Why Autism and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Why Autism and Alcohol Don't Mix

We’re gonna talk about why autism and alcohol do not mix. So stay till the very end, and leave a comment if you’re new here. So I just turned 50 years old. I’ve been sober for about nine years, but I want to talk about how much I drank and how insane it was, and when I actually discovered that I have autism, 

Why Autism and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Growing up in the 80s it wasn’t really talked about autism wasn’t talked about. No one even knew what Asperger’s was. And the movie Rain Man hadn’t come out yet. 

So I had to basically go through high school grade school high school with dyslexia and anxiety and just not fitting in and just feeling like a total outcast, not fitting into any cliques and going home after school and getting lost on TV. 

Then after dinner, I would rock back and forth and listen to music. So music was pretty much my only friend. I did have maybe four or five good friends in high school and I would always play with them one on one. 

I was always super quiet and shy in groups of more than two people. So you know, I lived in a small town. 1000 people in the town. It was a cute little Victorian town. It was safe. I could walk from one side of the town to the other. So that was okay. 

But as far as how I got along with people was very difficult and a lot of it was you know, I grew up I was very sensitive. I was sensitive and my dad was very strict. 

I believe that he had Asperger’s as well, autism. You know, he had the same traits as me. He was a perfectionist. When he was younger he rocked back and forth. 

Rocking Back and Forth Began

So when I was two years old, I started rocking on a rocking horse back and forth and it was very soothing. And I used to just look out the window. 

So that’s kind of strange behavior for a two year old to do to just look out the window, the window, it kind of in a pondering Daydream manner. 

So I learned at a very young age to escape through fantasy and rocking back and forth. And my parents, they left me alone, you know, I still went to school. I still did my homework. I still did my chores, but I rocked whenever I could. 

And my dad listened to blues music when I was around eight or nine and I used to listen to his blues music and then my sister was four years older and she was starting to listen to Duran Duran and Prince and so I listened to her music and then I finally got turned on to my own music. 

Autism, Addiction, and Music

So music has always been my number one friend. It’s always been there through thick and thin, and I pretty much can place memories to songs. 

If I look back at my whole life, you know, if there was a memory of my childhood, I could pretty much tell what bands I was listening to, at that time. Very intimate with music. 

So, I listened to music and I rocked back and forth and I would do that after I finished my homework. When I became an older teenager and got rebellious, I didn’t talk to my dad for two years while living under his roof from 16 to 18. 

I got in trouble with the law when I was 14 and after that my family was pretty much destroyed and I felt a lot of guilt and shame subconsciously for doing that. I just turned to music and rocking.

When Autism Meets Alcohol

Now this is where it gets interesting. When I was 17, I had my first sip of alcohol. Now I was a sheltered child, very naive growing up in a small town. 

I had no idea what the effects of alcohol were. I didn’t hear stories about it. My parents didn’t tell me anything about their parents who were alcoholic. 

Luckily, it skipped my parents but I still think my dad was a dry drunk. He acted like one with his rage issues which scared me as well. It kept me isolated because I didn’t want to talk to him. I didn’t trust him anymore with his flying off the handle rage. 

So when I first drank alcohol, I may have been close to 17. I remember having a wine cooler, and or maybe it was wine. You know my friend snuck over wine in a margarine container. But I was scared of it. I did not know what it was going to do. 

I also had jock friends and they came over once and they gave me a beer. We used to play in my basement. My parents were upstairs so they couldn’t see what we were doing but they handed me a beer. 

I was so scared about it. I only drank maybe a quarter of it. And then I went around the corner and I poured it out in the laundry sink and then pretended that I finished it. 

So I was really scared of drugs and alcohol, even girls I was scared of never played with girls just super sheltered. 

So when I drank alcohol for the first time, I truly drank it. It was wine so it was stronger than beer and it hit me and I could feel it just coursing through my veins. 

It just made me feel so alive. It just lifted all of this weight – all of these years of suppression and being oppressed by my strict dad, my scary dad, but also super loving at times so he confused me. 

But when I had that alcohol I felt so alive. It really hit me so hard. It was genetic. It was like my ancestors lit up the lineage of my ancestors. Everyone was like yeah, I mean, sorry to be artistic but it really changed my life. 

I was like I need more of this. This is absolutely amazing. And I was still scared of it. But now I feel like I need more of that. That’s amazing. 

So I dropped out of school when I was 17. I just couldn’t finish the nine courses I had to make up my senior year. I wanted to be a rock and roll drummer. 

But now looking back, that was probably a saving grace that I didn’t finish high school because my parents would have sent me to a music school in Hollywood. 

Autism, Addiction, and Homelessness

Now just being addictive, having an addictive personality and just now discovering alcohol. If I went to Hollywood as an 18 year old man I would have died. I would have been on the streets in three months as an alcoholic, you know, because it really was powerful on me. 

It really sucked me in but I dropped out of high school and I started living on friend’s floors. My dad kicked me out. He said, I’m not going to have bums living in this house anymore. It was really hard at that time. 

But, being a rebellious teenager I didn’t think about it twice. I was like I’m out of here and slept on friend’s floors and started experimenting with LSD. You know, just taking a little in the beginning I was still scared of stuff. 

But slowly and surely, I started to drink more and more. I started smoking pot and I started taking more LSD and eventually I wasn’t scared of drugs and alcohol anymore. 

In fact, I really wanted drugs and alcohol to change me to where I didn’t even resemble my parents anymore. I was at the point where I didn’t want to resemble them and think like them. 

So I used drugs and alcohol to what I thought would alter my brain chemistry forever. And of course that didn’t work because now I know that I’m just like my dad. 

I’m 50 and he’s 80 and it’s okay. We made amends 20 years ago, but that’s besides the point. The alcohol was so amazing that I escaped into it. I have an addictive personality and it was like a magic carpet ride. And I wanted to ride that magic as long as I could. And I started drinking every day. 

Lost Autistic Addict Meets Artsy Older Woman

Then I met an older woman when I was 20 and since I was still giving my parents the silent treatment and I hadn’t seen them for two years, or almost a year, I started to move in with this older woman. 

I was 20 she was 40 she was an artist. She turned me on to the beat generation writers. She turned me on to fine art and wine and it was crazy. Because she had children my age. She had children very young, so it was kind of weird hanging out with an older woman and kids walking around the house who were my age. 

She pretty much became like a surrogate mother and took care of me when I was you know, I was homeless before she took me in. So I got turned on to the good life and she taught me how to be a man even though I was still an angry young man inside.

I finally made amends to my parents but back to the alcohol. I’ll just stick to the alcohol. I turned to it so much that I drank and I drank and normally alcohol is like liquid liquid courage. It gives you courage to socialize and to get out and be extroverted. And to an autistic person that is amazing. 

But it only worked for a little while and in fact, you know, I only had a buzz for maybe an hour to two hours. Then I was drunk and I blacked out or I was passed out. 

I passed out in the corner somewhere. So that good time for me literally only lasted like an hour or two. And then I was blacked out and it was over.

Alcohol Led Me to Near Death 

My life went on that way for 16 years and in fact the last five years of drinking I stopped eating food. It got to the point where I was rocking back and forth because remember I started rocking when I was two. 

I was now rocking all day and all night. I only had a job two days a week. And I will tell you the truth. I drank at that job and I rocked at that job. It was a job that allowed me to rock and drink. 

Hanging with Homeless People Because They Drank Like Me

So I literally drank morning and night and I stopped eating food because my stomach was so upset and swelling and swollen and inflamed. I couldn’t hold down food anymore. 

I was like food is just ruining my buzz anyways, I don’t have a lot of money. I am buying these $5.00 six packs of steel reserve malt liquor. I’m hanging out with homeless people because they’re the only ones that can drink like me. 

They’re the only ones that understand me, they’re the only ones that don’t have an ego and are cocky like my old jock friends who I wasn’t hanging out with anymore. 

I am literally hanging out with homeless people because they’re beaten down. They’re humble. They listened to me. They made me feel more powerful than I am. 

You know, when you hang out with people that are a lot lower than you they make you feel better. They make you feel superior. They make you feel smart, and I subconsciously used them. 

But then again, I wanted to be the great American writer. I read Jack Kerouac, you know, dating that older woman I read the beat generation, Ken Kesey. . .

So I’m gonna be a journalist and document these homeless people and drink with them. Then when I go home, I’m going to write down what I learned from them. 

When You Become Scarier than the Scariest Drunk in Town

But you know, a couple of years of doing that I was actually drinking more than them being more crazy than them. And they actually were scared – they’re scared of me. 

They’re scared that I was gonna die. They’re like Erik, you know, you blacked out last night and you were screaming up at the sky yelling at Satan. 

I got to the point where I was nearly homeless again. Hanging out with homeless people not eating food anymore. And at the end of my drinking, I was rocking back and forth 16 hours a day, getting drunk twice a day and sipping beer overnight so I wouldn’t get the shakes. 

I mean, you might as well have just hooked up IV into my arm. That’s how far I took it. I took it further than anyone that I know of. I took it further than homeless people because homeless people can’t really afford that much alcohol. 

I had a girlfriend that was enabling me. She’d bring home six packs. I’d get drunk in the morning when she’d go to work. And I’d wake up by noon and drink again, get drunk by dinner (her dinner) I wasn’t eating and then pass out and then wake up at four in the morning and drink three beers. 

And every morning when I slammed a beer I’d puke it up. And I’d be like great. I just wasted a beer. Now I only have five beers left. 

My whole life was around beer. How many do I have left in the fridge? How many do I buy? Can she bring more home? Later when she gets off work? Everything was mapped around beer. And that was my life. 

Alcohol and Autism Don’t Work

And it didn’t help the Autism. I rocked more than ever. I was rocking from morning until night. My back was sore. I wasn’t showering. I wasn’t eating and my nails were getting long. I just let myself go. 

Rock Bottom as an Alcoholic Aspie

Finally one day someone, people were telling me I was going to die and that didn’t stop me. I had a heart attack when I was 32. That didn’t stop me. I kept going. 

Then one day this skate punk guy came over to see my girlfriend she had already left for work. It was me alone, trembling with alcohol withdrawals naked under the covers in our bed. 

He came in and saw me there, and picked up a little guitar in the corner . It was my ex-girlfriend’s son’s guitar. He picked it up, sat down and started singing songs about me making fun of me. 

And that is what drew me to the end of my alcohol. I was so defenseless I couldn’t get out. I was like get the f out of here and I was shaking with anger and he wouldn’t leave. 

He was just singing “Eric’s a weirdo. Eric’s a weirdo.” And I felt so debilitated, so defenseless that that was the moment I was done. 

So I took the last two beers out of the fridge when he left. I got dressed, took the two beers, threw them in my backpack and walked back to my converted school bus. That was my home. My alternate home when I wasn’t living with girlfriends. 

And those two beers probably saved me from dying from withdrawals and I slowly nursed those two beers for like a day. Then I slept for 14 hours and I quit. That was it. 

Rebuilding Erik After Alcohol

I got two jobs at once. It took about a week to get my strength back. I had to drink a liquid diet of juices and yogurt and really subtle stuff to get my strength back. 

Then I just hit jobs. I worked two jobs back to back, just went home after work, smoked my cigarettes and watched TV and slowly got better. And then after two years of sobriety I quit cigarettes and that’s been my life. 

So it didn’t help autism at all. I’m still autistic. I don’t think it’s ever going away. I still rock back and forth. I’m still working on quitting rocking back and forth. 

But you know, my greatest thing right now is what is keeping me alive right now and keeping me sober is helping people like you who are rocking or stimming or you’re addicted to porn or you’re addicted to alcohol, or drugs or whatever your escape is. I’m in the same boat. 

But I have quit many addictions and I want to help people like us. So leave a comment of what you’re dealing with right now. And maybe one day we can work together or chat. 

You know, it’s really lonely right now. You know when I got sober 10 years ago I just self isolated. I didn’t go to meetings. I am just self isolated. All my old friends left. In fact, I moved out of that town. 

I haven’t had any friends for 10 years. You guys are my friends. You guys are keeping me alive. So I really appreciate you! Share this with anyone who’s struggling with addictions or alcohol or stimming autism. You name it. All right. I love you guys. Thank you for listening to my story. I’m going to do more content like this. Stay tuned and we’ll talk to you soon

More Autism and Addiction Resources

Sincerely,

Erik Christian Johnson

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