Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hope for the Average Drunk

*** Submitted  by Karen, who blogs at A Life Less Scripted

No two rock bottoms are the same.

The point where we decide that we simply cannot keep hurting ourselves looks different for everyone. This is important because some of us struggle with our perception of what alcoholism looks like.

I’m going to admit something because I know if I felt it, others have felt it too.

When I first stopped drinking, I secretly wondered if I was alcoholic enough. There was no question that I needed to stop drinking but my rock bottom wasn’t as dramatic as other alcoholics I’ve known or known about. Part of me wanted my disease to look like everyone else’s to help me better blend in.

I’m a classic over-achieving under-achiever. I’ve never been excellent at anything and I’ve never seriously failed at anything. It’s been exhausting to stay perfectly in the middle, just under the radar and average. To complicate matters, I’m a perfectionist. That means I’ve had to live a very scripted life in order to maintain these boundaries. Drinking offered me a brief release from my chosen mediocrity.

Some of us think that alcoholism has to look like a scene from Intervention.

When I told Hubster that I thought I had a drinking problem, even he said, “What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything,” I replied.

“So,” he said, not quite understanding, “you didn’t do anything?” I knew he meant did I cheat on him, hurt one of the kids or get a DUI. Something devastating.

“No,” I said. “I went to bed. I woke up. I can never drink again.”

I had what’s known as a “high” rock bottom. Through the grace of God, I was able to start recovering from my drinking problem before I seriously screwed up my life. It doesn’t make me any less of an alcoholic. It does make me very grateful.

So, even though I secretly feared that I would be judged for not being alcoholic enough, those fears were never realized. Not one person said I couldn’t join the club. In fact, the exact opposite was true. Every single alcoholic I encountered nodded their heads and said, “Yup. I can relate to that.”

The details of our drinking are different but our stories have the same theme. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.

If you’re still drinking, here’s what I want you to know:
  • Your rock bottom can look nothing like a scene from Intervention and you can still be an alcoholic.
  • If you don’t cheat on your spouse, lose your kids or get a DUI, you can still be an alcoholic.
  • If you only drink on the weekend, you can still be an alcoholic.
  • If you don’t hide bottles of alcohol in the house, you can still be an alcoholic.
  • If no one would ever guess that you have a problem, you can still be an alcoholic.
  • If you can’t wrap your mind around a Higher Power, you can still get help.
If you’ve stopped drinking but still sometimes feel a little guilty for getting to miss out on a low bottom:
  • If you can get through an entire episode of Mad Men without wanting to go on a drinking binge (or smoking binge for that matter), you can still be an alcoholic.
  • If a friend comes over and puts a bottle of Jagermeister in your freezer and you’re not tempted to sneak sips, you can still be an alcoholic. Well, maybe not Jagermeister. That shit is vile. I only use that example because it happened to me last weekend. Let’s change it to a frosty bottle of Lemoncello.
  • If you somehow managed to lose weight after you stopped drinking, even after consuming huge amounts of chocolate and ice cream, you can still be an alcoholic.
Today marks the 8th month of my sobriety. I want to thank God, Hubster, my kids, my family and my friends for helping me live a life less scripted.

One day at a time.


  1. I could have almost written this post. So many of the lines describe me to a T. I, too, had a high bottom. Many in my extended family question my self given label of 'alcoholic'.

    But I am grateful for my high bottom. And I can never forget that I could get there, in the legal trouble, hurt somebody, something BIG if I ever go back out.

    My name is Jamee and I am an alcoholic.

  2. That's a great post -- most people have a much more dramatic experience, but it's all the same, right? Rock bottom is relative...

    Something to look forward to in time: check out Trina R's story and get inspired:

    Best wishes...

  3. Thanks for this excellent post, Karen! My bottom was a bad hangover that lasted for days. After recovering from the hangover, I went on to drink for another year, but I thought about that hangover everyday and it haunted me. I just knew by the way that my body handled that hangover that I could no longer drink the way I once could.

    No arrest or cataclysm did me in. Just a hangover from hell.

  4. Sounds like you have figured out how to remain sober--I am proud of you for this eight months and I hope you make 18,000 more.

  5. Replies
    1. I know that's why I keep reading and try to keep not drinking. Day 3 again....

    2. day three is still 3 days in the right direction. I made it a week the first time. then didn't try again for over a year. now it's been 14 months, and i'm so happy I made it past those first few weeks and kept at it. this last year has been truly amazing being able to experience life with a clear head...

    3. Awe the clear head just woke up with another one. Going to tackle day 5. I really want to wake up tomorrow morning feeing like this. I pray for that strength today at 5,6,7,and 8:00.

  6. I too had a "high bottom." I can't even tell you how much I thank you for writing this post. It's awful to feel "guilty" about such an amazing accomplishment, but I know exactly what you mean, and have felt the guilt. All I can say is that I also feel the "Luck." I feel lucky every day to have fallen just short of not being able to pay my bills, or loosing my husband, or embarrassing my kid. I consider it a gift that I was able to "get while the getting was good." (maybe not good...hard forever...but at least not as bad as it could have been).

  7. I also had a high bottom, but it felt very low, spiritually. I feel lucky that my insides raced ahead of my outsides like that and helped me to realize that the game was over and it was time to get sober. It took me long enough to realize it as it was. Thank goodness for AA.

  8. I really resonate with your post and will put you on my blog list. I entered Alanon 10 years ago, CoDA almost 5 years ago. So, almost 10 months ago, I started the experiment of sobriety despite the fact that I've had no identifiable fall out from drinking. But I knew that I did not have neutral attitude about alcohol and I had started wondering if I was a controlled drinker rather than the 'cautious' drinker that I thought I was. What is most stunning to me is how different I feel now that I no longer have that occasional prop to help me with my feelings. The dis-ease is cunning but it's recovery that baffles me, I am blessed!

  9. I am at my high low tonight. Though I don't know how high it is. The only thing that makes me feel high is that I haven't been arrested yet, and I still have custody of my children. As I write this, my husband is at the hospital getting stitches for his wrist. I pushed him into a window and his cut is bad. My kids were listening outside our bedroom door. He was drunk too, but I am the one who is drunk EVERY DAY. At noon. High functioning, even admired by low is nowhere near the low of others. But it hurts nonetheless. Will my husband ever come home? Yes, for the kids. For me? I don't know. And you know what? I don't care. Just so long as the kids are okay, then damn me. I don't deserve happiness unless it comes from a bottle, right? That's why my husband is in the hospital but I opened my second 1.5 liter of wine. I am the average drunk. I still need help.

    1. Hope you and your husband are doing better and you have a clearer head. You do deserve happiness. We all do. Life is always going to have its challenges but trying to deal with it while you are either buzzed or hung over or beating yourself up about drinking makes it that much harder. I've been there.

      Find a local AA meeting. If you are not ready for that, keep checking in here or reach out to someone you trust. Don't give up on yourself.

  10. I really like this post. I was very much the same way. I remember my first day in rehab looking around and thinking to myself, "Yeah right. I don't belong here. I'm SO not as bad as THESE people." Oh but I was. Just because I wasn't in as bad of shape financially, with my kids, with the law, etc. didn't mean I wasn't in bad shape. I was. I think a lot of people think they don't have a problem because their lives are in control in their mind. One thing to remember I think is that this is a progressive disease and often times if not caught, you could end up with that low bottom that we all have seen in people. So happy that you caught your alcoholism before your life became completely unmanageable. Keep living one day at a time! :)

  11. Thank you everyone for the kind words! I'm grateful that it resonated with you. Recognizing that alcholism looks different on everyone has made me less judgmental of people who "look perfect" because I never know what they're dealing with in private. Not one person, even my husband, knew that alcohol was eating a hole in my soul. Life is too short to suffer.

  12. You're the first blog I've read on alcoholism. I've been sober for over fifteen years and every single day I'm still grateful. I knew I was an alcoholic, but no one else did. Some of us hide it very well. The thing stopping me from going back to drinking is the fear, terror, depression, loneliness and alienation I felt when I was drinking. To anyone out there still drinking. If I can quit, anyone can. What a great blog because I've felt the same way at times. I've listened to people who didn't know the "real" me and told me I wasn't an alcoholic. Yeah, right. Boy am I. I use my face and name, cuz everyone knows I am now.

  13. Just want to say to those who aren't there yet; have faith it will come. There wasn't a bottom for me, just a weariness. One day I realized how much I accomplished every day and knew I had the strength to change this. Have faith, you are stronger than you think.

  14. Oh my god, I love the thing about being an over-achiever, under-achiever. I didn't know there was a name for what I was, haha. I too had a high bottom and still feel somehow that people at meetings are judging me or thinking I shouldn't be there. And that's got to me wondering that myself, though the rational part of my brain knows I'm an alcoholic. Thanks for this.

  15. How did i get here? How did i hurt him? And now how do i go on.... forgive myself?

  16. Yes is the way out forgiveness the healing is easier

  17. I'm there tonight. I'm the only one that's begging me to stop, but I couldn't make it 72 hours. My rock bottom could have been any night a handful of years ago. But it's not...tonight I can't bear the anxiety. I need help.

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  19. I have hit rock bottom about four times now. And am doing so as i write. My problem is that i am a construction worker and i am from the country so i can work through no matter what. But it is killing me. When i have a day off like today i start drinking as soon as i wake up..which is early