So I nearly died with alcohol, and this story is about my journey to sobriety and the long deadly road that I went down, I nearly died drinking, so hopefully this inspires somebody out there to get help and to finally get sober, because I’ve had hundreds of relapses and it’s not fun, ups and downs and lots of broken things and I’ll get into that.
So, I grew up in a middle class family, we grew up in a small town, it was very safe. It was kind of like an 1800’s Victorian town in Washington State, and it was very safe. My parents decided to relocate us there when I was five from Southern California because the gangs were getting bad and the violence, and my dad loved sailing so we went to another seaport in Washington State.
So I was five years old, my parents were still together after almost 60 years. They didn’t drink because both of their parents drank heavily. My dad’s dad was a scary alcoholic, and I think my dad didn’t want to ever be like his dad so he didn’t drink, but he had a lot of the symptoms of being a dry drunk, meaning that he would fly off the handle with me, and it was very scary at times, and I rebelled against him.
Then my mom’s dad actually died when she was only seven, he was 40 and he died from alcohol. Then her step dad owned a bar, outside of Reno, Nevada, so just really, there was drinking everywhere, but my parents didn’t want to be like their parents so they brought my sister and I up in a very safe environment.
I was very naive to alcohol or drugs. So when I did finally have a beer, through peer pressure, my friends were jocks and stoners and they gave me a beer. I was really terrified of it. So I only drank half of it and when I went around the corner, I poured it out in the sink, because I really didn’t know the power of alcohol and I thought one beer could get me wasted and I would get in trouble with my parents, so I really was naive about alcohol.
In fact, when I was five years old, back in California, my parents and I were walking on the wharf down by the water and a crazy man walked by and he was shouting and he was pointing to his arm and just deranged and I was terrified of him and I asked my dad I was like, What’s wrong with him? My dad was like oh he’s drunk. And so I didn’t even know what that meant, but it was very scary so that was in my mind when I actually did try alcohol. And little did I know that I would become that man only a couple decades later, and I’ll get into that in a second.
So when I finally had the courage to drink a little bit more, I had a four pack of wine coolers when I was 17. And it’s funny, now looking back, but my first drinking and driving experience was actually on my go kart that I loved, I loved go karting and that was something my dad and I did every other Sunday, and the first time I really drank and got a buzz, I was driving my go kart down the roads of my small town.
Alcohol did something to me that was very interesting, it really, it was like speed to me and it made me light up . I was manic, I became manic, I became hyper, and I felt like I was actually free. Again, I felt like all those years of being suppressed by my dad and bullies and by teachers, all of that fell away, and I felt this weight lifted off my shoulders when I took a drink, and it really affected me differently than other people.
Other people, when they would drink, they would slowly just get sleepy and go to sleep, but I could go all night. You know and I just wanted to talk to everyone and I wanted to visit people across town, and you couldn’t stop me when I drink.
I also felt immortal. I felt like nothing could stop me, and I got in trouble, you know, stealing bicycles and stuff, because I just felt invincible on alcohol.
So, I wasn’t really getting drunk, until I was probably 20 when I met an older woman. She was twice my age, and she was actually my first real girlfriend. We used to drink wine and talk about art, and I started to get drunk probably two to three times a week at this point. Alcohol was so fun. You know I romanticized it. I looked up to people that drank. I looked up to artists that drank. I looked up to writers who drank. And this older woman was an artist and I was a budding artist, and that’s why we got together because she liked my poetry, invited me to live with her, and from then on I just drank and I tried to write and create art,
But I really didn’t like the hangover. It was really hard on me and I was starting to blackout when I drank and people would have to tell me what I did the night before, and it got so bad that I started to create a game around it, like am I gonna remember this moment tomorrow, am I gonna remember this moment tomorrow, and who knows this conversation that I’m having right now with a person at a bar, I might not remember it tomorrow, you know, and I would play around with blacking out, like, am I gonna remember this?
I started to drink three to four times a week, and I was starting to become angry drunk, because my dad kicked me out when I was 18 and I had a lot of regret and resentment towards him. I was actually giving them the silent treatment, they didn’t know where I lived.
Once he kicked me out, when I was 18 I was living on friend’s floors, I didn’t graduate High School, so they didn’t give me a full ride to a music school in Hollywood, but looking back I’m glad they didn’t because I would have died in Hollywood, because I was just now becoming an addict and an alcoholic, and I loved everything that I could get my hands on alcohol, drugs, whatever.
I just had a very addictive personality, and wanted to escape reality as much as possible, and I wanted to be an artist and I thought you had to be a deranged psychopath to be able to create good art. That was my thinking, you know, because I saw artwork by schizophrenics and I was like I need to be deranged like them to create awesome art. I need to be a tormented soul, and that was just another life from alcohol.
So I started blacking out and then I got really violent with my girlfriend and she kicked me out and I went to Job Corps when I was 25 years old, and that was my first extended period of sobriety. I was sober for nine months in Job Corps, I learned how to work on tugboats on the Columbia River in Oregon and but then I was like, you know I don’t want to be a Grease Monkey, I want to be an artist.
So I quit Job Corps and moved back to my small town and was sober for only about two months when I met my neighbors and they were on disability. They were certifiably insane, and I loved them right away . I wanted to document their life. I wanted to write the next One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. So they were my perfect case studies.
I hung out with them for a couple months sober, until finally I was like why not just drink with them, I mean they drink all day around a bonfire and it looks fun, so I might as well drink with them.
A couple of months into that I was getting drunk five days a week and I was scaring them. I was actually out drinking them and doing crazy stuff, where they were like in the morning, they’re like Erik I don’t know what you were doing last night but you were scaring us – you were pounding your fist on the floor and screaming up at the sky and we didn’t know what you were doing.
So that went on for a while, I could barely hold on to a restaurant job at that point. I was cooking for a living. I started as a dishwasher when I was 16 now I was flipping burgers for a living. And I still had hope to become a rock and roll drummer, because I grew up playing drums, music was my life and then alcohol basically took over and that became my number one lover.
So, there was still kind of hope to become a rock and roll drummer but you know I’m now, like 28, and I’m just flipping burgers and I’m getting wasted with these next door neighbors, and then they introduced me to meth, and I tried that a couple times, and it was just getting out of control.
I was also drinking and driving with those guys. We used to drive around and listen to Korn and Limp Bizkit and, one of the guys from that place was deaf, and he was a hobo from Haight Ashbury and he was in the backseat just yelling, and he couldn’t hear himself and, you know, it was fun for a while, but I was starting to cheat on my girlfriends and I was getting wasted and I was either drunk or I was hungover.
There were times that I was actually going into work drunk, or getting drunk at work by drinking the box of cooking wine which tasted nasty. So at this point I was either trying to nurse my hangover or I was getting drunk, and I was getting to the point where I was drinking every day, and getting drunk every night, and some nights were okay some nights were bad.
You know I got thrown into jail a couple times I got DUIs, but I still had big dreams, I still wanted to be an artist, I still wanted to be a rock and roll drummer. I wanted to travel the world, and it seems like the only thing that was keeping me from not wanting to take my life was my dreams, I still had a lot of hope and dreams but I was like I gotta kick this alcohol.
And the biggest lie that addicts have is, I’ll quit tomorrow, so last night is tonight, and I’ve had 1000s of those. So it was really bad, my beginning 30s I was still flipping burgers for a living, still trying to get out of it and still trying to get sober and friends would just get me back into drinking it was a small town.
When I was 32, I drank a fifth of tequila on Cinco Demayo, and the next day I had a new restaurant job and I was learning how to cook out in this surrounding town with a buddy who got drunk with me the night before also. And he’s teaching me how to flip omelets and all of a sudden, I turn white. I get this pressure in my chest. I wonder why.
I go outside. I’m like, I gotta go to the bathroom, and went running to the bathroom, vomited and had diarrhea at the same time, I’m shaking, I’m cold. I go out and lay down on the sidewalk behind the restaurant, all of a sudden there’s this born-again waitress praying over me, and I’m like, you know, thank you very much and then the restaurant owner comes out, and hands me Tylenol or aspirin to thin my blood.
I’m shaking, and they call the paramedics, and I’m having a heart attack, I’m only 32. And I had no idea why, you know, maybe it was coming off of tequila or I was dehydrated or something but I was like this is a fluke I’m only 32.
They flew me to the state hospital in Seattle, they put a stent in my left anterior artery, which is called the Widowmaker and that was like 70% clogged. I had no idea I was like how do I have bad cholesterol, you know, I mean I just drink and you know I don’t eat too bad. What’s going on here?
The doctors didn’t really know what happened and they just set me free and they gave me some cholesterol medicines and some blood pressure medicines, but I kept drinking. In fact I was like that was a fluke. So I started drinking even heavier, and it was just a really dark time I was listening to dark music and the guys next door, they weren’t that glamorous anymore, it wasn’t that romantic there.
There were hundreds of empty beer cans behind my seat in my car and on the floor of my school bus, which is what I lived in. It was a converted school bus. The guys were coming over from the next door and some of these guys were really filthy and almost homeless and they’re the only ones I was hanging out with.
I wasn’t hanging out with anyone from my childhood. I got rid of all those friends when I started dating that older woman because they cramped my style and they were jerks to me, and they bullied me growing up so I’m like you guys are gone.
But now I’m hanging out with homeless people. I liked them because they didn’t pick on me, they were beaten down by alcohol so they were humbled by their alcoholism and I thought they were cool. I liked hanging out with people that I thought were egoless, basically beaten down by life.
But that was just another lie. And, you know, the girlfriend at the time she, we were having craziness and it was like the Sid and Nancy movie, you know, we were having crazy fights and she beat me up one night and she had to go to jail and then I went to jail one time.
I stopped eating because I didn’t want it to ruin my buzz. So now I’m not eating. I remember we went to Las Vegas, this girl, and I, and we were there for three days, and when we were flying back home, I almost didn’t get on the plane because I was drunk. She talked them into letting me on the plane. And when we got back home, we looked back to Vegas and she realized she was like, you know, did you eat anything the whole time you we’re in Vegas and I was like I think I had half a burger and one omelette.
The whole time I was there, I was basically just drinking or passing out. And then after that I was like I’m not going to eat because I don’t want it to ruin my buzz, I need to feel the full effects of this $1.62 malt liquor. That’s the only thing I can afford at this point.
Now I’m caregiving two days a week, I’m not working in restaurants, and I’m drinking, as a caregiver, because this guy that I’m caring for can’t really speak, and he was fine with me drinking at his house, it was an overnight shift. And so, I just drank to the point where I was drinking 24/7 now, I would wake up at 4am with trembling withdrawals and I just couldn’t sleep and I’d have a malt liquor by my bedside and I would drink that to go back to sleep.
Then at 8am, I would wake up and drink a malt liquor. I would vomit it up all over the floor, this foamy mess, and then I would slam another one, I would get drunk twice a day now. I would get drunk before noon and pass out and then I would get drunk in the evening. I wasn’t eating, I couldn’t even hold down yogurt.
And my whole life is a mess. I’m only working two days a week. I’m sitting in a dark room the rest of the time. You know I used to just listen to music and rock back and forth on a bed, and now I’m rocking in a darkroom. I can’t even listen to music anymore because it’s irritating me. I have no feel-good chemicals in my brain. At this point, no dopamine, I’m irritated. I hate the world. I even created an imaginary Bumblebee friend. I called her Mrs Bumble and she would peek her Little Big eyes out from the closet, and
I used to cry thinking about how innocent she was, and I created that out of my loneliness. This Bumblebee with big animated eyes because I was so lonely. My girlfriend was picking on me, you know, going out with friends, I couldn’t even go out. My legs were weak from sitting around all the time, not working, and just staying in a dark room.
So now I’m 36 I’m and people are like, Dude, you’re gonna die in a year, and I didn’t even care. The only thing I could think about was beer, get me more beer. It was my lifeline, it was my savings and if I got less than two beers in the fridge, I was freaking out and I couldn’t afford it, you know, so my girlfriend would have to bring home a six pack and she was irritated at me.
I was doing nothing with my life, I couldn’t shower, I would go a week without showering, it was a chore, just to get up and do anything in the house, I just wanted to be in a dark room and leave me the F alone, because I didn’t want to do anything but drink – just hook me up with an IV of alcohol and I would have been fine.
I couldn’t clip my nails, I couldn’t, you know, brush my teeth, I just sat in bed and drank. And finally, when I was 36 after trying to quit hundreds of times, and destroying my life, I finally got to the point where I was done, and it wasn’t my choice to quit.
A guy came over looking for my girlfriend and it was like, 8am, I was trembling in bed. She had already gone to work and I was trembling in bed, and he just barged in, and he must have been up all night on meth or something and he was a skater punk about nine years younger than me. And he picked up my girlfriend’s guitar and started making funny songs about me and I was just like, Dude, get out, and he wouldn’t get out my room and I was shaking and I slept in the nude so I couldn’t get up because I was naked, and I was just like, get the f out of here and he wouldn’t and he kept playing these songs about me making up funny songs about me. And finally, after he left, I was like, That’s it, I’m done with this, it took that, I mean I almost died from alcohol, that didn’t matter. What mattered was he shamed me to the point where I felt defenseless and I was like, I’m done.
There were only two beers left in the fridge, I picked them up, I put them in my backpack, and I said I’m done with this life, I walked away from that girlfriend. I walked away from that house. I walked back to my bus. And those two beers probably saved my life because I was drinking so heavy I could have died from just quitting cold turkey.
So those two beers I sipped on them and I was like that’s it. And I slept for like three days, I started to eat slowly again, and I would have candy bars at night for a treat. I got two jobs. I started just working, and didn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t go anywhere, I just went to work and I went home for two years.
Then finally I met the girl that I’m with now 10 years later we’re still together. And she didn’t drink, and she turned me on to spirituality, and I slowly got my life together. And I had a couple relapses a year into sobriety. And then again, two years into sobriety. And I was like I’m not going back, and that was enough, I realized that that life is not for me.
After trying to quit hundreds of times, it took some punk shaming me for me to finally say enough is enough. And I got my life together. I joined a gym so working out, never went back to a bar and a couple two day relapses. But I didn’t count that, you know, I didn’t do this with AA. And I didn’t erase my sobriety with those relapses.
I was like, Screw it. I’m still sober. And so now I have 13 years of sobriety and life is good. It’s not perfect. You know I’ve gained weight and then I lose it and then I gain weight and then I lose it and then I have other addictions, You know I still love sugar. I still watch porn once in a while, just trying to become a better person every day, I’m 48 now, and that’s my story. I nearly died but I’m here to share my story and hopefully help some of you guys get sober so thanks for listening, hit that subscribe button, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Erik C Johnson