The First Year Clear My name is Matt Golden, and I am an alcoholic, a drug addict, and a bunch of other stuff. Today I have recovered. I’ve recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body, and by the end of this story, you may see that. And if you get one thing from this, it will be hope. I had no clue what hope was until I started my journey in recovery. It all started on November 27th 2011....
I walked into my house like any other day, drunk and high as I did every day for the preceding 17 years. However, that night was different. I was greeted by my frustrated wife who wanted me to give our 4 month old son a bath. I told her no, walked by, and went down into my basement to continue drinking. When I got down there, something happened. For the first time ever, I thought I may have had a drinking problem. Just drinking though, NOT a drug problem. What I couldn’t tell my wife, was why I wouldn’t bathe our son. I was terrified that I would drop him, or leave him in the tub, and forget he was there. So my mind set was simple... just stay away from them. He was 4 months old, and I could count on one hand how many times I had held him. To clarify, he is my 2nd child; he has an older sister named Abby, whom i had with the same woman. As I’m sitting in the basement pondering on my new found problem, I received a phone call. It was my sister in-law. The conversation is a bit fuzzy, but I remember her telling me about this thing called AA that she was doing. We talked for a long while, and she was on the phone with me until i finished all the booze in the house. At the end of that conversation, i had agreed to not drink, and go to an AA meeting the following day. That was the last day i had a drink.
The following day I wandered into my first meeting in Rockford' ill at a little hole in the wall called the "new attitudes" group. I was withdrawing from alcohol, but I have the privilege of being dually addicted. I also have a pill addiction that came in handy at the time. I ate Zanax and valium to get through the dt's, and Norco’s and Percocet to help deal with my broken mind and broken body for another 2 months. If you've read my story, you'll know why. However, this story is only about my first year or so into recovery, and you will see how the process went for me. I don’t really remember a whole lot about my first meeting, but i do remember the people in their looked happy, somewhat sane, and had the one thing I wanted most- to not drink! I was intrigued by this, which is why I kept coming back. I didn’t think this thing would work for me, but I figured I’d give it my all, and if it didn’t work, I could resume where I left off. My first week not drinking was rugged. I received a phone call from one of my good friends, husband. He was distraught, and proceeded to tell me that my friend Chris had died. She had gotten to drunk and taken to many pills, and aspirated in her sleep. I was devastated, and this opened my eyes just a little bit more. I remember thinking WOW. That’s exactly what I had been doing for years, and why didn’t it happen to me?! But I then thought, well at least I’m quitting drinking! This was the real problem, not my pill addiction. The next few weeks I knuckled up, and kept trudging, still not drinking, but smoking pot and taking pills regularly. at this point, all I could do was keep coming back. During the next month, I started going to more meetings, and I got a sponsor. He was a guy with about 6 months, and an old friend of my wife’s. I figured I was going in the right path, following direction, and moving forward with my recovery. However, things didn’t seem to be getting any better. In fact, things kept getting worse. A week before Christmas I received a phone call from my mom who lived in Idaho. She wasn’t making any sense, and i became very concerned. one, because she was clearly having a problem, and two, because we didn’t talk much, but when we did, she wasn’t like she was then. I contacted my sister who also lived in Idaho, and she took my mom with her and her family to Utah for Christmas. After Christmas, I flew to Idaho to see if I could figure out what was going on. Once I got there, I quickly discovered that something was in fact wrong with my mom. We took her to a psychologist and it was discovered that she had early onset dementia. I was told that she could no longer live by herself, and it was decided that she would be coming back to Illinois with me. It took 3 weeks to pack up her house, get it on the market, and drive back to Belvidere where I lived at the time. It was probably 1 of the most stressful times I had ever faced. I was going to meetings out there, and still continued to take pills and smoke, but remained free from alcohol. I was gone on my wife’s birthday, and pretty upset that I couldn’t take her out. My sponsor called and asked if he could take her to a hockey game for her birthday since I couldn’t, for the obvious reason that I wasn’t there. I told him sure, and I hoped they had fun... and fun is exactly what I believe they had....
at this point, i wanted nothing more than to get home to my family, and get mom situated so I could continue on with my life. I had a road trip from hell on the drive back from Idaho to Illinois, and the details aren’t important. What are important are the next few things I write. Oddly, exactly 2 months later, January 27th I finally got back from Idaho, and I remember feeling so relieved that I was home, and the insanity I had just endured was finally over! Me and moms hopped out of the truck and went inside. i was greeted by my wife who had the exact opposite reaction i was expecting... I got mom settled for the evening, and my wife proceeded to tell me that she didn’t want to be with me anymore. She had had a lot of time to "think" while I was gone, and came to the conclusion that she wanted to separate and work on her resentments, and issues she had from my years of drinking. I was devastated. I immediately turned around, went out the door, jumped in my truck, and headed to the Buchannan street pub to get myself nice and fucked up. I had reached the point where "being sober" wasn’t working, and I thought I’d resume my old way of living again. On the way there I was flooded with thoughts and emotions I didn’t know how to deal with. I was crying one minute, punching the steering wheel the next. Once I arrived, I sat outside in the truck for a while contemplating going in. I knew my life was a fuckin wreck, and I knew it was my fault for becoming an alcoholic and a drug addict. So i said fuck it, got out of the truck, and walked up to the bar. I got to the door, put my hand on the handle, and stood there... listening to everyone inside. I knew exactly what would happen if I went in there. But I had no clue what would happen if I didn’t. I found myself crying out to a God I didn’t believe in, asking it that if it were real, now was the time to prove it. as they say, God could and would IF he were sought. Something happened to me at that moment. It wasn’t a burning bush so to speak, but an overwhelming sense of calmness. I suddenly felt like things would be ok if i didn’t go into the bar. in fact, I didn’t even want to drink anymore. Shit, I didn’t even want to get high or eat pills anymore... that was the last day I put any mind or mood altering chemicals into my body. I left the bar and went home to face the mess I had created. This is when my true recovery started. The following day is now my sobriety date.
It was January 28th, 2012.
Looking back on it today, I realize a few things about that night. First, the compulsion was lifted. This is also when steps 1, 2, and 3 happened for me. That day I realized how completely unmanageable my alcoholic/drug addicted life really was. as an atheist, I also was able to come to believe in a power greater than myself. I was then able to figure out that I had to somehow turn it over to this higher power that I had discovered, which was me making the decision that I couldn’t do this my way. I then found the best group of people just like me, which became my home group, and still is today. This place is called "the upper room" in Rockford Illinois. I walked in there angry, upset, broken, beaten, defeated, well you get the point. These people would become the people to love me until I learned how to love myself. They would be patient, loving and tolerant with me and all my shenanigans. They would show me how to live the steps and practice these principals in all my affairs, they would ultimately be the ones to give me a life of recovery which has become better than I could’ve ever imagined. I love those people, that group, and the man who would become my new sponsor...
After finding all this great news out, realizing the problem, and going home to face it, I realized I had no idea how to do that. I found myself sitting outside on the stairs of the upper room in a foggy haze, full of disappointment, fear, and regret. That day is when I met the man who would become my new sponsor. This old bastard would do to me, what no one else could... make me look at the real problem: ME. He drove up in a Chevy pickup, hopped out and asked how I was doing. He clearly knew already, but was very nice, and introduces himself as Gator. We talked for a bit, and he asked me a question. "Are you willing to go to any lengths for your sobriety?" at that point, i would’ve eaten shit if it kept me sober, and i told him yes. He then said "then get in the truck." and I did. He took me to Milwaukee for the evening where we attended a seminar, and got to know each other a bit better. Eventually I asked him to sponsor me and he said yes. And when he asked me why I asked him, I said cuz you got something I want. Then he told me that if I wanted what he got, I got to do what he did. He also explained that as a sponsor, he wasn’t a marriage counselor, a therapist, a financial advisor, etc. he was honest and open. He said there might be times when he’s unavailable, and to build a network of people I could trust and talk to. And I did. This was valuable advice that I use today with people I sponsor. Something my first sponsor knew nothing about, lol. And then it began... the next few months I regularly attended meeting at all hours of the day and night, and sometimes all day. i reluctantly did what I was told, and he helped me get through the process of grieving, listened to me bitch and complain, and was patient with me, when most weren’t. I ended up moving my mom into an assisted living facility, filing for divorce, moving out of my house, and changing jobs. All things they don’t recommend you do the first year, but in my case, I had no choice. I moved in with my brother, started working for him, and he helped me get into a new place, was there when my divorce was finalized, and we rebuilt a relationship that I had destroyed years earlier. Again things my sponsor helped me see and work through after we did the 4th and 5th step.
When the time came, he told me to start my 4th step. I didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was, but he made it pretty clear that if I didn’t do it, and do it right, I would ultimately find myself back out on the streets, drunk and disorderly. so I did it. Doing a thorough and honest moral inventory was a pain in my ass. he showed me how to do it according to how it’s done in the big book of alcoholics anonymous, and i did it just like that. It took me over a month to get all that crap out on paper. i tried to do one person, place, or thing each night. And as I was doing it, it unleashed a wave of emotions and thinking that i was not used to, but I shared about it in meeting, built a network of people, and knuckled up and finished it. it’s quite something to look at it all on paper, and see the events unfolded during your life. Once it’s in black and white, there is no arguing, or twisting the facts and distorting the event in your mind like me and other alcoholics/addicts can do. Turns out I have a thinking problem, lol. Go figure. When we finally got together to do my 5th, I showed up with my 4th, a list of people that had fucked me over, and I thought to myself, FINALLY. This guy is going to see how these assholes have treated me, and why my life is so messed up! I won’t spoil the process for those of you who haven’t gotten there yet, but I will say that after several hours going over my 4th with my sponsor, myself, and my higher power, i realized that almost every single thing on there, all the people that had "fucked me over" all the things I did, was all of my own making. I became aware of my part in every situation, had the understanding of why they went down how they did, and suddenly found myself with the knowledge of all these character defects that I had heard about. I knew what most of mine were, and that now it was time to get busy. I didn’t get any great release, or fantastic feeling after doing my 5th. Instead I got an awareness of myself, why and how I do a lot of the things I do, and the willingness to change it. I also got a new best friend :-) I found out that my sponsor and I are eerily similar. And I became convinced that God had put him in my life for a reason. Along with everyone else in my life. Good, bad, etc. it all led me to where I’m at today. Every person, every event, every trip to jail, every rehab, every car crash, EVERYTHING happened exactly how it was supposed to, when it was supposed to, for reasons beyond my comprehension. A lot of stuff, I figure out later in life. A lot of the events were not even intended for me. They were things that happened so I may be able to help someone else in the future. And i have. After that entire process, me and Gator got up and went to a much needed meeting. Steps 4-9 are the action steps. The steps that separate the men from the boys. I am grateful for them, and the process.
in the book it states that after your 5th step, you take at least an hour reflecting on all this new found knowledge of your problems, defects, which I took longer than that. As I reflected on my life and the events, i found myself with a new outlook on things. I was ready to have my higher power remove whatever defects were in my way of doing his work, and then I humbly asked him to. It was that simple. the less simple part is when my sponsor and others point out my defects, I become aware of them, and then must do some work within myself to change it. I’m by no means perfect, but I’ve worked hard, and will always work on bettering myself for the sake of my sobriety, my children, and all those who have to put up with me!!! As I’m told, no change = no change. So if I want a different result, i must do something different. I get that today, and today I’m doing that. One day at a time. I’ve also realized that my HP only removes the defects that are not useful to him, because some remain, and haven’t always become an issue. Some are a survival tool. Some are useful at times, and not so much at others. But I’m still figuring a lot of that out. I’ll always be a work of progress, and as long as I’m moving forward, I will be ok. At this point in my life, I have about 5 months sober from all mood and mind altering chemicals. I’m dating again, and coasting along on this pink cloud that people talk about, and things are going relatively good, for the most part. I got into and out of a relationship, without anything weighing on mind, and for a brief time, i started to think that i got this thing. Eventually, ego gets in the way, and I am humbled. I’ll get to that a little bit later.
Again, when the time is right, my sponsor tells me to get cracking on step 8. The first part of this step is easy. By doing a thorough 4th, my list is already made. I had to add a few more names due to memory issues, and new stuff that came up, again I remind you that I’m human and tend to get in my own way. Sometimes often. However, the 2nd part, becoming willing to make amends proved to be a little more difficult. Especially with my ex-wife, but to continue to the 9th step, I only had to be willing. In time, I got there. But it wasn’t in my time. Nothing is ever in my time, lol but I’m ok with that today. I’ve heard several different ways that people have done there 9th step, and for me, I can only speak of my experience. I didn’t run out and go down the list to make each amend. it says in the 9th made direct amends to such people wherever possible, which tells me that when my HP is ready for that to happen, the situation will present itself. And thus far, that’s exactly how they have gone. And most of them went very well. Thank God for my sponsor, cuz there were times when I thought I was ready to make amends, and my sponsor told me, "you’re not ready. If you want to make an amends for making an amends, then by all means, go ahead. But you’re not done making damage." I didn’t understand that at first, but I get it today, and I’m grateful I listened. My ex wife is a perfect example of that. As time goes on, I start dating another woman, the woman I am with today. And if I’m lucky, we will be together for the rest of our lives. I’m sharing this with you all for 2 reasons. One, to humble myself, and 2 because I’m sure some of you can relate, this is an example of self will run riot. I’m at about 10 months sober at this point, and see a rather intriguing woman at a meeting at the Alano club by my brother’s house. She’s new to the program, and we start going to meeting together, and eventually out into the real world. This woman is different than any I’ve ever met. She has a way of seeing me, and getting me to look at things I don’t want to see, but need to. Then I start falling for her, and get scared. Fear has been the basis of most of my problems. I become a total asshole, and break up with her, quit taking her calls/texts, and try to avoid her at all costs. I don’t know why I do these things, other than I have an overwhelming feeling that I don’t deserve the things I want, examples being a loving woman, family, and kids. You know the whole family thing. i never had that, don’t understand it, and therefore don’t think I deserve it. Again, let me remind you of my broken thinker, lol. This is also where I practiced step 10 the most, lol taking a daily inventory and promptly admitting when I’m wrong has become a reoccurring thing for me, hahaha! But necessary, and in the steps for good reason. So I self sabotage, distort things, and convince myself of whatever I need to at the time, but am able to look at it A LOT quicker than I used to. Back to what I was saying: eventually I realize she is contacting me to inform me that she is pregnant, but me being me has made this difficult for her. go figure. so here, I believe, is God once again doing for me what I cannot do for myself- face fear head on. I’m given the choice to run like I always had, or the opportunity and 2nd chance to have the family I want, but don’t think I deserve. After long talks, lots of heartache on my part, she takes me back, and we are happily together and awaiting our newest child :-) we had the privilege of seeing the baby's heartbeat for the first time last week. Things are not what I expected they would be today, they are actually better. All thanks to these glorious steps, my sponsor, the fellowship, and of course, my Higher Power. I have learned how to pray daily, to listen for the answer, and quit questioning the things I don’t understand. I know the difference between my will, and Gods will for me (most of the time) and hear him speak to me through you people. I have overcame my fear of sponsorship, and am able to speak one on one, or at the podium with a room full of people just like me, (in one way or another) honestly sharing my experience, strength and hope. I can share the triumphs and frustrations of my life with you, in hoping that you may get something out of my experience, whether it be hope, or an idea that this thing works, IF YOU WORK FOR IT. And that covers step 11 and 12. That is my experience of my first year sober, free and clear minded for the first time ever. I encourage you to not give up, and keep trudging the road to happy destiny. As long as you don’t drink or use, you got a chance! And if a wreck like me can get this thing, you can to!!! I love you all, thank you for letting me share :-) I will leave you with my sponsor’s most famous saying: "Work the steps or die mother f****r!!!" -Matt G-