I Should Video Tape This

I recently watched several old VHS tapes with recordings of family on them, and cried more than a few times as memories of moments gone by came rushing back.

Some of these recordings were from the family vacations my wife and I took our son and daughter on, while others showed us doing different activities with them. And some were of the kid’s birthday parties and family get-togethers my wife loved to have.

I saw happy people laughing and having fun, while being the camera man and making comments that I thought were funny, but I’m sure some people didn’t. And I saw myself in the videos as well.

The recordings were from an 8 mm camcorder I bought in 1993, and even with poor picture quality due to time and other factors, they were still fun to watch. Well mostly fun to watch.

The recordings on ten VHS tapes show moments from September of 1993 to New Year’s Day 2000. But the first two and half years are from my drinking days. Vacations where I was clearly buzzed on the boardwalk. Stuff I did with the kids, like making funny videos, where drinking beer was also involved. (Just me, not the kids.) And the birthday parties and family get-together my wife loved, where I made sure alcohol was on hand for the adults.

One of these videos, recorded in January of 1996, stuck out though, because it involves my children and was recorded just four months before I quit drinking for good.

I had been drinking for over 18 years and was very unhappy at that time, plus I didn’t have a clue what life was about. But there the answer was being recorded yet again, as I drank instead of truly enjoying moments like this with my kids.

I cried at times while watching it. And it made me wish I had quit drinking much sooner.

Although the video shows a mix of fun, happiness, laughter, and togetherness, it also shows the behaviors of a man who thinks he’s being a good dad, but sadly, like life, doesn’t have a clue what being one is about.

Besides my obvious drinking in it. (I take a few sips of beer on film, and make a joke about it each time.) The fun we were having, while not bad in any way, clearly demonstrates the sometimes subtle and hidden dysfunction within a family that a non-stereotypical drunk like myself, can create. (I didn’t drink every day. Still had a job, a home, and some money in the bank.)

What the video doesn’t show, however, is what contributed to the dysfunction, and to my drinking. The fears and insecurities I had all my life.

Here I am in this video, 36 years old, and you would think I was more of a funny friend than a father to my children. My immature behaviors and sometimes unfiltered words are anything but role model quality. And although no one would shudder or think what they saw was awful. I saw a lack of emotional growth in myself, and someone who used alcohol to face their fears and insecurities.

I don’t beat myself up over my past anymore, and even through my tears I knew I was at least trying to be a good father back then. But I simply was not capable of being a better one. (Thankfully they had a wonderful mother who knew how to be a parent.)

I wrote about my childhood in my book, which was far worse than anything my kids ever experienced. But I know my mom and dad tried to be good parents, and I watched them change for the better through the years. Which brings me to the video recordings after I quit drinking.

Watching those tapes, I can honestly say I slowly improved as a father, and as a husband. I wish I had tapes of family recordings up to now. I know they would show my continual improvement as a father and husband. And perhaps more importantly, continual improvement in myself.

As I remained sober, first through Alcoholics Anonymous and then on my own, improving on myself contributed to becoming a better parent and spouse, and certainly my long-term sobriety.

Actually there is another video that stands out that was recorded in August of 1996. It’s the first family vacation we went on after I stopped drinking. Like the other one, it shows a mix of fun, happiness, laughter, and togetherness, but doesn’t show the fears and insecurities I had.

What’s different, though, is that in this one, I was ready to face life sober, and finally become the person, father, and husband I never knew how to be.

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That’s A Good Sign

I’m not religious. But I do ask for signs that something created life and the universe for a reason when I need too.

They may not come right away, and some signs are more subtle than others. But they sustain me in times when my old enemy fear shows up, and causes unhappiness in my life.

Some say there isn’t a god of any kind.  Maybe god is the wrong word to use. If all the signs I’ve received in my sobriety so far tell me anything, it’s to keep trying to believe in more than just this world. Doing so has helped me to love myself, which is a miracle considering how I felt about myself when I was drinking.

Despite the occasional fears I have. I’m no longer a frightened little boy inside. I believe in myself and I know things will be all right, even when they’re not. Because I know I can be all right even when I’m not. It may take what some people call prayer on some days. But I know I can eventually stop feeling worried and afraid and return to my former state of happiness.

Actually, my happiness never fully goes away, because I’m happy with who I am.

Being happy with who I am also sustains me in times when my old enemy fear shows up. And perhaps that is an even bigger miracle, considering who I was when I was drinking.

Some say there isn’t a god of any kind. Maybe god is the wrong word to use.

If all the signs I’ve received in my sobriety so far have proven anything, it’s that I have the ability to create my happiness.

I just need a little help now and then.

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Who Could Blame Me?

“I was good at creating turmoil during my drinking days and I found it easy to blame drinking and others for the outrageous behaviors I exhibited. However, once I stopped drinking and begin to see that the distorted and often negative beliefs I had about myself and life were to blame. With continued help, I was able to change my thoughts and behaviors and create a better life.”

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Relapses Of The Emotional Kind

Although statistics show that less than half of those who remain sober for a year relapse, and less than 15 percent relapse after five years of sobriety, you should still realize that it is a possibility, especially if one is prone to having relapses of the emotional kind. This is when our thoughts and behaviors become similar to the negative ones we had when using a substance and we find it hard to reverse them. Personally, I don’t worry about drinking again when I have an emotional relapse—my behaviors aren’t nearly as bad as they were back then, and I’m able to change my thoughts to more positive ones. And although I do have a healthy fear that under the right circumstances, I could find myself thinking about getting drunk, it would take a lot for me to do so. Along with some huge resentment, tragic circumstance, or complete nervous breakdown, I’d have to entertain the thought of drinking for a long time first, and then decide to drive to a bar, go inside, order my first beer, and then actually pick it up and drink it.

I’m not trying to be arrogant here. I’m fully aware that some drugs are more addicting than others; heroin and prescription painkillers come to mind, as do the unfortunate deaths that can occur from abusing them. However, I don’t believe that relapse is a part of recovery but a part of addiction. It’s a part with the power to kill, which is why I believe it’s important for people to hear that not only is recovery possible, but so is finding greater happiness in life. Today, I know that drinking wouldn’t make one thing better in my life or replace what I’ve found in my sobriety.

I also know that even after all these years sober, it still doesn’t make sense to me to have only a few beers, so I’m sure I’d get shitfaced right from the start.

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And I Love Me Too

“I was never a lover of hard liquor in my drinking days; I simply loved my beer and how it made me feel. Well for a while anyway. Of course, I always loved my family more, but sadly drinking often came first, even when I didn’t want it to.  Thankfully, I found a way to stop drinking and was able to show my wife and kids more love. However, my greatest discovery was finding a love I had heard about and never experienced, which was self-love. After I learned to love myself, and do so unconditionally, I was able to love people, even though I didn’t like them. Love life, even when I was going through unwanted circumstances. And forgive myself, even when I did something I didn’t like myself for.”

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The People I Love

I never asked to have a problem with alcohol, but then who does?   No one asks to become addicted to a substance.  However, some do, and it’s those people I want to help.

I didn’t get sober to grow as a person, I got sober because I wasn’t happy. I didn’t stay sober because of me, I had help along the way until I was able to remain sober on my own. But I did grow and I did become happier in life.

I didn’t write a book and start a blog to say “look at me, ain’t I wonderful.” I did so in an effort to help others look at themselves and see a wonderful person.

So maybe my growth, my happiness, and my passion to help others was meant to be, I don’t know. I just know it helps me to love myself.   Something more people need to do, especially those who use a substance to try to be happy and it fails them, much like alcohol eventually failed me.

I never asked to have a problem with alcohol. But I’m actually glad I did. While there are some things I might like to change about my past, I’m not sure I would.  How would I know the difference between what was and how I feel today?

I’m happier in life. I’m happy with myself. And I’m happy to be able to help others.

None of this necessarily makes us a wonderful person, but it does help us feel wonderful about ourselves. Especially those of us who never asked to become addicted to a substance, but did.

The people I want to help. The people I love. The people who need to love themselves.

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That Idea Just Doesn’t Fly

“In the early years of Alcoholics Anonymous the word pigeon was used as a term of endearment for new members who carried the message of hope and recovery. That’s fine. But with the shame and stigma of addiction still so prevalent in today’s society, the idea of calling someone a pigeon just doesn’t fly with me.” ~Darryl Duke

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