Alcohol can change your life

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Andrew Smith
  • 366 Logistics Readiness Squadron
I didn't think. I didn't do the right thing. I threw it all away. Respect, trust, integrity ...

... all washed away with each tip of the bottle.

It happened all because I decided to drink the morning of May 28 and tried to go to work while I was legally drunk. I made it worse by trying to drive a government vehicle while still under the influence.

And I got caught -- a drunk driver. I became one of "those people" you see on the news; another statistic.

My actions were unacceptable as a member of the Air Force's noncommissioned officer corps. I have no excuse. I'm writing this is to warn everyone about alcoholism and how it can control your life.

Alcohol controlled my life for seven years. I was on a path of self destruction. It nearly cost me my wife and children, and I now realize it might have eventually cost me my life.

I tried countless times to stop drinking on my own. I tried limiting the number of drinks. I switched to drinking only beer and when that failed, I drank only hard liquor. I planned to stop for a year, but only made it a week. I tried to limit my drinking to home or at a bar and resorted to having my wife try to control how much I had.

All of these attempts failed.

Every night, I would go home and drink a case of beer. I was able to stop this nightly routine out of fear of losing my career, but I "made up for it" on the weekends when I drank until I blacked out, unless my wife intervened.

Drinking preoccupied my day. Everything I did had to involve it. My wife and I put up on a strong front so everyone looking in would think all was well, when in fact we were experiencing a living hell. When I wasn't drinking, I was a great, gentle, loving, kind husband and father. When I was drinking, I went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. My wife didn't know me when I was drinking, and it killed her emotionally. In an odd way, my wife and I are grateful the events of May 28 happened the way it did before I lost everything.

My actions were unacceptable, and I know things could've been worse. How long did I have left before I lost it all and killed or injured myself or someone else? There are many people out there who can enjoy alcohol responsibly. I'm not one of them. What frightens me is there are many people out there walking the same path.

My actions on that day made me see just how sick I really was. Alcoholism is a disease and nothing you can fully cure. Each day, recovering alcoholics fight a battle to say "no" to the bottle. Each day, they know they could relapse and return to the road to self destruction.

Are you traveling on this road or know someone who is? Don't wait. Seek help immediately before it gets worse (because it will).

If you know someone who drinks too much, wait until the both of you are alone and sober and talk to them. People who need help include those who say they need to quit drinking, drink alone, drink to the point of drunkenness every night or can't enjoy anything unless it involves drinking. If you feel there is no one to talk to, I'm available, no questions asked.

No one can make anyone stop drinking. It's a step you have to take yourself, but there are many people out there that can help.

Alcoholism knows no race, ethnic origin or income. It can take hold of anyone. If you find yourself powerless over alcohol and your life is unmanageable, it's time to get help. If you don't want to talk to anyone on base, Alcoholic Anonymous meets every night. If you drink and drive, stop now. It only takes one time to hurt your career or worse yet, kill or injure yourself or someone else.

For six years, I was an outstanding troop that never got into any kind of trouble. In one day, I went from top troop to rock bottom.

It's all because I didn't think. I didn't do the right thing. I let alcohol control me and my life.

I'm not writing this as an excuse. No one made me write this letter and I can't save my Air Force career by doing so. My message is genuine. I'm hoping to reach anyone and let them know alcoholism is a serious problem and it's okay to admit it and to just get help. I've remained sober for almost three months - a lifetime for an alcoholic. My life gets better with each day that passes.

Words alone can't express my deepest apologies.  I let everyone down, both as a person and team member. I can't change what I have done, but I can ensure it doesn't happen again by helping others get the help they need.