‘I’d wake up and cry in the mirror, ‘I’m not drinking anymore.’ Then I’d grab the whiskey, throw up, and light a cigarette.’: Man 19 years sober after ferocious battle with addiction

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My Childhood

“I guess my story starts when I was 5 years old, and my grandmother said to my mother, ‘He worries like a little old man.’

At 5 years old, I was already full of fear, insecurity and anxiety with zero coping skills.

young boy on tractor
Courtesy of Dennis Berry

Fast forward about 10 years to age 15. I took my first drink and as I felt it going down I thought to myself, ‘Aahhhh…I don’t have to feel that way anymore. I don’t have to feel ANYTHING anymore.’

So, I headed down that path for the next 16 years.

Active Addiction

Then, to compound everything, my hair started thinning when I was 17-18 years old which was catastrophic for me, so rather than learn healthy coping skills and behaviors, I decided to move to the mountains and hide from the world by wearing a hat.

I went to college in Vermont, but I was not ready for college. It was a drug and alcohol festival for 4 years and I barely skated out with an associate’s degree.

man in college
Courtesy of Dennis Berry

Then, I went to Culinary School in Rhode Island and got my Culinary Arts Degree, which I was really proud of. But I quickly went back to Vermont to continue down the rabbit hole of debauchery.

During my almost 10 years in Vermont, I got in over 20 drunken car accidents. I drove my car into a house. I rolled my pickup truck multiple times and we would roll it back over and I would drive it home and not even remember anything in the morning, but would wake up with dried blood on my face and just thought maybe I was in a fight or something. Just a complete blackout.

Everything I did for 13 years revolved around drinking, drugs, and wearing a hat.

Courtesy of Dennis Berry

I became a chef, so I could wear a hat at work.

I was a downhill skier because I was always wearing a hat or helmet.

I even swam with my hat on… it was very sad, and between that and my crippling drug and alcohol problem, it was a tough road in my 20s.

At about 27 years old, I decided to return to college to finish up my bachelor’s degree in New Jersey, and I actually did well in school, but the abuse never stopped.

boy with his mom
Courtesy of Dennis Berry

In fact, because I stopped skiing, I started putting on weight.

Then in 1999, I moved to Colorado, which sounds nice, but not the way I was living.

I did get my first ‘adult’ job out of the restaurants at SYSCO Food Service in Denver, which I was really proud of, and it taught me a lot about sales, business, and marketing. This has ultimately helped me today, but it was a rough few years.

man at work
Courtesy of Dennis Berry

I really got into cocaine and other drugs during this time and my life was really finally completely falling apart.

I was smoking 2 packs of cigarettes everyday, and I would just wake up and cry and look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m not drinking anymore.’

Then, I would walk over to the freezer and grab the whiskey out and take a shot and throw up, then light up a cigarette and I was good to go.

Then on November 15, 2002, I was in my last car accident…and it was not pretty.

I drank about a gallon of whiskey that day and was in Breckenridge, Colorado and decided to drive back down the mountain to Littleton where I lived and I rolled my truck 3 times doing about 75 mph.

I had blood coming out of my head and was taken away to the hospital and arrested for DUI.

man with glass of wine in hands
Courtesy of Dennis Berry

The Breaking Point

You would think that was enough to stop drinking, and I did for about 4 days, but then I started again.

Then, on March 27, 2003, I was fired from my job at SYSCO because they said if I drank again, they would fire me. They found out I was drinking soon after.

I went on a drug and alcohol binge for about 10 days and on April 8, 2003. I woke up with my girlfriend at the time coming over; she saw me lying there in the same clothes. I had peed my pants and was in terrible condition.

She looked at me and said, ‘Well, this isn’t going to work.’

And, I just started crying and said, ‘I can’t stop.’

2 days later, I was in a treatment facility for 30 days.

man playing pool
Courtesy of Dennis Berry

Sobriety

It has been a long road to my life transformation. Lots of ups and downs, successes and failures, massive love and massive heartache and everything in between.

I started coaching in 2005, helping people regain their lives back and not have to suffer as long as I had to.

Throughout the last 19+ years of sobriety, I’ve taken on different roles. I’ve tried it all. I started a business and made lots of money, but then lost that business and a few other businesses along the way too.

In 2017, I finished my book Funky Wisdom: A Practical Guide to Life, which I never actually meant to write, but it helped organize my thoughts and help others realize it’s okay to not have our lives 100% together 100% of the time.

In 2019, I started The Funky Brain Podcast with Dennis Berry, which was pretty well received and I had lots of popular people on there like former NHL and NFL players, rock stars, and Emmy Award winning entertainers and authors. Many of them talking about their own struggles in life.

man in front of building
Courtesy of Dennis Berry

All this time, I was doing lots of keynote motivational speaking, but when COVID hit, that all stopped and my coaching practice really took off to new heights of success.

Over the last 17 years of coaching, it originally started as Addiction Recovery Coach for Men.

Then, women would come to me to ask them ‘fix’ their husbands, brothers, dads, sons, but you can’t fix somebody who doesn’t want to be fixed, so I started working with the women to teach them about self-love, self-care, and self-respect and how to establish healthy boundaries in their lives.

Then, I became a Couples, Marriage, Love and Relationships Coach.

man meditating
Courtesy of Dennis Berry

So, now I work with men, women, and teens who are struggling with different addiction problems like porn, video games, and overall laziness and procrastination.

In 2020, I also separated from my fiance of 8 years because we were just very unhappy together. She is a beautiful person and we raised her special needs boy together, which made me proud of both him and myself for being able to be there as his dad for that time.

And, in June, 2021, after spending my whole life in the mountains, I realized I wasn’t a mountain man skier anymore. I am a beach boy and I love the warm weather and sunshine, so I moved to the beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

man sitting in chair
Courtesy of Dennis Berry

I am a happy, successful, and peaceful guy now.

And, that doesn’t mean I don’t have any problems or challenges in life, it just means I handle them much differently and I don’t have to shovel any snow.

I’ve since met a beautiful woman who has taught me so much about love, life, and laughter and I am now capable of being present and listening to her and being a successful partner, lover, and friend.

I just turned 50 in February, and I feel better and have more energy than I did when I was 25 and drunk and stoned.

And, I wouldn’t trade any of my difficult sober times for my best days drunk and stoned.

So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Courtesy of Dennis Berry

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dennis Berry. You can follow his journey on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories like this:

‘I may not be what you pictured an alcoholic to look like, but I am. And accepting it is the best thing that happened to me.’: Young woman shares alcohol addiction, sobriety journey

‘I convinced myself, ‘I’m not an alcoholic.’ Every time I had a drink, it led to a blackout. I was a sick person.’: Woman shares addiction recovery journey, ‘I love my life today’

‘After rehab, I manipulated my mom into dropping me off at a bar. ‘I’m not an alcoholic.’ I got drunk and high that night.’: Woman overcomes heroin and alcohol addiction, ‘God put me on this earth to make an impact’

‘I spent 50% of my life in active addiction.’: Young woman recounts journey to sobriety after years-long battle with addiction

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