Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Story ~ Sharing my experience, strength and hope

My Story ~ My experience, strength and hope

Everybody has a story, maybe even an experience that may help another, to learn, to grow, to think. My story is not special, it is no better or worse than any others, pain is pain, fear is fear, love is love, hope... well if you need hope maybe you'll find some here, I hope you do. I hope you find appreciation and gratitude for every moment you live, for every person you meet, for every experience you have good or bad. This is my story, my experience, my strength and my hope. The beginning is always a good place to start so my earliest recollection of feeling self-conscious was in grammar school, I "felt" separate, apart from, I felt like I just didn't fit in. In high school, I knew lots of people, I liked (almost) everyone, I had "fun", though I was miserably lonely, I was uncomfortable in my own skin, always felt like I was on the outside looking in, never felt "a part of", never felt worthy, or equal. I imagined that everyone was constantly judging me, my looks, my behavior, my life, questioning my every action. Many of you who knew me may remember my behavior, my out of control drinking. One day, my Junior year I think, I was changing in the locker room one afternoon, coming in from P.E., and a classmate approached me, with a look on his face of... worry, disgust, care and pity, and he said to me, if I remember correctly something to the effect of, "you've gotta change" shaking his head,... I will always remember that moment, and I am eternally grateful for that truth, though I did nothing about it. As odd as it sounds, I cherish those times, that carefree life... it was carefree, I did not care about myself or anyone else. College was a disaster, a drop out, another failure to add to the growing list. My twenties were a blur, fuzzy, disjointed memories of actions I dare not repeat and hold no honor in, self-centered behaviors allowed me to become close to nobody, though I persisted in attempting relationships. There was a girl... You know, that one girl in high school that was the "one", I was so in love... I had no idea of what that was, or meant. That carried on in my heart for a long time, because I thought if I could only be with her, than everything would be great! This led to each following relationship as a recipe for disaster, my drinking increased, my esteem dwindled, and I hurt the women I was with, arguments, drunken fights, verbal abuse, you name it. My picker was "broken", the blind leading the blind, I did not have the tools to behave, live, trust or be honest with myself or the world. Three relationships that lasted 2 1/2 years each, after the end of the first year, I knew it was ending, and I would spend the next year and a half sabotaging the relationship to the extent that the woman, whoever it was at the time, would leave, so that I did not need to be the bad guy, so I would not need to be responsible or be held accountable. They were great, beautiful women, and I owe them... hopefully someday I will find them, tell them I was lost, I had a part in their torture with me, to make amends. Drinking everyday was common place and had been for a long, long time, but now it had led to drinking a shot in the morning, just a little "hair of the dog" to shake off that horrid feeling deep in the core of my body. I knew what I was, a drunk and an alcoholic, and I did not care, I wanted to die, just go away from the loneliness, THAT was the plan! My drinking career had reached about mid-point, I was a real alcoholic, I knew that, but I did not fully comprehend what that actually meant, the levels and depths it reached into the core of my being. I would realize all that later after I chose a new way of life. I would truly understand the levels of wreckage, pain and torment is was creating. I was treating my alcoholism with alcohol, I was "doing my best" to survive and cope with the world in the only way I knew how... drink to escape. The smallest, everyday things became calamities of monumental proportion. I never lived in the moment. I feared and anticipated what was to come, tomorrow always brought obstacles sure to destroy me, obstacles as small as paying a bill on time. When whatever moment finally did arrive, I inevitabley would avoid facing it and instantly feel remorse, regret and depression about avoiding it. This vicious cycle had been my "motive" for a long time. I was hurting my family, could not behave well as a friend, but "functioned" well at my job.. my job, my one escape, my one passion. After the last in a string of unsuccessful relationships, I decided that I would simply be alone! No more women! No more trust, or sharing, or commitments... though I was not practicing any of those behaviors to begin with. That is when... out of the blue, a woman... no... an angel, who at first meeting I thought was a bi*#@! For some unforeseen reason apparent to me, she liked me. As bitter as I was, and turning her advances down, her requests to participate in fun and life, I tried to say no, but she persisted. Oddly, we had both lived in Santa Barbara in the eighties, over a span of 2 years, and never met, then in San Diego, me in Pacific Beach and she in Ocean Beach for 4 years and never met, and then the universe, God, higher power, whatever you want to call it brought us together in a very small town in East County San Diego. She had just lost the love of her life, a man who passed from breast cancer. Her name was Mary-Cynthia Hendrickson... My beautiful Cindi, that was 1993. We married July 7th, 1996, and in the beginning I thought that it would work out well for me, because I would not be alone. I was not "in love" with her when we wed, I thought I was at the time, but in "my drunk", I was really just in love with the idea of being in love and didn't want to be alone anymore. We were married for 10 years... Now dear friends, please allow me to share this beauty with you, this awakening, this amazing gift that was bestowed upon me, like a gift sent from God almighty, I learned what love meant, real, real, unconditional, non-judgmental, never ending, love, beautiful, pure, honest, love... I wish I had realized it better at the time. After we had been married a short time ( 2 years?) we moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado. Our love, my trust, had grown, changed, I really cared about someone other than myself... or so I thought, the drinking continued. The world was more beautiful with her in it, the sky a more vibrant shade of blue, the music I heard rang with her name in it, it was like a dream, I was uncontrollably happy. We would dance by the fire at night, naked, laughing, we shared all our thoughts, our dreams, our hopes and aspirations. We hoped one day to open a Bed and Breakfast in Oregon, she was a Food and Beverage Director and I (working at the time at a high end resort) had almost every Hotel management position under my belt, it was a possibility! We would someday get a prospectus together, get a loan, a grant, some investors and we would live our dream... someday. We had often spoken of so many places we would go, so many things we would do, so many experiences we would share... someday. She drank with me, not as much as I did when we met, but in the end she drank, (I think) simply to keep up with me, trying not to see what I was doing to myself, to her, to us. After ten years of marriage, I began feeling sorry for myself, that I was not giving her as much as she deserved. I knew my drinking would lead to an end... the plan was for me to die, somehow, releasing her to carry on with her life and find another, better man... what a noble gesture I thought. In reality, I was being (at that point) the most selfish I had ever been in my entire life, but I did not see it, I was blind, blind to my own behavior, my own self, my own needs. In the early morning of January 5'th, 12:58 A.M., I awoke in bed (after passing out about 9:00 P.M. the night before), next to my beautiful wife, this amazing creature that loved me to no end. I felt her arm next to me, she was cold, I looked above the head of the bed and realized the window was open, so I reached up and closed it, leaned over to pull the covers up over her she had kicked off in her sleep and looked at her face, her face,... I gently shook her arm... "babe?'... Babe, BABE!?... SWEETHEART!!! BABE, WAKE UP! Her arm was ICE cold, she did not respond to my inquiries to wake up! Her color was gone, her beautiful lips a pale shade of blue, and she had no breath. The window was not the reason she was cold. The coroners report declared in a very simple, cold, callus way her cause of death as "complications due to acute alcoholism". My world ended that day. To this day I cannot remember any part of the rest of that January month, except for one flash, one memory, I do not know who I was with (people, family and friends kept close watch on me) but I was at a grocery store, walking down one of the isles and noticed tampons, and thought "oh, I should buy some, that's a good price and she will need..." and then I remembered, no, no she won't need them. I stood there, frozen in the market, sobbing. I remember her memorial, a beautiful Catholic Mass, her ashes sitting on the alter, that was February 2nd, 2006, it was ironically a day of birth for me, a continuance in my life from that point forward to cherish her, to honor her existence, to share the best of what she had taught me by becoming the man I should have been for her, making her proud by practicing good and honest principals in all of my affairs, or at least trying to perform these principals to the best of my ability. I continue on, one day at a time. I still at times think, "wait! I'm suppose to be with her still! Why did this happen? and the pain sets in. July 7th, 2006 would have been our actual 10 year anniversary. I was living in a mens recovery home in Santa Barbara. I had planned on releasing her ashes into the ocean and had asked many of the men in the house if they would like to participate in the ceremony. About twenty of my housemates and I made it down to Ledbetter Beach. It was about 8:00 A.M. a warm summer morning, the water was calm and glassy. I waded out into the water about waist deep with a bouquet of her favorite flowers and her ashes. The tears were streaming down my face and I could see them hit the water. I said a few words, laid the flowers into the water and said goodbye and proceeded to empty her remains into the warm ocean waters. As I did this action, about ten feet to my left a PAIR of dolphins slowly surfaced and looked at me, and then about five feet to my right a seal pops it head straight up out of the water and we make eye contact and I swear there was a gloss in this animals eyes like it had been crying with me.  I am now in a program of recovery, and this February 2nd 2014 will be the eighth year of sobriety and of participating in the "experience" of life, contributing and being of service to my fellows. The story my friends continues, as does all of yours. I am so thankful for each day, for all of you and for meeting her, to be given this opportunity twice in life amazes me, I am thankful just for the ability to SEE the gifts and opportunities placed in front of me. My beautiful friends, please stop for just a second to "be in the moment," to reflect and give thanks, to be grateful and aware of your place in life, your part in it, your actions and your own contributions, even if you may think you have none to offer, you are more valuable than you or I could possibly imagine. If you are in love, SHARE it with her, or him, post it, shout it from the rooftops! If, at this moment in life you are single, than love yourself, be thankful for your experiences and try to see all of the gifts that are bestowed to you each day, great and small ones that we usually let pass us by, unnoticed. I am thankful for you all, all of you who are part of my past, those of you who may be part of my future and those of you who I will never meet, because we are all one community, sharing and contributing to this great experience we call life. Be well, all my love, faith, strength and hope.

If you feel you may be having difficulty with drinking, if you feel scared, angry, or lost, if you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, you're not alone. You may choose to get help, or you may choose only to get information. It is your choice.

I hope my story helps someone. I hope that if you identify with any part of it, you seek help. I hope that if you know somebody like I was, this will help you understand them a bit more. We (alcoholics & Addicts) are responsible for our actions, the disease is NOT an excuse, but please understand and remember that is IS a disease. Thank you for your time my friends. I want to share a small quote I heard once, it's the definition of serenity. "SERENITY is not the lack of chaos, but the ability to cope with it while in the midst of it." I wish you all serenity, happiness and love.
Anthony Longoria

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.


244 East 58th Street 4th Floor New York, NY 10022

phone: 212/269-7797 fax: 212/269-7510


HOPE LINE: 800/NCA-CALL (24-hour Affiliate referral)


A.A. World Services, Inc., 11th Floor

475 Riverside Drive at West 120th St.

New York, NY 10115

(212) 870-3400