Thursday, August 8, 2013

Close to Admittance

*** Submitted by Gwen Ordell

I finish other people’s drinks.  I have a drink while getting ready to go out.  Sometimes two.  Recently, that drink was powdered Gatorade mixed with water and gin because that’s all we had in the house.  I change when I get drunk.  I get mean.  Like my dad.  More often than not, I drink to excess.  I forget things.  Entire conversations.  How I got home.  Things I said.  I find myself apologizing.  And agonizing. 

My hangovers are mentally destabilizing.  I want to stay in bed all day, and even though I am currently unemployed and could technically lie around all day doing not much of anything, my day-after anxiety is so bad that most days I leap out of bed and eat a little Adderall to get going.  The drug probably only exacerbates the anxiety, but when I am in a bad state, I believe I need it to function, to get out the door for a run or to the store or before an interview.  The physical accompaniments are nothing in comparison to the mental anguish I experience the day after a night of heavy drinking.  A few people I know feel the intense mental debilitations that I do; we call it rotting.  I’d assumed we’d just accepted it as an unfortunate addendum to the fun, but perhaps there was more to it. 

I am a marathon runner.  I take good care of my boyfriend and our dog.  I have close friendships and lots of hobbies.  I am smart.  I clean the house, cook dinner, read The New Yorker, practice yoga, visit art galleries and museums, have lunch regularly with a woman my grandmother’s age. 

And I drink.  A lot.  I don’t know when to hit the Stop switch.  I don’t think I have one. Sometimes I only have a single beer or a glass of wine.  My boyfriend, B, and I can go out to dinner, and I don’t need to get drunk.  I don’t need to drink at all, but usually I do.  If I am out with friends or at a party, I have a hard time stopping because I always think I need more.  I’m never drunk enough.  I want to keep the party going.  I will say that I don’t feel anything, and I will order a fifth or sixth drink.  The next day I will remember the point at which I didn’t feel drunk yet, the point at which I kept on drinking, the point which led me to forget the rest.

It’s odd to me that some people can get wasted and nothing bad will happen.  And others, like me, inevitably become darker and different at the end of the day or night.  I mostly know this because of what my boyfriend has told me and also because I’ve seen it in my own father.  Some of my friends get drunk only rarely now.  We are not in college now, so dealing with a bad hangover and high level of unproductivity several times a week is unacceptable.  Inappropriate even.  But lately, I've been going hard most nights I partake in imbibing.

“Do you remember breaking up with me last night?” B asked me the morning after what I thought had been an amazing evening of entertaining in our apartment.  My sister was in town.  Our friends had joined us for dinner as well, and although I’d known we had consumed a lot of wine (and gin and beer), and all been pretty buzzed, I didn’t think anything untoward had gone down.  I didn’t remember fighting with B!  Since he was acting nonchalantly casual and not pissed off, we dropped the topic.  Maybe he was joking?

It didn’t take long for me to get drunk again and wake up feeling like garbage, the night before a mere blur.  This time, when B and I sat down to talk about what had happened, he told me he thought I had a drinking problem.  The words “high-functioning alcoholic,” “reliance on prescription drugs,” “whole new level of crazy,” stung.

What was he saying?  Was he leaving me?  What exactly had transpired the night before? 

These questions, these thoughts are so common and painful that I don’t know how I’ve gotten by so long.  I don’t know how I haven’t destroyed all of my relationships.

It seemed the only way out of the conversation with B was to agree with him.  No point in defending myself if I couldn’t even recall what had passed between us.  But that was the truth, anyway, wasn’t it? B was right: I have a drinking problem. 

Later that day, I went online and googled high-functioning alcoholic, and I found loads of information.  I share a lot of the traits of an HFA, but does that mean I am one?  Maybe I just have a problem that I’ve yet to learn to control consistently.  I can say that I might have a drinking problem, but I am not ready to say that I am a high-functioning alcoholic.  If I were to say that, what would it mean?  I’d have to stop drinking altogether?  Go to AA meetings?  Tell people I no longer drink? Tell them I am an alcoholic?  NEVER again savor a glass of wine?  Be the person at parties who drinks sparkling water with lime? 

I know I need to do something.  I need to make changes in my life.  And I intend to.  The idea of waiting until I hit rock bottom to shape up doesn’t exactly thrill me.  The thought of losing B because I cannot hold my liquor and when I have too much, I flare up and become a belligerent being and hurt him tremendously scares me like nothing else in the world but, then again, so does never drinking again.  

And that there, of course, is the real problem. 


  1. This story is touching. It's hard, and scary, to even think about not being able to control something. I remember days in college too when I would wake up to a fight with my girlfriend that I didn't even remember. It was awful. There is something so much worse about hurting someone and not even remembering it. But the first step, is realizing it and taking action to change. Start with just one step, and then keep going.

  2. I admire your willingness to at least look at the problem & admit that it's there, rather than pretend it's something else.
    Take the first step, as Robert said, in the previous comment, and go from there. You can do it and it's worth it.

  3. WOW ... your story reminds me of the misery ... I AM SO GRATEFUL TO BE SOBER, whew... I never feel like that. I don't drink today, I don't know if it's for a lifetime, it's hard to even say I hope so cuz even sober alcoholics like me admit "no one wants to quit drinking forever"; which is why we don't ... we stay sober one day at a time by not picking up the first drink" ... that's the one that gets you drunk. Good luck, and the good news is "there is a solution". I pray you find yours.

  4. This is a beautifully written post. I just looked up the definition of HFA and I certainly fit the description as well. Unfortunately, your consequences are starting to happen. And they always take stock of what you are doing and decide to take enough about yourself and your relationships to put them first. Alcohol is not a friend to any of us, although we put it first before so many other things when we are abusing it. I certainly cannot wrap my head around "never drinking again", I sometimes fantasize about drinking again when the kids are all grown up, but I remind myself that I can't do that now and put it on the shelf for another day. Try and find some women who you can relate to and hang out with them, I never thought I would be the sparkling water and lime person, but I am and it is wonderful! And hang out with the friends that don't care about drinking, there are more out there than you think! Good luck...

  5. Man, so much of what you wrote here reminds me of me, haha. I did the exact same thing when I started to suspect I had a problem with alcohol, started googling "problem drinking" and "high functioning alcoholic"... What exactly do those kinds of people look like, I wondered?? I felt I had a lot in common with the HFA, and it really didn't take long before I knew that I was at a point in my drinking career where I really had lost control. I just didn't have it in me to try to fight and control my drinking... It was too powerful and I knew it, if that makes sense. My first day sober was on a Monday, I would have drank on Thursday if it weren't for the support of my husband, and by Friday I just was too tired and scared and depressed to try to stay sober on my own, because everything I've ever tried to do on my own I've eventually quit. Even marathon training, I've run marathons too, and halfway through my training regimen I justified bringing wine back into my life, even though I'd previously decided to stop drinking during training. Anyway, I went to an AA meeting that Friday, and I've been going ever since. All those questions you have, I totally understand!! Just take it one day at a time. There's help available, you don't have to keep living the way you've been living. I understand the pain you describe so much that my heart hurts for you... I'm here to tell you that I've been sober in AA for 10 months now and feel fucking fantastic. First few months were tough but it got better, and continues to get better all the time. I needed help, I reached out and found it in AA and now I feel so incredibly grateful to have been saved from going any farther down that dark spiral... One more thing to think about: Every time I drank, something bad didn't happen... But every time something bad happened to me, I was drinking. Fact. Will be thinking about you.

  6. This reminds me so much of myself. There was never enough, another drink was always a good idea.

    I quit drinking eight months ago. I am still relieved when I wake up in the morning and I'm not hungover, I don't have to walk eggshells around my husband until I figure out what I was like the night before.

    I hope you quit. I hope you get some help. My email is if you need a sober pen pal.

    Plus, running is so much better without the hangover. :)

  7. Powerful. Thank you for "keeping it green" for me. I am sober. I cannot imagine living the way I did for so long now. It's hard to imagine doing anything with a hangover, but I did. I have a great job which I kept. I bought an apartment. For all intents and purposes my life looked good. But my drinking was out of control, and I was never going to be the one to control it. Now, as far as sobriety goes, I live one day at a time. In the beginning, it was one minute at a time. I would promise myself "I won't have a drink until 6 pm" then at 6 pm I would promise myself I wouldn't have one until 9 pm. So on and so forth, until hours became days and days became weeks. The obsession leaves. The desire leaves. I promise. Don't think of it as "never again" think of it "not for today."

  8. Just for today; let tomorrow come when it gets here and then we'll re-evaluate how today made us feel...
    We're here for you. Keep strong, write us, call us, email us, read our blogs and our words about our failures and successes. No one is perfect, we all strive. Come along, it's a good way to live.

  9. It all seems scary and overwhelming. Then bit by bit, day by day, it becomes empowering and even pleasurable to face the world with a clear mind. To be of a unique grade of people who no longer need to drink to function. The shame disappears and you begin to walk in the sun again. The warmth it gives the healing you will go through will not only amaze you but keep you coming back for more.

  10. I definitely understand your fear, the most important thing to remember is to take it one day at a time.

  11. anonymous lady

    I can identify with you. I become verbally and even physically abusive to my husband when I drink-something I would never accept if he had done the same to me. The warning signs are all there just like they are with me. Each sign gives you a distinctive, separate slap in the face. How long are you going to abuse yourself is the question.

    LIke you, I am known for drinking. Going out socially and declining an alcoholic beverage, in my mind, screams out, "Hey everyone! I'm an alcoholic and I can't drink anymore!" Everyone will know my secret (as if they don't already know). It seems to be such a shameful process.