Ever since Ben was young, he always wanted to be the best at what he did. And so it’s not surprising that when he started to drink in high school, he applied that very same mindset.
“I wanted to be the best drinker and drink only the strongest drinks, to drink faster and more than everybody else,” Ben said.
Although he acknowledged that he tended to get more drunk than his peers, he figured his drinking was simply a product of being in high school. After he graduated, he went to the Naval Academy and then to Naval flight school in Florida, where he continued to drink.
“In Florida, I’m living at the beach on my own and getting a paycheck, and so I would go out and drink too much,” Ben shared.
He then moved to Texas and got married. While his drinking hadn’t seriously affected his life or career yet, there were still signs that it was starting to take a toll. In fact, on the morning of his wedding day, he remembers waking up completely naked and covered in his own urine. And others in his life had started to notice his drinking habits as well.
“I found out later that my roommate and best friend in college told my wife before we got married that I had a drinking problem,” Ben shared.
Over time, things would worsen. Once when he was at home with his young daughter, he drank so much that he couldn’t remember the last time he changed her when his wife asked him. He realized he needed to take some action to curb his drinking.
“We tried putting in a limit that I couldn’t have any more than five drinks in a day,” Ben said. “That was the limit. It seemed great at the time, but now that I’m looking back I’m like, five drinks, my goodness gracious!”
They were then stationed in Japan, where despite the five-drink limit, Ben was found one night drunk and passed out in a neighbor’s driveway. The incident was marked on his Naval record (though it would only result in consequences years later when he was back in the U.S.). At that point, he decided to quit drinking cold turkey, which he did for a few years.
“I didn’t drink for almost three years,” Ben shared. “I knew that God didn’t bless me with this family to ruin it with my drinking. But what I found with not drinking without recovery is that I got angry. I became an angry person and was angry all of the time and so it was good that I quit drinking but I didn’t actually recover.”
But when they came back to the States and settled in Nevada, the drinking once again crept back into Ben’s life.
“I remember I was going out on a brewery tour with friends, and when my wife dropped me off she told me not to get drunk. But four breweries later, I was pretty drunk and afterward, I was pushing my youngest daughter on her three-wheeler and pushed her too hard. She bumped into the curb and it knocked her off of her bike. She barely got scraped and she was OK, but when you say, “drunk Dad pushes kid off of their bike” it changes things,” Ben said. “The next day my wife said this has to stop, but that she didn’t trust that I would be able to stop.”
At that point, he started to Google “What’s an alcoholic?” and to look into local 12-step meetings. He went to a couple of meetings here and there, but it wasn’t until October 2017 when he got a call to see his Naval doctor that things started to change for good.
“I decided to pray a rosary on my way to the doctor and I knew that Mary was there with me, and I sensed her say to me, ‘The doctor is going to tell you that you can’t fly anymore and you’re going to have to do the three years of Navy treatment but it’s OK because I’m going to be with you and it’s going to be good for you and your family,’” Ben shared.
Due to the issue in Japan that had not originally been flagged along with some other factors, a board of Naval medical professionals decided that Ben needed to enter into a recovery program. In January of the following year (2018), Ben began treatment with the Navy.
When Ben returned home in Nevada, he began searching for 12-step programs to help with his continued recovery.
“I started Googling what was out there and found Catholic in Recovery. As soon as I found it I signed up for an account and knew that I had to take action right away,” Ben said. “I sent Scott an email about starting a new group where I was and that opened up the conversation and we chatted and I became part of the Monday morning leadership calls. I realized this was everything I had been looking for.”
Ben has been leading a general recovery group for about a year and a half now. He is happy with the group but is committed to widening Catholic in Recovery’s reach within his diocese. He is also quick to encourage those who are looking for a faith-based recovery group to consider Catholic in Recovery.
“I understand that the Church hasn’t done the best for its members or been as supportive as it could have been. I mean, the Church has been around for 2,000 years and something like Catholic in Recovery has only been around a couple of years. But we need faith to really overcome the demons of addiction and to go against them on your own is almost impossible. Having faith is incredibly important and Catholic in Recovery has brought something that is not judgemental or pushy when it comes to the Catholic faith,” Ben said.
“The things we do in Catholic in Recovery could be applied to everyone’s life in some way, shape, or form,” Ben said.