From my first to my last: my course through alcoholism, Part I

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anthony M. Ward
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Author's note: April is Alcohol Awareness Month. This is part one of a three-part series about my journey from alcoholism to rehabilitation.

I was visiting my aunt in California during the summer I was 16, a trip that had become an annual event for the better part of decade. The weeks spent there were always a pleasant change of atmosphere, being able to return to the place of my birth after moving to Kentucky at a younger age.

Though memorable as each and every vacation spent in the Golden State was, this particular trip by far had the biggest impact on my life. It was during this impressionable summer that I was introduced to the consumption of alcohol and the state of intoxication.

I remember my excitement as I began to feel the effects of the alcohol course through my body. I became fearless; up for anything, down for whatever, indestructible... or so I thought. I began drinking frequently from that moment forward. I drank because it was fun and it made me happy.

Members of my family often reminded me as I was growing up, and even to this day, the dangers of me drinking. They described how my family had been cursed with the disease of alcoholism, and that I was destined for the same fate if I drank. I, of course, ignored the advice, insisting I knew better. After all, I wasn't hurting anyone and could stop whenever I wanted. I could never have been more wrong.

Once a recreational tool, alcohol soon became a way of dealing with stresses of responsibilities I took on as I grew, to include those of being an Airman. As my stress increased, so did my consumption of alcohol, and as my consumption of alcohol increased, so did my stress. My entire life began spiraling out of control until it wasn't me consuming the alcohol; it was the alcohol consuming me.

For months, getting wasted was the only thing I could think about. Even with the foundations of my life crumbling around me as my work, finances, family, and education suffered a devastating impact; I couldn't keep the thought of alcohol from my mind. I didn't want to think about these problems or anything else for that matter. All I wanted was to be numb.

Eventually, I had become so depressed that not even the sensation of intoxication was enough. I could no longer even stand the feeling of feeling nothing. I wanted to die. I felt that my life was not worthy of living, and that I would be doing the world a favor if were to drink myself to death.

For more than a month, I contemplated ending my life. I sought help from no one, not even my closest friends or family. I was afraid that if I told someone, they might try to stop me, or - worse - possibly encourage me to commit suicide. So I carried on, with the feeling of failure hanging over me.

It wasn't until my first sergeant and supervisor inspected my dormitory that my condition became exposed. Bags of trash, mainly filled with empty rum and beer bottles, sat in the corner of the room. More bottles were scattered around the room, as well as old containers of food, which caused the room to smell. My chain of command was shocked to see how I had been living and even more so to hear why...

Author's note: part two of this series will discuss my experience and treatment at a medical rehabilitation center.