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Being A Drunk Was Choice, Not A Genetic Sentence…


April 2013

Twenty years ago I was a drunk. The doctor, after running a few tests, said that I had the liver of a 65 year-old chronic alcoholic and that I’d likely die of cirrhosis before I reached 30. I was 21.

I still drank for another year without slowing down. I had seven years left when I quit and haven’t had a drop since and with the grace of God, I’ll make it through tonight just fine too.

Now, I truly believe the science that says my body and brain processes alcohol differently than most and that “it is in my genes” too – this is what makes me an alcoholic. So the question is why does this matter? The second I disregarded that I became a drunk, and being so became my choice. To illustrate where I’m coming from, I’m using two different definitions – one for alcoholic and one for drunk. I am predisposed to alcoholism because my parents made me – they passed on the genes to form an alcoholic. That having happened is not my fault, there’s nothing I could have done differently. However, acting on those genes and becoming a drunk was by choice. Not necessarily at first, it’s my understanding that, with my heritage (or what we know of it), the alcoholism gene occurs rarely but with my father being an alcoholic and at least one grandfather who was as well I knew my chances were pretty bad going in.

Now, I can’t remember if my mom had the “your dad is an alcoholic so you may be one as well” talk – if we did, I didn’t pay attention and I surely wasn’t going to abstain based on the possibility anyway (no matter how great). As well, figuring this out, especially at a young age, isn’t all that easy. There were times when I could go a week or two without getting entirely hammered (usually after getting in some kind of trouble, not surprisingly) and I could stay quite trouble free for extended periods of time – but the signs were there. The fact that trouble was sporadic gave me a false hope that maybe I was “just being a kid”.

In any event the point is that my genes do not control my destiny, they only play a small part of who I am. The important part, the part that matters, is what I choose to do with those genes. I could very well have chosen a very different path. I could have disregarded the doctor as a quack, kept drinking and completed the disaster that had become my life. I almost certainly would have been penniless and alone or worse; dead or in prison by now. Instead I chose life, good times and noodle salad.


  1. kruzmeister says:

    Great post, you write so well. Congrats on your continued sobriety Jim!

  2. triathlonobsession says:

    Cheers to good times and noodle salad–but mostly to life! Nice job with your sobriety–and thank you for sharing! I’ve passed this on. 🙂

  3. Jim says:

    Thanks for your encouragement. I am also a drunk. Currently 2/12 years sober. I was also an ardent bike rider. Some Tri’s, mostly racing. My drinking entered every facet of my life including biking. The last few years I needed pint of vodka and some weed to get ‘motivated’ and still one of my water bottles was a vodka/cranberry. I could not understand why after adding 25 lbs and doing what I was doing i just wasn’t as fast as I used to be. Before recovery I took a tumble off a 45′ cliff and spent a December night at the bottom of a quarry. The end result has been damage to my phrenic nerve and a partially paralized diaphragm. Neurologists I have seen to a T say they have never seen this in someone who wasn’t also paralized. The diaphragm controls the lungs. Its like I have asthma. I get winded fairly quickly. While the riding you speak of here will not be part of life in the future, I can ride. I still excercise ( weight training and walking/riding) at a much slower pace. Unfortunately I somehow equate my obsessiveness with biking as similar to my obesessiveness with alcohol. For ME I have found a pace of life and excercise that suits ME better. Keep up the positive message. My nickname in my home g is Lance. PEDs (Performance Enhibiting Drinks)

    • bgddyjim says:

      Awesome brother, keep at it. If you ever run into a tough spot and need someone to talk to you have a home here. Keep coming back and your life will get so good you’ll think it just can’t get any better. Six months later you’ll find out it did. I am sorry to hear about your spill. Stinkin’ drinkin’ always takes something.

  4. Good for you Jim. Taking control of ones life is all up to us and nothing else. Shortly before reading this post, I was informed that a client of mine was found dead this morning in his home. He had been a struggling alcoholic and unfortunately he lost his battle.

    • J says:

      Sorry to hear about your client. I also recently lost an acquaintance and am close to losing another. Its real, coulda/shoulda been me but so far it hasn’t. Keep movin triguy.

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