My relationship with alcohol was never “normal.” The first time I drank was at a high school party when I was 14 or 15 years old. As soon as I had swallowed the first few sips of flat, lukewarm beer, I felt as if there was nothing I couldn’t do. I transformed from a somewhat shy and self-conscious “theater kid” to a loud, funny, boisterous party girl. I didn’t put down that party girl persona until after college, when I found myself in a psychiatric ward after a blacked-out joy ride. From there I was transferred to a rehabilitation center in Southern Florida. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite ready to admit that my relationship with alcohol was unhealthy, or that I would never be able to drink like other people. I refused to believe that I was really an alcoholic, blaming my binge drinking on my youth and my daily drinking on my… youth. “I just really like drinking,” I would tell my sobbing mother over the phone. “I like alcohol; drinking is still fun for me.” In reality, drinking had crossed an important threshold several years back. It was no longer fun, it was a necessity. My alcohol consumption had become compulsive, and I no longer had control over the first drink.
I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I knew I was an alcoholic. I remember being 15 and working my first ever job as a cashier at Carl’s Jr. I remember waking up with a little baby teenager hangover from a high school party, throwing two beers into my backpack, and chugging those beers in the restaurant bathroom at about 9am before taking as many Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger orders as I could muster before going home “sick.” No one had taught me “hair of the dog.” I drank alcoholically from a young age. If you or someone close to you has been showing the warning signs associated with an alcohol use disorder, it is important to acknowledge that alcoholism is a progressive medical condition, meaning symptoms will worsen in severity the longer they are left untreated. Fortunately, at Recovery Centers we are available to help. Contact us today to learn more.
Coming to Terms with Alcoholism
Admitting that I was an alcoholic felt, in many ways, like admitting defeat. There is a saying in 12 Step programs that goes, “Surrender to win.” When I first heard this saying I thought it was counterintuitive and (frankly) ridiculous. Surrender? As in, admit total defeat — lie down on my back and take the loss? How could that be a positive thing? I soon realized that alcoholism was not something that defined me. It was not something that I could rationalize, talk my way out of, or get rid of it. It was not something I could conquer. It was something that was always going to be a part of me, and something that I needed to address on a daily basis. But it was not something that needed to dictate my life — not anymore. The more I dove into self-work the more I began to view my personal history of alcoholism as a strength rather than a weakness. I could stay in remission and continue along on a beautiful journey of self-discovery, living my best life and not being helpless caged by chemical substances.
“There Is a Solution”
At a certain point I drank because I had to, not because I wanted to. Drinking was no longer fun. It wasn’t a social event, it wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t the precursor to a night of adventure. It was killing me, and I wanted to stop. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t stay away from the bottle for long enough to acknowledge this reality to myself, let alone anyone else.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 24, reads, “At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. This tragic situation has already arrived in practically every case long before it is suspected. The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.”
There was a point in my drinking career when consumption became completely compulsive. I would wake up with the hangover to end all hangovers; laying on the bathroom floor, shaking, crying, shooting out foxhole prayer after foxhole prayer. “Please God, I won’t drink anymore. Just let me feel better. I won’t drink ever again.” As soon as I was done vomiting and as soon as panic attacks had subsided just enough, I would drag myself to the kitchen and pour myself a glass of fruit fly-filled wine (if there was any left over from the night before, I certainly didn’t have the wherewithal to put the cork back in the bottle).
The 2nd chapter of the Big Book goes on to read, “The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with the old threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves like other people. There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove.”
I was being burned over and over again. Did I really think that things would turn out differently; that this time I would have lighthearted fun again? Wake up without a hangover knowing exactly where my car keys and dignity were? I could no longer differentiate the true from the false.
“The alcoholic may say to himself in the most casual way, ‘It won’t burn me this time, so here’s how!’ Or perhaps he doesn’t think at all. How often have some of us begun to drink in this nonchalant way, and after the third or fourth, pounded on the bar and said to ourselves, ‘For God’s sake, how did I ever get started again?’ Only to have that thought supplanted by ‘Well, I’ll stop with the sixth drink.’ Or ‘What’s the use anyhow?’”
This thought process had become all too relatable. Night after night I would tell myself, “I’m just going to have one glass of wine, just going to take the edge off or enjoy a little respite after a particularly tough day at work.” Soon I would be two glasses in, then three, and after long I was hopping behind the wheel of my car to drive-drunk to the gas station down the road for another bottle or two (usually two). When I came to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I learned that I was not alone in this behavior. I was not alone at all. There were thousands of people who had successfully recovered from alcoholism, and help was available as soon as I was ready to reach out and accept it.
Coming to terms with a drinking problem is never easy. For many, denial runs so deep that admitting powerlessness over alcohol can take years. Unfortunately, because alcoholism is a chronic and progressive medical condition, associated symptoms only continue to worsen the longer they are left untreated. If you or someone close to you has been struggling with an alcohol use disorder of any severity, Recovery Centers is available to help. We have developed an effective program of alcohol addiction recovery, one that begins with identifying the root causes of alcohol use and focuses on the development of relapse prevention skills. In some cases, committing to a short stay in an inpatient detoxification might be a necessary first step on the road to recovery. This is especially true if you or your loved one has been drinking heavily for a prolonged period of time. In most instances a multi-staged program of recovery comes recommended, beginning with medical detox, progressing to inpatient treatment, and continuing with aftercare. To learn more about the best treatment options for you, contact us at Recovery Centers today. We look forward to speaking with you soon and helping you get started on your personal treatment journey as soon as possible.