A struggle with alcohol, a lesson of an open heart

Paul Fron, he is a national champion in Athletics, a former physical education professor and a veteran in fighting alcohol. Ten years have passed since Paul last had a drink, as he desires to feel life. He had reached the point where all his dreams had been lost, along with all his money. People he used to love distanced themselves from him, and his attempts of quitting his addiction were successful only for a while. He was looking so desperately for help, that when help arrived, it took him three therapy sessions to believe help was possible, as it seemed unreal. The Alcoholics in Recovery Clubs Association (A.C.A.R.) was for Paul the perfect place to open up his heart. He learned how to cope with his pain in another way, so he could make some room for joy.

Paul is now 55 years old, he was born in a family with 11 children and he was raised in a spirit of solidarity. He describes himself as being a fighter, he loved sports, so his youth was marked by training and competitions. He met his future wife in Iasi, where he came to study. They got married, they had two boys and for a while, they lived with his wife’s parents. Some misunderstandings took Paul to a level of pain which he had no idea how to handle.

I started to go out for a drink with friends, a drink turned out to be many drinks. Until then I wasn’t used to drinking, maybe at a party or something, but it wasn’t a habit, being an athlete I couldn’t afford to miss my training. But being naive and honest, many years went by until I realized that those friends were my friends only when I offered them something to drink. If I had a conflict at home, a fight, I ran to the bar, today with a friend, tomorrow with another one…This is how I followed the crowd and after a few years I woke up at the ‘Socola’ Psychiatric Hospital”, Paul says.

His visits at the Psychiatric Hospital were more and more frequent, so Paul started to ask himself what he could do to quit drinking. He tried by himself in many ways, he even went to some AA meetings, but he didn’t seem to fit anywhere. “I was somehow embarrassed too, besides my mom, everyone had abandoned me, all those friends. I took a break, six months, one year, I thought I was healed, able to go to a party, able to drink a glass of wine, but I ended up in the same place, one glass, two glasses, five glasses, there I was, at the Psychiatric Hospital”, Paul says.

He managed to run away once from the hospital and now he laughs when he remembers how he ran to his house in his pajamas. But at that time, his problem was getting worse. “It was an illusion, I was feeling better just for the moment when I was drinking , but the quantity was increasing, I was in need of more and more alcohol, my thoughts were never gone, they were even worse, I guess this is related to how much you think or you feel sorry about From my point of view, it was just like sinking sands – the more I drank, the more I got stuck”, Paul says.

His career was affected, because of his numerous hospitalizations, and Paul had to give up sports and his job as a teacher. Money spent on alcohol was meant to pay the bills, and sometimes Paul even sold some things from his house, to buy the drinks. He wasn’t quite able to set a good example for his boys, and his wife was exhausted. Also, his wife’s sister had mortgaged the house they were all living in, and they had to move, as they’ve lost the house. Paul and his family went to Podu Iloaiei, in his mother’s apartment, and kept on trying to find a cure for his addiction.

He then met Ovidiu Alexinschi at the Psychiatric Hospital MD, a psychiatrist, but also the manager of the Alcoholics in Recovery Clubs Association (A.C.A.R.). Paul accepted his invitation to participate in a support group therapy by Hudolin’s method, a program held in 34 countries which focuses on long-term abstinence and on changing the person’s lifestyle.

Paul met at the club a community formed by people who struggled with alcohol, their relatives, and special mediators. He joined the community with his wife and only after three meetings Paul was confident in those activities when he managed to cope with his withdrawal.

I was enraged and unsatisfied, at the same time, I wanted someone to pay attention to me, you know..There are desperate people who make gestures they don’t really want to do, in this negative way. I gave up the first time, also the second, but in the third meeting I finally understood what is all about and It fitted me like a glove. I care a lot about my family, I’ve suffered tremendously, we had these episodes when we were apart, my wife was gone in Italy, my boys also lost their ways, I wasn’t there for them, and this club had this specific purpose: to bring the family together”, Paul says.

The first three years of meetings managed to keep Paul away from alcohol. He knew how drinking could affect his body and he also saw the way it had affected his relationships with his family- his brothers had also rejected him because of his addiction. The illusion of healing fooled Paul one more time, so he relapsed. That was the moment he realized that he needed to say “goodbye” to alcohol once and for all, and he has done so for 10 years now.

There is life without alcohol and you can have fun without it, but more than that, in 10 years I’ve done things I didn’t do in all my life. Because until then all the plans I’ve made when I got married got vanished, I was feeling remorseful, and all this stuff brings you in such a state of mind, that you end up wanting to commit suicide. I tried getting over it and I’ve opened up my heart, and all these things vanished since I stopped fooling myself. I got rid of all my unsuccesses, I’ve brought my family together again, I’ve worked outside the country, as my wife did, my boys managed to graduate, I’m very happy”, Paul says.

He worked as hard as he could, especially physically, to distract himself from alcohol. He doesn’t hate alcohol, he knows this could produce another relapse, and on the contrary, Paul makes wine, so he can offer it to his guests, at holidays. But he stopped drinking it, those 15 years of losing control over his life are proof that he doesn’t want to go back there. He is aware that he was the only one responsible for what happened back then and that he is also responsible for his choice of living a happy life now.

Paul managed to regain his trust in himself and his self-esteem, he took care of his mother who had died two years ago, and he was accepted again by his brothers. He continued to come at the A.C.A.R meetings, not only to encourage those struggling with this addiction but also because here he found another family. He made new friends and he understood that, more than ever, his heart needed to be open.

This was the lesson he learned during his life, to acknowledge his pain and joy and share them, not hide in alcohol. And to make room for true friendships, because Paul’s greatest contentment is to help others, regardless their needs, as he was also helped when he admitted his weakness.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.