Maybe the questions I should’ve asked myself before the beginning of the end is this: What did I get out of drinking? Did it make my life better? Were my relationships better? Did drinking fill the void?
The answer to all of those questions was no, but what still baffled me is why did I, and why do most alcoholics or problem drinkers have such an intimate relationship with alcohol that regardless if life is crumbling around us, or if we’re unhappy, the thought of letting go of the alcohol is akin to cutting off one’s arm?
Alcoholism is a disease of perception. What we see and believe is actually often the opposite of what is; the truth was, my drinking caused me to make poor decisions, not finish things that were important—such as my education (I’d been in and out of college for ten years and had yet amassed a degree. It took getting sober to finish two degrees). As far as faulty thinking goes …, why give two weeks notice to your boss when you can go to lunch one day and never come back? Yup, I did that too, and at the time, I didn’t see anything too wrong with my actions. I worked at a finance company (dear Lord, I don’t think they knew I was a little dyslexic. Those numbers!), and my boss, although he was a nice man, his micromanaging drove me insane. I couldn’t take any more of his creeping around looking over my shoulder. One day, I snapped. I decided I’d take an early lunch and just kept on driving…he should’ve known not to lurk around my space like that.
In recovery, I learned the concept of playing the tape forward. That means I had to learn to take pause and consider the outcome of my actions BEFORE I took the action. That simple concept helped me to get honest about my drinking and look at my behaviors, like skipping out of work instead of doing the right thing and providing a two weeks notice.
I drank maybe alcoholically for a couple of years, if that, but the the void, that unshakable feeling that something wasn’t quite right in my life, plagued me for a long long time; the feeling that something was missing can be traced back to my childhood. Most alcoholics drink because they don’t feel like they belong, or they have mounds of fear buried underneath a heap of false bravado. The lists and reasons why people turn to alcohol varies, but fear and the feeling of not belonging are two common reasons that I hear over and over again from people in recovery.
When I got to the point where I knew I needed to quit drinking―I wasn’t a daily drinker. How many people, maybe even some reading this think that because you don’t drink every day and you don’t hide booze that there’s nothing wrong with the way you drink? I know that’s what I kept telling myself, but I couldn’t wiggle out of the feeling that most days, I felt chaotic and desperate to fill the hole in the soul.
The myths and stereotypes surrounding the disease of alcoholism is what keeps too many wonderful people stuck in their disease.
I know women in recovery who didn’t start drinking until they were thirty. Others drank only five or ten years and quit because they didn’t think it was normal to have wine in a travel mug while they drove their kids to soccer practice. Other’s quit while still young; one woman got sober a few weeks before her twenty-first birthday. She said, “I didn’t like the way alcohol made me feel or act.” That’s some amazing insight for a young woman who switched gears before ever having a legal drink. Other’s drank their whole lives and had destroyed themselves and their families before they acquiesced to the truth and pulled themselves together. Just like we’re all individuals, I have yet to see two alcoholics with the same exact bottom.
For some it takes a whole lot, for others, not so much.
What those of us who have quit all seemed to have in common though, is the drink was no longer gratifying. The “party” lifestyle was no longer fun or attractive. The toll drinking took on our emotions was no longer worth it; the loss of self-respect, the low self-esteem, the confusion surrounding our lives and emotions… who am I and what do I believe, begged to be answered.
No one gets sober after they burn the toast one day, and as I point out in Raising the Bottom: Early or potential alcoholism manifests in ways that, unless you understand the disease, no one labels as alcoholism: multiple marriages, anxiety, health problem, weight problems, lives plagued by resentment, and chaotic relationships with family and friends.
For most people though, even if all of the above mentioned things are present in their life, to consider that alcohol could be the culprit—well, my God, I’ll do anything, but quit drinking. Some people would rather have any malady, even serious ones, as long as they can keep on drinking. Therein lies the riddle and is the heartbreak of alcoholism: We want what we want, even though it’s destroying our lives, or at the very least, enabling us to live, half-lived lives.
If you can get over the terror of a life without alcohol, and if the thought of not drinking does terrify you, that right there is a good indication that you rely on alcohol more than you should. Go ahead, and take the plunge―I promise, that void you feel will be filled in recovery. It’s not easy, but the journey is worth it; life takes on a whole new landscape, one infinitely beautiful, beyond your wildest dreams!
If you think you drink too much, you probably do. What do you have to lose but give sobriety a try?