"Alcohol played a bigger part in my life than my family and friends" by Katerina Gonzales

Recorded November 1, 2022 Archived November 1, 2022 21:05 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: APP3625717


Speaker 1 (00:02):
Hello, I'm Katerina Gonzales and 'm interviewing someone who is a recovering alcoholic. So, first
question, what was the pivotal moment that made you wanna change your life?
Speaker 2 (00:16):
Uh, to be honest, my life had become really unmanageable. I, um, other than work, all I did was drink. Uh, I couldn't pay my bills cuz I didn't, you know, have time for it. I was not being a good family member. I, all I did was go to work. And then when I, as soon as I was done work, I picked up a drink and drank myself until I passed out every night. And, um, I was hospitalized a few times because of it. And then finally I said, You know, enough is enough. I need to do something. And I had so many health problems that I just knew if I didn't do something, I probably wouldn't have made it.
Speaker 1 (00:45):
Well, thank you. Mm-hmm. Can you remember how, why and who you started misusing
Speaker 2 (00:54):
Um, I didn't actually drink until I was 21. I, I didn't drink in college. I was like a nerd. And then, um,
honestly, I started drinking socially and then I, I don't think there was a specific moment, but I drank socially. But then I realized as I was drinking socially that I didn't drink like other people did. Some people would have a drink or two and they'd be fine if I had a drink or two, that mean I had 7, 8, 9, and I would keep going and I didn't stop. Um, so that made me realize, hey, like some people are normal drinkers and I was in denial for a really, really long time, but I could see that other people would have a drink or two and that would be enough. And I didn't have enough. I, I always wanted more no matter what. And, um, that led to really bad choices. So that was, there was no specific event that I just knew that I would drink differently.
Speaker 1 (01:41):
Um, do you have any regrets?
Speaker 2 (01:46):
Well, sure. I mean, I, I heard a lot of people in my life. I, I hurt my parents, so I embarrassed them at some point. Um, I, I did not attend family events and I lied because of it. I, I, I can remember a holiday that I called and said I was sick where I wasn't really sick. I just wanted to stay home and drink. And, um, so that, you know, I missed out on events with my family because I, alcohol played a bigger part in my life than my family and my friends. And then my other regret is when
you drink, it's really easy to lie when you are under the influence. Yeah. I may have lied. I lied about everything and anything. And it was hard to keep track of your lies because, you know, you didn't care about other people. When you're, when you're constantly, your body is craving alcohol or all you care about is yourself, making sure you always have a buzz on. You don't care about other people, so you will just flat out lie, which hurts people. So the regrets are hurting people and missing out on great opportunities in life.
Speaker 1 (02:41):
Thank you. Mm-hmm. Um, how do you feel or think differently about alcohol now?
Speaker 2 (02:48):
Um, I've been sober for five years. Um, I, I think that, you know, even though alcohol is legal, it's 100% a drug. And I think different people's bodies react to things differently. And, um, I now know even though, like it took a long time, um, I did go to rehab. I spent several months in rehab and you learn a lot there, but your body goes through a lot there. Um, the first few years I, I was like, my life is over. Like, what am I gonna do without a drink? Like, I can't have fun with my friends. I can't, I'm not gonna be able to go to parties. I'm not gonna have, be able to celebrate my wedding anniversary or my birthday or New Year's because what fun is there gonna be? And, um, so I guess how I think differently is like, I can live my life and have a good life and healthy life without alcohol. Uh, the hard part is sometimes just seeing other people, but you know, you, you have to make a good plan of how you're gonna deal with things like being around alcohol and, and that takes a lot of support from family and especially your friends that you hang out with.
Speaker 1 (03:48):
Yeah. What do you think is like the best coping mechanism that you've used throughout your life?
Speaker 2 (03:54):
Um, I personally I attend Alcoholics Anonymous as regularly as possible. And, um, it's a program that has helped me personally. Um, I, I attend meetings. I, I would like to attend them daily, but that's not possible in the summer. I do, because of my profession, I don't work in the summer, but on the weekends, the meetings really help. It helps to talk to other alcoholics and realize that we have the same thinking. It's pretty messed up thinking sometimes and not, like, people who
are not alcoholic may not understand the same thinking that I have. Like maybe my thought process is different about life. And so that's what I, that's what I do is, you know, um, Alcoholics Anonymous has taught me to wake up every day. And whether I'm feeling thankful or not, be thankful for what I have. I mean, I could be dead if I kept on drinking or using, which I, I only use, I, I smoke cigarettes and I smoked cigarettes and I drank, drank. But, um, I mean, I literally, my health was so bad that I could've not made it. Um, so every day you have to wake up, you have to say, Hey, today's gonna be a good day. I have, this is what I have to be thankful for. And then you're gonna, you know, Alcoholics Anonymous says, one day at a time for the next 24 hours, I'm not gonna drink. And you just live those 24 hours. It's not, you know, thinking beyond that, that one day.
Speaker 1 (05:07):
I like that. Thank you. Um, do you feel different, um, when you think about other people
who use alcohol or abuse alcohol? Like how do you view them?
Speaker 2 (05:24):
Um, You have to just pause and think about it. I mean, like I said, I, I realized that some people can drink normally and I normally they can have a drink or two and be fine socially and, and they enjoy it and they enjoy relaxing. And, and then you see people who abuse it and it's not my place to say anything you know, I, I I I don't place judgment on them. I just hope that, you know, if they do have a problem or they have an, uh, a dependency on it, that they will seek help. Because as hard as it was for me, I have a great life now. So I don't judge other people, but I do hope for the best for people that I think abuse it too much.
Speaker 1 (06:07):
Good. So thank you. Um, so do you think stigma plays a part in your journey to recovery? And if yes, how did it affect your recovery journey?
Speaker 2 (06:19):
Um, well, sure. I mean, there's embarrassment. You're, you know, when you
are an alcoholic and everyone else sees that you're overdoing it, you know, they're like, Oh, look at him. You know? Yeah. You know, my best friends were my bartenders. I used to think I was popular because I would walk into a bar and without the bartender asking, they would pour me my drink cuz they knew my drink. Yeah. And the truth was, they bartender wasn't my friend. They just wanted my tip. Um, so there's definitely a stigma of people thinking like, look at him, he's a mess. He's a hot mess. You know, he needs to get his life together and that's embarrassing. But once you get past that, um, it takes a long time. But, you know, it also helps you realize who your family and friends are because, you know, I have people who I don't speak to anymore because, you know, they, they were like, he, he, he's a big drunk and you know what? They weren't there to support me. So I don't need those people, but the people who love me were really there for me through the whole journey and they're still with me. You know, because it's not something that goes away. It's not like your addiction goes away. It's something you live with every day. And those people are there to support you, like for the rest of your life. Yeah. So,
Speaker 1 (07:22):
Thank you. Um, are there any people from your past or people affected who weren't using or misusing with you who you still speak with, don't talk to or wish you still did?
Speaker 2 (07:37):
Um, I, I choose the people that I hang out with and I always make a plan. I do have a group of friends that drink a lot, and I'm okay with that only because they know that I'm in recovery. I don't put myself ever in a situation where I'm going to feel uncomfortable. I don't attend a party where I know it's going to be a ton of drinking without a plan. So for example, if I know that there's going to be a holiday party or a work party and there's a lot of drinking, I either make a plan to show up late or make the plan to leave early and always have an escape plan. Um, but I also don't tell everyone in my life, like coworkers that I'm in recovery. Yeah. So I just always have a plan. Um, I met people in rehab and unfortunately you meet people both in rehab and in aa that relapse, which means that they pick up again.
Yeah. And, and sometimes you don't hear from those people again. And that's sad and that's scary because you don't know where they are or if they're alive. But that's part of the journey. I think, you know, when I go to an AA meeting, I have a group of people that I see every single time I go to the meeting and then after a few months, suddenly people don't show up anymore. And you're like, Where did so and so go? And you're worried and, you know, maybe they picked up again and you don't know where they are. But that is selfishly a reminder myself that that could be me too. And I need to, you know, work my program every day to stay sober. So it's a scary reminder. It's not like Yeah. You know, I'm comparing myself to them that like, you gotta know like, Hey, you know, that could be me too. And I gotta every day make the plan, the choice not to drink.
Speaker 1 (09:14):
Yeah. Thank you. Um, are you active in the community to help others stop or educate beforehand about alcohol?
Speaker 2 (09:25):
So Alcoholics Anonymous, um, does believe in helping other alcoholics. That's one of, there's 12 steps in the 12 step program. Um, and it says, you know, the 12th step is to help others achieve sobriety. But the other thing is, is that Alcoholics Anonymous says that only someone who wants to get sober is going to be able to, I've seen people whose bosses say, You need to stop drinking or you're gonna lose your job. Or I've seen husbands and wives say, If you don't quit drinking, I'm gonna leave you. And, or you know, children, you know, parents, children of parents saying, Mom, Dad, I want you to quit drinking. The person with the addiction is the one who needs to want, want it. You can't do it for anyone else but yourself. And, um, so I do work with AA and I do talk to other alcoholics daily and, and you know, now in this day and age, we text each other daily, Hey, today's gonna be a great day. And, you know, we support each other. Yeah. Um, but like I said, you can't help someone who doesn't want it for themselves. Yeah. So, like sometimes people would say, I, I've had friends say, Hey, I think my, my spouse is drinking too much. Would you talk to he or she? And sometimes they don't want to hear it. Yeah. Because they don't believe they have a problem. If someone doesn't believe they have a problem, they're not gonna be able to get help. So that's the scary thing.
Speaker 1 (10:36):
Yeah. So interesting. Um, have you personally suffered from any overdoses or near death experiences due to your addiction?
Speaker 2 (10:47):
Yeah. So I've had a lot of health problems. I, um, I was drinking to a point that I was having seizures, um, which is very scary. That means that your body is just can't handle the alcohol. That's how bad it is. And I, I truly, like a few hours without a drink, I would have tremors, my hands would shake, I would be at work and my hands were shaking cuz my body was craving alcohol. I would break out into a cold sweat because I had alcohol trying to get outta my system. Yeah. But my body was still craving it. Um, I actually had a seizure at work and had to be taken my ambulance to the hospital. Wow. Um, I've had many seizures. Um, and then you also literally, I mean, it got to the point, and this is embarrassing to tell, but people need to hear it. Yeah. You will literally be vomiting and after you vomit your body says, I need another drink, and you
pick up a drink right then and there. So I was hospitalized twice for, um, my alcoholism. Um, I detoxed in the hospital. Um, it's not a pretty site. They, um, they literally tie you to a bed. And, um, I was having hallucinations from withdrawal. Like I was seeing things that weren't there. I thought the nurses were, this might sound like a silly story, but there was a nurse helping me and I thought she was painting the room to the hospital. And I like, called my spouse and said, Why are they painting in my room? But none of that was happening. Yeah. Like, I vividly remember that. And then when you're in withdrawal after you go to rehab, I mean, you're on all kinds of medications and you, you know, your body is just craving the drink and you know, you're constantly need to dehydrating yourself.
Um, it's a really scary, scary thing. The seizures were the scariest. Um, I now take se anti-seizure
medicine on a daily basis. Yeah. Um, so that was some of the health complications. I'm trying to think. You know, I mean, seizures are, are pretty serious. I actually lost my license for six months. Um, sometimes you'll talk to people who are alcoholic and they've lost their license because of DUIs or things like that. I was lucky enough to never have a DUI, but I had my license taken
from me. Um, if you have a seizure, it's the law that a doctor reports to the state of Pennsylvania and then the state takes your license away for six months. And so trying to get to work, trying to get to the grocery store without a car when you live in the suburbs is pretty scary and hard.
Speaker 1 (12:59):
Yeah. Thank you so, Sure. Um, have you lost any friends or family from, um, drug or alcohol? And did that influence your behavior or outlook?
Speaker 2 (13:13):
Um, I've not lost any family, but people that I've met at my AA club, we have AA can be met anywhere. AA meetings can happen at a church, at a hall. I belong to what's called an AA clubhouse. It's a building that just has alcohol anonymous meetings all day long. That's nice. It goes all day and it's sad. I mean, it's, it's wonderful. It's a great support group. I mean, we have social events. Um, like we literally yesterday just had a pig roast, which we have once a year. It's a, it's a family event. It's not just for people to go to the meetings with their families and their kids, but we do have a wall inside of our clubhouse with pictures of people who have died because they've relapsed and picked back up. Oh wow. And that's scary. You know, there's people that you sit next to and a few months later you find out they're going. And, um, like I said, that's a scary, scary reminder. Um, I haven't had any family members with that problem. Um, but, you know, people, you know, are with you and a couple months later they're gone again. That's, that's pretty scary.
Speaker 1 (14:06):
Yeah. Um, what was your home li life like then and now?
Speaker 2 (14:12):
Um, when I was actively drinking, the only thing I cared about was having a drink. Um, I married, I did not speak to my spouse at all when I was drinking. I got home from work, I poured myself a drink and I went upstairs and sat in front of the TV until I passed out. And, um, it was a pretty bad situation because we didn't spend time together. We didn't have quality time together. Um, I would wake up, go to work, come back, and that, that was my routine. And I was, if, if there was a party going on or a dinner going on, I made sure I had drinks in my system before the party because I didn't want people seeing how much I was drinking at the party or at the dinner. So I had it in my system. So people didn't think, Oh, you're drinking too much in front of everyone.
Like that's, that was my life. Yeah. Um, I, I was lucky enough because they say that the, the rate of people getting through rehab and staying sober is very low. And they flat out tell you when you go to rehab, most marriages don't last. Um, and the reason why is, at least what I've learned through rehab and AA is that you have to put your sobriety before everything else. And I'm
lucky that my spouse understands that, that my sobriety is more important than our marriage and we can still make it work that way. Yeah. So things have changed. Uh, it's a constant conversation of what's gonna work for us, what's not gonna work for us. Um, and it takes a lot of communication. Um, so I'm lucky to have a very happy life, but it's, I've had family members and and friends say to me, Why do you still go to those meetings? You haven't had a drink in five years and, and maybe they don't understand that this is something I'm gonna deal with every day. Yeah. They think, Oh, you're cured. There's no cure for addiction. People who are addicts are addicted for the rest of their life and it's something they have to deal with the rest of their life. And so those meetings and talking about it and constantly keeping it on your mind is important and necessary for me to say sober. If you get complacent and you don't think about it, that's when, when you can screw up. I've seen people all the time say, I'm good. I don't need to go to meetings anymore. And suddenly their life is in chaos again. And then that's when they, you know, the stressors happen. A sober life doesn't mean you're gonna have a happy life.
A sober life means you're gonna have a better life. Um, I still have stress. I still have good days and bad days. I still have, you know, sad moments. I mean, just because I don't drink doesn't mean I'm not gonna have the stressors of being a human being of paying bills and having to at work and, and things like that. It just means that I have a better life cuz I can manage the things in my life and focus on it. So life's good. It's just, it's some people don't realize it's gonna be something you live with the rest of your life. Yeah.
Speaker 1 (16:48):
So instead of using alcohol for like coping mechanism, have you like replaced that in a way?
Speaker 2 (16:56):
Um, I'm not proud of this, but when I was in rehab, I started smoking cigarettes again. I was a
prior smoker and, um, this is a horrible thing to say, but they always say kill device that's gonna kill you first. Yeah. Which means alcohol was gonna kill me. So I first picked up cigarettes, then I let go of cigarettes. And it's funny, people who don't know much about Alcoholics
Anonymous, we actually have a book, it's called The Big Book. Yeah. And there's chapters on things that doctors have said that you should do. And, um, they say keep a piece of dark chocolate in your pocket, um, no, there, apparently there's something in dark chocolate that helps with the enzymes in your brain that just can stave off a craving. And so I no longer smoke, I no longer drink, but I do enjoy sweets.
And it's funny because I never liked dessert before because alcohol has so much sugar in it that turns into a natural sugar in your body that I now enjoy dessert. And not that that's a healthy thing, but I'd rather eat dessert than have a drink or a cigarette. Yeah, true. So, um, yeah, you, you know, you do replace other things. Um, people love the turn to exercise because they say that causes your stress to be, um, released or your endorphins or whatever to be released. Um, there is a spiritual side to AA. Some people like meditation, some people like prayer. Um, but it's gotta be what works best for you. I don't find myself a religious person. I don't attend regular church or anything like that, but, um, AA talks about having your higher power and they don't use the word God, they use the word God instead of just saying the words higher power, but it's not anything other than what is it that's gonna keep you sober that day.
And so AA does encourage daily prayer and meditation and that's something I don't, other than waking up every day and being thankful and every day at the end of the day going to sleep and saying, Thank you for keeping me sober today. Yeah. I don't explore the meditation or the prayer as much as I should. Um, AA encourages it. There are actually aa meditation groups and aa
spirituality weekends. I've never attended those. Um, but you gotta find what works for you. Yeah. And for me, what works for me is going to meetings regularly. And that means, you know, if you're going away, if you're going on vacation, you make sure there's meetings. You know, people say all the time when you drink, you always found a reason to drink. You made sure there was alcohol in the room or in the house, or you knew that there you could find time to get to a bar.
Well now that you're sober, you should be able to find time to get to a meeting. Yeah. Um, one of my friends jokes, he says, The only time you should miss a meeting is if you're going to a funeral and that funeral better be yours. Like, there are so many meetings and resources out there. Um, and it's not easy. It's not easy. And I learned every day, like even though, you know, I go to meetings often there you can always get something out of them. So for me it's just regular attendance at meetings and being able to talk to people about it. Good. That's what keeps me sober each day.
Speaker 1 (19:43):
Good. Thank you. Is there any like, final words or any advice for anyone that's recovering?
Speaker 2 (19:51):
Yeah. I mean, life does get better. Life is not gonna be perfect. I think I had that horrible misconception when I went to rehab. I thought, Okay, I'm gonna quit drinking and everything in my life is gonna fall into place. Okay. Not everything falls into place, but I have a great life. I have health, I have a family that loves me and I surround myself with people who support me. And that can be hard because if you are in constant, if you are in, if you're using of any sort drug or alcohol, you probably have friends who use drugs or alcohol. And when you get sober, most of that part, that part of your life is going to change that part of your friends, Some of those friends are no longer gonna be part of your life or should be, shouldn't be part of your life anymore. And that's a little scary. But, um, life can get better. So anyone who needs help, don't be embarrassed. I know at first you're thinking, Oh my gosh, people are gonna judge me. Your life is a lot more important than someone who's gonna judge you. Yeah. So there's, there's plenty of resources out there that will help you. And um, for me it was rehab. Some people can get sober without rehab. Rehab was really important for me. I was there a very long time and it taught me how to deal with, with living a sober life.
Speaker 1 (20:57):
Oh, well thank you for sharing. Sure. And I'm proud that you shared your story.
Speaker 2:
Oh, thanks for asking. Thank you.


  • Katerina Gonzales

Interview By