Marcus, breathe. You can talk your way out of this. A huge sigh of relief comes across me. I didn’t get strapped in the chair that time, instead I enter a room. There’s a dimly lit TV showing game. Shows a lady who hasn’t bathed in what seems like years who stares at you so deeply. You feel like any minute, she’ll jump out and poke you in the eye for no good reason. She’s talking to herself, clenching your bed. Met Leigha, she stares blankly at the TV. She’s not even watching it. It’s as if she isn’t even here.
What if they give me the shit that she’s on? What if I can’t take a shower? What if I can’t but what does they have me here for the night, a few nights? What if it’s weeks or months? I can’t take this anymore. I step outside for a breath to the super high fenced-in yard. It’s not much bigger than a small backyard and there’s a few people off in the corners. I find a place to sit and the Sun beats down on me as I contemplate what I had become out of the corner of my eye. I notice a lady about 45 years old crawling on the grass. She’s having conversations with every single blade of grass in great detail. She lasts with one and yells at the next. She scares me. What she comes after me? What if she tries to get me? This is like a crazy movie, only it’s real and I’m not crazy.
I hear a voice in the back of my head, it says, Marcus you don’t belong here. What are you doing? Then a small vaguely comforting thought enters my mind as if to touch me on the shoulder and say that everything’s going to be okay. It says to me, “Marcus this is exactly where you belong. Welcome to alcoholic insanity.”
Over the next thirty days, I will be writing you each day to help you understand what an alcoholic is, how an alcoholic thinks, and what to do to stay sober.
These writings and insights do not come at a cheap price. As you heard from the story before, they almost cost me my very life and robbed me of my sanity.
Let me first start by saying that I understand how you feel.
I understand how hard it is to accept that something so simple, so pleasurable at one time and so innocently used by other people can knock us down to our very core and cause us to wonder, what is wrong with me? Why can I not stop drinking?
On so many other areas of my life, it was easy to excel. I started a successful online business from just a simple idea when no one believed in me. At that time, I had nothing to my name, no fancy degree, no formal schooling and I barely knew how to use my computer.
Certainly, someone who can do that can kick something as simple as drinking or so you would think.
I used to pride myself on the ability to learn and talk my way out of any situation. This was a valuable tool at times or so it seemed. I was even able to talk my way out of staying the full 72 hours at that mental hospital I told you about earlier. Convincing them that I was saying, now the law requires a full 72 hours but I got out in four or the.
So many times people looked up to me for answers and advice saying wow, he seems like he has it all together. He’s so grounded and mature.
Yet deep down I knew there was something wrong, deeper than the alcohol, deeper than my outward appearance which was usually pretty presentable.
I was a functioning alcoholic. I ran my business. I took care of my family, cooked dinner every night and helped other people with their problems. I even had a therapist who stopped charging me because I was “helping her more than she helped me.”
But amidst the anguishing thoughts, daily guilt and shame and inability to shut my mind off, I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what or how to move past it.
Could this little drink be what’s wrong with me, is there more? I would often wonder this as I searched the internet for ideas day and night. I would search for things like, “Am I an alcoholic?” and “What is an alcoholic?” Even things like, am I going crazy? Many sleepless nights I would stay awake researching and learning.
To no avail, nothing seemed to help. No one had the answer I was looking for. So I could stop drinking long enough to clear my mind and figure out what was going on.
In the spring of 2014, my life seemingly came to a crash.
I sold my home in Northern California, completely in a drunken fog and was about to relocate myself, my two kids, and my wife across the country to Florida for no other real reason than we really wanted to move to Florida. The houses were cheaper.
We had problems getting the house in Florida. My income wasn’t what I expected and I couldn’t run away from the fear and constant thoughts of impending doom.
My life was worth less to me than my life insurance policy.
At this point, my kids were afraid to be alone with me when I drank because I wasn’t able to tend to their needs and care for them like a father should.
My wife and I had our problems 14 years of them but all that faded in the distance when I could not stop drinking. That was all there was that consumed me and that consumed them.
Why can I not stop drinking?
Why can I not get past my past?
What the fuck is wrong with me?
These thoughts plagued my mind, day and night. I couldn’t escape. I couldn’t turn them off. The only thing that helped was more alcohol after a few weeks of serious consideration. I had decided that the best way to solve my problems and get rid of these haunting thoughts was to end it all.
I had plan to take my own life, seriously planned and thought out, not another one of those half-cocked plan that I came up with. This one was dialed in after all, if no one knows what the hell is wrong with me then it must be really really bad and I shouldn’t be allowed to exist anymore.
Perhaps you’re not as bad as I was or maybe you’re worse.
But I can tell you today that after being two-and-a-half years sober, I still have the desire to drink sometimes. Sometimes I just want the taste. It used to help me escape a tough situation or shut my mind off for a little bit.
In those times I find it helpful to remember where I came from…
To remember what it was like to wake up after a crappy four-hour sleep obsessing about what I did the day before trying to nervously account for every minute. Where was I? What did I do? Who did I talk to? What did I say? What did I think I did? What I thought I didn’t do?
Often times I’ve been tears over what my life had become and I didn’t want that back or to remember what it was like to have a drink.
When I used to have to down a few drinks, or cheap box wines or the bottoms of whatever was left over from the bottles the day before, just to calm my anxiety to function in daily life.
One time it got so bad, I couldn’t take a walk with my wife for more than yards because my legs gave in from anxiety and made me feel like my world was crashing in.
Other times I made excuses not to go to school functions because anxiety was so bad, I couldn’t sit still for over a year. I couldn’t attend church with my family because of this body crippling anxiety that would not go away no matter what. I was going insane. My therapist said I just needed exposure therapy or some other cockamamie shit they came up with for that day. I even took antidepressants to try to help.
Nothing worked. The alcohol helped at first.
Then it got to where it was needed for daily functioning. I drank all day every day in the morning at 4 a.m., lunch, night. I was in the grips of alcohol and it owned me.
The very thing that helped me cope had turned on me.
I hate you alcohol.
Why did you do this to me? What have I become and how can I get out?
These letters I’ll be sending you over the next 30 days are going to…
- Show you what’s going on with your mind and how alcohol is affecting you
- Teach you how not to drink even if things get worse than they are right now
- Give you the gift of sober thinking
- Help you understand how your mind got this way in the first place
- Reveal tools you can use to combat the unstoppable thoughts
- Inspire you to overcome down times and deep depression
- Put an end to the useless guilt that plagues you
- Calm you by showing you how to deal with anxiety
- Inform you of what an alcoholic is and is not
- Give you daily coping skills to deal with, just about anything,
- Show you how to get by without alcohol
- and of course you will start feeling better starting now.
I write these to you as a brother, a friend, someone who knows what it’s like to be where you are. You are not alone anymore. My words will go with you. Take them and use them.
These are the letters I wish someone had sent me when I was at the end of my rope and sometimes not.
You see, this is a tough mountain to climb.
Sometimes I was able to maintain my drinking. Sometimes I could stop for one, two or even three weeks at a time. I thought it had it all handled. I was at a drunk like those dudes in the park.
I had my houses, my cars, my businesses, my family.
Then I would look back wondering how I ended up drunk again. I was doing so well. Now I’m endlessly searching the Great’s under the barbecue, the sheetrock in my office, the boxes in the garage where I hid my $1 box wines, pining like a fiend for my next fi.
Trembling, afraid, anxious. I was fine last week. I went to hold three weeks. I had beer at lunch with my diet coke. I was good. I had a diet coke for crying out loud.
I was fine until I wasn’t.
I can’t tell you what took me from my diet coke and light beer, two bottles of box wine and vodka. I didn’t even tell you where I bought them or why it was as if some force above me was guiding me to the store and putting it in my basket.
My friend, you are not alone, and you do not have to do this by yourself.
I’ve walked this road before and I’m going to walk it with you for the next 30 days.
Remember, alcoholics drink. It’s what they do. Don’t look at yourself as a success or failure if you drink again. Do not trust your feelings when you’re hungover, sad, angry, or tired. Let these letters be your guide and I will help you.
Welcome to the first day of understanding your mind. Try not to drink today no matter what happens. If you can get through the next hours and make it to my next letter, that will be helpful. If you can’t make it, go as long as you can and if you get the urge to drink or find yourself about to order one, read my next letter first.
I love you and I can’t wait to share my life stories and experience with you.
I’m not writing this as an all-knowing enlightened son of a bitch who thinks he knows everything. I’m just sharing what happened to me, what got me sober, and what keeps me sober today. Use these words as a guidepost and make them your own. In them you will find what works for you, your friend Marcus.
To download all 30 of Marcus’s letters to an alcoholic. Visit TalkSober.com/letters. You can download them free right now and get access to Marcus’s rehab notes to help you get and stay sober starting today.