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Just One More
If asked ever, I couldn’t quite tell you how it all started, how something I had total control over, suddenly had unbreakable control over me. I had always been a loving father, devoted husband and a very loyal employee at an ever-rising computer company. I wasn’t someone who spent their whole life struggling. I wasn’t someone who ever had a reason to do what I did. My life was perfect, or so it seemed to everyone else, except no one really knew how deep the disease had gone and how much it was infecting me, not even I myself knew the extent of the situation. My life was spiraling out of control, and there was no sign that my life would eventually take an unexpected turn and then never quite be able to turn back around.
I had the life of any average American. I had a car that ran, a spouse who made me whole, and house to come home to each and every day. I also had a fairly good-looking salary, and two loving sons, who absolutely adored me. My childhood had been similar to my current life now. My father never hit me, unlike everyone else I knew. My mother always had dinner hot on the table at six o’clock and never missed a sewing party. My sister was a star student while I was the star athlete, and we all went to church every Sunday and no one ever complained. My father has always been my hero, my modern day superman, and when he died 3 years ago I was devastated. I took months out of my life to cope with the loss, and to be honest, I never really recovered from it. Maybe that’s when the drinking started, or maybe it started years before that when my son, Tyler, was born with a mental handicap.
In high school I met the woman I was sure I was going marry, her name was Lauren and she was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. She had the face of a movie star and was sharp as a nail. She grounded me. She made me realize what’s important in life, what’s real and what’s make believe. She helped me through everything, and no matter how hard I tried I could never really do the same. Lauren and I had gotten married a couple years after we finished college. We had a dream wedding and a steady looking future. In May, after we had tied the knot, our first son, Tyler, was born. He was a beautiful baby boy. He had the brightest blue eyes, just like the color of those oceans you see in exotic places magazines, the ones you never believe actually exist. He was flawless, except for the fact that Tyler had been born with a mental handicap called Asperger’s Disease, which took us a few years to identify. Tyler’s disability made it impossible for him to hold conversations with others because the disease only allowed him to focus on one topic. He soon became isolated, especially at home, surrounded by people who were “supposed” to love him unconditionally no matter what. I immediately became detached from Tyler and often avoided being around him, never showing interest in taking part in his life.
When Tyler turned 6, Lauren gave birth to another boy, which we named Noah. Noah was my favorite, and that was something I never tried to hide. Lauren took notice, but thought it was just a phase, since Noah was the youngest. Around that time my addiction really started to pick up speed. It had always just been a few drinks here in there, a quick beer after work to take off the anxiety, or one on the weekends when I was relaxing around the house. As Tyler grew older and started getting into school, he only produced more problems and often came home from school for disrupting class and throwing tantrums. I wanted no part in dealing with Tyler’s issues, and always left Lauren to clean up his mess.
Soon my one beer after work turned into 10, sometimes more. I would drink until my blood ran cold, until I had no thoughts of my current life and what problems I had awaiting me at home. I drink until my steps get spaced and random and my speech is slurred and dragged out. I would walk to my beat up car and drive home. Constantly I would be weaving in and out of the painted yellow and white lines, until reaching my house, where I became accustomed to parking my car slanted, halfway on the driveway, halfway on the lawn. I would then stumble into our bedroom and fall to the bed, passed out.
After those nights, what followed were more, more drinks during the day, more drinks after work, and the last drink, really wasn’t ever the last drink. Lauren realized immediately of my addictive new hobby, and gave me ultimatums, so many more times than I actually deserved. She threatened about our marriage and about our children, but it wasn’t ever as appealing to me as the alcohol was. Lauren didn’t need to hear another word or see another “display” before she packed, buckled up our kids in the car, and left.
The months following that day are still a blur to me. Those months I drank more than I ever imagined was possible and every day promised a guaranteed black out. At work I disguised it in coffee mugs and water jugs and drank mouth wash religiously to keep the nauseating smell at bay. During this time I had no contact with Lauren and no way of knowing how my family was. I had no life outside of what I discovered in the bottles, until the little control I did have on my life, was lost.
On a routine ride home from the bar, I was pulled over for suspected drunk driving. After failing both sobriety tests, I was arrested and taken to jail. The entire car ride to jail was filled with thoughts concerning how much I had lost, and how much I was still losing. I had no family, no loving wife, no children, no job; all I had was my drinking. When I arrived at the police station they booked me and placed me into a jail cell until I either met bail or was completely sober. I later was charged in court with drunk driving and was ordered to attend continual AA meetings and check myself into a 60 day rehab program.
After 3 months I was alcohol free and hadn’t thought about taking a sip even once. It had been more than half a year since I had seen my son’s and wondered if my family had known that I was clean now and wondered if they would be proud of me or if it was just too little too late. I called Lauren that night, after finishing rehab, to tell her the news, and prayed for the best possible outcome.
“Lauren… its Ryan, please don’t hang-up on me. I have something to tell you. I was pulled over for a DUI six months ago, and it made me realize how stupid I’ve been, I entered rehab and I want you to know how sorry I am. You didn’t deserve any of this and neither did the boys, but I want you to know I’m changed and I would really like to see my family sometime, if you could do that for me.”
She was quite when I spoke, but she never hung-up or sighed in a disappointed way, she just listened, and just before I thought she was going to hang-up, she said this to me.
“Ryan, this has hurt the whole family not just you but I am very proud of you. I knew that you could do this and I knew you would get yourself help and beat this thing. I miss you terribly and so do the boys. I want you to see them, and I want to see you too. I want to make this work, come to Tyler’s basketball game next weekend it’s at the old school building in downtown. I love you Ryan.”
She hung-up after that but it didn’t matter to me because I had already heard all I needed to.
I was uneasy walking into Tyler’s school, my palms were sweating furiously and I had a mess of butterflies in my stomach. Tyler was the one that I had hurt most in all of this, Tyler had been exiled from my life since the day he was brought into this world, to be honest, my son never stood a chance. Now I have so much more space in my heart now for Tyler, so much more room for me to love and accept Tyler and all of his disabilities. I also feel a great amount of guilt for being here. I mostly felt that I didn’t deserve a second chance in my children’s lives; I felt that my mistake was something that would take so much time to mend and forgive, maybe even be labeled as unforgivable.
As I opened the doors to the gym with all these feelings racing through my mind, the door handle almost slipped from my grasp because of my hands being so drenched. Tyler was playing defense when I made my way in, he looked so much taller and older then when I last saw him, which has only been a little less than a year. I guess you miss a lot when you’re not a part of your child’s life. Tyler had the biggest smile on his face and when he had a break, I caught his eye and he came running over to me and jumped into my awaiting arms. That was the first time I ever actually held my son. I loved Tyler very much and explained this to him and apologized for being gone for so long. While spilling my heart to Tyler, through misty eyes, Noah waddled up to me and I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. I was a wreck and didn’t care who knew it. Lauren then joined me and gave me a hug and a kiss, which made me realize how in love with her I was. She looked tired but beautiful as ever.
If asked I could tell you exactly what the best moment in my life so far has been. I could tell you where I was, what I was doing, what time of day it was, every detail to that day. It was the day I got my family back, got my life back. After rehab, I made a vow to never be involved with alcohol again. I’ve been tempted since, don’t get me wrong, but I refuse to give into to something that has the ability to take my life from me, and it just isn’t worth it.