Click to Read Evan’s Story
I grew up with a mother and father in the home and we had a wonderful family. There wasn’t any history of alcoholism or drug addiction in my family. I never even saw my parents intoxicated. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I wasn’t born with a plastic one either. For holiday dinners the nicer dishes would come out from the china cabinets. My mother was always trying to teach me proper etiquette- how to eat in front of people and how to behave in social settings. I remember one Thanksgiving she offered us a sip of wine, just a sip, with our dinner. After we said the prayer, the first thing I went for was the wine. My older brother didn’t care for his at all. It seemed as though he paid it little or no attention. We got about halfway through the meal and he hadn’t even touched it. So I reached across the table and took his wine and drank it as quickly as I could. I remember getting in trouble for that. It wasn’t a proper table etiquette. I also remember when other holidays would be coming up in years to come, I would always ask my mother a week before if we were going to have wine with dinner. So I was very interested in obtaining alcohol and had an abnormal relationship with alcohol from an early age.
The first time I ever got my hands on as much alcohol as I wanted, it was 2000 and I was a freshman in high school. I had gone to Notre Dame University for Spring Break to visit one of my friend’s brothers who was a senior. We went to a fraternity keg party and they gave me a red cup and said to go to town. I remember I got 5 or 6 cups in me from the keg and I was playing drinking games with 21-22-year-old women. Alcohol was making me feel a part of the party despite any of my prior fears. I was completely present to the moment. My courage was rising and when I would win a drinking game, I would try and get a kiss out of these lovely college girls. That evening in South Bend, Indiana I found my element to freedom. I wasn’t causing any harm at that point in my drinking career. I just felt whole. I felt like there was a piece of me that had been filled with the alcohol during that 10-day period. During my High School years, the progression of my disease was rapid, though I couldn’t see it at the time. I’d get through the week knowing that I could drink Friday nights after the high school football game or that I could drink on a Saturday night at one of my best friend’s houses. I would try to do that every weekend and then I would return home on Sunday morning before church and tennis practice to start the week again. But always with the obsession that next weekend I would drink to excess again. I would think about it all week and the obsession would be able to be fulfilled on the following Friday or Saturday. And I knew I could do that if I was able to maintain a certain appearance and consistency to my family in other areas of my life. Those weeks of obsessing and waiting for the weekend to drink got shorter and shorter. By the time I was a junior in high school, I was drinking five or six times a week. I wasn’t attending school much, my grades had dropped drastically, and I wasn’t even interested in participating in sports. The periods of separation from alcohol became less and less.
In 2003, I began to get introduced to the twelve steps. I got my first Big Book when I was seventeen years old and I remember I would go to twelve-step meetings alongside a number of old-timers with substantial sobriety. I didn’t necessarily think that I belonged there though. I didn’t understand what alcoholism was or that I was at the mercy of the disease already. I hadn’t experienced what the first step was truly talking about in regards to a physical allergy, mental obsession, and loss of choice. I hadn’t been able to understand yet the fact that I was spiritually ill and that there was no amount of self will I could use to fix the current state of my condition. Just before I turned 18, I went to treatment for eleven months. I was loaded within one hour of getting out of treatment. Simply because nothing had changed in my life other than eleven months of compliance. So, there were definitely early signs that something wasn’t right and I had people trying to help but I still couldn’t see this as an issue. I continued to use and drink for several more years. Even after being exposed to a message of recovery that had depth and weight, I wasn’t convinced that I was a real drug addict. I would be convinced for small periods of sobriety. At times, I was very diligent about parts of the recovery process. I failed to be completely transparent though with what my spiritual condition was and what my mind was telling me was an effective solution. My ego became so large and reconstructed that I couldn’t let anyone know that I was truly suffering or struggling. As a result of that, I began to fall off in certain areas that were allowing power into my life — step work, finishing amends, being truly plugged into a home group, genuine sponsorship. Basically, all I was doing was working with a handful of guys and talking to them about what they needed to do in order to get well, but not really doing all of those things myself. The delusion thickened, and I lost touch with why I even needed to have a balanced life in recovery.
On June 24th, 2016, I was approached by a couple of men that I had made great relationships during previous years. They knew that I was still suffering, and they had reached out to me numerous times in the past few years. These men came to my aid and drove up to North Texas to an apartment where I was drinking and doing cocaine. They asked me if I wanted some help and I said that I did. We loaded up the little belongings that I had into a bag and I jumped into the car. On the way, we began to talk about the quality of life the Power of God can bring to hopeless drug addicts and alcoholics. How continuing to stay plugged into the twelve steps and an anonymous fellowship. One line a man said during this car ride has stuck with me and he said, “I will always be a student of the 12 steps.
Arriving at the hospital the detox process began. The nurse was giving me pills to taper off from the alcohol and the benzodiazepines I had been taking. Five days into the process, I became really concerned about how tired the medication was making me. I was afraid I wasn’t going to recover due to my inability to participate. So, I went to the nurse and I told her that I couldn’t take detox meds any longer. I really felt like if I didn’t get well while I was here that I was going to use again. The nurse said I shouldn’t decline medications but I did it anyway. I felt good that first day, but the next morning I woke up before meditation at about 6 am. Immediately, my mind was racing. I was questioning everything. Why did I ever tell her I didn’t need the pills? I started thinking I needed something to change the way that I felt and that thought became an obsession. I remember I walked into the first step group that morning and they were talking about the mind of the real drug addict/real alcoholic. A man was referencing how real drug addicts can’t bring into consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. Yesterday, I have been completely sincere when I told the nurse that I needed to decline the meds. That morning though, my mind was still chirping at me and telling me, ‘You could go tell her that you really do need the medications in order to detox properly’. Deep down inside though, I knew I didn’t. This was just my disease looking for any escape that it could find to keep me engaged in addiction. As this man talked about the mental features of drug addiction and alcoholism, I was experiencing it right then at that moment. I was struck with a level of truth that I have never been able to create or recreate on my own power. My truth began to run parallel with the hopeless experiences of my drug addiction. But I had to be in that spot where someone was telling me about a real alcoholics mind and as I was sitting there, my mind was doing the exact thing he was describing. The delusion was being smashed wide open right then and there.
That was the beginning of a genuine first step experience and it was enough to gain some momentum, traction, and understanding of why a guy like me needed to participate in this program. God allowed me to realize, that I had to see what He could do with my life. The truth showed there was nothing I could do any more on my own. I think that was the moment that I was brought to my first state of surrender. I remained in treatment for 80 days and was guided through a body of work: multiple inventories resulting in the first set of amends cards. I was shown discipline toward prayer and meditation life, and I was held accountable to do evening reviews. I began to work with other drug addicts and alcoholics while I was there, utilizing the tools that others had used to reach me – opening the book and taking them through it. Asking the tough questions and turning statements into questions, not necessarily pegging someone as the real deal or not. Just laying out what a real alcoholic or real drug addict is and allowing them to run their experience parallel with that.
After treatment, I was given the opportunity to enter a sober living house. It was very important to me that I got plugged into all three sides of the triangle immediately. All my previous experiences had shown that when I wasn’t balanced in all areas of recovery, it was when my alcoholic mind became convinced I was just a hard drinker, who didn’t need to follow through with everything recovery was asking of me. I still work with a handful of drug addicts and alcoholics. I love to take new guys through the work. The gift of being able to help the next man is the juice of how God has recreated my life to best serve Him and my fellows. All I ask the men I work with is that they do the same thing for the next man, once they’ve had an experience with this work.
My life is very full today. I’ve had the opportunity to make several amends in the state of Texas and some out of state amends as well. Prior to getting sober, my father told me not to contact him until I was four years sober. He said that he would be willing to sit down and talk with me once that date arrived. I remember reaching out to my father once I got in the sober living house. I just told him, ‘Hey Dad, this is my current address. It’s a sober living house, thank you for everything you’ve done and I love you’. And his response to me was, ‘I’m glad to hear from you boy. Stay in touch. I love you’. So I decided that if my father answered the phone on Sunday at three o’clock, why don’t I contact him every Sunday at three o’clock? I began to call weekly and we’ve rebuilt and grown our relationship over the years. I eventually had an opportunity to make amends to him in person. The day after God allowed us to speak in the hotel lobby, his wife said that night, after the amends, my father had the best night of sleep he had experienced in the last 3 years.
I also was able to make amends to my father’s wife. There was a lot of freedom that came from working through the resentments that were surrounding our relationship. I’ve seen that shining through in the fact that we’re now able to have conversations on the phone and spend quality time as a family. We’re able to talk about the well-being of the family and my father’s health. An opportunity presented itself for me to be there to console her when her mother and father passed away this year. It just felt right to send her a plant to comfort her. God had shifted me to a place where I sincerely wanted to do that. I genuinely wanted to offer her a level of compassion and sympathy. That was a breakthrough moment for a guy who had been belligerently drunk on the phone with her two years prior. I honestly want her to know that she is loved and she is a worthwhile part of the family. That’s a really beautiful thing, that God has handcrafted in my life.