I put in the search engine: How do I know if I’m an alcoholic? It gave me 12 questions, not a lot, but what lead me to type that? I wasn’t going to believe what the answers revealed. And even if I did… to some degree, what would I do? Give up drinking?
But I had another bad night. And for some reason that morning I couldn’t shut off the repetitive thought: This is not okay. Suddenly the things I said I’d never do, I was doing. The lines I’d never cross, were far behind me. And it was always the same setup. Before the night began I’d tell myself: Tonight, I’m going to go out but I’m not going to get drunk, I’ll just have one drink. Maybe two. But that’s IT. And lo and behold I’d wake up not knowing how I got into my own bed. Not knowing who was mad at me, what I said, what happened. It was bad enough not remembering but often I’d start to remember in flashes throughout the day and then I’d try to shut those down too. The truth was I DIDN’T WANT TO KNOW.
I had a new normal and if I thought about it, if I let myself think about it, my new normal was terrifying. My new normal meant incurable headaches, stomach issues doctors couldn’t solve, lies to my friends about my escapades, lies to my family about why I couldn’t talk. My new normal ran so far, went so deep, I even lied to my own therapist. If anyone knew, really knew, what my life really was like, I’d lose everything. At the very least I’d have to give up alcohol. And then what?
If I could just get some proof I didn’t have a problem with alcohol, then I could keep drinking like normal people. Everyone drank like me, right? Sort of?
Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days?
I didn’t expect that first question. I mean hadn’t everyone? While I could have lied and said “No” I thought, No one is here. I’m going, to be honest. Besides, that’s only one “Yes.”
Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking– stop telling you what to do?
Ha! I didn’t tell people what I was really doing so “No.” But…
As the questions went on, it was Yes, Yes, Yes… 9 out of 12. According to the questionnaire, 4 meant I had a problem. Me. Not some old, scraggly, pasty, urine-stained man on skid row. Me. And the day probably thought wouldn’t have made an impact had it not been for that last question. Number 12:
Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not drink?
I did. And I didn’t. If I totally removed alcohol, who would I be? Would it mean the end of fun, freedom, happiness? But while I was being honest, I had to admit, at that moment I had none of those things. I wasn’t having fun. In reality, I was scared a lot, lots of friends didn’t drink like me, I wasn’t sure I genuinely liked the ones who were around. I had no freedom. I couldn’t be in social situations without alcohol. I was a prisoner to it. And often I wouldn’t go out. It was easier. But then I’d be home alone, drinking. How was that free? And happiness. I wasn’t happy. Plain and simple. There was nothing behind my smile. I had become a shell.
Admitting I had a problem wasn’t easy for me. Asking for help didn’t feel real and I was scared. But I gave up all my alcohol, went to rehab (the best jump-start to recovery), attended AA meetings, found a sponsor, and slowly started to feel less scared and more cared for. And I started to have fun. I was connecting with others about my life in ways I never could before. The other people got it. They had been hiding and lying from friends, family and themselves for a long time, too. And while maybe I’m not happy all the time, I have my own little family now, I have a love in my friendships, I feel calm a lot. I no longer spend energy trying to either forget or figure out anything. There’s no need to. I am free of drugs and alcohol and because of that, anything is possible.
Today, when I wake up, I’m not afraid to open my eyes. That’s my version of freedom.