Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tough to admit

Sitting on a cold concrete floor with my arms crossed and my head buried in my chest, a man twice my size and with blood all over his shirt began to walk toward me.

He stopped a foot away from me to my right, unzipped his pants, and began to pee in a urinal. I could have reached over and touched the dirtiest toilet I had ever seen from the only available place to sit when I was led into the cell in the Los Angeles-area jail.

Never moving my head while he was there, I closed my eyes and began to wonder what brought me to what was no doubt the lowest point in my life. I am lucky enough to be a father of four beautiful girls, have the job that I wanted ever since I was in grade school, and I am generally pretty happy in life.

Yet, here I sit with nine other men, at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, in a 10x10 cell, knowing that five hours later my girls would wake up and ask my roommates why their Dad was not home. That thought made me realize that there was really only one thing that could make me jeopardize everything that I had in my life.

It was alcohol. Like my mother had been all my childhood and my older brother who developed into one as a young adult, I knew then that I had become an alcoholic.

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Seven hours earlier, I fought through Los Angeles traffic en route to my 20th high school reunion. Truthfully, I didn't want to go and see my former teammates on what was one of the best football teams our school ever had.

However, I was repeatedly told that I had no choice.

"Brett, you have to go," Jenny said, who I had known since junior high and was the reunion organizer. "You are the football coach of the school we graduated from. How can you not go? Everyone will want to see you!"

That was exactly the reason why I didn't want go. While seeing old friends and sharing stories from the past was intriguing, having to answer questions on why our football team is now struggling was worth avoiding.

"Don't worry about all that..." Jenny continued. "You will have a blast and everyone won't care about what the team is doing now."

She was right. I did have a blast and everyone was more interested in seeing pictures of my girls than how the team was doing.

For five hours, I laughed, shared parenting stories, and reconnected with people I had grown up with and hadn't seen since graduation. And, I drank.

Every time another former teammate or friend walked up to me to talk, they brought with them a drink for me. I didn't buy a drink during the night. But, that didn't stop me from not knowing how many I drank.

Despite going with the intention of not drinking, I never turned down a drink and was enjoying downing beers with my former drinking buddies.

I was funny, loud, and felt pretty damn good about myself. The shy, insecure kid from high school was now the head football coach at the school we all went to and was also the fun guy to be around.

Shortly after 11 p.m., I began to say goodbyes and started to head to my car when I was stopped by one of my oldest friends.

"Hey, are you OK to drive?" he asked while puffing on a cigarette.

"Yea, I am good. But, let me bum a few cigarettes for the drive home. It will keep me busy and awake."

He handed me three cigarettes and I got in my car and jumped on the freeway. I drove for 30 minutes and thought I was driving just as I would if I was sober.

Driving in the fast lane, I finished the first cigarette and flicked it out the window to avoid the smell lingering in my car. Rolling my window back up, I checked the rear view mirror. My heart began to race as I saw the flashing lights of a California Highway Patrol car behind me.

I couldn't believe it. I had no idea how drunk I was, but was pretty sure I was over the legal limit of .08. Moving my car off the freeway and onto an off ramp, I told myself to calm down and act relaxed when the CHP approached my car.

Stopped on the side of the road, I waited as two officers approached both sides of my car.

"License and registration please," said the younger of the two CHPs.

"Here you go, Sir. Everything alright?"

"Well, everything was alright until you threw a cigarette out your window. Have you been drinking?"

I was speechless and didn't know what to say. Stupidly, I lied.

"No, Sir."

"Well, you were driving fine and we pulled you over because of the cigarette. But, I can smell alcohol on you. If you would have told me you had two beers, we would probably have let you go. You need to get out of your car for a sobriety test. Are you willing do that?"

"Yes, Sir. Whatever you want."

I got out and went through test after test. I touched my nose with my eyes closed, counted backwards, and walked foot over foot down an imaginary line. After I was done, the CHPs talked to one another quietly for a moment before asking me to blow into a breathalyzer.

I agreed and waited patiently after blowing the first time. The younger CHP then asked me to blow again. It was after the second time that I began to understand the situation I was in.

"How fucked am I?" I asked as he waited for the results. "Am I fucked? I am so fucked. Damn... I can't believe this. I am so fucked."

He then looked up from the breathalyzer and told me what I didn't want to hear.

"Sir, you blew .0823. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights?"

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After two slip-ups on consecutive weekends after my arrest, I am proud to say that I have not had a drink in 115 days. It hasn't always been easy, but it also hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be either.

Instead of drinking after football games with other coaches, I drink iced tea or have a non-alcoholic drink. No one harasses me about not drinking, and I can't believe how much easier it is on Saturdays or Sundays at football meetings or practices without suffering from a hangover.

The definition of an alcoholic is different for every alcoholic. I believe I am an alcoholic because I couldn't stop once I got started. Enough said.

I am thankful that my night in jail didn't involve me hurting anyone with my car, didn't cause me to lose my family, my job, or end the relatively new relationship I am in with a wonderful woman. It could have been a lot worse for me and my family.

But, that still doesn't change that fact I am... "Brett, and I am an alcoholic."

11 comments:

TentCamper said...

Great post my man....and I can't even tell you that I can relate ...on many levels!!

Great job!!

Melissa said...

My grandfather was an alcoholic. It tore his family apart.

My aunt is now an alcoholic. And is now tearing the same family apart, with the added bonus of their children and grandchildren.

I now speak to nobody on that side of the family (exception of my parent) due to this ONE alcoholic family member.

I am happy you got help.

I myself am a (5 yr sober) drug addict.
And it's difficult to remember how much effect you can have on those around you.

I don't know you, but you make me laugh, and I'm proud of you.

Tracy DeLuca said...

I don't know you but I am proud of you. My father was an alcoholic. Still is. And he is dying because of it. He made my moms life hell in many ways. Good job getting sober and staying sober. Your daughters will thank you.

ZenMom said...

I commented on your own blog, but I just want to say again that I think it's very brave of you to put all this out there.

Some people have to hit a much deeper "bottom" before they are ready to make a change. I admire your courage and honesty.

That One Mom said...

Wow. That's deep. I used to be that person. Although the court ordered assessments said I wasn't an alcoholic, I know I have the tendancy to over indulge. Good for you in choosing a different path. Your girls will someday thank you.

Not a soccer mom said...

wow! I will say it is brave.
Good for you. And what a lucky family you have that you were the generation that would stop the madness.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Wow.

Thanks for sharing. Really powerful post.

T said...

This made me cry.

I just wrote a post two days ago about how my ex-husband's alcoholism affected me... and he will never admit to it. Like you said, the definition is different for everyone and he doesn't consider himself one because he doesn't drink every day. But when he does...

Thank you so much for sharing this.

WannabeVirginia W. said...

Wow, that was an incredible post. Thanks for sharing and good luck and hang in there.

I have come across lots of kids with who grew up in an alcoholic home and younger kids who are still in the environment and the outcome for them is complete chaos, internally and externally.

Mariah said...

Woozers you! At least you have turned it around and realized the problem, not everyone can do that!

Ira said...

This can't have effect in actual fact, that's exactly what I believe.
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