The Sober Diaries – Entry 2
I am going through my sober journey and the lessons it teaches me chronologically, so I figure I should start at the beginning. Hence this post. I want to share with you the reasons why I suspected my alcohol use was problematic. Now, this is stuff I’ve learned mostly in hindsight, after a decade of drinking. It’s really difficult to notice these things when they’re happening in the present and it’s even harder to take a good long look at yourself and admit that yes, you have to make a change if you want to stay alive.
I was one of those goody-two-shoes up until I was in my sophomore year of high school. I always said I would never drink, never smoke, never do drugs. I knew they were bad things. And I was good. I’d be damned (literally, I was raised Christian) if I fell to temptation and did those things. So I was a bit obnoxious about how “good” I was up until high school. Then I went to an all girl’s Catholic school and proceeded to lose my damn mind. Which is the unkind way of saying that I spiraled deep down into depression, anxiety, and self-hatred. A year later and I was at a different (thankfully, public) arts school. I thought that I would be better because my environment was different. I ignored and denied the fact that I was still depressed. Therefore, when alcohol suddenly was introduced to me, I betrayed my goody-two-shoes sensibility and started to imbibe.
Thus begun my intense, complicated, toxic relationship with alcohol. Now, 12 years later, I can see with wide-open eyes the ways in which I tried to convince myself I could drink moderately. It’s the whole “I don’t have a problem! I can stop anytime I want to!” thing. But it didn’t work, and it never would have. So I’m sharing them here below to show people you are not alone if you tried and failed to do these things too:
Periods of Sobriety
- In the year before I got sober, I began wondering if I truly needed to quit entirely, or if I could just learn to moderate myself. I decided to try this by doing a few “dry” months where I wouldn’t drink. The first was January of last year. It didn’t get off to a great start—on the first I went out with my future S.O. and got drunk. After that, I laid off and actually made it decently long: 3 weeks. But then at the end of the month we took a trip to Chicago and my resolve fell apart. As soon as I started drinking again, I was doing it voraciously. I thought the weeks of sobriety would reboot my system, but it just made me crave it more when I went back to it. So I tried another dry month in April. It was the same: I made it 3 weeks and broke down the last week when we did an Office trivia bar crawl. I plunged headfirst back into drinking and eventually I realized alcohol was an “all or nothing” thing for me. “All” was leading to sickness, unhappiness, and injury. I had to pick “nothing”.
Limiting Amount of Drinks
- When I was still experimenting with moderation, I decided I would try to drink no more than a certain amount of drinks in one sitting. The amounts changed—when I was still in denial it was 6 (per night!) and when I was closer to admitting my problem it was 3. But the number didn’t matter. Once the alcohol hit my bloodstream, I found it extremely difficult to stop. Want to know how I know I had a problem? I didn’t understand drinking if you weren’t getting drunk. I could not comprehend why someone would waste time and calories just having one beer with dinner, or just two glasses of wine during girl’s night. Why bother? My goal was always to get fucked up. Once I got that taste, I couldn’t just stop. I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I was able to successfully stop drinking after only a few drinks. This is a key distinguishing trait of an alcoholic. An alcoholic has a “no man left behind” policy for drinks. If there’s more booze out there, they want it.
Eliminating Hard Alcohol
- When my limiting the amount of drinks didn’t work, I decided that I should just stop drinking booze and only have beer and wine. My thinking was that I would blackout less (not true), it would be healthier (not even close), and frankly, it made me feel better about how much I was drinking because people tend to underestimate beer and wine. If someone drinks a 12 rack on game day, it’s okay, because it’s football! And if you drink 2 bottles of wine during book club it’s cool because it’s just wine and it’s “Mommy juice”, or something classy people drink. Surprise, surprise, I could still blackout on beer and wine. And half the time once I was sufficiently drunk from boxed wine or IPAs, I was far more lax with my rule. Suddenly I’d be taking “just one shot”, or find myself in the liquor store buying whiskey to drink at home because I didn’t want to be out anymore, but I wanted to keep drinking.
Only Drink Outside the Home
- Which led me to my idea to stop drinking in my apartment. I drank alone. A lot. In fact, it was one of my favorite things to do because I knew I could get wasted and no one would judge me, stop me, or expect anything from me. I’ll confess that it’s actually one of the things I miss. I would get a bottle of whatever, put on one of my favorite TV shows, and steadily blackout, maybe ordering a pizza, chilling with my cat. Even though I loved doing it, I knew it didn’t look good. So I decided I would only drink when there was a reason to. I would only drink at events or when I was out at a bar with friends. What ended up happening? I would make up excuses to go out, I would find reasons to drink for everything, every activity became a drinking one, and in the end, I would drunkenly bring home alcohol anyway.
Substituting Lesser Evils for Alcohol
- About 4 or 5 years ago I actually buckled down and stopped drinking for 3 months. It was a big step for me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sober for those months. Substances were so important to me that I decided, and even told people, that while I would stop drinking, I couldn’t be entirely sober. (I literally said that. I said I couldn’t handle being sober, which should have been a huge red flag and somehow wasn’t.) So while I refrained from boozing, I still smoked pot. I thought that because it was just weed, it was okay for me. But what I didn’t realize is that I was using it in the exact same self-medicating way I was using alcohol, which defeated the whole point. When I got sober 4 months ago I made the decision that it would include everything. No more alcohol, no more drugs, no more smoking. I can’t trust myself to have any vices because they all lead to a slippery slope.
If you found yourself seeing similarities to your own life or relationship with alcohol, I suggest you take a look at your drinking (if you’re not already sober, of course). Instead of asking yourself the scary question of “Do I have a drinking problem?”, ask yourself something else instead: “Do I have a problem not drinking?” If the answer is yes, you might want to consider what that means for you. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns, or just need to talk to someone.