By: Michael Murphy, Marine Corps Veteran, Transformations Alumnus, Alumni Coordinator

“Hi! My name is Mike, and I’m an alcoholic”. A simple greeting/statement that was WAY overdue in my life. I spent the majority of my adult life criticizing others for their life choices and actions. Including, but not limited to, how much they drank, what they drank, and so on.  And if you did drugs?? Pfft, I was obviously doing way better in life than you were. I had served in The United States Marine Corps honorably, held a few pretty high profile and well-paying jobs; I had my stuff together. I didn’t have a problem! Everyone else around me did!

The truth of the matter is, I was in utter and complete denial. We hear a lot of people talk about “rock bottoms.” Well, in my case, I had so many rock bottoms I could have built a pretty elaborate rock garden. Maybe even a koi pond in there for extra depth. From waking up in hospitals with no idea how I got there, to having a homeless person help me up to my apartment because I was incapable of getting up my stairs, to losing some of the previously mentioned jobs….you name it.

One of the biggest things in my life that my denial and alcoholism took from me was my sense of pride in being not only a Veteran, but a United States Marine. And for anyone that knows a Marine, we take a tremendous amount of pride in having that title. Denial comes in many forms. When I got out of The Marines in 2005 I wanted to sort of re-invent myself. I wanted to put my time spent in The Marines in the past. This included largely, my deployment to Iraq in 2003. After all, if I just push it all down and deny its impact on me, it would go away, right?? Wrong.

The start of 2020 found me living on my sister’s couch after having lost my job in Downtown Orlando due to my drinking and overall downward spiral. I had become a liability to them. This still was not enough to make me think that I had a problem. Eventually, at the pleading of friends and family, I checked myself into the V.A. for my mental health. But not my drinking. I still wasn’t there yet. I had started to make some improvements as far as therapy went and also discovered that I had severe sleep apnea. During my sleep study, I stopped breathing on average 93 times an hour. So, I was basically not sleeping at all. Now, couple that with 20 years of blackout drunk “sleeping”, I had basically deprived my body and mind of actual sleep for half my life.  So, at least some things were headed in the right direction.

Then Covid hit. All V.A. appointments were canceled, with no return date in the near future. The world was in calamity. I was in calamity. Any progress I had made was lost. I was still drinking from morning to night, often sneaking drinks thinking nobody would notice. They notice. Don’t kid yourself. My depression and anxiety were sky-high. Even though I was living on the couch in the living room, I managed to isolate myself as much as possible. A few times a week (and when I had the money) I would have two 1.75’s of Jagermeister delivered to the house. I would sneak out and meet the delivery guy on the side of the road. This would last me two days at the most. Another rock to add to the garden.

FINALLY. One night on the couch, I dug into my dirty laundry hamper/stash spot and pulled out a bottle, took two shots and something clicked. Something happened. I sat there, in the dark thinking to myself. And admitted defeat. I was about as low as I could get next to being homeless. Instead, I was a selfish and self-centered jerk that mooched off my family. But, I finally admitted something needed to be done. The next day I called an old friend that thankfully worked at Transformations. She had made some comments about it in the past, but I never really knew what it was. I could hear in her voice the sound of relief when I told her. I would hear that sound of relief a lot in the next few days.

In the Summer of 2020, I arrived at Summit Detox to begin this journey. Before I even stepped foot onto the property, I already had the idea of H.O.W. in my mind. For those out of the loop, HOW is an acronym for Honesty, Open Minded, and Willing. I am glad I had this mindset going in because boy, would I need it. But, the main thing I did….Was surrender. I knew I could not do this on my own, and if there was ever a time and a place to do it, it was right here and right now. I was only supposed to be at Transformations for 30 days. But, knowing how bad I was I opted in for 30 more. I decided I was not going to leave until the job was done.

I gained a lot of things during my stay at Transformations. One sticks out more than others, though. That would be my sense of pride in being a Veteran and a Marine. And I owe this to Carlos and the Help For Our Heroes team. Being amongst other Veterans going through the same things I was, was incredible. It felt like I was back in. It not only gave me a sense of comfort, but also motivation. I knew I had others around me that I could relate to.

I left Transformations ready for a new life. This was a rebirth of sorts. But, I knew the hard work had not stopped. It was only beginning. I needed to continue using the tools I was given by the staff at Transformations. I followed through with those tools and became an active member of AA, found myself a sponsor, and began work on the steps. I also, at the recommendation of others, lived in a sober living community for almost six months. Slowly, but surely, The Promises started happening. I became part of an amazing Fellowship of others and eventually began Sponsoring others. I currently have two Sponsees and two Grandsponsees. Watching them grow, helps me grow. The work is never done with us.

The following year I returned to Transformations. Just not as a client, this time. But, as an Alumni Coordinator.  I am beyond thankful for this opportunity and look forward to helping my fellow Alumni once they leave treatment. As I said, the work is never done with us, and it surely does not end once you walk out those doors. And also, we cannot do this alone. I am also excited and motivated to work with our Veteran Alumni in the hopes of showing that we do, in fact, recover. Let’s end the stigma, together!

A Very Happy and Grateful,

Michael Murphy

If you, a loved one, or a fellow veteran are struggling, PLEASE reach out!

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