Ambivalent About Labels

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Like most people who struggle with alcohol,  I take issue with the ALCOHOLIC label.  I know I have an issue with drinking too much and my ability to stop once I start.  I didn’t drink every day and went years not drinking without ever giving it a thought.  But,  something changed in my brain once I started drinking more often.  I found myself looking forward to the numb fuzzy feeling you get after those first drinks. In fact,  the only thing positive booze ever did for me was allowing me to forget stress which in turn helped greatly with a nasty disease that feeds on stress. I went two years without an episode but once I stopped drinking, I’ve had an episode every month like clockwork.  I have to remind myself daily how much worse off I was with 7-10 day hangovers that were more debilitating than this disease.

I prefer to think of my drinking as problematic. The rock bottom I experienced was nothing compared to others. My eyes were opened to the fact that what I was doing to myself couldn’t possibly continue. I was headed to becoming one of the stories  you hear about.  The one where the person drinks,  drives,  causes an accident,  goes to jail,  loses job, house, relationships and home.  I couldn’t see my life getting better with alcohol remaining as part of my life.  After a few months of debilitating alcohol induced anxiety, I made the decision to stop.  Not forever but at least until I thought I could handle drinking like a normal person. 686 days later and I don’t believe I could drink normally.  I’m not an alcoholic.  I have a “drinking problem”. It all boils down to Symantics.

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365 Days

anniversaryThere never really was a rock bottom other than I knew that I couldn’t continue on with life the way I was living it.  My last days drinking consisted of me being blatoed from Thursday until Saturday night.  I spent most of Saturday in and out of the blackness, fighting with my boyfriend at his apartment as we watched football.  Somewhere around 4 pm I decided that I had better sober up.  This brought about more arguing with my boyfriend and I felt volatile toward the world and it showed.  I spewed hate at the boyfriend deflecting my negative feelings for myself onto him.  He quickly grew tired of my ranting and told me to leave.  This infuriated me more because he knew how much I had been drinking and there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to drive the hour to my house.  I angrily gathered my stuff yelling the entire time and slammed the door behind me.

I had a rental car because mine was being fixed so I was unfamiliar with the vehicle. I decided that I would sleep it off in the parking lot of the apartment complex.  Great place to crash since the building is inhabited by former homeless veterans and is 95% male.  Being that is was the beginning of the month, most had received their state assistance and they were partying it up.   I ended up sleeping for 6 hours and made the decision that I had to go home because it was so cold outside and I was freezing.

I had left the boyfriend’s on several occasions before and all of them included excessive drinking.  Normally when I left, I would drive a block to a factory parking lot and wait it out knowing he would call or text me that he was sorry and wanted me to come back.  He never called or responded to my hate texts that night so I was destined to make the drive.

Driving at night is hard for me when I haven’t been drinking.  I was thankful that I felt sober but looking back, I doubt that six hours of sleeping was enough to get the alcohol out of my system.  I contemplated calling my mom and having her make the drive to get me but I really wasn’t up to her seeing what I’d become.  Thankfully there wasn’t much traffic and the cold air from the window helped keep me alert.  I thank God every single day that I didn’t hit and kill someone that night.  My guardian angel was watching over me for sure.

Once I got home, I crawled into bed and tried to get warm.  I took a Xanax which a doctor had prescribed for me knowing that my anxiety was caused by alcohol.  It was probably not the smartest thing to do but it was the only thing that I knew would help stop the shaking and anxiety after my binge.  I made the decision amidst tossing and turning that I wasn’t going to drink for a long time.

The next morning brought a calm to me.  I didn’t know how I was going to stay sober but I knew I would find a way.  I couldn’t live my life binge drinking.  I apologized profusely to my boyfriend and told him that I was done drinking.  I’m sure he thought I meant for the next couple of weeks like my pattern had showed for the last couple of years.

Being sober was tough for the first 6 months.  Not because I was an everyday drinker but because I realized how much I had looked forward to what binge drinking did for me.  It allowed me to check out completely from life and ignore everything besides the booze.  This was the pattern every other weekend for two years.  I looked forward to spending time with my boyfriend but I realize now that I was really excited about being black out drunk with him.  I knew he would take care of me and even get me more booze when I asked.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes miss those days.

What I don’t miss is the terrifying anxiety that alcohol caused me for a week or more after I stopped drinking on those weekends.  The headaches are gone and there has not been one morning in the last year that I didn’t wake up grateful for being sober.

Every morning after drinking, I’d wake up loathing myself and my life. Not once have I  regretted not drinking this past year. Life is good!

Trading One Addiction For Another

Wednesday will be 5 months since I’ve had a drink.  Some days it seems like it was yesterday, like when I think of the life altering hangovers. Other days it seems like it’s been years.

I’ve mentioned before that I had gastric bypass surgery almost 8 years ago.  I rarely drank then but when I did, it was almost always to excess.  Anyway, as an adult, I ate whatever I wanted to eat.  I didn’t prescribe to the whole, “I’m eating my emotions” idea.  I was a young stay at home mother who rarely had a minute to brush my hair, let alone deal with the emotions of my past.  So I grew physically to epic proportions.  I weighed nearly 400 pounds 8 years ago.  I was physically miserable as I’d tried every diet and could easily lose weight only to gain it back just as quickly as it came off.  I made the decision along with my then husband to have surgery.  He had his 2 months after mine.

The weight literally fell off.  I lost over 100 pounds in the first 4 months.  But, I strictly followed the surgeons orders.  Whatever I ate was logged in a food diary, even if it was only an olive.  I had tunnel vision where my weight loss was concerned.  It wasn’t easy, but I knew it was what I needed to do.

It took me 18 months to get to a place where I could physically exercise.  I went way overboard with that pretty much like everything else I’ve done in my life.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing to excess.  I was walking 9 miles a day or biking 18 miles.  I loved this time as it gave me time to get my thoughts together.

Fast forward a couple of years and a divorce later and I was dating.  Most dates seemed to have an alcohol tie but I was very good at drinking water to make sure I could drive myself home.  I didn’t feel left out from not drinking.  I felt in control.  I really drank very rarely.

When I met my current boyfriend 4.5 years ago, I was dabbling with drinking but always in controlled situations where I knew I was safe and didn’t have to drive.  He was definitely a drinker and it was fun drinking with him.  Anyway, that’s a long story to be told on a different day.  My point is that my drinking escalated from barely drinking to binge drinking ever other weekend for 3 days at a time.  I had transferred my food addiction to an alcohol addiction.  You could probably throw a sex addiction in there as well as I had some pretty wild times there too.

I’ve been eating a lot lately.  As in binge eating, not really giving a crap what I’m putting in my body eating. I suppose I’ve transferred my alcohol addiction back to food.  I need to reign it back in to become an exercise obsession.  The problem is that even after 5 months of sobriety, I still don’t have to get up and go that I once did.  Maybe it’s my lack of self confidence holding me down.  Maybe it’s just plain old laziness.  All I know is that I lack the motivation to eat healthily and exercise like I used to.

An aside, I’m not feeling well due to a disease I acquired five years ago that has no cure.  The flares have been hitting harder and more often than before I quit drinking.  I’ve spent most of today feeling totally miserable and wanting nothing more than to crawl into a bottle so that I don’t have to feel like this. I know that I won’t do that but boy do I want to.  Things will get better.  They always do.