If you’re looking for a magic bullet to overcome addiction, Triston Walters says you might be disappointed. What worked for him, may not work for you. But he does believe this: “You can’t do it for others. You do it for yourself.”
Today, in recognition of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, Triston shares his alcohol-abuse story. Now sober, he said his addiction cost him his family, his career. His self-respect.
“I’m starting my life at 41.”
The Joy of a Good Party
The obvious question you might ask is what caused Triston’s addiction in the first place? Trauma? Family history? Excessive drinking over time? Depression? Anxiety? Social factors?
Triston, who lives in Maryland, doesn’t trace his issues to genetics or an unhappy, traumatic childhood. He imbibed because he enjoyed partying…with his friends and girlfriend whom he met in 2005.
And party they did.
“My girlfriend and I had great times together.”
Within a few years, they were living together and parenting a son.
“My family was her, my son and me,” Triston tells me. “But we could never make ends meet.” When she contracted Lyme Disease, their shaky finances became iffier.
“It was a big hit on us,” he says. “She wasn’t one-hundred percent and it all fell on me. I was handling it, but in the wrong way.”
Triston’s drinking grew worse.
Every day, without fail, he’d buy a bottle of “cheap, cheap vodka” and a six-pack of beer. He drank at work. At home. Despite his attempts to hide his secret, he fooled no one.
In 2018, he got fired and his girlfriend left with their son.
“I understood everything and don’t blame anyone. I just couldn’t stop.”
The Long, Hard Journey to Sobriety
At the buzzed corners of his mind, Triston knew his life had spiraled out of control, but he bargained and allowed himself one more drink, promising to start over the next day.
“I was unemployed, living in my parent’s basement, and my drinking was increasingly getting worse…I was way under the influence and knew I needed to go to rehab.”
Waiting for a bed to open, Triston made the ill-advised decision to go cold turkey a few days before his then five-year-old son came for a visit. The sudden withdrawal shocked his system, which had grown accustomed to a daily provision of liquor.
He had a seizure. Not the first. But a serious one that affected his ability to remember and use words.
“My son freaked out. I fell off the bed and hit my head on the table. Blood was everywhere. My son ran out to get help from neighbors who called 911. My son saved my life. That seizure could have killed me.”
His journey was just beginning.
The Lie He Told
Like some alcoholics, who’ve done multiple tours in rehabilitation, Triston thrived on the inside. “I did well in that environment.” Living outside in the world, free of curfews and structure, was something else altogether different.
“When I’m sober, I’m on the top of my game.” Seeing his progress, counselors assured him that he’d do great outside the protective cocoon. “I thought I could be cured, given a fresh start. He listened to the lie: “I thought, let me just get one more drink.”
And before he knew it, the cycle started all over again. In December 2020, after being kicked out of a seedy motel for drunkenness, Triston got in his car headed for a friend’s when police busted him for drunk driving. He went to jail and then to a local hospital to dry out.
“That was the last time,” Triston says.
Ultimately, it took three years and stays at six different rehab and recovery centers before Triston became sober.
What worked this time?
Sobriety Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
“There is more than one answer to sobriety…more than one answer to changing and improving your life,” says Triston, a CNC machinist and guitarist, who dabbles in music recording. (“I can actually say I have an album out.”)
What he realized is that “you can’t do it for others. You do it for yourself.”
He also decided to approach his recovery with a different outlook. Instead of jumping back into the world after only three months of treatment, as he had done in the past, Triston spent 10 months, including a two-month stay at a sober living house.
“That is exactly what I needed…time to really figure out what was important,” he says. “Yes, I wanted and want all those things…a car, house, steady job, time with (my son)…but I was trying to get it all at once as soon as possible,” thereby adding to the stress. “I learned that I needed to take it step by little step.”
While others eschew medication to curb cravings, he also decided to go for it. Furthermore, he reevaluated his attitudes about sobriety and what it means to him.
“For me it’s not about sobriety.” It’s not the end-all, be-all goal. “I think about doing my life the right way…taking care of myself and my son. When people ask me, ‘Triston, how long are you sober?’ I always say, ‘I don’t know, but I am today.’”