Monday, November 2, 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."

38 comments:

  1. Wow.

    I am sorry that realization had to be made in jail, but I am happy to read that no one got hurt and that you still have your girls.

    Nice to read you are doing better now.

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  2. How brave of you to take responsibility as you have. Take good care of yourself and your family.

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  3. That's first step right? Admitting that there is a problem. Not for your kids or work or family but admitting it for you. Because You are just as important as they are.

    I'm sure it hasn't been easy and it probably never will be but you are doing it. One day at a time.

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  4. It sucks that you had to go through this to come to the realizations you have, but I admire your honesty and the fact that you have owned up to it and not just made an excuse. One foot in front of the other...one day at a time...It takes courage to face such a big thing, and we are all here to help and keep you accountable. Be well.

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  5. Some of the hardest lessons have to be made on the concrete floor of a jail cell (metaphorically or actually). I applaud you for facing this and taking the necessary steps to be "better".

    And thank you for sharing. We all have demons, even if they're not the same.

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  6. Ditto everything that has been said here. At least you came to the realization of what could happen quickly. Sadly, I have a bro-in-law that for years had to keep going through it over and over before he finally got it.

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  7. I am glad that you decided to shsre and I am sure you feel like the only person to go through this, I can assure you you are not. I am however glad that it has woken you up to what could have been. Plus telling your story woke me up a little too.
    Thanks

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  8. CONGRATS on the 115 days!!! I'm sorry Brett that you had to go through that... but you've conquered...and you're still climbing, that says a lot!

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  9. Wow! That is tough, and courageous. Brett, we are here to support you too.

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  10. I am very proud of you. That gave me chills. You are an amazing person for admitting it, recognizing it, and addressing the problem.

    Congratulations on your sobriety! That is WONDERFUL! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

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  11. Im so happy for you that you had the chance to open your eyes a little wider and see what you had the chance to lose in your life. For many as Im sure you know thats not the case. Take this so called second chance and run with it!!!

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  12. Congratulations on your 100+ days. I too am a recovering alcoholic. Like you my bottom was relatively high - no loss of job, family, no morning drinking - just a lot of binge drinking in a culture where this is the norm.

    I've now been sober for two years - but have been mostly sober for 9. The times when I have relapsed were times when I convinced myself that perhaps I could learn to drink in moderation - a bizarre concept since unfortunately I've never had an "off" switch when I drink. Now I realise that what I have is too precious to risk by experimenting with alcohol.

    I've also learned to have a good time without drinking. I even went to my 20th highschool reunion sober!! (Although I thought I was going to have a panic attack from the nerves!!) You do get used to the no booze lifestyle and after a while you don't miss it at all.

    All the best
    Carols

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  13. Congratulations on your 115 days - and on your realization that you needed a change. It's a courageous decision, regardless of the circumstances. I'm very sorry for what you've had to go through. But I sincerely applaud your honesty and forthrightness in sharing it. All the best to you.

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  14. Hey Brett...
    Thanks for visiting my blog, I'm glad you loved it...I love yours as well and have added myself as a follower :) You have beautiful girls!

    Congrats on your 115 days sober...that is wonderful... sorry you had to go through such trying times but glad you are on the right path now....just take one day at a time and know your friends and family support you!

    Hugs
    Terri

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  15. Keep the faith! I'm rooting for you! One step at a time!

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  16. Hey...I stumbled across your blog and couldn't stop reading. I come from a long distinguished line of alcoholics and this post really hit home. I know what it takes to admit it and I know it's even harder to do something about it. Congratulations on your 115 days.

    Great, honest post.

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  17. not that I think it is good you were arrested, just that it might have saved your life...you flicking that cigarette. It is amazing to see what life has in store for us!

    You are on the up swing! Keep climbing!

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  18. I'm in tears. Bravo for having the courage for writing this all down and sharing the truth with us. We are here to help you. You that man of us get it.

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  19. Brett: What a courageous thing. Good for you! I am so honored that you emailed me and reminded me that I'd said months ago that some of your blogs were like going to a meeting. Congratulations on your 115 days...keep going back. And if you're ever in La Canada on a Thursday night, stop by 7 O'Clock Let's Rock, one of the greatest men's Alanon meetings anywhere. Love you. Mister Earl

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  20. I bet that was tough to admit, but how does it feel now that you have? Like a weight off of your shoulders.

    Congrats on your successful 115 days and here's to 115 more! You CAN do it.

    Sometimes it takes situations like the one you found yourself in to really make us open our eyes to what is going on in our lives.

    Good luck!

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  21. You are a brave man. You have probably never in your life been as strong as you are today. You will be stronger tomorrow. And it is tough, I know. I am a Double Winner, a recovering alcoholic and a grateful member of Al Anon. I am on the same journey and it is a gift. .."we are free to delight in life's paradox, mystery, and awe. We will laugh more..." It will come. Bless you. You are on your way.

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  22. I think it's very brave to admit to something like that.....most people would blame the whole situation on the cigarette.....if it were not for that then everything would have been fine.....and never thought of other things that could have happened. Or, "I was just barely over the limit". It wasn't fair.

    I'm cringing thinking about what jail was like.....but kudos to you for 115 days alcohol free and for having the strength to write about it.

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  23. That was very tough to admit I am sure. I have to give it to you for being brave enough to share it (sorry I dared you). There are LOTS of skeletons in my closet that I wouldn't dare share on my blog...you are very brave.

    Onward and upward! Don't look back :)

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  24. That was a brave post. Congrats on your 115 days... here's to a lifetime more!

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  25. How brave you are to post this! Good for you! Admitting we have a problem is the first step toward recovery. Keep up the great work!
    Congratulations!

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  26. How nice blog !...from a certain with his empty hands....

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  27. Hey there! I've got a little something for you on my site to thank you for letting me read your awesome blog!

    ~Elizabeth
    http://confessionsfromaworkingmom.blogspot.com

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  28. There, but for the grace of God, go, all the rest of us...
    I loved seeing the photos of your girls off to the side while reading your story.

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  29. Yes you're an alcoholic, yes sobriety can be tough, and yes you are facing it with enormous courage, yes you have a wonderful family to make the effort worthwhile and yes, you have a lot of support out here!

    High Five, Man!

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  30. It is tough to go through this. But it is important when you have a family. I have been sober four 4 years now.
    Successful Parenting

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  31. It may not be a popular belief but I belief it with all that I am - God works in mysterious ways...

    Thank you for commenting on BCC. I am returning the visit and sticking around. A very moving post and I'm sure theraputic for you. It takes guts to be the man you are - props to you. I know that doesn't mean much coming from a stranger but your story is uplifting and inspirational. Thank you for sharing!

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  32. You stopped by my place a couple of weeks ago and I have been a bad blogger, but I am here now and so completely moved by your story. Thank you for sharing the story and I hope it reaches someone who needs to hear a story like that and helps you too. It was brave of you to tell your story. Thanks. I'll be following...

    Holly

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  33. Hello Brett
    Thank you for calling in at my place recently.

    thank you for your honest story. You have four lucky girls and are a lucky fellow to have been given this jolt in oder to adjust your values.

    Happy days

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  34. Congrats on taking the first step pal. I can tell you from almost 13 years, the journey only gets better. Hang on to your seat and get ready for some tremendous growth.

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  35. How brave of you to take responsibility as you have. Take good care of yourself and your family. Work from home India

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  36. What an amazing, amazing, honest, *brave* story to share. Thank you so much for taking responsibility for your actions and teaching us a thing or two along the way.

    ~Elizabeth
    http://confessionsfromaworkingmom.blogspot.com

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  37. Yo Brett,
    I have no idea what this must be like. I will be praying for you in the next couple of days. If you need anything, you still have my cell number... Late...
    DMartin

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  38. It takes courage to admit that you did something wrong. It takes even more courage to hold yourself accountable. I am applauding to you--not for your mistakes, but for the fact that you are very aware of a mistake and promised to try harder next time!

    Wow!

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