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Finding Connection on My Alcohol Dependence Recovery Journey

This story was published by The Mighty on behalf of Chris and sponsored by Alkermes, Inc. 

I can still see the flashing sirens and twisted metal left in my wake the second time I ever drank alcohol. I foolishly got behind the wheel of my mother’s car and flipped it. Luckily,  no one was hurt. 

Although I experienced significant consequences from my drinking early on and knew my relationship with alcohol was unhealthy, I found I couldn’t stop drinking. However, it wasn’t until years later that I was diagnosed with alcohol dependence by a healthcare provider. That’s when I learned alcohol dependence is a chronic disease that can make it hard to stop drinking and cause problems with family, friends, and work. But it took me years to understand that and to get the help I needed.

Growing up in Texas, as one of just a few young Black kids in my town, I never felt like I fit in. I would do anything to make friends and to feel a sense of belonging. Once I was a young adult, feeling included often meant drinking. I feel like alcohol is so normalized and ever-present in our culture that people tend to notice when you don’t drink more than when you do drink. Among my friends, drinking was social currency, so for a fleeting time, my hard-partying ways seemed to earn me the acceptance I sought.

But soon, my drinking stopped being the solution to my problems; it was the problem. Though many of my friends drank, I drank to the point that I blacked out. I also let alcohol replace activities I used to enjoy. My friends noticed, expressed concern, and warned me to cut back. One friend even said, “You’re drinking too much, and that’s saying a lot, coming from us.” 

I didn’t heed the warnings, and the consequences piled up. I couldn’t hold down a part-time job. My grades suffered. My friendships did too. Eventually, I dropped out of college.

I vividly remember “the moment” — the moment when I knew something had to change. I was sitting in a crowded bar but felt totally alone. I had an epiphany on that barstool: though my desire to make connections and friendships drove me to drink in the first place, it ultimately made me feel isolated. It was then that I knew I needed help but wasn’t sure where to turn.

In the Black community, I found that there isn’t a lot of talk about alcohol dependence as a disease or conversation about people seeking help for their drinking. But I was lucky to have an ally, a spiritual advisor who cared about me. He helped me to break through the stigma and shame and to be open about my struggles with drinking. He said, “This is not something that we’re going to ignore and pretend doesn’t exist.” Instead, he embraced me and encouraged me to talk to a healthcare provider who diagnosed me with alcohol dependence. I learned that treatment is available, and I didn’t have to go it alone.

Everyone’s recovery journey is unique. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions about your drinking patterns or alcohol dependence. My healthcare provider and I decided on a treatment plan that was right for me. 

When I was drinking heavily, I had given up a lot of activities I once enjoyed. One of those was being out in nature. Hiking, camping, and exploring were all great parts of my childhood and adolescence that I had left behind. Rediscovering this passion has been an important part of my recovery journey. 

Something else that has helped me along my recovery journey is supporting others who are struggling with alcohol dependence. I decided to go back to school to become a licensed substance abuse counselor. It was there that I met my wife. 

Then a few years ago, I moved on to embark on a new chapter as an entrepreneur. I wanted to help people who might be struggling to hopefully find the connection I had always sought. Today, I run a business — a bar with no alcohol — and lead camping trips for people who want to connect with each other and nature without drinking. At this point in my journey, I feel like my life is filled with possibilities and purpose. I have more room for the things that are important to me. I am grateful for the meaningful relationships with my family and true friends, who see me for who I am and appreciate the recovery journey I am on.

To learn about alcohol dependence and explore whether it might be time to rethink your relationship with alcohol, please visit www.myrelationshipwithalcohol.com.

This story is Chris’s alone and does not represent all people living with alcohol dependence. The information included is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your healthcare provider. Chris has been compensated for his time. 

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