Real Addiction Stories: Mark

Addiction storyMark had everything going for him—a growing career, a family, a house—all the things we often view as success. But he knew early on that he “didn’t drink like other people,” and his addiction ended up severely damaging his relationships and his health. Read how his experience evolved.


How did your addiction begin?

From the time I started drinking, I didn’t drink like other people. I never consumed anything like the people around me, but it didn’t start catching up until I was in my 30s. I was on pain medication from a back injury, and my drinking spiraled out of control. Everything came to a head over the last few years.

When did you recognize drinking was becoming a problem?

I didn’t become aware until age 33. My wife had commented, and my doctor brought it up. I saw a counselor who recommended AA. That started the journey. It took me a long time to get it. The consequences had not started yet. A lot of people hit jail, lose money—that kind of stuff. But from the outside, I was getting more successful, moving up in my career, had the wife, kids, house—everything looked great. I kept falling up instead of falling down.

How did your drinking habit impact your family?

It’s not official yet, but it’s causing a divorce. I had to leave the house. I wasn’t present with my kids. I was a lousy husband and dad. My family was going through stuff, and I wasn’t there to support them. My sister lost her husband, and I just wasn’t there. It ripped apart all the fabric of all my relationships.

What convinced you to enter treatment?

I had been battling the last couple years before I went to The Walker Center. I bounced in and out of AA. I knew I was an alcoholic. I knew when I drank I had problems. I desperately didn’t want to drink, but I couldn’t stop.

I got on a medication that doctors prescribe that makes you sick if you drink when you take it. I couldn’t live with myself. I knew it was wrecking my life. But knowing all that, I couldn’t stop after the first drink. My life fell apart one horrible evening with my wife and kids that got me kicked out of the house. I thought, “I can’t do this by myself.” That’s when I went to The Walker Center.

How would you describe your experience at The Walker Center?

I was a self-admission. No one forced me in there. Nobody was making me go. I had given up.

When I got there…I don’t think anyone wants to be there. You don’t show up at a treatment center on a winning streak. I’m a 40-something professional, and I was surrounded by people I never would’ve interacted with in my day-to-day life. But those people and the counselors—so many other people are suffering in so many ways. It allowed me to see similarities rather than differences. You’re not alone.

It was a magical experience. I could see things about myself that I didn’t have the guts to look at—character, how the disease works, the education on it. You learn how the disease of addiction works, and they give you a tool box. It wasn’t just a healing experience. I had a pretty profound spiritual experience. I found a group of people in my counselors there, and things were said and done at the right times. That time there saved my life.

What advice or tools have helped you in recovery?

One common denominator—whether it’s Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous—get into a program of recovery. When you walk back out, you’ve got to have the program and keep looking at yourself. I’m a firm believer in what AA and NA have to offer people. The people who work the program after they get out succeed. The people who don’t inevitably fall. I see it over and over again.

Things get better, but not everything comes back. I see this in a lot of people—recovery was contingent on a spouse or lost jobs. If you expect everything is going to come back, then you won’t stay sober. Good and bad things are still going to happen to you, but you get to be awake through it.

What would you tell people in your shoes?

Before a place like The Walker Center, I didn’t always see people like me—people who still have the family, the jobs, where things are okay. I just picked out the differences and thought, “I’m not like that.” If you haven’t lost it all yet, they’re all “not yets,” but they will happen.

Everything they told me—it happened. The sooner you can go in and get help, the better. Had I been able to go two years earlier, I would’ve come out two more years sober. There’s no stigma. The bad things will happen, but you get yourself back and you get to be alive again. I wish I could’ve gone sooner.