Thursday, December 12, 2013 interview

Drawing My Way To Recovery: An Alcoholic's Success Story

Parker Lanier.JPG
Parker Lanier shares his experience with alcoholism and how art played an integral role in his recovery.

Myths and Truths About Alcoholism


There are a few myths and one important truth about my disease.
The Myths:
1. Someone else can tell you that you are an alcoholic.
Not a judge, a policeman, a spouse, a child, a lover, or a parent can tell you that you are an alcoholic. Conversely, you cannot proclaim someone else an alcoholic. It is something you have to find out for yourself, and every person’s " rock bottom" is different.
2. Alcoholism is a victimless crime.
As an active alcoholic, I harmed or hurt everyone I came into contact with. My children, parents, spouse, and employers were all profoundly affected by my behavior.
3. AA is a religious outfit, a program filled with a bunch of bible thumpers.
AA is a spiritual program. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking.
The Truth:
If you are an alcoholic and don’t do something to stop it, there are three ways you will end up: in jail, in a mental institution, or dead.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease. The cunning, baffling and powerful thing about alcohol is that, while it is slowly killing you physically and spiritually, it is convincing you that there is nothing wrong. Drinking can be fun and can be your psychological medicine for many, many years, but when that medicine stops working you will be in a dark place because it will cease to provide the escape or comfort that it once did.

My Story with Alcoholism

I was a spoiled kid. My parents always provided my brother and I with the best of everything, including cars, an education, vacations, and summer camps. I had all the things one could ever need.
I first got in trouble for drinking with some neighborhood kids in the summer between 7th and 8th grade. By high school, I was drinking every weekend. I was always the guy who got the booze, and I gained popularity for my ability to do so. After high school, I went to a very expensive college for my undergrad years. Was I grateful to have the chance to receive a great education that was completely paid for by my parents? Of course not - I was only excited that I could drink every night if I wanted to. I was an egomaniac and acted like a controlling know-it-all. But inside I was afraid, insecure and intimidated by people, places and things. Alcohol was my only escape, the only time I felt safe.

Spiraling Downward

Fast forward several years and I had flunked out of law school and received two DUIs. I had two failed marriages, and no spiritual life whatsoever. I only cared about myself. I was selfish, yet I always had booze to comfort me.
Throughout my drinking, I kept lying and trying to tell everyone that I was fine, but I was slowly dying. About three or four years before I hit rock bottom, drinking ceased being fun. It was no longer providing me with the medicinal effect it always had. But I had not hit rock bottom yet, and I did not stop. My days consisted of going to the liquor store at lunch time, returning home, turning off the ringer on my phone, locking the door, closing the blinds, turning on the TV and praying that I would not be disturbed by anyone. I drank until I passed out in my chair. Everyday was the same.
On the weekends and days off from work, I would pour myself a huge glass of vodka when I woke up, usually around 4:30 or 5 am, get back into bed, and watch cartoons until I could finally fall back to sleep. This lasted for over four years.

Hitting Rock Bottom

On the morning of February 2, 2002, I woke up and was going to call in sick. Physically, I could hardly walk to the refrigerator, and spiritually and emotionally, I was dead. It was as though a cold wind was blowing through me; I felt completely empty inside. It was my bottom, my moment of clarity. As I lay in my bed, God spoke to me, and I realized that I needed to make a change or I would forever be the same miserable, sick person.
That was the first time, in 30 years of drinking, that I had come to this realization. Instead of calling in sick, I had someone take me to the hospital. I was there for nine days. After I was checked in, it was the first time in my life that I felt completely safe. I did not have to lie anymore or keep things from people. I could just focus on getting better. I decided, for the first time in my life, that I was going to humble myself, and I was determined to follow the advice of other recovering alcoholics. I started attending AA meetings, which became an amazing outlet for me.

Getting Sober

Everything in my life has changed since I made the decision to get sober. I must emphasize that there is a difference between getting sober and stopping drinking. Getting sober is working the 12 Steps of AA, having a sponsor, helping people, going to meetings, and making coffee. Alcoholism is just the symptom of my disease. Working the 12 Steps helped me repair the things that made me the miserable person I was. The great thing about the program is that you only have to refrain from drinking one day at a time. If someone would have told me when I got out of the hospital that I could not drink for the rest of my life, I would have said there is no way I can make that promise. I would have failed if I looked at it from that angle. Yet, anybody can refrain from drinking for 24 hours.
During my recovery, I have realized how important it is to go to an AA meeting, to not drink between meetings, and to call another drunk before I pick up the first drink. The great thing about AA is that you feel completely comfortable and supported. There is nothing you could say you did that some other drunk had not already done. For me, AA was the only thing that worked. That’s it; that is the way it starts. Pretty soon, I had made it a few 24 hours in a row. Then I knew a freedom that non-alcoholics simply cannot understand.
Next Week: How art played an important role in Parker’s sobriety.
Parker’s artwork: Alcoholic Outsider Art
Parker’s art gallery: High Lonesome Gallery

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