Learn How to Embrace Challenges as Triumphs

man wearing back bad climbs rock in beautiful blue clear sky
by Vance Larson

Some may call me an alcoholic. I don’t care. It’s been over 30 years since I had a drink. I remember waking up in the hospital with family gathered around. It was late at night. Prognosis was not good. I looked into my mothers eyes, and told her that I would never drink again. Being discharged two days later, I know my life had changed forever. I didn’t know how it would look. I just knew that it could not resemble anything like it had.

I was a pretty good kid growing up. Heavily involved in athletics, and was very good. However, I never felt that I belonged anywhere. I ran with a gang for a short time. I eventually got a job and started making some money. I started drinking in my late teens. I played the game “I’ll only drink on weekends.” But weekends soon became Thursday through Sunday. And then it hit me. One of the guys that I looked up to said in passing, that he had been drinking for 5 days, so you can’t blame me for anything. At that minute, I decided that I would drink daily, so I could have an excuse at the ready.

It started with a few glasses of wine at night to unwind. That quickly progressed to a few beers during the day, followed by shot after shot in the evenings. It was a blur. It was destructive. Many people were hurt. My health was failing. My doctor told me that I would be dead within 2 years with the amount that I was drinking. Waking up in different cities and having no idea how I go there. Oh yeah, I was an alcoholic. 

One night I collapsed. My doctor was right. It was almost 2 years to the day that he told me I would end up dead. But I wasn’t. I was in the ER strapped to the hospital bed. I told my mother I would never drink again. And to this day, I have not. I left the hospital with everyone saying go to a meeting and get help. I couldn’t. That did not resonate with me. I knew I needed help. But I also knew my drinking was not my problem. I knew my problems were masked by my drinking. So I returned to the one thing that always felt like home. Meditation. 

I thought I was afraid to die. But in reality, I was afraid to live.

I meditated from a very early age, due to being involved in the martial arts. And through my meditation, I learned more about my demons than I honestly cared to. But the biggest take away was I thought I was afraid to die. But in reality, I was afraid to live. Imagine that. Not feeling safe within your own skin. Not feeling like you don’t fit in anywhere. But I was safe. And I did fit in. Sure, I was socially awkward. But, I was becoming more confidant everyday. And the better I felt, the more I wanted to create space for those who felt nothing. That being awkward and lacking confidence was okay. 

Soon my meditation practice was a daily thing. I worked very hard on my spiritual development. People were shocked that I never went to AA or to see a therapist. They were even more shocked when I started distancing myself from toxic people. Not that I thought they were bad. I just knew they were bad for me. And how did I distinguish them? They were the ones who kept dragging me out to the bars having the same conversations, while I drank my non alcoholic beers. After a few weeks of that, I realized that the drinking was the common denominator, and that we really didn’t have anything in common at all. Bye Felicia! {Come on. That’s funny.} Okay maybe not funny, but empowering.

It doesn’t it matter how one gets better. As long as they get better.

In over 30 years of providing mental health services and working alongside of some of the best, I picked up a few things along the way. Addiction is complicated. There are many layers to the addict or alcoholic. And what works for one, may not work for the next. And while I am a big fan of group work, therapy and medication. Just because they are typically the standard treatment, we should be flexible in the recovery process by taking the “whole” person into consideration. I like to look at treatment as I do religions. They all have something to offer. And it doesn’t it matter how one gets better. As long as they get better. And we shouldn’t put limits on someone who is invested in saving their own life. 

Some may call me an alcoholic. I don’t care. I’ve never owned that. Not out of fear as embarrassment. Because we are all beautifully flawed. But because I see myself as a confidant man. That’s was resonates to me. Like the woman with Breast Cancer that calls herself a survivor. I too, wanted to self identify as something positive. Yes, clinically I was an alcoholic. But the game changer for me was not what the world thinks of me, but what I think of myself. And nowhere in my story am I willing to give my power away again. 

So yeah, 30 plus years with out a drink. Honesty gave me everything. I have embraced my challenges, live an authentic life and am proud of it. 

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