Updated: Apr 30, 2020
While tossing around a multitude of ideas for where I wanted to take this blog next, I spent a little time reflecting on what I had been doing over the past three and a half months that felt productive and worthwhile. A lot of what I have been talking about has been mindset, perceptions, and things that help redirect our attention away from the negative thoughts that tend to creep up on the addict while in recovery. With that in mind, it became clear to me that something I have not spent much time on are the reasons people are afraid to take that first step into recovery and ultimately sobriety.
"If it were easy, everyone would do it." It starts with taking the first step.
Myth #1: I am not an alcoholic
Did that sting a little? If it did, that is because you have likely proclaimed those very words at some point in your journey towards sobriety. It is probably the most common misconception about alcohol, alcoholism, addiction, and whether or not you need to quit drinking. Alcoholism carries with it one of the most tumultuous stigmas known to humankind. Every single one of us has had a negative thought or looked down our nose at someone who has drunk to much and therefore acted in a way representative of that stigma. "Oh my god, look how drunk that person is." Or, "That person can't even talk." Or, "I hope they are not driving home." All of these are statements directed at people whom we saw or see as having a problem with alcohol. Do they, though?
According to Annie Grace in her book, This Naked Mind; "... most of us hide behind the arbitrary line we have drawn between 'alcoholics' and 'regular drinkers.'" We don't blame the addictive drug in our glass. Instead, we believe that there is something wrong with the addict on the street." It makes sense, right? As long as we tell ourselves that we don't have a problem, then we can go on about our daily lives never having to take on that burden. But, as soon as we accept and admit that alcohol is the real problem and that nobody is immune to it, then we begin to understand that we too are at risk of becoming that person on the street we once made comments regarding.
An interesting question is proposed in Annie's book regarding this as well. She said, "How many people do you know who drink consistently less over time?" The first time I read that I had to stop and ponder that for a while. I knew I went through phases throughout my life with drinking. There were times when I drank more than others and times when I took breaks from it too, but there was one consistent result from that data I can not ignore. Over time, I slowly began to drink more and more until the point where I was drinking whenever the opportunity presented itself, or I created an opportunity for myself to drink. Even with periods of less drinking in my life, if you plotted the trajectory of my drinking, it would be a steady upward climb over time. No question.
The High Functioning Alcoholic
Here is where it all gets really confusing. I don't think anyone would disagree that when a person finds themselves in a situation where they have lost their job, their car, their relationship, or their home due to drinking; they need to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol. But, what about all those people like me who walked through the world drunk, but never lost a job, a car, or a home due to drinking? They got up every morning and made it to work and did a decent enough job or maybe they even excelled. They maintained a relationship, paid their bills, and were generally liked by people in the community. Those people cannot be alcoholics, right?
Wrong. Alcoholism is the inability to control the drinking of alcohol. So, at what point do we know if we have lost our ability to control our drinking? If you are a highly functioning alcoholic, then the answer to this question lies only within you, and you have to be the one to discern the truth. If you have or are questioning whether or not you are an alcoholic, then you probably are on some level. Don't let the level fool you though, you may be in the beginning stages and as I stated earlier, most people don't naturally drink less over time, they drink more. The true marker is your own concern over your health and well-being.
There is a reason you are asking that problematic question. For me, I was tired of waking up feeling like shit. I was tired of feeling impatient at work. I was tired of getting into stupid fights with my partner, and not remembering what we fought about the next day. I was tired of drinking, and I knew it, but it took me a long time to be honest enough with myself to admit that I am an alcoholic. That does not feel good to say out loud and it feels even worse to think about HAVING to quit drinking. Let me assure you, once you say those words a few times and you honestly take those first steps into recovery, you are on the path to understanding why you began to question your relationship with alcohol, and it's not your fault.
Come back tomorrow for Myth #2: I can't quit drinking.