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!

Almost

One day after being six months sober and I nearly gave in to the voices in my head that were screaming at me to drink. The week exhausted me and I’ve been under the weather with several forces working against me in that area (think terrible two week cold, poison ivy, PMS, auto immune disease flair up and an infection in my finger. I’m falling apart.). Top all of this off with major stress at both jobs and an hour’s drive to think about how great it would be to have a drink to even myself out. Oh, and a boyfriend who still thinks I’m more fun drunk and encourages me to “just have a couple”. I may have never flip flopped so much in my life in such a short time. I felt relief after I was able to pass the first liquor store.

Maybe I’m feeling this way because the 6 month anniversary date went by basically unnoticed with no fan fare. My boyfriend said he was proud of me and maybe deep down he was. I know my not drinking has given him food for thought on his own situation. I haven’t really told anyone other than the boyfriend until recently. I mentioned it to my sister who acted nonchalant but asked if it had helped with my anxiety. I spoke with my mother on the anniversary and made it seem like I had just realized that I hadn’t had a drink in 6 months. I told her I thought I would have lost weight but hadn’t. She was supportive but also quiet. Maybe she was pondering having an alcoholic for a child. This isn’t new territory for her since she married one 36 years ago who now has 35 years of sobriety. Somehow, I just didn’t want to make a big deal about it. I don’t want the ALCOHOLIC label. I just want to be the woman who chooses to be healthier and in control of her life.

All of these things somehow culminated in my head to say it was time to drink even though I was completely aware that it would do nothing for me. I was pissy, especially after driving with the demons in my head, when I got to the boyfriend’s and found out he’d had a few. He said he needed to wind down and that drinking was the only way he could. I growled that I was using my new found sober powers to decompress and not drinking no matter what. And shockingly, things got better while I sat and felt my true feelings without pushing them down. I felt like an adult who made a great decision. Whew!! Anniversary dates are tough.