Afraid to Live

by Dustin Dillow

Afraid to Live


After so many struggles in my life – war, broken relationships, a failed marriage, depression and homelessness – I gave myself an excuse to become someone I did not want to be. I became a bad husband, an absent father, a manipulative son and a distant brother.

Bent on self-destruction, I was consumed with my own self-hatred, and I couldn’t have cared less about anyone who got in my way. I used every excuse to manipulate and justify my actions because I told myself that I deserved to do what I wanted. I had earned it, yet I hated myself for it.

I had never wanted to die, but I tried to kill myself . . . twice.

This is my life. This is my truth. I choose this life, one day at a time.

Let that sink in a bit. Suicide would have been the ultimate achievement for this selfish person. I never succeeded because I never really wanted to die. I had moments when I thought I wanted to die, moments when I was out of control and unable to stop drinking. In those moments, death seemed like the better alternative.

How very wrong I was. I will forever be putting the pieces back together and repairing the damage I have caused in my own life and in the lives of the people around me.

There are no excuses anymore. As hard as it may be to say, I have accepted that I am an alcoholic.

At first, I blamed my alcoholism on the war, my failed marriage, nagging parents, anxiety, depression – you name it. In truth, however, there was no one to blame but myself. No one forced my addiction upon me. While I believe addiction is a disease, I don’t think it should be used as just another excuse for an alcoholic’s undying search for that next drink. “I have a disease, don’t cha’ know!”

It was obvious I would never stop or even want to stop until I admitted my life was unmanageable and I was powerless. Some people never fully admit this.

I was afraid to live. This wasn’t the life I wanted, and things weren’t going the way I planned. These were my excuses to keep drinking. I went to rehab and told them I was sober. I hoped I would look good in their eyes and they would leave me alone. In reality, I was a bold-faced liar. Although I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t sober.

My sobriety didn’t last long. I began to drink again while continuing to tell people I was sober. I was so consumed with hiding my drinking that I lost sight of reality. The disease whispered in my ear and made me believe I could handle it. Before I knew it, it had me in its grasp again. In reality, I think it had me all along.

I wanted help to stop but for all the wrong reasons. None of my reasons were for me.

Why does it so often take a catastrophic or life-altering event to appreciate how precious and short life is? We addicts die a little every day. There will be no tomorrow for some of us, and some of us miss the opportunities we have right now.

Finally, I was desperate enough for change. I was experiencing great distress in my life. I was conscious of this distress but not yet aware of its origin. When I realized I was the cause, I also realized I was the only one who could end it.

In the past, I have been selfish for all the wrong reasons. Now, in my never-ending quest for sobriety and clarity, I am selfish for all the right reasons. Doesn’t make sense, does it? At first, it didn’t make sense to me, either.

I am constantly learning something new. I am on a journey for truth and enlightenment, and I am discovering these truths through sobriety. I believe honesty is the only way to find the real truth. When I say honesty, I don’t just mean being honest by not lying. I mean being so completely honest with myself that everything else comes together.

I am finally finding myself.

My own higher power lives within me. This power gives me the ability to love and forgive myself and to move forward. Today, I am able to share my love with others and am grateful I have much to offer. Getting to this place was easier said than done, and I continue to work at it on a daily basis.

Many people have told me how happy they are for me and that I am an inspiration. None of that matters, though. It is nice to hear, but it won’t keep me sober; only I can do that. I hope I can inspire others, but at the end of the day the only inspiration I need is myself.

Even if I had tried to run forever from my addiction, I couldn’t have escaped reality. I could fervently deny the existence of God, but that reality was always right there staring me in the face. This is my reality. This is the order I rely on in the chaos of addiction.

I know I am flawed. I am not perfect, but I know I am loved. I have learned to accept my reality. This is my life. This is my truth. I choose this life one day at a time.

So smile; why not? Be happy. It takes more effort to be angry. Live; really live. Be everything, or be nothing, but be.

Dustin Dillow is a USMC veteran and was a professional chef for twelve years. He is currently the director of operations for a sober living facility in Chicago, Illinois. He enjoys spending time with his three children and his girlfriend, writing his blog and coaching youth sports. He is pursuing a master’s degree in clinical counseling with a focus on addiction studies.

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