Thursday, June 3, 2010

Note To Self on Day 53 of Sobriety

Submitted by @hristine, whose blog can be found here.

Note to Self on Day 53 of Sobriety:

Tonight as you sat in your lounger, reading the Big Book there was a moment when your addiction asked you a question.  The same question it has asked since it first began to weave its web in your delicate brain matter.

"If you're a "real alcoholic", how is it that you managed to keep a job, keep a family, never get a DWI, didn't even care about drinking until you were forty years old, and now you sit here in the sunset stone cold sober and don't have so much as a flickering thought about getting drunk?"

Hmmm.   Good question, Addict In My Brain.   Let's take a look at the "signs and symptoms" of alcoholism and we'll determine if I am a "real" alcoholic or not.

Tolerance.   There was a time when a couple of glasses of wine got me quite loopy.   Eventually wine did very little for me unless I drank it in vast quantities.   When I switched to vodka, that hit harder and faster, but every month I could drink more and more to get the same effect.   By the end I could easily consume a liter of vodka every 24 hours.

Withdrawal.   I drank so much, so often, that when I didn't have alcohol in my system my hands shook, my heart beat too fast, I had horrific headaches and I could barely get through the day.   My brain obsessed over getting the booze into my body every single hour of every single day.

Loss of control.   I could not stop myself once I started.   I would drink until I fell asleep, wake up and drink some more.   I would fill my bottle in the parking lot at work and guzzle it down during the five minute drive home. I would fill it again in the bedroom and gulp that down before anyone could catch me. In the morning when I felt like shit and knew I had to face another long day at work, I'd fill the bottle again and slam that down as I drove in.   Sometimes, if it was bad enough I resorted to spiking my coffee or tea right there at my desk when no one was looking.

Wanting to quit, but being unable to.   There were so many days when I promised myself that I would not drink.  That I would go home from work and enjoy my family and not drink.  There were so many times when I sat in the parking lot of the liquor store and asked myself if I really wanted to go in there or not, knowing that I would because I simply couldn’t stop myself.   There were countless mornings that I woke up and swore "never again", only to find myself completely drunk again that night.

Drinking even though you know it's damaging your body, your brain, and your life.  I was very aware that I was sinking deeper and deeper into addiction.  But I couldn't seem to muster up the energy to care. The bottle called to me and it was LOUD.   It easily drowned out the voice of reason.   I didn’t feel well and the easiest way to stave off those feelings was to drink them away.   I could see the “drunk bloat” in my face and belly.   I could feel the rapid heartbeats and the night sweats.   But I could not stop myself from drinking.

Making drinking apriority over other activities and responsibilities.  I spent a whole lot of time making sure I had enough booze hidden in a bunch of places so that I would never be caught without a supply.   I spent a lot of energy getting rid of evidence.   I spent months ignoring every other part of my life in favor of feeding my addiction.   I cancelled plans with family and friends when it would interfere with my drinking.   I purposely stayed away from my home at times so I could sit and drink.

I don't think I need to go on any further.  The evidence is plain to see.   Yes, I got up and went to work (except for two or three times when I elected to stay home and drink all day).   Yes, I went to my daughter's events (but never without a solid buzz and usually with a spiked bottle of tea in my bag).   No, I did not lose my home or my marriage or any friends.   But that's only because A) I am very, very lucky to be loved by so many, and B) I had enough of a desire to change that I reached out for help, and C) help was there when I asked for it.

"Real" alcoholism doesn't have to begin when you're in your teens or twenties. It can begin at any time, to anyone. For me, it happened after the age of forty. The age is irrelevant.

So Self? The next time Addict In My Brain pipes up with all of those doubts and questions, you tell her, “I'm not falling for your tricks. I'm on to you and the way you work. Go ahead and ask me again when you think I might have forgotten what it was like to be your slave. I will remember.”


  1. So true - I didn't lose my children, husband, house, or job either. I was 38 when I got sober. I'd never, ever had a DUI, an arrest, or even been in trouble, period. Yet, all the other things fit me to a tee. Thank you for writing this. I know there are women and men who wonder "am I"? You've helped by answering a very important question.

  2. This really helped me tonight. I know, in my heart, I have a problem. It's hard, though, because I can't check all the boxes - I have a job, a nice house, beautiful kids and a horrible secret. I keep hoping it isn't true - I can't imagine not drinking. But the more I read, the more I learn, the more certain I am that my drinking isn't heading anywhere good.

    Thank you for your honesty - I can relate to so much of what you say. To be honest, it's both comforting and heartbreaking for me. I wish that I could drink like everybody else ... like I used to drink, in fact. But I don't think it is going to be that way for me.

    I appreciate your bravery and I wish you the best.

  3. I really, really relate to this Christine. Being a highly functional alcoholic doesn't make me any less of an alcoholic. The only frustrating thing for sometimes is that even though I seem to know this, and have silenced that question in my head... a lot of people around me don't seem to get it. That it was like it was. I find that irksome even now.

    Anyway, thank you so much for posting this. Keep on...

    P.S. I had to smile because one of my only blog posts so far was on Day 53. :)

  4. Man, that voice can do its best to be cunning, baffling and powerful, can't it? Something a friend said that I try to remember is that my head is always out to get my ass.
    Good for you for putting addict brain in its place.

  5. Boredom was always an excuse to drink. And boredom still is a trigger for me. Booze seemed to make things more exciting, intimate and just plain fun. Also seemed to make boring situations more interesting or at leas tolerable.

    Now that I am 7 months sober, boredom still makes me uncomfortable and antsy but the boredom itself is at least tolerable. Being sober also means I am present to enjoy the unexpected moments that happen alongside those boring ones. Moments I missed when I was preoccupied watching the clock for 5:00 to finally fucking get here so I could pour a glass of vino.

    Thanks for your honesty.

  6. oops the comment above was for melissa's piece on fear.

    but on this. for me a biggie at this stage in recovery (7 mos) is acceptance. accepting the fact that i can't and won't be able to drink like i used to and accepting that those around me who don't understand why i stopped drinking can't and won't always get it.