When you are hospitalized for kidney failure due to years of alcohol abuse, the last thing you should probably do is unplug your IV, put on your clothes, sneak out to the nearest liquor store to grab some vodka and then sneak back into your hospital room. But for Flow B., it was the only thing he could think of to help him feel better. This would be the first of Flow’s hospital visits in 2018. He went in April for 2 weeks and then in October because his delirium tremens was too much to bear. “I wasn’t sleeping at all. I wasn’t eating, but still drinking a bottle and a half of vodka a day,” he says.
Flow is a soft-spoken, gentle and kind man whose French accent is immediately disarming. You’d never be able to tell that beneath his well-formed exterior he has been battling demons for 20 years. Flow grew up in France and when he was eight years old, he would have a little bit of wine with dinner. It was normal. When he was twelve, he had his first drunk experience. “I was really drunk, I had a blast and didn’t get hungover. I just had good memories,” he recalls. For the next nine years, he drank heavily on the weekends. “I never drank at work, only the weekends and when there were parties.” He was a hard worker and a hard partier. The drinking never got in the way of his life, but slowly it started to become a predominant facet of his life.
Flow came to the US to be with his wife who he met in France. She was there spending time with some of her family after college with a plan to be there for a few months but after meeting Flow one night, she stayed for two years. As their Parisian romance grew, they eventually decided it was time to move to Los Angeles to be closer to her parents. It wasn’t until he moved here when he began work as a bartender at music festivals, that he crossed the invisible line from hard party guy to blossoming alcoholic. “There was Grey Goose, Patron… the good shit, ya know? I was drinking during my shift because it gave me energy and I basically didn’t speak any English when I moved here so drinking helped me socialize.” The social lubricant of booze became intoxicating and eventually just toxic.
The drinking created a rift between Flow and his wife. “There were trust issues. She would find empty bottles when I was supposed to not be drinking. She kept suggesting that I see a therapist and I would tell her that it wasn’t for me. I mean, I was still working. I was drinking but I was working,” he admits. Flow was convinced that if he stopped bartending then he wouldn’t drink as much, but just as a wine bottle can’t be recorked once opened, his drinking couldn’t stop. At his other jobs, he always had a vitamin water bottle, mostly filled with vodka. It got so bad that he had to drink first thing in the morning to avoid shaking.
Flow did his best to hide his addiction. To mask the smell, he smoked cigarettes, chewed A LOT of gum and wore heavy cologne. When he would attend parties he would only have a beer or two “because I knew I had bottles of vodka hiding everywhere at home. My wife was the only one who knew I had a problem,” he says. It would eventually come as a great shock to his friends and family when he would finally admit he was an alcoholic and living in rehab.
The gradual descent into debauchery finally became a full-blown nightmare in 2018. His father had decided to go to the hospital after he felt some tingling in his hands. Flow’s dad had some high blood pressure but nothing alarming. Flow says, “I spoke to him for 2 hours that night. It was a great conversation. Two hours after that my mom called me to tell me had passed away. It was terrible. I was really, really close to my dad.”
The depression Flow already had combined with his father’s passing was unbearable. As he sought the only medicine he knew that would work to numb his pain, more tragedy struck. First his grandfather, then his aunt, a cousin and a close family friend, all passed away that year. This was about the time he first went to the hospital. Three weeks after that, his daughter was born. “It was amazing but I wasn’t a good dad. I wasn’t able to be there for her. I was still drinking. I wanted to stop for my daughter but I couldn’t. The only way I thought I could stop was to die and with all the death around me I thought I would be next, and I was okay with that,” he reflects.
Flow finally walked through the doors of Beit T’Shuvah on November 26th. The 32-year-old, catholic-raised man found himself in a Jewish rehab, having been utterly defeated by alcohol. While Flow always believed in God, he never quite had a relationship with his higher power. “What coming to a Jewish rehab did for me was bring me spirituality. I’m Catholic because I was born Catholic. I believed in God as he was and didn’t question anything. In 2018 when everything happened, I distanced myself from God, even though he was there with me the whole time. Beit T’Shuvah brought me acceptance for who I am. I used to hate myself and now I can accept who I am. I have love and compassion for myself.”
By the time he walked out of the doors of Beit T’Shuvah on May 3rd, he had a newfound faith in himself. He quit his dead-end job and enrolled in school for psychology at LA Community College. “I want to help people like the way people helped me,” he says with a wide smile. He exudes the quiet confidence of someone who has finally found purpose. For 32 years he never knew what he wanted to do. His old aimless life of meandering from pointless and easy jobs can finally be laid to rest.
Flow now has 9 months sober. With his new sense of purpose and direction, his family is also becoming stronger. He can be a father to his daughter and a husband to his wife. “Today we are a really happy family. There is always a challenge in life, but it’s no longer my wife vs me. Today, it’s us together vs life’s problems.”