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"SHAME KILLS" - KEVIN'S STORY

Updated: Oct 31, 2023


In my 20s, life was a warm blur spent alongside a group of friends who partied as hard as I did. Those years, every weekend was a reckless adventure normalized by ritual and reinforced by everyone else’s enthusiastic participation. During this era, I assumed I would always be a drinker. It was an unquestioned part of my self-image and the non-negotiable foundation of my future.


But life always catches up with you, no matter how intent you are on running from it. An abrupt, sour divorce led me into a self-imposed exile in a new town. Initially, I found myself venturing to local nightspots in search of some semblance of human connection. After all, it’s how I met my ex-wife. But that was in college. Now in my 30s, I would sit at the bar, down a few drinks to drown my anxiety, and attempt to slur my way through small talk with strangers. You can probably guess that, even in that setting, it rarely went over very well. There are few things people read better than desperation.


These sad solo outings happened a few times a week, interspersed with drunken phone calls to friends back home. Embarrassment became a near-constant companion, and reality became harder and harder to face. Each night out ended with me stumbling home, my dignity nowhere in sight. And of course, the more I humiliated myself, the more I leaned on alcohol to numb the feeling. Eventually, it was as though I had polluted so much of the outside world with shame that I could only drink at home, alone. After six months of obliterating myself night after night in the darkness of my apartment, I reached the point where I could either give myself over to the void completely, or I could ask for help. Thankfully, I chose the latter.


Since you’re reading this in the Lifeline Newsletter, you can probably figure out what happened next: they saved my life. Now over a year into my recovery, one thing I keep coming back to is the compassion I feel for the me from a few years ago, when I was heading out into the cold in search of any kind of connection. With distance, it seems so simple and so human. Forgiving myself has been a painful but necessary journey, reconciling who I’ve been with who I am now. What I can tell you is that I’m pretty sure I’m starting to like myself — I’m proud that I went out and got help, and that I committed to doing the work. And I think that’s the big difference: when I drank, I was trying to brute force my way into feeling confident enough to connect with others. Now that I’ve put in the time, I’m starting to be able to meet people’s gaze on my own strength. It feels good.


*Names and details have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved, as the story was adapted after being told to a Lifeline staff member with permission to share. Additionally, we would note that the reason we were able to attend to Kevin immediately is because we are regularly expanding our staff in order to meet the growing demand for our services. As Chabad Lifeline is sustained through private donations, this entails significant fundraising efforts. Making a donation can help ensure that we can continue to provide timely care that can ultimately save a life or set a family on a better course, creating a positive ripple effect on future generations.

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