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  • Writer's pictureJeff Graham

Temptation in Sheep's Clothing

I've always been a people pleaser, but when I applied those principles to alcohol, I lost control of my life. Alcohol was always a great friend to me, and though we had our disagreements, it was always there when I needed it. I don't remember the day the relationship turned but thank God for the morning that I realized that we needed to part ways and move on. for too many years I tiptoed around alcohol, trying to make it work, making it promises that I couldn't keep, as well as believing promises that routinely failed to deliver. I worked hard to try to get back what we once had, but things had changed, and it was time to realize that we needed to split. And just like with any relationship, saying goodbye to someone that I cherished for so long was tough.

Goodbye was hard, as alcohol was relentless in begging me for a second chance. More promises were made, and more promises were broken, and finally I began to see not what I wanted to see, but the truth and true intentions of alcohol. I loved alcohol for what it gave me, but alcohol loved me for what it could steal. My freedom came when I was finally able to see what alcohol was beneath the pretty packaging. The day that I accepted alcohol's bottom line was the day I made the turn.

I saw alcohol as a solution for everything good and everything bad in my life. It made the good times better, and the bad times manageable. And that's what alcohol wanted me to remember about our time together, but when I finally faced the truth, I realized everything that I believed about alcohol was a lie. From the day that I first saw the Budweiser Clydesdales pulling that wagon majestically down the street, I believed the product they were selling would bring me happiness. Even today, I am being told that if I drink Mich Ultra, I will run marathons, drive a Lamborghini, and be surrounded by life's most beautiful people. Every message I heard told me that alcohol was the miracle, the key to happiness, the solution to stress and I believed it. Not only did I believe it but I practiced it I perfected it, I convinced myself it was true, until the day that I no longer had to try to need it in my life. My subconscious mind believe that alcohol was as important to me for survival as oxygen. It was no longer a choice of wanting it it had become something that I needed. And it's very hard to choose not to do something, when your heart believes that life isn't possible without it.

To make the turn and give myself a chance to break my relationship with alcohol and take back the control it had stolen from my life, I had to shine light away from the dreams and onto the facts. And when you believed in someone for so long, it's hard to face the realities that I didn't want to believe. Alcohol is a thief. Alcohol gave me a little and stole more than a lot. It took away my self-worth, it took away my self-confidence it took away my relationships with loved ones, and my ability to perform my job to my potential. It stole sleep from me, it stole my peace of mind, and I couldn't even begin to tell you how much money was literally lushed down the toilet. For me to understand the truth of alcohol, I had to look pass the first few drinks, and to focus on the next 24 hours. I had to remember the night sweats, I had to remember the panic I felt in the morning because I still hadn't completed what was due by 8:00 AM. I had to remember that I could not remember, things I had said, things said to me, and the reasons why my loved ones looked at me the way they did in the following morning. I had to remember the guilt I felt the next day from failing once again to control something as simple as raising a glass. I had to remember the face I saw in the mirror when I tried so hard to brush my teeth without meeting eyes with my reflection. I had to remember how exhausting my life was trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle that alcohol had scrambled. And I had to accept that alcohol was no longer just a few hours of my day but had become a 24 hour focal point that affected my decisions and my choices whether I was drinking or not. Alcohol owned me. Alcohol made my choices. Alcohol decided what I would do, how I would do it and with whom I would live my life. What once was a partnership was now a dictatorship, and I had to overthrow the king.

As someone active in competitive sports throughout his life, I have always relied on strength to help me with my battles and challenges on the court or on the field. The key to victory was always to be stronger than my opponent and to win the battle of willpower. The tougher the opponent the harder I needed to try. But I had no idea how outmatched I was when I applied these principles to my battle with alcohol. When I failed to not drink, I just tried harder the next day, and failed again. I must be a very slow learner because it took me to the point of complete physical and mental exhaustion before I realized that I needed a new approach. I had to go back and meet with the coaches, study game film, learn about this opponent that I could not overpower, and create a game plan to beat it before we ever met again on the playing field. I had to take it out of commission before it even got In front of me. I had to take away home field advantage and figure a way to give myself the advantage. For me that meant Exposing alcohol for what it was, and not for what I had believed it to be for so long. Alcohol was not my solution, it was the cause of all my problems.

My actions were not my own, they were alcohol’s. I realize and accept that I'm the one that carried them out, and in a court of law I'm complicit, but I was just carrying out the actions that alcohol dictated to me. Most people won't understand that is 6’ 4’ 250 lb man was too weak when it came to a simple physical act of raising or not raising a glass of beer to his lips, and I understand that, but I also understand me, and I know the truth. I could give you 100 reasons to not drink, and yet I couldn't not do it. And though so many couldn't understand this, no one struggled to understand it as much as I did. All I could do was accept it and try figure out what I was going to do with the situation that was my truth. Arguing over labels, physical or mental reasons, past traumas did nothing to change the facts of what my life had become. It didn't matter what you called it, the only thing that mattered was what it was. And what it was, was a thief that had broken through my barrier of willpower and was causing me to lose everything I wanted in life, with absolutely no regard for me or my loved ones or my future.

Understanding the truth about alcohol and its relationship with me was my solution. I had to go to a court of law in my head and put every belief that I had about alcohol and it's necessity in my life on trial. I had to validate or factually disprove every belief that I had learned to accept about everything that came in that can of beer. I had to challenge every emotion, every fear and every promise of hope that had become ingrained in my soul about alcohol. Taking emotion out of the picture and just looking at the facts of what those aluminum cans truly and factually do to me physically and emotionally exposed a unanimous decision. Alcohol does not give me what I believed it to give, alcohol takes what I never realized it was responsible for stealing. I've always been someone that prefers facts when making a decision, and when I finally saw the facts and understood the beliefs, I wanted for so long to be true, making a decision of where my future with alcohol needed to go was easy.

The road to reclaiming my life has not been easy, I've had to learn how to deal with this opponent. I had fought it for so long using willpower and effort only to fail time and time again. But when I learned to attack it by exposing it and challenging it I found the truth. And just that knowledge alone amazingly freed me from its desire. It didn't happen overnight, I had years and years with misbeliefs that I needed to address in that same court of law upstairs. But every time my jury read its verdict, my desire for alcohol faded more and more. I no longer believe alcohol to be my solution, I now know that it was the cause so many problems that kept me from becoming my goals and being the person and father that I and my loved ones deserve me to be.

We are conditioned to treat others with kindness and give out plenty of second chances. I did that with alcohol. I treated it nicely hoping that it would return the favor, only to screw me over time and time again. I forgave it I asked it to be different and I believed its promises only to wake up with that same feeling that I never want to feel ever again. Alcohol is not my friend, it may work for others, but for me, It's a one-way ticket In the opposite direction of my goals. I'm done playing nice with it, I tried that method, and it doesn't work for me. I will no longer be ruled by a desire and temptation that does me no good whatsoever. Alcohol is in my past. I can see it in my rearview mirror, but I can just as easily turn my eyes and focus on the road ahead of me that is void of billboards tempting me to take exits from the road to my future.

When people ask me advice on how to regain control in their lives, my initial response is to quit playing games with this thing. This battle is real, and this enemy is fierce. Fighting a battle against something you can't see is difficult. We need to expose the enemy, understand exactly how it fights, and take it out. This enemy doesn't fight fair, and willpower alone is probably not enough to overcome its relentless force. Your battle with alcohol can be easily won when you do it the right way. Do it the smart way and do it the permanent way. Freedom and control are still yours; you just need to take them back, they are rightfully yours, and they were stolen.

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