*Trigger warning: substance abuse, sexual abuse.
I live my life in the present with courage, purpose, and confidence in who I am, what I want, and why I want it. I am the Sunrise Warrior and my struggle is my strength.
But it wasn’t always this way. It took work to get here.
Not So Long Ago
Alarm rings. Hit the snooze button. Roll over to a new position and fall back asleep.
Alarm rings again. Hit the snooze button again.
Alarm rings a third time. Turn off the alarm. Lay in my bed for a few more precious minutes before my grind begins. The moisture of sweat dampens the sheets and pillow. The ceiling fan is on medium speed, but it is not warm in the house.
Still exhausted, my head is throbbing. Luckily, I remembered to put a quart-sized plastic cup on my nightstand with three Advil. I chug the water. I am so fucking dehydrated!
Swallow the three Advil. Chuck some more water.
Carefully get out of bed. My feet hurt. My knees hurt. I’m carrying all this extra weight I seem to gain each year. I slowly walk twenty feet to my bathroom. Close the door and lock it. I don’t want anyone to see what comes next.
Stand at the toilet and pee. I lean forward to rest against the cabinet above the toilet. My heart is racing from the short walk from my bedroom. My pee is dark yellow, hazy, and has a foul odor. I flush it down the drain.
I grab my toothbrush and toothpaste and get in the shower. I turn the water on and let the cold water run over my head. The chill is refreshing and helps perk me up.
I swear I’m going to take a break from alcohol for a little while. It’s just not worth it. I feel like shit. Today is the day that break starts. No negotiating. Today is the day. Today will be different.
Brush my teeth in the shower and I also scrub my tongue with the toothbrush. I gag. Brush some more and gag again. Brush a little more and my final gag graduates to vomiting. Let the cold water wash it down the drain. It’s mostly liquid anyway.
Feeling a little better now. Let my stomach rest a bit and wash. Before finishing my shower, I brush my teeth again. This time I hold the remaining contents of my stomach down.
Get out of the shower and feel much better. Finish up my grooming and get dressed. My heart is racing with the light activity. I start sweating again.
Button up my shirt and put on my suit. The pants are tight, and I can’t get the top button of my shirt fastened. I can leave the tie off for the day. I am the boss after all.
Got to put something in my stomach. Grab a cereal bar and a large coffee to go with extra cream and extra sugar in my travel mug. More on that versatile companion later.
Take the kids to school. Drop off in the car line and say hello to the teachers and staff as I drive by. We are active in our school community and well-liked here.
It’s time to drive to work. I’m still exhausted. I didn’t sleep very well with the night sweats, acid reflux, muscle cramps, charlie horses, and unrestful sleep. I find myself nodding at the red light.
A horn beeps and I perk up. Oh my god, how long was I out?
Stop at Dunkin to get another coffee, xtra-xtra.
Do my best to attack the day. Find myself playing zone defense while reading and reacting more than I want to. I feel like I’m constantly behind schedule.
I take pride in my work so my quality output and productivity are important. I also do what I say I am going to do. So, I figure out a way to get it done. Even if at only forty percent of my potential.
Time to go home. Want a drink to unwind from the stress of my life and the busy day. I know I promised today would be different but somehow my car seems to drive itself to the liquor store. It’s like it’s on autopilot.
It will be okay. I can take a break tomorrow.
Pick up a few bottles of red wine at the liquor store. One bottle for me to open at home with dinner and the other two for my secret stash so my family doesn’t know how much I am really drinking each day. That coffee travel mug comes in handy sometimes. Let’s just say it isn’t always coffee in there.
Walk in the door. Glad to see my wife and kids. Get mugged by my oldest as I enter the house. She is giving out big bear hugs. My little boy is chanting Daddy’s home, Daddy’s home! I love being a dad. Even if at only forty percent of my potential.
I eat dinner. My family ate a little earlier. They tried to wait for me, but I was running late again. Maybe tomorrow I can get home for dinner together. I love family dinners but don’t get to enjoy them as much as I want to.
I goof off with my kids. A glass of wine by my side. My boy loves to break my balls. Daddy always drinks his wine. I get defensive but back off. Deep down inside I know he is right.
I yearn to be a good dad. I lost my dad when I was six, so I know what it is like to not have a present father in your life. I don’t want to be that missing guy.
As I play with my little kids, I can’t help but think about my childhood.
My mother loved me and my brother, but she wasn’t always present for us when we needed her. She was distracted by work obligations and by being a good provider. I want to be both a good provider and a present father.
I try to convince myself I am doing both but deep down inside I know I’m not living up to my capabilities as a dad. And that fucking hurts. I take a big sip of wine.
Time to reload with one of my stash bottles before anyone notices the first bottle is almost finished. I have ninja skills when it comes to reloading alcohol. No one suspects a thing.
Time to put the kids to bed. Their bedtime hurts the most for me. I love our bedtime routine, but it can be a trigger for me.
I often wrestle with the post-traumatic stress associated with my seven years of child molestation. It’s like my dark passenger. Always there to fuck with my mental well-being and overall happiness.
My son and my daughter climb into bed with me while I read them two stories and sing them two songs. Tonight, it is two of our favorite books, Rainbow Rob and Snuggle Puppy. Our two songs are Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and I Am Grateful.
The kids yawn and are ready for bed.
I kiss them goodnight and tuck them into their beds.
My emotions are running full circle. I am overwhelmed by love and gratitude for my kids, but I am in so much pain. I fear that one day their childhood innocence might be violated by a monster. Even worse, I fear the monster might one day be me.
It crushes me inside. I think about what I lost at the hands of my monster. I suppressed these emotions many years ago but looking at the innocence in my kids’ eyes, I can’t fucking help but see what was stolen from me. I see how the people who were put into my life to protect me had failed.
I am angry and I am heartbroken for the child I was many years ago. How did I miss it? How did they miss it? Why did I blame myself? A crime was committed. I was manipulated by someone I loved. I was violated and raped.
I never grieved for what I lost but that all changes now. And I have no choice because the fucking emotions are raw and like a title wave. I can’t contain them.
Now the grief flows every time I look into the eyes of my children. They have become my trigger for pain, sorrow, and grief. They are my greatest gift and my worst nightmare.
One day I will build a better mousetrap, but today, alcohol will have to do. Alcohol will serve as my oasis while I power through another day and figure this shit out.
I pour another glass of wine and talk to my wife. She’s tired but she can see I’m struggling with things. She knows about my past, at least the bullet point version I have shared. She wants to help but she doesn’t know how.
She tells me it will be okay, and she gives me an ear to listen, well-intentioned advice, and a shoulder to cry on when I need it. For an alpha male, I seem to be crying a lot these days.
My wife goes to bed and tells me not to stay up too late. I tell her I’m going to watch Netflix for a little while. I turn on the television but I’m not watching.
Instead, I’m back in my head. This is where the most damage is done. My inner voice isn’t very kind.
You’re a drunk like your father and his father before him. It’s in your genes. Alcoholic!
She deserves a man who can love her the way she deserves to be loved. You’re too calloused for that. You’re damaged goods.
Your friends don’t even know who you really are. You’re a fucking fraud. That’s who you are.
You’re scrambling and you know it. Too busy worrying about everyone else and you are squandering your opportunity.
Get your head out of your ass you fat piece of shit!
Pass out on the sofa.
Wake up and go to the bathroom. I feel like shit again and the weight of another broken promise is taking its toll on my mental health.
Take three Advil and chug some water. Fill up a quart-size plastic cup with water and take an extra three Advil to sit on my nightstand for the morning. Set the alarm.
Quietly go to bed.
Rinse and repeat. This is my hamster wheel. This is my life and I am fucking exhausted. Please make it stop!
I added this final thought after rereading this post in draft form.
It was painful to read. I let my wife read it before posting too. By the look on her face last night it was painful for her to read too. She hesitates to filter my thoughts because she knows I am tapping a vein when I write them. She realizes these words are holy ground for me.
I am so fucking glad I took time for myself to do the work necessary to get off that hamster wheel. I am NEVER going back to that place.
I am in control now and I am free of that negative self-talk. Free of those self-destructive tendencies.
Best of all, I am free of the pain when I look into the eyes of my children. They are my greatest gift and now I can enjoy them without the pain.
My family gets my one hundred percent.
I look forward to our collective sharing and growth together as thrivers!
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