The results of the autopsy showed that Steve had taken a drug called Fentanyl. You can google it and in no amount of time at all … realize that it is lethal. Taken in combination with alcohol it will kill you. Steve knew the danger of drugs. He knew he could be sold something he did not go to buy. He knew just the association to the lifestyle alone, could take his life. But i’m not here today, to talk about drugs, or Steve’s addiction, for that matter. I’m here to talk to you about your addiction and my addiction. And even more importantly, i’m here to tell you the truth about alcohol.

Although there was alchohol in his system at the time of death, the word alcohol never made it to the report. Ethanol, instead, is what is written down on paper when you die with alcohol in your system. The same ingredient that you put into your car, you ingest into your body every time you drink alcohol. Let me be completely honest. I never thought the idea of drinking and having a party made sense. Yes, i drank. I love beer. I never had to build up my tastebuds to love it, but i could count on my two hands how many drinks i have had in my 43 years. I just never thought it made sense. Having lived with an addict now, i wouldn’t think of touching alcohol. It has lost any charm it ever had and the smell of it can take me back to things i would rather forget about. I am done with it. I didn’t vocalize my decision (steve knew and my close friends and family) but i would have never made it public knowledge, had i not read a book that made all the sense in the world to me (and also if my husband had not died and i lost all shame.) “This Naked Mind”. Read it. Slowly. And then read it again. The things i am about to write on paper have been stirring in my mind for about a year now. So read this article from beginning to end and then order this book on Amazon, and read it more than one time. I never gave this book to Steve or told him about it. I thought about it, but i just never did. I’m giving it to you.

I feel that the topic of alcohol is not talked about enough. There are addicts all around us, and i think as a society in general we think, “Oh no, that poor person got hooked on drugs. How in the world did that happen?” I am about to tell you how you and i and everyone we both know could get hooked on drugs. Does it not seem strange to you that the very product people are dying from is the product you are not only putting in your body, but you are doing it believing that (A) it will do you absolutely no harm. In fact you believe that it will make your life more fun and exciting and (B) You are believing that you will never become addicted to it.  The truth is that anything you put into your body that is mind altering.. has a really big chance of becoming an addiction for you. What starts as a fun habit every evening or weekend becomes something that you cannot live without. It’s not making you uncomfortable, it is controlling your life.

Everything we do affects someone. We should never go through life thinking we are an island. The minute we do we excuse ourselves from any kind of behavior we choose. Pleasures of all kinds are waiting at our fingertips night and day and as soon as we take a selfish path… that pleasure becomes our vice. Food. Sex. Alcohol. Money. Drugs. And as soon as i list the addictions, I know that your thinking about the other ones too like gossiping and lying. Yes, they are addictions. All of them not okay and/or normal and all of them linked together so intricately that, if you have ever been addicted to anything, you are now nodding your head in agreement. I have never been an addict, but i can tell you that on more than one occasion in my life, i have had very unhealthy habits. Being unaware of our habits is what can tie us up. Since Steve has died there were about 48 hours where all i wanted was a beer. I just kept thinking, if i could just drink one beer, i could forget all about this for one night at least. I could taste the taste and smell the smell and feel the feel. Luckily, for me, i have made a decision to not do that ever, but if i was open to that… there would be days and days of processing left undone. My brain would begin rewiring itself with perspectives that are not true and i would come up with my own world of more problems. Not less. Having a bad habit, or a dangerous habit, is very scary in the time of a sudden death of a loved one or many other hard times that come on us in life. What will you turn to when you have nothing left?

Before i go much further i do want to add a paragraph about how i view someone who is drinking or a party where drink is served. I am a wedding photographer and there are lots of drinks at weddings. The weddings where drinking is present are just as fun and beautiful as one where it is not. This is a personal thing and not a group or organization promotion or demotion. I am not putting myself in any position to tell you what to do. You have to decide what you want your world to look like. I will not be the person who abolishes alcohol from the world. I am completely fine being around alcohol, i am not afraid or nervous, or tempted. It’s actually very comical being a dry person in a drinking crowd – try it sometime. I believe that world wide issues are solved one person at a time. I do not plan to start an organization. I don’t even have a bandwagon for you to jump on. I just want you to think. If you are free and your life is what you want it to be. Good. I’m so glad! If you are questioning some of your habits (or defending them) or choices you have been making. Good. Today is the day to do things differently. Today is the day to decide that you are in control of the alcohol and not the other way around.

It actually is helpful if your mind knows what to do before your body makes the decision to make big changes. When you know something it is impossible to not know it anymore. That is why it is so great to be educated. Did you know that alcohol kills way more people than drugs do? Did you know that “alcohol has surpassed AIDS and is now the world’s leading risk factor for death among males ages 15-59?” (This Naked Mind pg 60) “Alcohol causes more than twice the number of deaths as all other drugs combined, both illegal and prescription.” If you would have asked Steve what his addiction was he would have told you alcohol. But he also did drugs. And he had many other vices that went along with that. But it started with alcohol, so every time he decided to fight his addiction, he was fighting alcohol. Not drugs. Not lying. Not stealing. Alcohol. Have you ever heard of someone doing drugs without first being a person who drinks? So my question is why?

Why do we drink? Health benefits? We could find that in fruit juice without the risk of a “healthy habit” becoming a mind altering addiction. Would it make you as angry as me to realize that the kind of money spent on advertising booze is actually needed to promote drinks that are not actually good tasting? (i admitted to loving my first beer. most people do not.) Do we drink to be cool? Do we drink because we think we will have more fun, like the advertisements cause our subconscious mind  to believe? Why? Because our friends do? Have you ever gone out to dinner with a group of friends and the first person orders a beer and then everyone else orders water, or a soda? How awkward does that feel to be the only one drinking? Have you ever changed your order because you didn’t want to offend anyone?

How offensive do you think it is to drink around someone who is an alcoholic? Or even to have wine or beer in your home in the presence of someone who cannot control their drinking. There were many places we did not go and many friends we did not spend time with because Steve knew they drank. He did not want them to NOT drink because of him and also didn’t want to drink with them. If i knew that someone was an alcoholic in their lifetime or used, i would never drink with that person. I don’t drink. But this is a lot of the reason why. If i am called to serve those around me. To lead or be a servant. To love and to be loved. To be available at all times to take care of my children or anyone else who needs help? I could never be of service to anyone, even after one drink. I also want to be the person that is supportive of those who are struggling, not causing them to stumble further. Do i need to make more connections for you? What about the images we see on social media? Do you think the alcoholic wants to drink when he or she sees that beer you just had while out with your friends. Yes, he does. You would not show porn to someone who was a sex addict. I could make so many correlations here but i think you see where this could lead.

Drinking does not make us happier. In fact it is the leading cause of depression and suicide and not just in adults. Most suicides that happen to teenagers are alcohol related. Alcohol is a depressant. It also stays in your system for ten days so you don’t get from weekend to weekend to realize you’re actually craving it or becoming addicted. The more you drink, the more your body builds up a tolerance to it so you don’t puke out the killer and so the next time you drink, the more it takes to get the same feels you were going for the last time. Did you ever stop to wonder why so many people have a DUI on their record? Because their tolerance is so high they feel fine to drive but the truth is they are not fine. Isn’t it crazy to think that we would not sit down and drink a 6 pack of soda. EVER! (Because sugar!) but we would buy a six pack of beer and drink every single one. The sugar in our drinks is only making them worse for us, even though they taste better.

If you have been drinking for a long time now….it will be interesting to see how life is different for you when you quite. We know that food tastes better. You remember the night before. You laugh at all the appropriate times and no one has to question how sober you are when you make that weird comment. You can trust someone who is not drinking. You can love better, you can study harder, you will sleep better. Your mind is way sharper and life is actually real, all the time. There will be no close calls you have to worry about because you were not in your right mind, and most of all you will not cause danger to someone else because you were drinking. What do you think? You may lose some friends. Your relationships may change. You will no longer desire to hang out at a bar because that will not be fun for you anymore. You will now feel amazing. Alive. Free.

Don’t be fooled by moderation. Most people who think they are drinking moderately are surprised to know they cannot stop. If you are asking yourself the question, am i addicted, you probably are on some level. By the time you realize you are way out of control it is way too late to just stop drinking. So many people are addicts and nobody knows. It can be kept a secret until it is way too late. Alcohol will not bring you relief if you are battling depression or anxiety or loneliness. There are healthy ways to deal with those things. I can barely even talk about why we would want our homes to be alcohol free for the sake of our children. Do i need to explain this to you? Do you remember what it was like as a teenager when you were not allowed to do something? Or have something? Yes! Then would it make sense to you if i told you that if there is alcohol in your home, your children are very likely going to start drinking it at the ripe age of 12. It will not taste good to them but because we promote it as cool and fun, they will learn to love it. The two people they respect and love the most are drinking it, why can’t they?! And it will begin to change their brain. The younger the person is the more soon he will become an addict. Being addicted to something is not just craving it. It is your body needing it to function. There is pain in withdrawal. A lot of pain. If we knew what it would take to let it go would we ever start in the first place?

I believe the solution to addiction in our culture is to promote the truth.

Like the General Surgeon’s warning on tobacco became a thing – the truth about alcohol should become a thing.

I believe anyone can become addicted.

I believe the fight starts with me. The change begins here in my home.

There are two babies sound asleep up in their cozy beds who will most likely never touch a beer or try a drug because their father was addicted to alcohol and died as a consequence. They will react and it will be easy for them to stay away. Those of us who have lived with it do not touch it. It’s not hard at all to refrain. But why? Why is the world so consumed with this liquid? Why do we need it? Why do we spend money on it? Why do we drink ethanol when we actually want to be healthy? Why? Why? Why? Don’t look at others around you. Look inside yourself. Answer these questions for you. And then you make sure you are living free. Not just today. Always. I am fighting to keep myself free of addiction every day. And then fighting for all the people around me. Are you doing that, too? Do you realize that to entertain an addict you have to be completely dry? How many times are we in the presence of an addict and we have no idea? How many times do we think that the homeless person on the side of the street could be me? Nobody sets out to become an addict. Or homeless.

If you think someone you love may be addicted there are signs to look for. How defensive are they when you ask them about alcohol? How often do they have to explain that this drink does not harm them? Or that they are not addicted? How much do they talk about the drink in their hand? Or tell stories about drinking? How do you help an alcoholic to recover? They have to help themselves. You cannot do that for them. But you can be that one place they can come too where they can trust that everything will be dry. They can let their guard down and talk to you and you can encourage them to seek help. Would you give up alcohol to serve one person that you know that is an addict. I really hope so!

Let’s be free. All the time. So we can be the best fathers. The best mothers. The best friends. The best people to come to in times of trouble.

And please read the book, “This Naked Mind.”

It should be the next book on your list. Don’t make it wait in line. It could save your life or the life of someone you love.

“i love you.”