In episode six of The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast, Dave P. shared his incredible story with host Ashley Loeb Blassingame. We’ve edited and condensed his story for a quick read, but you’ll want to listen to the full episode here

Dave grew up in southern California with his mother and stepfather, who he calls “hippie bikers,”  both who heavily used drugs during his childhood. When Dave was 14, the family went to Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles, and his parents used that trip to detox. He ran varsity cross country in school, setting records in different distances. A serious, competitive runner, Dave avoided all drugs and alcohol, getting upset with his teammates who were “starting to drink and smoke pot,” because it affected their performance. 

The One Drink That Starts It All

One weekend at 16, he was with his cross-country friends out in Newport Beach, and Dave decided to drink what the older people in the crowd had – 151 and Coke. Even though he only had a third of a Red Solo cup, he was hooked. 

“The minute I felt it, I took a hard right. I instantly looked at my friend and said, ‘we’re doing this every weekend from now on. The weekend before I was completely against it. It was exactly like other people describe – the physical allergy – it was so strong that it was perfect.” 

The next weekend, Dave drank a full bottle of Night Train: he “blacked out and threw up. “And then it was always like that,” Dave said. “I didn’t really have periods of normal drinking at all. I was blacking out all the time from the very beginning.” 

From alcohol, Dave moved to acid, X, and other drugs, but didn’t mix alcohol and other drugs together. If he was using he would not drink “one drop of alcohol; I couldn’t even get it down. I mean nothing.”

Dave used all the time once he started going to raves in the late 80s/early 90s. “I was always using something. Even to the degree of, I didn’t like to smoke pot at all, but I would do it every night or every day if that is all I had.” 

Drinking During 12-Step Program 

When Dave drank alcohol he “would take a bottle of vodka, just turn it upside down and count to 10 gulps and then black out.” Despite this, he did not consider that he had an alcohol problem. 

At 22, Dave was sent to a 12-step program on a Court Card, after he was arrested for drug possession.  “I went into the 12- step program and I really didn’t want to be sober. I knew I didn’t want to feel how I was feeling anymore. I was 22. I didn’t have a clear view on anything.”

Dave would often leave the meetings at the halfway point, go to his car, “and drink some beer and go back into the meeting, because it was a drug problem not an alcohol problem.” 

Talking about his drug problem, Dave explains, “It was obvious I had a drug problem. I would wake up and tell myself I don’t want to do it today. And then the bell would go off and 30 minutes later I’m doing it and over and over and over and over. My skin looked gray and I’d cut myself and I wouldn’t heal for three weeks. It was clear that I was strung out. I had a drug problem, but not an alcohol problem.” 

Realizing He Had an Alcohol Problem During a Meeting

At one meeting, and even though he didn’t go into the meeting intending to, he identified as an alcoholic. It was a watershed moment for Dave. “And this guy came up to me and said, ‘You’re Dave, right?’ And I thought, ‘Wow! Somebody cares.’ I held onto that because I was in so much fear, and he ended up becoming my sponsor, and that led me in my sobriety.” 

Relationship Challenges

In a meeting at about 60 days sober, Dave met the woman who would become his first wife. He describes this relationship in detail in the podcast. He realized that he “had no idea who [he] was a person, and I’m a relationship without even knowing myself.” The couple eventually grew apart after having two children. Dave recalls that he “was just doing stuff that any man with integrity wouldn’t do if you’re married,” so he left and moved into his best friend’s house. This friend worked with Dave, and was aware of all Dave’s extramarital activities. Dave’s friend also had mental health issues, which became evident over time. 

In a particularly harrowing part of Dave’s story, he recounts when his best friend confessed to telling his (Dave’s) wife about his indiscretions, and then starting a physical relationship with her behind Dave’s back. The two men exchanged strong words at the warehouse where they worked together, and Dave’s best friend left the warehouse in a fit of rage. Dave called his friend’s ex and said, “Hey, just call the police so they can go 5150 (the California law code for the temporary, involuntary psychiatric commitment), if he’s going to do something.” The police took the call seriously, and went to find Dave’s friend. They were able to locate him an hour later, but were unfortunately too late: Dave’s best friend had ended his life at the shop where they both worked.

The No Matter What Club

When Ashley talked with Dave about the aftermath of his friend’s suicide and how he stayed sober during and after  this trauma, Dave shared that he is part of the “no matter what club.” Drinking or using is “really just not an option.” I “won’t drink no matter what.” 

Dave found tremendous relief “working the 12 steps.” 

Today, Dave credits the 12-step program to his fulfilling life. “Being sober provides so many amazing things. This wonderful life. On a spiritual level. Being good examples for our children.”

He knows through different life challenges that he needs “to focus on [his] program, pursue the things that raise [his] self esteem,” and look at the things that aren’t comfortable. When he does that, Dave grows “spiritually, and all of the sudden those things don’t bother [him] anymore.”

When this podcast aired, Dave said that, “I’m in the best relationship I’ve ever been in,” and he was looking forward to getting married. Dave and his wife were married in early 2019.  

Quotes have been edited for clarity.