‘I had my first alcoholic drink at the age of 10. I deployed to Afghanistan in 2015. I drank to calm my nerves. The drinking kept escalating.’

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“I don’t remember the exact time I had my first alcoholic drink, but I know I was around the age of 10. At the age of 12, I got drunk. It made me feel cool, like I was older than I truly was, and it only escalated from there. Around 14-15 years old, once every couple of weeks, I’d drink until I was intoxicated. I’d steal alcohol from my family, had older kids buy it for me, and it was always easily accessible. At 16 years old, I had knee surgery done. I was prescribed painkillers afterwards. Around 17 or 18, I started abusing painkillers. I continued to do painkillers until I signed up for the Army around the age of 20. I detoxed in basic training and felt mentally and physically so much better. I felt like a new person. I continued to drink here and there after basic training.

Soldier who started to drink at young age stands in uniform with straight face beside bunkbed
Courtesy of Gage Funk

At the age of 21, I started drinking a lot during the weekends, but never during the weekdays. In April 2015, I was deployed to Afghanistan. I returned to the States in January 2016. I started to drink again. Trying to readjust to life back in the States was really rough, so I drank to help calm my nerves. My marriage started to fall apart rapidly. Instead of trying to our fix problems, I would ignore her or didn’t care what she talking about. The drinking kept escalating. I started drinking at work. It got to the point where I was carrying a flask with me to work. I even passed out at work during lunch one day.

Soldier who used alcohol to deal with nerves stands with gun in Afghanistan next to locals
Courtesy of Gage Funk

I enrolled into the Army substance abuse program, but would drink in the parking lot before going into my appointment. My wife and I separated in June. I started drinking even more. I got a DUI in October. But I still didn’t see it as a problem. I just kept drinking. I got out of the Army in December of 2017 at the age of 24. I moved back to Ohio with my family and girlfriend. In January of 2018, I got my second DUI. But I still didn’t see my drinking as a problem. I continued to drink 1.5 liters of whiskey a day, sometimes more.

I hit rock bottom when it got to a point where if I wasn’t drinking, I would lay in bed shaking and slowly shifting priorities and not taking care of anything that needed to be done. I used alcohol as a coping alternative and way of not dealing with any problems. It felt impossible to stop, or simply, I just didn’t want to. I was ruining relationships with family and friends because ‘I didn’t have a problem.’ I was so focused on my next drink, and that always became my excuse.

Soldier who abuses alcohol lying down next to girlfriend's three children in selfie
Courtesy of Gage Funk

On February 10, my girlfriend told me I either had to quit drinking or she would leave. She didn’t want her four kids growing up thinking drinking daily was normal and okay. I decided right then and there I would quit. We threw out all the alcohol I had in our apartment. I knew I wanted to change for the better. I started shaking extremely badly within a couple hours. I felt extremely sick, out of breath, tired, and had a horrible pain in my stomach. I was sweating extremely badly. I started hallucinating within 48 hours and my girlfriend took me to the emergency room. My heart rate was over 180, no amount of medicine would calm me down or help me, and the hallucinations continued. They had to put me into a medically induced coma and put me on a ventilator. I was transferred to ICU and was in the coma for 24 hours.

When I woke up from the coma on February 14, I was still hallucinating, but not as badly. I was kept in the ICU for a few days, then went to PCU for a few days. The VA had no inpatient treatment facility spot open for me, so I went home to my mother’s. I was court ordered to go to AA once weekly, but I started to truly enjoy the meetings.

Alcoholic man stands holding his girlfriend's child beside her and her other three children
Courtesy of Gage Funk

I started woodburning to help keep my thoughts away from alcohol and to help my coping. I’ve been sober for 6 months now and continue to go to AA weekly (no longer court ordered). Becoming sober has opened my eyes to a new world. I’m truly happy with my life now. I know I’m loved, I love my family, I love my girlfriend and kids, and I’m so glad to be sober. I live in a house with my girlfriend and the kids, I enjoy every day with them, and I finally feel like I’ve got a purpose in life again. For those who are wanting to quit drinking, it’s truly hard to do. But the end results are so worth it. Don’t give up. Get professional help, because alcohol withdrawal is deadly.

Recovered alcoholic sits wood burning with girlfriend's son smiling in his lap
Courtesy of Gage Funk
Wood burning creation of Lady Liberty with American Flag behind her recovered alcoholic made
Courtesy of Gage Funk
Wood burning creation of old car recovered alcoholic made
Courtesy of Gage Funk

I am incredibly lucky to have such a strong support system and loving family. I’m happy I don’t have to drink today, and I know that one day at a time, it gets easier. My family shows me I can in fact live a sober life, and I love it.”

Recovered alcoholic sits on front door steps with girlfriend's kid in his lap beside her and her three other children
Courtesy of Gage Funk

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Gage Funk of Mount Vernon, Ohio. Have you overcome your addictions? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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