I often wonder how many times my kids thought, why can’t he stop. How many times the question was posed at family gatherings that I was absent from. Why couldn’t I stop. Did Daddy not love them enough, want them enough. Did a son, brother, uncle just not care enough. If I think on it too long, it becomes like a black cloud that engulfs my soul into a blinding darkness. I can feel their pain, feel their brokenness. Why can’t he stop?
By my actions I am sure they thought I cared very little. That I gave no regard to how they felt or how my drinking was killing them as well. But I did. The more I drank, the more pain I caused, the more pain I felt. The more pain that was there, all the way around, the more I drank. The power of that cycle let my alcoholism feed off all that darkness, all that suffering. The more painful it was, the stronger my alcoholism was becoming.
I knew it, I could feel it, I even wanted it.
For me to stop, it would require a great deal of change. For most alcoholics this is a necessity. An entire reset of my lifestyle. A complete paradigm shift in my entire way of thinking, speaking, and behaving. I knew it, I could feel it, and I even wanted it. But just because I knew I needed to change never meant that I would.
It didn’t matter how many days of work I missed, the threat of getting fired from a profession I was created for, never got my attention. The pleas of my kids to not leave them, to try harder, only shattered my heart, which only made me want to drink more to escape those feelings. Bills unpaid, behind on the rent, heading for financial ruin….still was not enough to get me to see that I had a problem.
Why can’t he stop.
I lost my house, I lost my car, I was holding on to my teaching job by a thread, and still I saw no other way out than drinking it away. That is the insanity part of it all. My kids, my family, had to have thought it was crazy that I could not see any other solution than alcohol. Why can’t he stop. I, myself, knew it was crazy. My life was crashing down around me, yet I could not see any healthy solution.
My self-worth was realistically non-existent. Who I was, my identity, was tied to all the wrongs, failures, and abandonment that I suppressed during my lifetime. There was no, Kip. Rather, there was just a shell of a man who thought all he was, were the sum of broken marriages, failures to reach the pinnacle of a sport he loved, and the prodigal son who had given God the finger in his first semester in college.
There was no value in me, zero, nothing……..
I was empty. My soul void of any worth or value. So when they wondered, why can’t he stop. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, or I didn’t love them. It was because I could not personally see any value in it. There was no value in me, zero, nothing to even quantify a reason as to why I was still living. I was worth nothing, so for me, why did it even matter.
Just because I could change didn’t mean I would. And just because I hadn’t changed didn’t mean I wouldn’t. Alcoholism holds such a power of you that you have to be completely crushed so that you can see the value in changing. Most do need some sort of a bottom, to actually feel the need for that life change that is recovery.
…..needs to hit “rock bottom” to change.
I do not know that everyone needs to hit “rock bottom” to change. I cannot say for certain that every alcoholic needs to be completely broken down to feel the value of a recovery. But I think I can say, with all honesty, that I did. For most people in addiction, that I have come across, it has had to come to that for them to change.
Again, why can’t he stop? Because I didn’t see what they saw. They could see a glimmer of hope in the promise of who I used to be. All I could see was a lost cause, so why did change even matter. To me, I had failed as a husband, as a father, as a friend, I had failed at everything. I sucked, so dang it, pour me another drink.
….” I just want my Dad back”.
That is what it looks like through the self-absorbed eyes of an alcoholic. It is the madness of addiction. It is a cycle of super power proportion and one that usually can only be broken by brokenness itself. I remember the first crack in that cycle for me. The next day I was off to rehab, a 30 day vacation, to learn to drink like a gentleman. On the phone, the night before I talked to my son Blake. I could hear the heartbreak in his voice as he said, “I just want my Dad back”.
If not for his words, I don’t know that I would have even went the next day. The hurt in his voice was the first time I could really FEEL it. I felt his pain and not my own. It was at that moment that the chains of alcoholism began to loose just a bit. My ability to feel again, feel the need for change, see the value in it would be the catalyst for me to begin a new life in recovery.
She was all I had…..
About a week or so into rehab I found the rock bottom I needed to activate the change required to save my life. I had lost everything of material value but I still had my children, or so I thought. I learned that a court order had been put against me that barred me from having any contact with my youngest who was 6. She was all I had with me, as my older three were adults and already on their own. The news sucked any life I had left in me right out. Finally, I was left completely broken and void of value or worth, it was all just gone.
It is in that moment, I could feel again. I could feel internally, in my spirit, all my kids, my family, and friends hearts that were breaking. Mine was shattered, nothing left, it took that for me to sense theirs again. With me out of the way, I could see through that blinding blackness. I could see not only the need for change but the value in it. For once, it was just not about me.
…it opened the door for me to find the true Kip…
When I could feel the need for change, see the value in change, those chains of alcoholism were broken and my life began the process of transformation. It would be a change that would happen one day at a time. For me, I had to have my “self” crushed so that I could feel and see the value in who I was for others. When it became less about me it opened the door for me to find the true Kip who had been hidden for so long.
Rock bottom carries with it a stigma. Like you have to be laying in a wretched gutter somewhere clinging to life to find it. That “moment” can be different for everyone, call it whatever you would like. But we need that defining experience where we personally feel it in our bones, all the emotions we tried to drown before. Where we see the real value in us living a life in recovery. When we know there is something bigger than just ourselves. That is when we can truly make a change that lasts.
It just takes a life crushing jolt….
It is insanity, maddening, beyond words to describe the frustration as to why I couldn’t stop. But I could stop. It just took a life crushing jolt to turn my view outward to see all those eyes full of hope looking at me. Instead of inward, seeing all my past failure. I just want my dad back, was a phrase from my son that began that process for me. No matter how bad he wanted it for me, I had to want it and see it in myself.
In that instant, I was reminded there was a good dad in me somewhere. When I lost my daughter, that good dad was left there exposed, vulnerable, strip naked of all self-pity and self-loathing. It was then, the good dad began to emerge and recover. Rock bottom was where I finally learned that life just wasn’t about me. And it was at my worst that I saw all the best in who I was for others.
my kids no longer have to ask, “Why can’t he stop?”.
I could stop and I could change. As hard as it is to see it isn’t because I didn’t want to or I didn’t care. I cared a great deal. I had just lost the good dad inside of me. Hitting hard helped me to find that. It shattered the alcoholic so all that was left was that “good dad”. And since then, my kids no longer have to ask, “Why can’t he stop?”.