Mathew’s Step One

Struggling through addiction and sexual abuse is my reality, coming to grips with this reality, and being able to overcome my situation with a meaningful, joy-filled life is my purpose. I began to drink when I turned twelve in hopes to end the shame and hurt from the incest that I endured a few years prior. The secret that I carried in my dysfunctional household was so heavy and so dark that I needed something to blur the edges. I watched as the adults in my childhood home used alcohol to cope with most problems, so of course, I thought it would be fitting for me to give it a try.  It worked! In truth, it worked perfectly. When I drank my compressed chest was finally allowed to release.  The lines blurred and for the moment I felt okay.  I felt less used, less dirty and like I could actually be.  

Under the tender touch of alcoholic oblivion, I began to care less about the abuse, about the incest, and about the dysfunction. As long as I continued to medicate with alcohol I could function. The problem is that alcohol does not distinguish which things you want to keep important in your life and which ones you don’t, in time they all become unimportant.  

At first small things became unimportant such as being on time, spending time with people, pursuing my goals.  As my alcohol use became more prominent I found that major things became less important; such as being a present husband, being a decent father, or even life in general. In the end, even waking up became unimportant.  Being stuck between the world I wanted and the feelings I wanted to avoid became a battle and in the war with my mind, I was losing. 

 It was at this time that suicide became a real option for me, a legitimate exit from the hell that I was trapped into. So, I began to collect enough pills (which I will leave nameless) that would do the trick.  The plan was when I reached seventy pills I would drink and take the pills and go to bed. When I finally reached seventy I drank myself to the point of being drunk enough that my shaking hand would stop long enough for me to take the pills.  Just then, I walked out into the living room and saw my wife and son sitting on the couch and I had an immense moment of clarity. What the hell was I doing, I needed help. 

I call this my windshield wiper moment. A tremendous amount of clarity for a very short period of time. Similar to a windshield wiper on a car leaving the windshield crystal clear for a split moment on a rainy drive. Some people in AA refer to this moment as the first step. This moment was different because for some reason, at that moment I knew, I just knew.  I could not do this anymore, the cloak of denial had fallen and I could see clearly how far my alcoholism had taken me and how sick I really was. I was ready to stop reaching for a deeper bottom.

The next day I asked my wife for help, went to my first aa meeting, and started my recovery journey; gratefully, I have not had a drink since January 1st, 2017.  I have done a lot of work in my recovery since that day and have begun the beautifully painful healing process.  I continue to work the program, one day at a time, with intentional acts of willingness in recovery and it all started with a moment of clarity and me reaching out for help.

About the Author

Mathew is a sober member of the recovery community since January 1, 2017. He is a father, a husband, and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and trauma. He has found hope and beauty in the moment, looking through the lens of recovery.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Oren

    Thanks, Matthew. It is wonderful to read your story. I like your “windshield wiper moment” figure of speech. I’m happy that you had that moment, and used it well.

  2. Anne Johnson

    Thank you for sharing in a beautiful concise way that trauma affects us. My trauma, surely not as bad as others, made me feel guilty for my anger and escapes into the insanity of substances and life styles. Yes we can recover and by sharing you have helped others on a road to a healthy life as well.

  3. pat n.

    Thanks, Matthew, especially for the windshield wiper analogy. It’s exactly what I experienced when someone told me simply: “You don’t have to drink any more.” And I started crying with relief. What an obvious truth, but I’d never seen it before, and no on had ever said it. I still chose to flounder through the bushes a bit, but that moment of clarity was the start.

    And congrats on the 3++ years!

  4. Lance

    The windshield analogy was great, but what I really loved was the description of how things became unimportant. From little things to bigger things to finally everything and that describes my descent as well.

    You really managed to put a lot with which I could connect into a short essay. And I’m feeling particularly appreciative at the moment as I have just learned my only nephew described much the same descent and committed suicide last week. That led to not reading your article until this morning and appreciating it so much. Thank you.

    1. John S

      Lance, I am so sorry for your loss.

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