February 8th, 2007. It’s 12 p.m. and I’m standing behind the bar of the high-end restaurant that I’ve managed for the last several years.
The day’s liquor order has just been delivered, and the driver hands me the order form and a pen. As I lean in to write my signature, my hand is shaking uncontrollably, creating a sloppy mess of squiggles more akin to the handwriting of a 1st grader than that of a 26-year-old adult. The driver notices this. He gives me a strange look, and then, thankfully, he’s out the door. An awkward sight for him, perhaps - but for me it’s a normal occurrence around this time of day. No big deal though, because as usual, the solution to my problem is within arm’s reach.
The restaurant is empty – we don’t open for a few hours – so there is nobody to see me grab the bottle of Grey Goose vodka and fill a pint glass about 3 quarters full. Top it off with a dash of sprite, and down the hatch in 3 gulps. I take a moment to breathe, and look down at my hand. It’s no longer shaking. Thus begins yet another day in a life that has come to resemble the wash-rinse-repeat cycle of a laundry machine. Day turns to night, the bar goes from empty to busy to packed. My personal pint glass of Grey Goose is filled and drained a dozen times throughout the evening.
I’m very good at my job, but only if I’m drunk. And I’m very good at being drunk.
The shift ends, and I head to a local joint nearby with some co-workers, same as every other night. Rounds of shots are consumed, followed (usually) by any number of other substances, followed by more shots. Things get messy.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
February 9th, 2007. I wake up at 11 a.m., fully clothed, on my living room couch. I have no recollection of getting home. I have a massive, pounding, headache and an intense feeling of being trapped. Trapped in a life that revolves around alcohol, a spin cycle that just goes round and round without end. Fuck it, I need a drink. Time to go to work.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
I enter the bar around noon, heading straight for the Grey Goose behind the counter. However, a co-worker of mine is already there, sitting at the bar. She’s a nice woman, but one I don’t know very well. She looks at me for a moment, and then she begins to talk. She tells me that she’s an alcoholic, and she’s been sober for 7 years. She tells me that her sobriety is dependent on helping others who are suffering as she once did. She tells me that I never have to drink again if I don’t want to, that there is a solution. She says she is ready to help me right at this moment, if I’m willing. Rather than reach for the Grey Goose, I call someone to cover my shift, and I get into this woman’s car instead. She takes me to meet a group of people. They are just like me - they’ve fought the same battle I’ve been fighting for years. As I talk with these men and women, I hear my story echoed over and over. And finally, something else - a way out, a glimpse of an exit from the endless spin cycle my life had become.
February 9th, 2017. Today, I look back with overwhelming gratitude at what that woman did for me that afternoon in 2007. A selfless act that most likely saved my life. That was my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, 10 years ago. I haven’t touched a drink since. Today, I enjoy a lifestyle I could never have imagined – I am a teacher in Thailand, I’m an internationally recognized DJ and music producer, and I’m an avid traveler and adventurer. But today, first and foremost, I’m still an alcoholic, and I will always be ready to reach out a hand to help someone else in need - as someone once reached out to me. My life depends on it.
Brian Hein was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and relocated to Bangkok, Thailand in 2013. He spends part of the year teaching university English classes, and the rest of his time producing music, running his record label, and exploring and touring as a DJ across the globe.
Brian wants you to know that if you or anyone close to you is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, you can immediately find a local number to call and receive assistance almost anywhere in the world by visiting the AA website at www.aa.org. If you'd like to contribute to treating and preventing substance abuse among young people, Brian encourages you to learn more at YourFirstStep.org.