Breaking from the Stereotype: Alcoholism
Most likely you’ve heard of more than a few professional musicians with a problem with alcohol. That’s the lifestyle, right? It was for Sean McGary; but, when drinking became an “unmanageable” addiction, he decided to break from the stereotype.
Sean is a professional musician from Cincinnati. Currently, he is a guitar player for The Naked Karate Girls, one of the area’s most popular bands. Music is part of Sean’s family history – his father is a world-renowned jazz artist. Unfortunately for Sean, alcoholism is also in his family history. “Honestly, I’ve probably been an alcoholic all my life,” Sean says. At first drinking was manageable for Sean. Playing in bands, always in bars, drinking - “That’s just what you do,” Sean says. “I was a progressive alcoholic. I started off with being a social drinker.”
The Addiction Worsens
Things took a turn for the worse when Sean’s brother passed away. Sean’s drinking became more frequent to the point that it started affecting his job as a music teacher. “I found myself always being hung-over the next day at work. Then I discovered day drinking. I took a shot of vodka and it made me feel great.” Sean says.
He thought he had found a solution to his problem of feeling sick the next day from drinking. For a couple months, Sean was able to function at work by starting his day off with alcohol; however, what he thought was a quick fix soon turned into an overwhelming addiction. “My life became unmanageable,” Sean says. “Some people are manageable alcoholics and able to still function. Not me.”
The Life-Changing Effects of Addiction
Sean became physically addicted to alcohol; if he was awake, he was drinking. He started to miss work and miss gigs. He became financially irresponsible and, ultimately, lost friendships. “I lost everything, all from drinking,” Sean says.
The situation became even more serious when Sean had to be hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. While in the hospital, Sean’s mother reached out to Don Gauck, a drug and alcohol counselor for the Bethesda Alcohol and Drug Treatment program and a longtime friend of the family.
Hitting Rock Bottom
Don visited Sean and convinced him to enter into the drug and alcohol program. After just four weeks, Sean thought he was better and quit the program, but ultimately relapsed and his addiction worsened. He hit rock bottom when he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and spent five “miserable” days in jail. This was his turning point. Sean again reached out to Don and this time completed the program and all recommendations.
Beating the Addiction
Sean has been sober for more than five years. Not only that, but he has become a facilitator for the Bethesda Alcohol and Drug Treatment program that helped him recover from his addiction. “The best part of what I do now is I watch people transition from start to finish. I watch them get better as a person from jobs, lives and relationships,” Sean says. He also sees a lot of failures. People drop out and sometimes do not return.
Since he graduated from the program, Sean has earned his bachelor’s degree, owns his own music-education business teaching students, and has been successful as a guitarist for The Naked Karate Girls. Despite the rock-star lifestyle sometimes accompanies a musical career; Sean is still able to continue to do what he loves, without drinking. “I now get to see how people act drunk, and honestly, I’m glad that isn’t me anymore. It can get pretty embarrassing,” he says. In fact, fellow musicians sometimes come to him for help with their own addiction. The best advice Sean has to offer those who are suffering from an alcohol addiction: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You treat what’s ailing you. If you have cancer, you go to a doctor. If you have alcoholism, you go to a counselor.”
Warning Signs You May Have an Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol effects your:
- Poor decision making
- Loss of efficiency
- Start to isolate themselves away from family and friends
- Trust issues/communication goes to the side
- Aggressive actions such as fighting
- Giving up recreation activities because too involved in drinking or recovering from the effects of alcohol
- Affects your: Brain, Heart, Liver, Pancreas, Cancer, Immune System
- At risk for Alcohol Diabetes, Cirrhosis, Alcohol hepatitis