Life was going where I wanted it to go. I had everything: a happy marriage, a daughter, a career as a stationery engineer, a home overlooking a golf course. Alcoholism crept up on me fast over a period of four years in my 40s. I started having attendance problems at work. I remember my co-workers telling me to go hide somewhere, they could smell the alcohol on me. Problems at home with my wife were escalating too.
I got to the point where I didn’t want to deal with anyone; I’d rather isolate myself and drink. One day, I picked up and ran from my life. My alcoholism took me cross-country, first escaping from the east coast to the west coast, and then to Colorado.
When I moved to Colorado, I quickly went through my last paycheck and became homeless. I remember sleeping on the streets during the worst of winter with a thin blanket. I told myself I’d starve to death before panhandling though. At that time, I thought I must be the only one in the world who drank as much as I did.
I knew I wanted help when I passed a bank kiosk setup outside a local grocery store designed to approach shoppers and gain their business. I realized when I walked past; they looked away, like they didn’t want my business. After that, I checked out my reflection in a window and saw how homeless I appeared. I had been wearing the same clothes for three weeks.
My first experience with Arapahoe House was at one of their detox centers. I began the physical detox process from alcohol and waited for a spot to open up at Healing First (Arapahoe House’s intensive residential treatment program).
I had no idea what to expect. I had preconceptions that I would be judged or punished, that treatment would be with a bunch of crazy people. It turned out to be the opposite. The counselors were supportive and the clients were from all different backgrounds. I learned that no matter what drug you use, it’s the same disease and it affects a lot of people. Healing First gave me an understanding that I wasn’t defective. I started to open my mind and simply got serious about sobriety. I had something for the first time in a long time, and that was hope.
After Healing First, I thought I was done with treatment, that I was better. As an engineer, numbers are the language I understand best. The counselors demonstrated to me that the odds were greater that I’d stay sober if I received more treatment.
I was referred to the Wright Center (Arapahoe House’s transitional residential treatment program), a step-down program focused on employment, sobriety and reintegration into outside life. I regained employment in my field and started mending the relationship with my daughter. She’s 13 now, an understanding and forgiving kid. The Wright Center was a great next step in my evolution to getting better.
I’ve had an amazing fall and slow comeback, but I’m glad to be contributing now. I have a new appreciation for things like the ability to pay bills. I just bought a car. It’s not a great car, but it means I’m on my way back to getting the life I once had. I never thought I could get out of the hole I was in. I will always be an alcoholic, but I’m no longer a practicing alcoholic.
My advice for others who are suffering is that once you make the decision to stop digging yourself in a hole, there is help out there and you don’t have to do it alone. Get into treatment at Arapahoe House. Don’t lose everything like I did before you reach out for help. Arapahoe House helped me tremendously. It’s amazing how life can come back to you. I never thought it would for me.