While not everyone seems to “see my addiction” to alcohol, it is still very much real to me.
I haven’t touched a drink in over a year and I’m doing my best each day to keep it that way. People ask me, “Why did you stop drinking? It’s not like you were crazy or anything” and I don’t really have an answer for that. Not the answer they want to hear anyway. While I might not seem like someone else’s idea of an alcoholic, I was waging a battle with alcohol every single day.
I guess I should start from the beginning.
My mother became addicted to Meth when I was very young. She has since recovered, but growing up I always demonized drugs and the people who engaged in them. I wouldn’t make friends with anyone who casually smoked marijuana and I thought much less of teens I knew who popped a pill every once and awhile. However, I never attached the same type of stigma to alcohol. As it were, pretty much everyone that I knew drank at some point or another and they were just fine, right?
By the time I got to the second half of high school I was abusing alcohol pretty regularly. Even in those days I knew that I wouldn’t be okay with just having a drink or two with my friends. Waking up, feeling too sick to eat, and not remembering anything from the night before was a regularity for me. Soon alcohol replaced most other things in my life. I only fraternized with people who would get me drunk. I lost many meaningful relationships with friends and ignored my family for the most part. I even replaced a need for food with alcohol. At my worst I dropped down to about 80 pounds because I just couldn’t be bothered to eat.
This behavior continued into my twenties. Although, I will admit I did gain some strength over the years to rid myself of alcohol for a few weeks up to a few months at a time. Yet, stress and anxiety would catch up with me and lower my defenses resulting in relapse. When I did reignite my little tryst with the drink once more I was always instilled with that familiar shame and regret for my lack of control. Unfortunately, I felt like an ugly beast appeared when I was drinking and took over my body. I had no remorse for anything I said or did while drunk. I fought with my friends for wanting to protect me, hung out with strange and possibly dangerous people, didn’t care how I got home, on some occasions drove drunk, and if it wasn’t for some truly great friends, I would have most likely fallen asleep in my own vomit. Not to mention, any tiny bit of sadness or baggage from my past always seemed to emerge at my most intoxicated moment. Fits of rage and/or uncontrollable crying were almost unbearable for anyone around me to witness (especially myself if I was able to remember it in the morning).
But still, I would say to myself and hear from others, “You’re really a happy drunk. We all had a great time. You haven’t hurt anyone. No one is mad at you for getting too drunk. As long as you’re being safe then you don’t have to stop drinking.” Time and time again I would wake up horrified and become depressed and hateful towards myself at the bits and pieces that I could put together. I started to despise that person I saw in the mirror that couldn’t even muster up the strength to say no to one more drink. Until one day when I was about 25 I had an epiphany. I thought to myself, “Is this what having a problem with alcohol feels like?” and began to piece together the possibility that I might need to live a life without alcohol.
No, I never checked myself into rehab.
No, I haven’t had a DUI (which is a miracle). No, I didn’t spend all my money on liquor, but I know what it feels like to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Not being able to enjoy myself around a drink. All that my mind thought about was where I would get the next one, how much I planned on drinking, and how much stronger could I make my current drink. I couldn’t enjoy the company of my drinking companions and I didn’t feel carefree when I was drinking. Before I knew it, it was too late. After I was 3, 4, 5 drinks in I didn’t ever want to stop drinking. I was a completely different person when I drank and it’s not the person that I want to be. I’ve never felt more ashamed of myself than after a night of hard drinking. In retrospect, all I wanted was to not drink and I just couldn’t convince myself of a “good enough” reason to stop.
About a year after my addiction realization I met my soulmate. He has never picked up a drink in his life and he is like a shining beacon of hope that I yearned for so badly. He never pressured me to stop drinking, but gave me the confidence to do so. When I met him I knew that I wanted to be the absolute best version of myself for him each day and in my eyes that meant giving up the drink. I never want him to have to see me like the drunken mess I was. I only want him to see me as I truly am and I definitely don’t want to forget a single second of us being together.
Sappy love story aside, I was on the path to being sober before I ever met my partner. I had seeded the idea that I didn’t have to be a slave to alcohol any longer. Slowly, but surely I knew I would be able to say enough is enough, but not without help. So, I began to ask for support from my loved ones to encourage my sobriety. However, meeting my better half was a welcomed kickstart towards my alcohol-free adventure.
In conclusion, I am happier now than I have ever been.
I’m thankful everyday for my strength to not drink. Each day I am now equipped with a clear mind and the tools to make myself the best version of myself possible. I am one of the lucky ones. I didn’t have to hurt myself or someone else in order to stop drinking. I looked my addiction in the eyes as it tried to silently break my spirit. My addiction is real, even if I’m the only one who can see it. If you are thinking about putting down the bottle, just know that you don’t ever need a “reason” to stop drinking. The reason is you.