My Life With Alcohol

Forward: I first published this 4 part post back in November/December of 2012 on a different blog that Pam and I shared.  Since then, I’ve been contacted by dozens of people about their struggles with and triumphs over alcohol.  We’ve taken down that old blog and I’ve been wondering if I should republish this series for about 1/2 a year.  I was finally convinced when Pam urged me to think of anybody out there struggling that might read it and get something from it.  So here it is.
Another note; I’m not a counselor or graduate of any kind of get sober program.  I’m just a guy that made a decision and stuck to it.  But, if you want to talk to someone, feel free to contact me.

My Life With Alcohol, part 1.

I have been looking forward to writing this for some time. Now that I am doing it…I’m nervous.

I started drinking alcohol when I was in my teens. Probably not all that rare, but probably more drinking than most teens. For a period of my junior year of high school, drinking almost every weekend was common. It was rare that we got totally shit-faced, but getting mildly drunk was regular.

Looking back, it was pretty dangerous. Almost everyone I hung out with drank and pretty much all of us did a little drinking and driving. We had a safe driver here and there, but it wasn’t a regular practice.

Parties at friends’ houses. Parties at people’s houses we didn’t know. Parties at ranches. Etc, etc.

On a few occasions, I came home drunk enough that it was hard for me to walk down the hallway to my room without falling down. I look back on all that now and feel incredibly disappointed in myself…but I also think about how disrespectful that was to my parents. Not going to dwell on it, but there it is.

So, my drinking finally reached a kind of climax during my senior year of high school when I got arrested for driving while intoxicated. 1 year probation. Talk about embarrassing, and scary. The jail cell sucked. Having to face my parents was the worst thing I ever had to do (up to that point) in my life.

After that, I pretty much kept to myself for a while. Didn’t really hang out with the same crowd much after that. One night, 4-5 weeks later, I was out on the weekend with some friends and we were all gaggled up doing nothing in the Taco Bueno parking lot. An acquaintance asks if I want the rest of his coke, a huge coke with straw from Taco Bueno. Sure, whatever. Well, he didn’t tell me it had everclear in it. I couldn’t taste it. I just thought it was flat coke. Once I realized what it was, I had a friend take me straight home. A little while later, my Dad and a friend of his come in from shooting pool in the back garage. My Dad knew I had been drinking and I didn’t have any idea what to say. I explained it to him the next day and I think he believed me, but it was still horrible.

I’d like to say I didn’t drink any more after that, or even any more for the rest of my senior year, but that wouldn’t be true. It slowed down considerably, but NOT drinking at all? I don’t think it ever occurred to me to NOT drink. Drinking was just something people did. Right?

All in all, I don’t miss much about my years in high school. I had some good times and some good buddies and some good girlfriends, but not an endless string of good memories. Some people say those are the best years? Bullshit. You’re too young to know how to do anything right. I look back on high school with an enormous list of what I would do different if I could do it all over again.

They say with every blog post you are supposed to use a picture, preferably of yourself. Unfortunately, I don’t have a pic of me drinking in high school, or a pic at all from high school for that matter.

So, instead…here is a pic of a bunny with a pancake on its head.

bunnypancake

My Life With Alcohol, part 2.

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Off to college!

I was very excited to head off to Texas A&M and be done with high school. Definitely ready to move on.

I’m happy to say that I didn’t actually do any really stupid crazy stuff in college involving alcohol. But, I did certainly do plenty of drinking, even though I didn’t turn 21 until the beginning of my junior year.

I’m lucky that I lived on campus for the first 2 years. Alcohol was not allowed in the dorm rooms and me and my roommates pretty much followed those rules. We drank when we were out like anyone else. But, living in the dorms, instead of off campus pretty much kept any of us from living in a party house or something.

To be honest, the hard partying crowd was just not the group I hung out with in college. We’d go to the dance halls and the occasional party and drink, but it wasn’t a drunk all the time kind of life.

So for me, college wasn’t 4 years of drunken benders. What it was though was 4 solid years of some level above casual drinking. In other words, it solidified that drinking was a part of what I did.

Pam and I met in college, in the Spring of my sophomore year. Best thing that every happened to me. We broke up a few times, but there was no question that we were madly in love with each other. Her drinking was about like mine. If it was there, cool, lets drink. If it wasn’t, that was ok too.

One thing I can definitely say is that I was never a mean drunk. I probably got more brave like everyone does when they drink, but I didn’t turn into some totally different person, some asshole, when I drank. So, when Pam and I drank together, it was cool. No drama and fighting and other crap we saw other couples go through.

I enjoyed my time in college and I certainly enjoyed attending Texas A&M (whoop!) and I’m of course eternally grateful that I met Pam there. But, much like high school…it wasn’t the best time of my life. I don’t look back and wish it could have lasted longer. When I graduated, Pam and I were definitely ready to move on into the world.

Pretty boring post, I know. But, I’m glad it is! I’m glad I don’t have any alcohol horror stories to share with you from college.

Here’s me and Pam from those days.

72067_1748835443383_7687895_n MPmarried

Up next…the real world, and how I lost my job (hint, alcohol had something to do with it).

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My Life With Alcohol, part 3.

When I graduated from Texas A&M, I went to work for a Financial Printing company in Houston. Great company…at first.

This was an international company with offices all around the globe. While all the offices pretty much provided the same services, each office was like its own little company. So, when I started, it was like working for a small, tight, close company. Loved the people. The work was very challenging and demanding and I quickly established myself as a standout employee and performer. Not long after joining, I even took over the college recruiting program and had a direct hand in the training of almost all new hires in my department for many, many years.

There was a definitive drinking culture at this company. We were open 24 hours per day and I spent most of my initial years there working 4pm-midnight. In the early years, while the company still behaved like a small company, we would head down to the inhouse bar and have a few when our shift ended. On Friday evenings, as the shift ended, most of the staff would go out. I usually went home cause I didn’t really have any interest going out without Pam and she was home with our first daughter.

Years went by and I rose in the company. But, the company changed significantly. It became very, very corporate in nature and extremely bureaucratic and political. Some of the best folks to work with were driven out, some of the other best to work with abandoned ship, and some of the other best to work with took positions elsewhere in the company.

Around 2004 or 2005 (I can’t remember), we got a new Director of our department. That’s when everything really went bad. I’ll concede that the fact that he came from outside our office didn’t make his job easy. But, regardless of that, no one liked him. No one. For years and years, I had others in our department that looked up to me approach me (multiple times per week) complaining about what an ass this guy was. Almost all on his own (he had a little help) he created a terrible work environment. The worst thing to happen to that office ever was this guy. It just got to where no one liked working there any more.

Lots and lots of us were looking for new jobs. Actively.

Now, in no way shape or form am I blaming anything regarding my alcohol problem on this guy or my co workers or the company. I accept full responsibility for all of my decisions to drink. And drink I did. I drank every weekend for years. After getting off work at midnight, I would have to have a few drinks to shut my brain and frustrations and hate off. Eventually, I adopted the old practice (from when I first started) of ending my shift and heading down to the inhouse bar and making myself a nice stiff drink before heading home.

My last year at the company was complete misery. I sunk lower and lower and my work performance definitely suffered. While I was still very good at the job and probably the most productive person in the department, I certainly wasn’t that fun to be around. Looking back now, I probably displayed all the classical signs of someone with a substance abuse problem in the work place.

This all led to a few instances at work that got me warned and written up (permanent note in my file kind of thing) and ultimately I was let go. It was for multiple reasons, I’m sure, performance included, but the official reason was…taking alcohol from the company property and removing it from the premises. Yep.

I don’t blame them at all.

I blame myself for allowing myself to spiral down in misery and frustration and consumption instead of being a man and changing my circumstances if they were that bad. And, they were. But, instead of changing my circumstances, I let my circumstances control me. And, myself and my family suffered for it.

However, had it not been for being fired…CrossFit Champions would not be what it is today. We started CrossFit Champions in the summer of 2006. I was let go from this company in the fall of 2007 (5 years ago, this past October 17, I think). We took CrossFit Champions out of the garage and into its first real facility and into a full time business in April of 2008.

Ultimately, being let go was the push we needed. I’m not going to say it was all fun. For a while there, I thought we were screwed. Instead, it all worked out. Since we started CrossFit Champions, we have helped 100s of people and families become healthier and fitter.

Note: We sold CrossFit Champions in July of 2013.  We now make a full time living with our AdvoCare business and are currently working on a few other ventures as well, including helping Over The Line CrossFit get open!

No less than 7 other NW Houston area CrossFit gyms have spun off from CrossFit Champions, either by former members or former Instructors (some on good terms, some not, lol).

So, in the end, its all good.

I wish I could say that the shock of being fired for reasons related to alcohol gave me a wake up call. But, it didn’t it. I didn’t see it. All I had in me for that company and what happened was hate and excuses.

Pam and I headed to a company Christmas party.

mattpambowneparty

Next up…building a CrossFit community…drunk.

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My Life With Alcohol, part 4.

Building a CrossFit community…drunk.

Ok, so I lose my job with corporate America (October, 2007) and we find ourselves floundering. I spend the first couple weeks looking very intensely for a new job. After 1 good interview downtown, I decide that I would rather die than go back to that kind of life. I would do it if I had no other choice, after all I had to provide for my family.

But, we did have a choice. We already had a growing business and were just about at capacity in our garage. We decide to go ahead and give being full time business owners a shot. I went ahead and found a temporary job in December of 2007 to make ends meet for a while. We move CrossFit Champions from the garage into our first location in April of 2008. The following June I am able to leave the temporary job because CFC is growing so fast!

So where does alcohol fit into this story? EVERYWHERE!

I drank a lot after losing the job. Not record amounts or anything, but it was pretty heavy.

After we moved CFC into a real space, and started building that community, we had social get togethers as often as we could. We knew this would fuel growth and to be honest, we just wanted to. It was fun. We were enjoying a life we had never had before! Lots of social life. It was fun.

Get togethers at the house. UFC parties at the house or at sports bars. Events, gatherings, pool parties, 2-3 years of creating CFC get togethers as often as we could. Alcohol was a major component.

In 2010, I had a number of nights that Pam had to drive us home because I was so drunk I could hardly stand. On more than 1 occasion, we had to pull over multiple times so I could throw up. Once, the girls were with us. Another time, we got home and I literally could not walk from the car to the front door. I had to crawl. I then passed out on the porch. Pam had to wake me and get me inside. I then proceeded to pass out in the shower.

Its embarrassing to write this and I’m having a hard time not crying as I do so.

In early 2011, Pam and I were preparing to move into a new house and at the same time preparing to run the South Central Regionals CrossFit competition. Very stressful time. I believe from January through April of 2011, I was buzzed or drunk almost every day. It got to the point that I was sneaking drinks when Pam wasn’t looking. Or, if she knew I was having a couple, I would wait until she was out of the room and “refresh” my drink back to the top and quickly drink it back down to the level it was at when she last saw it. A couple drinks turned into half a bottle daily.

From afternoon on, I was always under the influence. I got good at driving while intoxicated. I coached classes intoxicated.

Right before we moved (sometime in April), I had a bit of a breakdown. I was drunk and crying (all this right after I got done making the family a wonderful meal of grilled bison steaks and veggies) and Pam finally talked me into our room so she could find out what was going on. I proceeded to tell her what was going on (not all the truth). She got mad, then settled down and then we poured out all the alcohol in the house.

That was my first quit. But not my last. Between April and November, I “quit” drinking a number of times. The cycle was always the same. Quit. Start drinking again, but this time I’ll just drink top shelf stuff and actually enjoy it (I really did love the taste of good top shelf bourbon) instead of slamming it. 1 drink on the occasional evening turns into 2 turns into a few every night. Eventually, it goes from top shelf to the stuff that will mix with diet coke and eventually its anything and everything all the time.

Over and over again. The cycle was always the same.

The entirety of 2011 held more drunk driving episodes and making a complete ass of myself in front of my daughters.

Finally, on November 27 2011, deep into the next cycle, I had “the night.” I had had a couple drinks at home and decided to go pick up salads for dinner at Red Robin. While there (this was a good way for me to get more drinks) I had 2 double Jack n diet cokes. By the time I got home, I was bombed. I was driving home and though completely drunk, I was completely aware that I was at my bottom. While driving (concentrating hard not to wreck) I was actually clear in thought. I was literally having a fast play flashback from 2006 up to present time. And, while there was plenty to be proud of from across that time, I could not help but see all of my failures, all of my hate and all of my lack of self respect. It became crystal clear to me that I was very, very far from the man I thought I could be, the man I had intended to be. It became clear to me that in MY eyes, I was a drunk loser and I had failed my family and myself. I gave serious thought to trying to figure out a way to wreck and end myself. I knew my life insurance policy would take care of Pam and the girls for years. I honestly have no idea what actually got me back home that night, but before I knew it I was pulling up to our house.

Pam was out on the porch when I got home. I think she had just turned off the sprinklers or something. As I got out of the car, the first thing she said was “are you ok?” She wasn’t mad, she didn’t yell. The woman I loved, whom I had failed, asked if I was ok.

I stood in front of her exposed and just started crying. We finally got inside and went straight to our bedroom. I somehow managed to call my oldest and dearest friend in the world (outside of my best friend in the whole world, Pam) who lived in California. He had quit many years ago and gone through much of the same. Best call I could have made.

November 27, 2011 was the last day of my life that alcohol will ever touch my lips and consume me. Pam made the decision with me even though I told her she didn’t need to do that. She truly is a partner in life that I am not worthy of.

I went to AA meetings for a week and decided it wasn’t for me. I know thousands of folks need the support of the AA groups to remain sober so I’m not knocking it. But, for me, the AA group was just depressing. Nothing positive came from it…for me.

For me, everything in my life has improved since I quite drinking. My health is better, my mind is better. My outlook on the world and the future and ME is better. My relationship with my wife is better than ever (and yes, the sex is crazy better!). I laugh with my girls more and my relationships with my friends outside of family and business are genuine.

EVERYTHING ABOUT MY WONDERFUL AND BLESSED LIFE GOT BETTER WHEN I QUIT DRINKING.

Its not for everyone and I don’t mean to preach.

But, please ask yourself this simple question…

…has anything truly positive in your life EVER come as a result of drinking?

My commitment to never drinking again is permanently represented on my body for the world to see with this tattoo on my arm.

11282011eagle

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