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John Overcoming Alcohol

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“To figure how to put my story into words I was thinking there had to be a common theme running amongst it all. But it’s more than one really, there’s overcoming obstacles placed in front of me as well as excess and I’ll get into it all.”

John has been a huge support to Substance For You since the beginning. Getting to know his courage and bravery at first was easy. John is a very personable guy! He has been sending in merchandise photos since we started and I’ve only grown to gravitate towards a friendship with John since. One day he surprised me, though. He sent in a photo to our instagram, playing a guitar with OUR shirt on! I thought, I need to hear this guy’s story! What better way to stand up for each other in life and sobriety than to get together and collaborate stories! This is John, overcoming alcohol! John you did it buddy. Everyone wish John congratulations and thank you for his bravery to share! You rock John! LITERALLY.

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“I had a great upbringing with two parents who are still together, in a nice house, in a pretty decent area. I’m a child of two and my parents worked their asses off to make sure we always had a roof over our head, food on the table, and clothes to wear. There’s nothing I can say that they did on their end to cause any emotional or traumatic issues.  I’d say it’d be closer to my sister’s fault, if you can even say that. For years I remember her saying things like “mom and dad have always loved me more, they never wanted you.”

But really my issues started my last year of elementary school into my two years of middle school in Hamden, CT. (Just to let everyone in on a secret no, not everyone who lives in Connecticut is rich.) I always felt like the odd one out and I can’t really place why but I always did. I felt different. I was never really liked nor did I ever really have many friends, but I never needed friends either since everything I did I always did on my own, like riding a bike or playing in the backyard.

Middle school was where everything went to hell. You would walk into the cafe in the morning and see everything was segregated by race and any social status (jocks, goths, white, black, Puerto Rican, nerds, special needs). Where I sat was the best I could describe as “the others” who didn’t fit any of the other categories. I don’t know why or when, or maybe because my voice hadn’t dropped, but I remember being bullied a lot because people thought I was gay. I was being told I should kill myself, that I’m a loser, I’ll never amount to anything, nobody loves you and you have no friends. Why a 13 or 14-year-old would say something like that still boggles my mind. Some of that was even said in front of teachers who did nothing about it.

Eventually I got the option to change school districts due to a program that the town of Hamden didn’t offer, and thank god for it. I got to go to a new town with new people who didn’t know me, where I could start a new life. It was around that same time I found metal music. What I loved the most was the crowd where it was outcasts who weren’t excepted by the normal crowd. Either way high school was a lot better of a time; at least until junior/senior year where a certain group of kids who I was friends with decided I wasn’t “cool enough” for their group. They started some bullying tactics I was familiar with but at this point I couldn’t give a fuck less because I had a girlfriend and started playing guitar, and soaked my life into that.

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I was around 18 when I had first started to try drinking and I’m not going to lie, I thought it was awesome. I loved how it felt and I loved how my brain “almost” turned off. I didn’t think about the past stuff that still bothered me.  It also stopped my paranoia that people were just be talking shit behind my back or that people were nice to my face. It stopped the stuff that never was actually going on but I’d always thought was going on for some odd reason. Eventually I left college after one semester and went to work full time. Then I decided to join the Army National Guard. It was easily the best thing I had done in my life at that point. I figured maybe with what I could learn it would help me get a better job in the civilian world. I always wanted to join the Army and my life really wasn’t going anywhere. So, at 19 I figured why not do it now? I wished my girlfriend of 2 years goodbye and went on to start a new journey in my life.

I came home 6 months later after everything was finished and roughly one and a half weeks later my girlfriend who I was really in love with—and wanted to be with for the rest of my life—broke up with me. For me it was a traumatizing experience because it was first time I really felt love and acceptance from someone who wasn’t in my immediate family. I’d let my guard down and opened up to someone. I divulged all of the shit in my head that scared me, all of the tormenting from middle school and all the inadequacies I’d felt, but yet they still loved me and cared for me. A person who said in letters while I was in basic training how much they couldn’t wait for me to be home—how much they loved and missed me—got ripped out from under my feet. That night I had a friend go out and buy me 6 pack and when that was gone. I went to another friend’s house and got drunk enough to be able to fall asleep.

There was my first experience in dulling the pain of life with alcohol. Shortly after I started dating someone who would eventually become my ex wife. Once we got married, she ended up becoming really weird and by that I mean “where are you going, who are you hanging out with, what are you doing, how come you come home at 1am from work and don’t want anything to do with me,” kind of weird. I’d worked at a green house and in the spring. I’d go in at 10:00am and not go home until 2am. She would call and text hundreds of times and would eventually start to think I was never really at work. Later I found out she cheated on her ex fiancé and ex boyfriend, so the cheater always thinks the spouse is cheating.

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She was two years older than me, and before I turned 21 she would buy me alcohol a lot! I remember sometimes getting extremely messed up. Once I’d turned 21 and things between me and her got worse I started going to the bar every Thursday for $1 pints and $5 beers. This was so I could get away from her and get super screwed up each night. It would become my escape, my relaxation, my social hour to get away from all the bullshit and have a great time. The only way I’d eventually be able to deal with her was by getting drunk enough or buzzed to the point I’d fall asleep. My now famous tag line amongst my friends “I DONT GIVE A SHII###%%%%!!!!”

In august of 2012 I got deployed with the Army was thrilled that I’d finally be able to get away, and honestly get a break from her. Hey! Distance makes the heart grow fonder right? In my case it makes you realize how much someone can make you feel like you’re a fucked up person until you get away from them. While I was across seas one of my close friend died. Then my grandmother who I was very, very close with died as well. I wasn’t approved to go home for it. On top of it all I told my wife that I wanted a divorce and wanted her out of my life. There was no “working on it,” it was just get out! We were only allowed 3 beers a day and only on our off days. But, you can bet over time we found how to cheat the system. Man those days were the absolute fucking best, I remember some times getting wasted and man did it feel great.

When I got home my drinking got really out of hand; more than it ever did. I had a pretty big amount of money and alcohol was available at any time. At first it was a 6 pack a night, then a 12, then bar nights with my friends, and just a lot of drinking in general. Seriously, I don’t remember what happened the year of being 23. I remember I started working at a bar and when discounted/free alcohol was an option, things progressively got worse. At a point I would drink a 12 pack and a half a bottle of Jäger nightly because it numbed the pain of everything that had happened. The divorce, death of my grandmother and still the bullshit that happened a long time ago was always on my mind. Questioning whether I was a good person person or not? Why couldn’t I stay in a relationship with anyone? I was still full throttle playing guitar but could never find people who would stay in a band long enough or stay focused enough to actually keep things going and that was getting frustrating. I used to only drink when it got dark because I felt as long as it wasn’t daylight I wouldn’t be an alcoholic and I wouldn’t have a problem.

overcoming John Overcoming Alcohol 2Q

In the middle of this I played an acoustic show that was absolutely terrible that barely anyone showed up to. The PA system wasn’t working right. I don’t remember how much I drank but from what I was told I did great. A bunch of people came up to me and talked to me that I have no recollection of.

One night I remember getting off my shift and having four pint glasses of fireball mixed with sour mix, 4 or 5 beers and half of a bottle of vodka. The next morning, I realized what was happening. I thought “man I could really use a beer right now,” because the hangover was so bad. It finally dawned on me: “If I keep this shit up I’m going to end up dead or in jail.” I quit April 21st 2014. Dead stopped, cold turkey, didn’t go through rehab, never did AA.

As of today I’m one year and six months sober, and better than ever. I went from 205lbs to a steady 185. I’m in good shape and got to accomplish my dream of going on tour with a band playing guitar. For me what keeps me going forward in sobriety is knowing that if I relapse or start drinking again, all my time goes back to 0, and I don’t want that. I’ve seen a therapist to go through some underlying issues and find ways to cope with all that which has helped. I no longer feel the need to drink every time something goes wrong. As much as I thought it would nice I know what will happen if I do. The smell just brings up too many bad memories of throwing up, falling upstairs getting into my bed with the world spinning uncontrollably.

I wouldn’t say sobriety gets easier as much as you find ways to get around having or finding ways of coping with alcoholism. At this point I can walk into a bar order a coke and have fun. I can play onstage without being drunk and I don’t feel insecure in large groups of people. As long as you make it through today that’s all the counts, whatever happens tomorrow you’ll figure it out when you cross that bridge. One day at a time.”


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