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  1. #1
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    18th August, 2009.
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    Smile One Lucky Marine

    I have not posted anything on here in a few years but I think it's time so hereís my story:

    Let me start out by saying that I am the type of person that believes 100% in personal responsibility and personal accountability. My alcoholism was caused by me. Period. I created the problem. It was my responsibility. It was my fault. I own it. Nobody else ever made me drink but me. I canít stand people who blame the substance or some ďhigher powerĒ or someone else. I caused this problem and it was up to me to fix it. I havenít had a drink now in over 15 months. I finally feel like Iím at the point where I can tell you all about it.

    Here's my background:
    I am a retired Marine. I served roughly 25 years. Iíve been stationed all over the Corps, all over the globe during my Career. I served in the Air Wing, Recruiting, Inspector-Instructor, Drill Instructor, and with a Grunt Regiment. My first conflict was the Gulf War in 1990-1991. I later returned and spent a year in Iraq during the heaviest fighting right after the battle of Fallujah. I retired a few years later.

    I was never a drinker when I first joined. I was a fitness nut. Running and working out all the time. But Marines are known for being hard drinkers who love to fight and I was no different. Life in the Marine Corps, my life anyway, became centered on drinking over time. Every party, every get-together, every function, everywhere, anytime we did some activity not at work there was booze; lots and lots of booze. I developed a taste for it over the years and by the time I was approaching 40 it was becoming a problem. Somewhere along the way I became a raging alcoholic.

    I was able to maintain my fitness level the whole time. Running and working out like a mad man right up to my retirement. I was blessed by God with a strong, healthy body and I worked it hard. But the psychological stress created by my obsession with fitness, rabid devotion to the Corps, combat related PTSD, and my constant drinking began to take a toll on me as I got older. It really piled up. I started having severe panic and anxiety attacks several years before I retired. I didnít make the connection between my alcoholism and anxiety issues until much later though. I started seeing Psychologists and Psychiatrists and taking anti-anxiety meds after my first bad attack about 15 years ago now and continue to this day. I really screwed myself up with booze.

    The pressure to perform and never complain in the Corps is a daily part of life. If you want to do well and have a successful career you can never show weakness. This is how I lived throughout my career. Working day and night whenever I felt I was needed; never complaining. I always just sucked it up and continued with the mission. I always put my duty as my number one priority.

    I had a very successful career. I never got in trouble and was always where I was supposed be when I was supposed to be there. Though I was always stressed out and operated at 100 miles an hour all the time. Drinking continued unabated throughout and toward the end of my career if I wasnít at work I was drunk. I managed it well though. I was able to hide it and continue to work. My drinking was driving me out of my mind.

    Let me say that this situation didnít and doesnít pertain just to me. Every Marine deals with tons of stress constantly. People just handle it differently. Apparently I didnít handle it very well. I always seemed to self-medicate with booze whenever I felt the urge. Alcohol is very insidious, very sneaky. It creeps into your life slowly then before you know it youíre in a living nightmare.

    I also need to add that I suffered greatly from PTSD after Iraq. Non-stop nightmares, agonizing panic episodes, auditory and visual hallucinations. I withdrew from people. I could never commit suicide as I am vehemently opposed to that but suicidal thoughts plagued me day and night. My anxiety got so bad that I was scared to drive. I lived in a constant state of panic. I cannot adequately describe to you how it feels to be losing your mind. Itís terrifying. I find it strange though that I had no problems while in Iraq. All the violence and blood and guts didnít bother me a bit. But when I got home it hit me hard, and as usual I tried to drink it away and pretend everything was alright. My God that was an awful time.

    Anyway, I eventually retired. By the end I had severely elevated blood pressure and I had gained 10-15 pounds, I was on Zoloft and Ativan, and generally miserable. I was barely functioning. I felt like a washed out used up condom. I was an empty shell, soulless, lifeless and lost.

    Retiring did have a huge positive impact on me. Getting away from all that stress helped me greatly. I rebounded for a time and felt great. Not having all that constant worry made a significant difference. It turned my life around for a while. My symptoms immediately subsided to a large degree. I was still taking meds and seeing a shrink regularly but everything got much better. That is, until the booze took hold again.

    After I retired I was able to finish college and get a really good job that I enjoy. It pays well and my colleagues and co-workers are great. I look forward to going to work every day because we all get along so well.

    Fast forward a couple years. I started hitting the booze pretty hard again. I was right back on the same track I was on before I retired. If I wasnít at work I was drunk. It just snuck up on me and took hold of me like never before. I quit running. I gained 40 pounds. I just felt like hell most of the time. But I continued to act like everything was fine.

    I think about it now and I donít know where I got all the money I wasted on it?? I was drunk every day. I drank anything I could get my hands on. I donít know how many thousands and thousands of dollars I spent on it over the years. Iíd be scared to find out. I donít know how I functioned. I was just barely getting by. I am living proof that itís better to be lucky that smart!

    Then one day in 2014 I hit my lowest point and had my last drink. My body finally said enough and crashed on me. I was at work and started having serious pain in my belly. I finished work and drove home. The pain got worse and worse. I drove myself to the ER. By the time I got there I could barely walk. The pain was excruciating. The worst pain I have ever felt. I had pancreatitis with complications. The Dr. showed me my lab work and said it was probably the most severe case he had ever seen. He didnít understand why I was still alive, much less conscious. My pancreas, gallbladder, bowels, kidneys and spleen were all failing like dominoes. My liver was fatty, which is what happens just before cirrhosis sets in.

    They admitted me immediately and put me in a medically induced coma for five and a half days to save my life. I stayed in the ICU for a total of 14 days. After they woke me up I was too weak to brush my teeth. I couldnít shave or even wipe my own ass, the nurses and my wife had to do it for me. I had to use a walker. I was a weak, useless, parasite dependent on others for every one of my physical needs. I went from a guy who used to run marathons for fun to being a useless lump. The pain and humiliation were indescribable. All this from alcoholism.

    I was discharged from the hospital on day number 16 and went home. I had to learn to walk again. I couldnít eat solid food for weeks because my digestive system was virtually destroyed. I was on a half dozen different meds. All totaled, I missed a month of work. The whole scenario cost over $110,000.00 in medical bills and lost wages. All because of alcoholism.

    Like a stated earlier, the day I got sick was the last time I had a drink. I recovered from that horrible event and started training again and taking care of myself. I started working on fixing everything I had taken for granted over the years and screwed up over the years. Everything got better. I even lost 40 pounds and recovered most of my strength. Then six months after getting out of the hospital I had another attack and wound up right back in the hospital for another eight days.

    The attack this time was not quite as bad because I hadnít had a drink in many months but, again, the pain was excruciating. They didnít let me eat anything, not even water for six days. All I had was IV fluids. That one cost me two weeks of work and almost $70,000.00. All because of alcoholism.

    At this point I need to mention my wife. She is the strongest, most loving, caring, human being on earth. She stood by me this whole time and took care of me. She put up with all my crap and kept fighting to keep me around. She is a saint. Period. Anyone else would have left me or launched me long ago. I love her dearly. I am very lucky to have her.

    Now several more months have passed since my last bout and I feel great. I havenít been this good physically and emotionally in decades. I am keeping my life in order and my marriage has never been stronger. I have finally learned my lesson. Iíve been a damned fool most of my life thanks to alcoholism. Now Iím committed to spending the rest of my life making up for it.

    I hope someone that reads this finds it helpful or maybe even inspiring. I was a horrible, chronic alcoholic for decades and I have turned away from it. If a knucklehead like me can survive it anyone can.

  2. Thanks JackieM, NoSugar, Pie, dill, kuya, open halo thanked for this post
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  3. #2
    Registered User. paulywogg's Avatar

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    30th June, 2012.
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    Thanks for sharing your story Gunrunner
    I have too much shit to do today and tomorrow to drink

    I'm taking care of the "tomorrow me"
    Drinkin won't help a damn thing! Will only make me sick for DAYS and that ugly, spacey dumb feeling-no thanks!

  4. #3
    Registered User. lex's Avatar

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    30th June, 2015.
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    Good story and may you continue to thrive!

    I hope you won't mind if I clarify one comment you made, though. Surely most folks inclined to comment on the matter aren't blaming their "higher power" for drinking; to the contrary, they are praising their "higher power" for not drinking.

    I'm not endorsing or not-endorsing- just clarifying things!


  5. #4
    Forum Subscriber. dill's Avatar

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    1st January, 2009.
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    I'm sorry you went thru all that emotional and physical pain Gunrunner, but so glad you have made such a come back! Your post was long and well done. You show the beauty of the triumph of the human spirit. So glad your wife stood by you.

    Donít forget, you can: start late, start over, be unsure, try and fail AND STILL SUCCEED!

    If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.

  6. #5
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    14th December, 2015.
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    Thanks for sharing Gun. I think you more than most people would have a reason to blame something other than yourself for drinking - the job, the stress, everyone else around you drinking for R&R, the PTSD in particular.

    Personally, I think people can be justified for blaming something that happened in their life for their descent into alcoholism, but that's my opinion and I appreciate everyone handles things differently. (I have no doubt taking control of your own actions and putting the past behind you is the way out of alcoholism, something that's easier said than done.)

    So glad that you've turned your life around, and it sounds like you were very lucky, that first stay in the hospital could probably have gone either way! And yes, I do find your post inspiring. I haven't been through half of the things you have, so if you can stop drinking I'm sure I can.

    Cheers, Mike

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  8. #6
    Registered User. Eloise's Avatar

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    25th October, 2013.
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    Wow, amazing story and thank you very much for sharing it here.
    I am 19 months sober, but my story is not nearly as courageous as yours.
    I do understand how you could be okay with the terror in Iraq and then fall to pieces once you were home and safe. Maybe a result of being exposed to years of trauma?
    I am very happy you have your wife, what a blessing not to have to go through all this alone.
    I hope you will be around for a long time to come on this site. You have a lot to offer and the daily reminders of why we do not drink anymore will stay fresh. Bless you!
    (AF since 17 May 2014) 2 years 5 months sober

  9. #7
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    18th August, 2009.
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    Thank you all for your kind words. I went through a loooonnnngg dark tunnel and have emerged into the light. Every day is a blessing now. I'm happy and healthy (healthier anyway). I never realized how miserable I was until I stopped drinking. I regret all the wasted time and money and the relationships that suffered because of it, but like I said I endeavor every day to make up for it. I've read that alcoholics are never supposed to say "never". But I hate the stuff, it scares the hell out of me. I am confident that I will never touch it again.

    My misery was self-inflicted and I hope that everyone suffering from this affliction finds the strength to give it up, like I did, before it gets as bad as my case. It took me almost dying to wake up! I was so lucky that I never got a DWI, never got arrested, that I never killed or physically harmed anyone else. I think about it now and shake my head. I don't know how I ever could have been that stupid and careless for so long.

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