I suppose you can say I came late to alcoholism – but not late enough. I never investigated whether or not there was a history in my family, because I really didn’t need to; my father had about one beer every six months, so there were never any red flags or indicators that I would someday need inpatient alcohol rehab. The problem with developing a dependency on alcohol late in life is that you become possessed of the idea that you don’t need anybody’s help. You’ve stood on your own two feet your entire life, and become entrenched in the thought-process that addiction is for weak people, and that it doesn’t make sense for a man who’s accomplished so much to be addicted to anything – at least this is what I went through. Without inpatient alcohol rehab, my crippling denial would have cost me my job and my family.
I was 41 years old with two teenage children when my drinking started to escalate. I didn’t even notice it was happening at the time, but I became increasingly preoccupied with alcohol. It started with a second and third glass of wine at dinner, followed by passing out on my couch while watching TV. My wife and kids thought it was funny the first dozen or so times it happened and started jokingly calling me a lush and an alcoholic. They didn’t start pushing the idea of inpatient alcohol rehab until much later.
After a while, wine became part of my nightly ritual. Big deal, right? Me and millions of other Americans. The problem was that it got to the point where I started considering those two or three glasses per night to be an escape. Pressures at my job were mounting and the workday was becoming a simple formality before I could go home and drink. The first thing I’d do every morning – before going to the bathroom, brushing my teeth, or having my coffee – was check to see what the wine situation was looking like in my liquor cabinet. If we were low, I would make a note to stop at the liquor store on my way home. My behavior was still not a clear enough sign that I needed inpatient alcohol rehab or any other kind of treatment.
Eventually I couldn’t wait until the end of the day, and lunchtime became a great opportunity to take the edge off. The very fact that I was using the phrase “take the edge off” should have been an indicator that I needed inpatient drug rehab, but it wasn’t. I would have a shot and beer or a glass of wine with lunch and go on with my day without anyone ever noticing. I wasn’t accountable to anyone but myself at my job, and knew I could drink without consequence. I’m a general contractor, and at this time, was working with a crew of about 30 guys under me on a commercial project. As my mid-day drinking increased, I got more brash and erratic during my workday. This is what ultimately led to my entry into inpatient alcohol rehab.
One day after what had come to be my usual lunchtime drinking routine, I was “micro-managing” the crew, and I guess I didn’t like how one of the laborers was laying tile. I took the trowel from him and started giving him an unscheduled private lesson about two inches away from his face. He winced when I got close to him, and could tell that I’d been drinking. I didn’t like this very much and got very defensive. I also managed to kick over a wheelbarrow full of wet concrete that spilled all over the floor, and set us back a day. My project manager and second-in-command came in to intervene, and he took me off the jobsite. I walked away irrationally threatening to fire the laborer. He managed to convince me to let him take me home. During the drive back to my house, he suggested that I might need some kind of treatment such as inpatient alcohol rehab. I looked at him like he had two heads and gave the usual justifications why I didn’t need any help: it was a one-time thing, I’ve been drinking my whole life, stay out of my business, etc. He dropped it. When I got home, I had a glass of wine and went to sleep.
The next few months were filled with similar incidents. My clients were starting to complain about jobs not getting done, and I’d take those complaints out on my workers. On more than one occasion, I had laborers walk off the jobsite in what I see now was justifiable frustration. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I was inebriated and took control of a backhoe. This led to thousands of dollars in damage and legal trouble, to say nothing of a downgrade from the Better Business Bureau. It took my wife and children weeks to convince me to enter inpatient alcohol rehab, but I finally did. I wasn’t getting any work because of all the buzz surrounding my spectacular downward spiral on consumer reports websites.
During my time in inpatient alcohol rehab, I had a lot of time to reflect on what brought me to alcohol dependency. Looking back, it still seems like it came out of nowhere. I still don’t know if there was any history in my family, and honestly don’t care. All I can do is get up every morning and stay away from liquor and spend the rest of my life being a good husband, father and human being. I’ve made amends with most of the people I fired when I was drinking and convinced most of them to come back to work, which I’m happy to report is steadier than ever. Although I was initially resistant to inpatient alcohol rehab, looking back on everything now, I can see that it was the only thing that really did work for me.