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It was an ordinary trip for Randy Gruhlke to the store to fix his cellphone, when the clerk smelled his breath and was concerned by his behavior. The clerk called the police. Randy's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit, and he now was facing his second DWI.
Randy had been successful in maintaining a smoke screen and covering his addiction. He held a job for many years, and was considered friendly and popular. After his second DWI, he was forced to take a look at his deteriorating life, including the loss of his father, a divorce and the drinking problem. “I carried that bitterness deep within,” he says.
JOURNEY TO ADDICTION
Randy had begun his emotional journey when he was a child. He was born and raised primarily in Rochester, Minnesota. His father was an alcoholic, which made for a difficult childhood for him and his two siblings. Early baby pictures show him holding a beer bottle, and his first drunk occurred at age 15. He found alcohol was a numbing agent that covered the emotions he was struggling to address.
He joined the U.S. Navy after high school. “I learned to be a professional drinker in the service,” he explains. He learned how to drink more, but also how to be disciplined.
Randy’s life became increasingly difficult with each DWI, with mounting sadness and depression. As a result of the timely intervention of the store clerk, he enrolled in outpatient treatment. Steve Coddington, a counselor at Fountain Centers in Faribault, Minnesota, instructed Randy to be a different kind of selfish — to “keep it simple, and keep it routine.”
Despite involvement in treatment, he was fearful. “If I don’t get this right, my life is over,” Randy thought. He learned the difference between admission of alcoholism versus acceptance and accepted himself for who he is, not who he was. Randy says he was instructed to look back to Step 1 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that says, "We admitted we were powerless over our addiction — that our lives had become unmanageable."
The world was otherwise occupied for years as Randy dealt with his addiction. The internet arrived, different presidents were elected, he got divorced, 9/11 happened, and cellphones and hybrid cars arrived. And so did a remarkable breakthrough in his crucial life events: Through sobriety, Randy found Randy again.
“God puts things in perspective,” says Randy, “The chance encounter with the store clerk, the police, and the resulting DWI and jail.”
Upon completion of outpatient treatment, Randy began attending the evening Recovery Support Group and met Ric Staloch, a recovery specialist at Fountain Centers. It now has been over four years since Randy has facilitated the Recovery Support Group himself. “The Recovery Group is precious to my sobriety," he says. "It doesn’t take AA’s place, but it is precious. I walk out of there with more gifts than I give. The rewards are a blessing to me.”