While I was in the Betty Ford Center, I had to create a timeline of my life, from my earliest memories right up to the present. As I was doing this, I recalled a two-year period between 2000 and 2002 when I decided to quit drinking just to show my wife and children that I could. For those two years, I remained abstinent or sober, but that is not the same as being in recovery. I was what is known as a “dry drunk.” That is, I was not drinking, but my behavior was becoming increasingly worse. I became angrier, more judgmental, and much more arrogant, and the people around me did not like me very much. The fact is, I didn’t much like myself.
The underlying issue, my sexual abuse, had not been dealt with, and my way of self-medicating had been taken away from me. I was white-knuckling it every day. Things had changed alright, but they had changed for the worse. My life had been easier to handle when I could work myself into exhaustion every day and collapse into bed at night.
Vacations or weekend camping, fishing, or hunting trips were perhaps the most difficult times to deal with, especially at night. During the day when I was fishing, hiking, hunting or touring around town, my mind was occupied with the task at hand. However, at night while sitting around the campfire I would be fine with everyone drinking for a little while, but there would always come a point in the evening when I became immensely uncomfortable. As the campfire popped and crackled, I would listen to everyone laughing and having a good time but be unable to laugh and have fun myself. The same people I had hunted with or hiked with during the day, I could not deal with at night, when conversations tend to become more intimate and personal.
At bottom, I couldn’t handle the stress of just being me, for that had never been good enough. I could handle taking action, such as shooting or racing, but the moments when I just had to be myself left me shaking like a child. Sometimes I even ran away to literally pull the blankets over my head. In those moments, when everything was quiet, I felt that everyone around me could see my shame and brokenness.
I’ll never forget the evening in 2002 when I started to drink again. In some ways, it was similar to my first experience of drinking when I was back in high school. At the end of a long day of deer hunting, while my buddies were pouring the traditional end-of-the-day round of Jack Daniel’s, I rationalized that I could join in. After all, I had not had a drink in nearly two years, so I had proven to everyone, including myself, that I did not have to drink. Besides, what could one little drink do to me anyway?
When I asked my friend to pour me a Jack and Seven, he looked stunned, reminding me that I had not had a drink in nearly two years. When I insisted, he resisted me at first, but eventually poured me a drink with a great deal of reluctance. Unfortunately, that one drink led to two, two led to three, and you know the rest. That one drink started me back on a four-year run that nearly cost me everything I loved.
Alcohol gave me an artificial sense of confidence, which I hadn’t experienced since my father died. Although that confidence was a shabby copy of the real thing, when I drank, I was able to interact with people in ways I couldn’t when I was sober.
After I started drinking again, I justified it by telling myself that it was so I could continue to maintain the business relationships that were crucial to my financial success. At that point, I had reached a level of economic success that I never thought possible. Being successful in business was a way to compensate for feeling broken from my abuse. Spending money and buying the latest gadgets made me feel powerful and important, which compensated for the feelings of helplessness and inadequacy that had been festering inside me since I was twelve.
When I had stopped drinking in 2000, my business was suffering because of my frequent withdrawals. When I started drinking again, I transformed back into that work-hard, play-hard Randy that my clients enjoyed being around. Ironically, I was miserable, but my business was prospering again.
My life wasn’t turned around this time by another melodramatic scene, with hurt people shouting and crying. Rather, it was turned around when God whispered softly in my ear, “Randy, you need help, and you need it today.”
I made a commitment then and there that I would stop drinking. I had “quit “several times before, but each time I had returned to the bottle. However, I could tell that something was different this time. In part, I had hit bottom and was sick and tired of it. I knew that if I did not quit drinking and take care of the underlying conditions that were a direct result of my sexual abuse, I would probably lose my wife and children. This wasn’t like previous times when I had hurt Cathy, but she had forgiven me. By now, Cathy had had enough of my abusive behavior, and was insisting that something had to change, and change quickly. I had to change but didn’t know how to.
The following week I saw my therapist and she suggested that I start going to A.A. meetings, which I kindly declined to do. After all I wasn’t living under a bridge, I hadn’t lost my family, home, or business. I just had a small drinking problem. Once again, I had quit drinking, and once again my behavior had begun to get worse. My therapist patiently worked with me over the next three weeks, each week encouraging me to start attending A.A. meetings and each week I would insist I didn’t need that kind of help. After a month of no drinking and drugging, after a month of my behavior crashing, my therapist recommended that maybe I should look into going to the Betty Ford Center. For some reason I decided that it was time to listen to my therapist, after all she had always had my best interest at heart.
My sobriety date is February 5, 2006, Superbowl Sunday. I quit drinking that day but that is all I had done. I began my recovery journey in March of 2006 when I entered The Betty Ford Center. I attend the Intensive Outpatient Program for eight-weeks, started attending A.A. meetings on a regular basis, got a sponsor, and continued seeing my therapist. For me it was the combination of all three of these modalities that slowly helped me uncover and discover my character defects, replacing them with the attributes of a healthy father, husband, and contributing member of society. Today I continue seeing my therapist when needed. I work with others on a constant basis. I have become a pastor and oversee the Celebrate Recovery and Freedom Ministries at Destiny Church. Most important of all, I stay close and pray daily to God asking for his guidance, wisdom, and his will to be done in my life.