My name is Brandon Duff and I am a recovering alcoholic. My sobriety date is July 23, 2013. I am sharing this to connect with other individuals out there to break the stigma of addiction. We aren’t bad people trying to do good, we are sick people, trying to get well.
When I first stepped inside of the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation center early August, 2013, I was a hollow shell of the man I wanted to be. My best thinking got me here and I had no coping skills other than to drink. I would drink when things were good, bad, and different. My alcoholism started way before I took my first drink.
I was always the weird kid. The kid that was in his own world. I just always tried really hard to impress everyone around me and make people laugh by acting a fool. My parents divorced when I was 4, but they still bent over backwards for me in every regard. My parents both remarried when I was 6. I had very loving step parents and there was no animosity between us. Still I felt like the divorce was somehow my fault. I always carried around that burden.
Growing up, I never went without. If I wanted to do something, or have something, my parents made it work. I was great at starting things, but rarely saw them through. I often felt like life was boring and mediocre. I am a young boy and already I am setting unrealistic expectations for life. I always felt this tightness in my chest and this urgency that there was always something better to be doing. I was always living two steps ahead of the present.
I think my aloofness and goofiness, coupled with poor vision and an eye-hand coordination issue made me an easy target for bullying. The bullying started in third grade and lasted until high school. Some instances weren’t that severe and others are still burned into my memory. It was the common things like name calling, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and verbal abuse. This twisted my already fragile self esteem and fed my depression.
Depression for me started when I was in grade school. The feeling of being disconnected. Trying to escape reality with my imagination, drawings, acting, playing, and so on. Just the idea of “Whats the point?” Then my insecurities came into the spotlight. All of this mixed with that voice in the back of my head telling me I wasn’t good enough, everything is your fault, you’ll never be happy, so on and so forth.
I could never get comfortable in my own skin. I was always trying to find a way to escape.
The first drink I had in college, when I knew that alcohol was the answer to all my problems, was a McCormicks vodka and orange juice. The vodka burned going down my throat, but I instantly felt a rush of euphoria start at the back of my neck and go all the way down my spine, to the tip of my toes. All my worries were washed away in a flood of vodka. I wanted that feeling all the time. Plus my “friends” were drinking in college so I had to drink to fit in and be cool. College drinking is the perfect place for an alcoholic to fit in. You can get black out drunk, puke, fight, fuck and get applauded for your accolades by your fellow classmates the next day. I was in heaven. I partied as much as physically possible. I rarely went to class. I was always trying to find the next party. Sure, I burnt bridges, but I could always find more to cross and try again. My first semester I had 2 mip’s (minor in possession) charges and failing grades. My parents decided they had enough and pulled my funding for college. I couldn’t afford to miss any parties, so I took out a loan and went again the next semester living at home. I partied just as hard, but the level of fun was starting to go down and the consequences going up. I landed a DUI late October of 2009. I blew a .280, which is 4 almost 5 times higher than the legal limit in the state of CO. The arresting officer was blown away at how high my BAC was and how functional I was. The judge threw the book at me. Gave me the highest set of consequences for the highest BAC she had seen in a while. She obviously thought I had a problem, because she sent me to Alcoholic Anonymous. I had to attend 10 of these meetings and I did. I still didn’t think I had a problem. I was 19 years old, all of these guys and gals in the meetings were in their late 30’s to early 60’s. They got sober 20 years before I was born, and I though they would have nothing in common with me.
After my first AA “experience” I didn’t drink for 32 days and was absolutely miserable. I had great justifications on why I should be allowed to drink. I’ll stop at 6 beers and 3 shots this time. This time I will only drink beer. Maybe I should just drink wine tonight. I won’t drink the whole bottle tonight. I knew these thought processes weren’t normal, but I was ashamed and baffled as to why a drink, a chemical, could have me under such tight lock and key. Some nights I would start, and wondered why I couldn’t stop. Other nights I just said fuck it and went hard. But when I wasn’t drinking I was thinking about my drinking. How was I going to get away with it this time? Or I was thinking about the consequences of what I had done. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t drink like all my friends and every one around me. I kept drinking and trudging along in life. Not really going anywhere. Just being shackled by my ball and chain.
Towards the end I was getting suicidal. I took a bunch of Tylenol and vitamins thinking that would do it. I woke up the next day. I honestly didn’t have any other solutions to any of my problems. I finally hit bottom. I drank away a girl, a job, a place to live and a car. I had no other options at that point. I had to swallow my pride and call my mom. I moved back into her house and looked for a rehab facility. Most of them were way too expensive, but I came across one. The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Facility in Denver, CO. Great. Now I have to go to some cult to get sober. This is where my life is. But I had the gift of desperation. I had to give it a shot. I had to detox completely before they would admit me. During my detox process I got pink eye and strep throat which prolonged me entering the sally. This was the hardest week for me in my life. I knew where my parents liquor was and the bottles were yelling at me. Luckily I ignored their shouts and headed down to Denver to give sobriety a shot.
The Christian aspect of The Salvation Army (the sally) didn’t really jive with me, but what really caught on was AA and CA. Speakers would come into the sally and I would hear my story as they shared their own. They would share how they felt, how depressed they were and how there was hope. I fed on that. I did what they told me and got a sponsor and we started working the steps right away. Todd was his name. He could slowly see the anger start to melt away and a light came on in my eyes. He gave me hope and I gave him hope. I kept doing what he told me to do and here I am today, still sober and so much happier.
I wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for AA and the Salvation Army. I owe them my life. Now I am giving back. I encourage anyone out there who is struggling to reach out. Reach out before it is too late. We can all relate to you in one way or another and we understand and love you.