Substance in your system: An Alcoholic’s lifetime of recovery

Benj Villena

I’ve gone for one year and nine months without a single drop of alcohol.

I remember the first time I ever tasted it. I was at a high school house party, and out of curiosity (like everyone else) I tried all the kinds of shots served. Later on, I got into social-drinking.

Weekends were my time to drink. Every Friday and Saturday night of every week, I would be out drinking with my friends. That’s just what they liked to do: drinking. Wherever they went, wherever they were, you’d find me drinking with them.

The weekend drinking then became a two-bottle habit every morning, every afternoon, and every night. It didn’t matter what kind of alcohol it was; sometimes it would be beer, sometimes gin, sometimes brandy, sometimes whisky. It just depended on which bottle was available for me to down.

But gin was my choice of drink. It was cheap, and you only needed a few shots for your alcohol fix and you’d find yourself asleep. I didn’t know I had an anxiety disorder then, and I didn’t know I was using alcohol to silence it and still my tremors.

I simply didn’t want to think of anything, and my tendency was to drink and sleep on my problems. But the only way for me to sleep—because I wasn’t taking any medication like sleeping pills—was to drink any alcohol I could find, and “drown my sorrows,” as they often say.

I found my body shaking, and the only way I knew how to stop it was to drink. It turned out my brain wasn’t functioning well and I was always paranoid, causing extreme tremor attacks.

I told myself nothing’s wrong with me. I was in pure denial. I was denying I was drinking alcohol excessively even up to a point where my body no longer recognized it as a foreign substance. It was part of my system, and I felt my body telling me that it needed it like the air we breathe.

Functioning ‘well’ with alcohol

I’ve reached that point where you feel like you have to drink every day because your body has adapted too much to it. Alcohol needed to be there for me to actually function, and to function “well.”

A lot of people have already called me out for being an alcoholic. A lot of people were already telling me that, including myself. I was convincing myself that I was an alcoholic, but at the same time I was denying it because I wanted to think there was nothing wrong with me and I was just like everyone else.

I experienced worse tremors whenever I stop drinking. I was getting more paranoid when I go through my alcohol withdrawals. Many alcoholics die during this phase.

But I kept telling myself I wasn’t an alcoholic, even though I couldn’t stop drinking without any medication or substitute. For three years, that’s what I told myself: That I wasn’t an alcoholic. That I didn’t need help. That if I had to quit drinking, I can do so easily any given time.

I then became very erratic. I skipped work often. There were days when I would be so productive at it and I won’t show up the next day.

One day, at seven in the morning, I was already drinking gin. My parents asked if I had work that day. I lied and said I didn’t. Then I received a text from my boss asking if I’m still coming to the office. Later on, he said that I shouldn’t—and I knew I just lost my job.

I also had to deal with relationships that have gone bitter, and these eventually ended because of my drinking. I lost friends, I lost my job, I lost my girlfriend, my drinking affected everything I held dear. But it was on that morning drinking session that I finally realized things were falling apart.

That’s when I started asking for help.

“Dalhin niyo na ako sa rehab,” I told them. “Kailangan ko nang gumaling.”

Inside rehab

“Sa loob” is what we called rehab. I found peace inside the facility because I didn’t have to think of anything—the people outside, responsibilities. In sobriety, there was clarity.

But until now I’m still an addict. It doesn’t mean that once you’ve gone through rehabilitation and you’ve embraced the program, you’ve been cured. The real recovery starts the moment you step out, and recovery takes an entire lifetime. It’s when you’re free in the outside world that the temptation to fall back into alcohol is constantly there, it is the most accessible drug. It’s so easy to find and buy.

Temptation was everywhere as I saw familiar faces. It took me months to decide where I wanted to work again. It took time for me to adjust. Now, it’s still hard to be in a place where it’s loaded with alcohol and packed with people enjoying themselves, especially when they are people I personally know.

I’ve declined a ton of invites to parties, but I know I also have to get used to that kind of environment because my life will be filled with moments where I encounter alcohol. I’m taking it one day at a time to get used to being at parties where my presence is required.

If you’re starting to have trouble controlling your alcohol, firstly, drink moderately. Seek professional help, they will be the ones to know and tell you if there is really something to be concerned about. Tell the people closest to you about your struggles with alcohol—your parents, siblings, and friends.

After rehab, I realized addiction is so powerful that I can give in to it anytime. My parents once thought I was a hopeless case, but in rehab I found Power greater than me and in me. It’s Power greater than myself and my addiction.

My name is Daniel Benjamin Perez Villena and I used to be an alcoholic.

*As told to Vinz Lamorena.
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