Little did I know when I woke up hung over and in a fog, Wednesday, May 27, 1987, what this day would hold for me. What I did know is that it would not be a normal day, nor a comfortable day. I could not have known, foreseen, or imagined how important this day would end up being in my life. The challenge for me was that I had an appointment with a counselor who was going to evaluate me on behalf of the New York State Department of Transportation’s “Drinking and Driving” program to determine if I fit their profile of an alcoholic.
My task was to see to it that I did not meet their criteria for an alcoholic, by any means necessary. You see, I knew I had a drinking problem, but I could not let someone else tell me this. I had been defending myself against these allegations for a few years, mainly from my family. I had to be right, and being right meant I had to lie. And on this day, I had to convince a professional that I was simply a recreational user, so I needed to put my best foot forward.
I was well aware of this 9 am appointment in advance. I made the appointment myself, and my family took it upon themselves to remind me of it. They also warned me that going out to the bar after work that night (like I did every night) was not a good idea. I begged to differ. So I went out as I usually did; and to this day, I could not tell you what I did, how much I drank, or who I was with that night. I believe I must have blacked out very early.
I was mandated to the New York State “Drinking and Driving” program due to a DUI I had been convicted of roughly six months prior. At the time of my arrest, I was 20 years old, not of legal age to drink in New York. I had to go to a special class one day per week for 10 weeks to learn about the dangers of drinking and driving. Part of the curriculum of this class was a psychological test that was designed to determine the potential for alcoholism. The questions on this test seemed very normal to me, so I did my best to answer them as a “non-alcoholic” would answer.
Feeling pretty good about my ability to get over on the system, I was shocked and angered to find out I did not “pass” this test. I was told that I was at high risk for alcoholism based upon some of my answers. One of the answers that I got “wrong” was to the following question: Do you have night sweats? Well, I am a smart guy and I know that everyone sweats, so I answered yes. Now, apparently this was a trick question…. How in hell did they know that I would wake up in the morning and there would be a soaking wet imprint of me on my sheets? Apparently not everyone sweats profusely at night! Who knew?
So now here it is, the morning of this looming appointment. I am hung over. My parents (who are not drinkers) are shocked that I would take such little care of myself prior to this appointment. On this night, they had been waiting for me to get home, as they sometimes did, most likely in fear that I would not make it home. This night was much like the rest; I staggered through the door sometime around 4:30 am. I do not recall what, if any, interaction took place at that time. After getting about three hours of sleep, my parents awoke me to get ready for my appointment.
My father drove me to the place where I was to have my session, probably because they wanted to make sure I went through with it, but also because I was likely still intoxicated from the night I had just spent drinking. There was also a “higher” reason for him to be there, which will be revealed to you shortly.
I remember what happened next as if it happened just this morning. The details are surprisingly sharp in my mind even though it is almost 26 years later. I walked up to the receptions area and announced who I was and who I was there to see. The receptionist looked through the appointment book and turned a few pages. She asked me again who I was there to see and what my name was. She asked me to wait there for a minute while she checked with the counselor. When the receptionist returned, she stated very bluntly that the reason she did not have me on her list for that day was because my appointment was scheduled a week prior. I had missed my scheduled appointment!
My mind went suddenly blank and my heart sank to my stomach. I turned to my father and spoke the words that would set in motion the most profound change my young life had experienced, “Dad, I am ready to go to rehab.” This request had come from “out of the blue” as I had been battling with my parents about my drinking and their desire for me to get help. I had steadfastly denied any problem, using the old adage, “I can quit anytime I want.”
“Dad, I am ready to go to rehab.”
For me to ask for help at that moment in time was, in my opinion, a Divine intervention. I had not considered making such a change in my life at any time. I was valued in my workplace even though my employer knew full well what my lifestyle was. I also enjoyed my job very much and was in fear that being away for a week, or, God forbid, a month, may jeopardize my employment.
Hitting bottom for me came as a surprise. Speaking the words “I am ready” came out of my body as if a spirit guide had thrust itself into the physical realm and did for me what I could not do for myself. This is the moment of pure creation that I am so incredibly grateful for till this day.
I had no idea at the time what I was getting myself into. I had heard about rehabs, and I had even attended a few minutes of an AA meeting once because a friend of mine had been mandated by the Courts to go. I really did not know much more about where I was heading and how profoundly my life would change. What I did know is that I was tired, and I was feeling like I had quite possibly made a mistake that New York State might have punished me for. For the first time, I was afraid that I had become exactly what most everyone who knew me knew I was: an addict.
I shared this story with you here to show the depth of where I was at in my life at the age of 21. Everybody’s bottom is different; and for some, the bottom is death of their physical body. My bottom may be considered by some to be a “shallow” bottom. What this means is that I did not lose much in the way of material possessions. I didn’t completely alienate my family and friends. I was not living on the streets, begging for money so that I could pay for my drug of choice.
I was at the place that was perfect for me to transition my life path. My soul gave me the exact right situation, with the exact perfect people, in the one place and time that I would be able to make the choice to change. Nothing happens in this world by coincidence. And for me, it is very clear that my story can make a difference in the lives of other people suffering with the pain of addiction.
I will be sharing with you in this series of blogs what the first year of recovery was like for me. Although we all have our own path to freedom, I believe there are some very important decisions that enabled me to remain substance-free through the trials and tribulations of early recovery. So stay tuned to learn more about me through my experience of getting clean and staying sober. I thank you for being here to read this and hope that these words of my personal journey to recovery may inspire you or someone you know to make that hard choice to move into the unknown.
The next article will describe my seven days in the detoxification ward of the Ellenville New York Hospital.
(Kevin McCormack, C.A.d, is a certified addictions professional, as well as a Conversations with God Life Coach, and a Spiritual helper on www.changingchange.net. You can visit his website for more information at www.Kevin-Spiritualmentor.com To connect with Kevin, please email him at Kevin@theglobalconversation.com)