Control Much? (Feedback Forum)

Wow readers, I am blown away by your survey participation! So far there are 10x the expected number of responses. Can we break the internet second to a Kardashian’s oiled bottom? Let’s try. I’ll give it another day or two before posting the results. Well done!

Of the first 100 surveys yesterday, 38 participants are still drinking but considering recovery*, while 60 are in various stages of abstinent sobriety. There are often exchanges of wisdom and encouragement in the comment sections below each blog post, and this ratio shows why. Seekers reach out and find tremendous support here. Some of the most vital lessons I’ve learned along this journey have come from reader feedback and interaction – not just specific ideas, but also fine examples of message delivery and gracious acceptance.

So with a nod to the significant contributions to this page made by the fellowship of readers, here is a concept I’ve been pondering this morning on which I would like your feedback: the matter of control.

I have spent most of my life successfully controlling all circumstances around me. I used alcohol as a release valve at the end of the day, until addiction set in and I lost beloved control over the very thing (I thought) held me together. Now in sobriety, I LOVE the knowledge that I have total, constant control over myself and yet….through growing and changing in the work of recovery, I have learned to allow things to happen as they will and trust myself to deal with the outcome. Ironically, just as I finally have the power I so craved, I find I no longer need it.

Please comment below and share what this means to you today.

If you are currently struggling with alcohol, what role does “control” play in your life? What do you want to ask of those who are succeeding in sobriety? (You may comment anonymously by leaving the name and email fields blank under your message.)

Recovery peeps, how has your perception of power morphed over time?  Though powerlessness is the stuff of the “first step” for you twelve-steppers, please avoid slogans and instead give specific examples of your own experiences. Let us hear how it has manifested in your life.

Learning from one another is at the heart of recovery!

* When I began searching the internet for answers to my drinking problems, I felt very alone. Please see from these numbers that you are not alone at all, that many others are in the same position, and many have come before you. Please take hope, and there is plenty to be had.

About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on November 24, 2014, in Getting Sober and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 48 Comments.

  1. I’m on day one, again. Feeling very sad and lost but finding support in your blog and all the comments. I have real issues with control and feel so guilty about what I’m doing to my body with alcohol, but even worse that I expose my young children to my drinking problem. Deep breath, here I go again, one day, one minute at a time.


  2. I have been pondering whether control played any role in my addiction to alcohol. Honestly, I don’t know. I know it played a role in my anorexia, for more than a decade, and I know it played a role in my decision not to use drugs (because I couldn’t predict how they’d affect me, etc.), but I’m not, and have never been, the “high functioning” type. I am, however, highly sensitive, in that I feel things very very deeply, and prone to anxiety. I did not drink to decompress so much as to decathect, to distance myself from the people and situations (near and far) responsible for any number of negative emotions. Sadly that included family members, whose neediness I just could not bear. Which escalated the problems, which escalated my drinking, and so on.

    I know on the show you and your co-hosts speak about an alcoholic personality – I honestly don’t agree that there is such a thing. I think people drink for any number of reasons and become addicted for just as many. For you, and many other “high functioning” alcoholics, drinking is a way to unwind, to release some of the pressure (self-inflicted or not) that comes with a demanding and high-profile career, juggling work and family obligations, etc. For me, it was a way of easing the pain of being alive. Hence the terror I used to experience when I contemplated giving it up for good. I just couldn’t imagine life without it.


  3. I am 20 days sober today. I started using alcohol in high school. I was used to keeping everything under control for my whole family. Divorced parents with limited resources, responsible for younger siblings, typical overachieving oldest child, perfectionist at school, almost full-time job at 16, etc. When I discovered alcohol it was an escape from all that young responsibility. I loved the way it made me feel – relaxed, fun, uninhibited, free.

    College and professional life just continued the fun. I have been a high functioning, very heavy drinker since then. But alcoholism runs wild in my family and it turns out I am not immune. Fast forward to my mid 40’s and I am finally accepting that alcohol has become a terrible addiction. I have known this for years, but denial is very powerful. I haven’t wanted to give up being a fun mommy, a party girl, one of the cool kids.

    But it is time for me to face the facts. I can’t control my drinking. I have proven this time and time again. So now I need to figure out how to live life without my best party buddy that also happens to be my worst enemy.

    I am so happy to have found this blog and few others. You amazing ladies give me hope that I will eventually heal and find joy on the other side!


    • I can totally relate to your post. High-achiever, professional success, etc. Then when I realized I was unable to moderate, I also began to realize that my many of my achievements were really attempts to control – people, situations, etc. But now you have 20 days? You rock. Pave the way girlfriend – I’d rather hang with and look up to a woman who has the guts to make the right choices than a ‘party girl’.


  4. When it comes to control, the thing that always grinds my gears is when something doesn’t live up to its stated values or expectations, because then I try to make it my job to get things in line with the way they said it would be.

    I once worked at a place that promoted itself as expecting and delivering nothing but the highest ethical and performance standards from all ‘stakeholders’ involved in the organization, but after being there for a while I saw that the management was regularly talking out of both sides of their mouths, allowing double-standards, making excuses, and covering it all up with well-spun photo ops and press releases.

    For a while, I tried to control things by attempting to initiate changes that were based in the values we said we lived by as an organization. I got shot down at every turn. Eventually, I gave up trying to change things, went along with whatever stupid decisions they made, and felt like I sold my soul in the process (and drank a TON).

    I eventually quit and went to a place that pays far less but truly lives its values.


  5. I am 82 days sober today.
    I used alcohol as an escape from the pressure of trying to be perfect, from trying to control everything in my teaching job. I was exhausted trying to control the children, me, the higher up, the parents.
    I still try to control the outcomes of my life. having had a major operation, I wanted to bw “all better” right now.
    I wanted perfection.
    I just can’t control many things in life!
    I can give my best, and let the universe take the rest.
    Easier said than done, however!


  6. Ack! Just saw a typo on a previous quote I posted. Here is correct. Not university. ..,universe…though I have gone through the university of hard knocks. : ) “For peace of mind, retire as general manager of the universe.” ~ Anonymous


  7. Me too, I am not so much the control person. But, lack of control, say, opinion, or even a voice. Alcohol calmed that sense of feeling left out etc, lack of confidence and self esteem. Unfortunately my secret weapon for loosening up,”joining the party”, backfired.
    I was not paying attention to my previous postings for some reason my info.was missing and I have showed up as anonymous many times.


  8. I was never the control freak. I was more the easygoing, take-it-or-leave-it, whatever-you-think woman that I thought people liked because of my low-key, like-to-party attitude. I’m still struggling with being the headstrong, committed-to-her-decision-to-not-drink woman who has enough willpower to quit something that was bad for her, to tackle something hard in her life and overcome it. So, even though control over my life is ultimately wonderful and I desperately needed it, it feels strange.

    How long does it take to get used to a new identity of being the non-drinker? Logically, I know that drinking didn’t make me who I was. But, it sure seemed like a huge part of my identity. Can I still be the carefree girl who likes to let loose, live life to the fullest, and even be rebellious from time to time? At six months sober, I’m annoyed that I’m still missing my old drinking self.


  9. I want so badly to stop the wine hour but come 5 pm I cave in. It is on my mind 24 hours a day. I know everyday is a new day, this could be the day, I love myself enough to control that desire for a glass of Pinot gri. Why is it just the white wine?


    • Oh Cindy, your comment makes my heart hurt because I was exactly there for years. White wine was all I wanted, too – so sometimes I would get it out of the house and then I’d make it a few hours longer and finally start drinking the scotch, vodka, tequila, and anything I could find – things that I hadn’t craved or thought about all day – but in the absence of wine my brain would fire up a panicking need for alcohol of any kind. Just remembering it exhausts me and makes my heart hurt, and I wish for you a freedom from that trap. Today can be the day. Are you ready? It’s simple but it isn’t easy, so make a plan and set yourself up for success. Post here any time if you need encouragement or have questions or need ideas.


      • For me, it was Rickard’s White. On a day that I’d wake not hungover, the thoughts of the sweet, bubbly tingle on my tongue would dominate my thoughts the entire day until 430 rolled around…
        Alas, after only 14 days sober, the 430 witching hour stills tempts me. I agree with Unpickled and her suggestion to “make a plan” for happy hour distraction. If I manage to make it to 6 p.m. without a drink, I get sleepy, give in to a quiet Netflix night with my amazing wife, herbal tea and a Magnum icecream bar…special treats (such as Unpickled’s lovely cup of coffee) can be a fullfilling reward…so can a new pair of jeans!The trick for me is to make it to 6. Sometimes, I’ll go for a drive, or a family walk. Other times, I’ve literally lied in bed with the bedroom door locked…anything to get over the hump.
        Good luck. You can do it! Go to hell, Pinot!


  10. You said it EXACTLY the way I feel about it.


  11. Wow – the mater of control. What a powerful paragraph. So you mean I’m not in uncharted territory here? I’m not breaking the mold, totally unique or harboring a secret that no one else has? I have to laugh thinking my struggle is so unlike anyone else’s. There’s a certain amount of arrogance in alcoholism. I need to get over myself and get over this alcohol thing. (Nah, that doesn’t sound like someone with control issues, does it?) The cycle of drinking is exhausting and the mental gymnastics are killing me. Just get it done with for pete’s sake.


    • I was never the control freak. I was more the easygoing, take-it-or-leave-it, whatever-you-think woman that I thought people liked because of my low-key, like-to-party attitude. I’m still struggling with being the headstrong, committed-to-her-decision-to-not-drink woman who has enough willpower to quit something that was bad for her, to tackle something hard in her life and overcome it. So, even though control over my life is ultimately wonderful and I desperately needed it, it feels strange.

      How long does it take to get used to a new identity of being the non-drinker? Logically, I know that drinking didn’t make me who I was. But, it sure seemed like a huge part of my identity. Can I still be the carefree girl who likes to let loose, live life to the fullest, and even be rebellious from time to time? At six months sober, I’m annoyed that I’m still missing my old drinking self.


      • sorry – meant to post this under all comments not reply to yours. I do love what you said though. Not having so much brain space taken up by alcohol feels immensely better. Freedom from that is worth the identity crisis I’m going through.


        • I’m glad you posted where you did because I really loved what you had to say. If I wasn’t sneaking a look to see if anyone felt the same way I did or instead thought I was a cranky b*tch I may have missed it. You described perfectly the line that is within me as well, an ‘easy-going, it’s all good’ attitude, to a ‘taking control, let’s get serious about this’ attitude. But I also think we’re scaring ourselves unnecessarily. Remember, that carefree girl who liked to let loose, also woke up in the morning feeling like sh*t and had experiences that ranged from ‘dang, my head hurts’, to ‘did I really pee in my friends bed last night?’. There’s a reason you’re six months sober – SO, SO proud of you – and just like it sucks to exercise and your muscles cry out in pain, your brain is going through the same things – and it’s pissed. So it lies to ya by feeding you false memories, example – False memory – It felt so good to be able to just come home from work and relax with a glass of wine. Reality I used to rush my conversations with my kids and tell them, ‘pizza for dinner!’, so that they would run off and I could hurry up and get down that bottle of wine. THAT was control. That was not carefree and easy-going. Flabby alcoholic brain doesn’t want it’s muscle worked. It wants to be in control again and it’s pissed off. I say you have the opportunity to be more carefree now than ever before because you CAN be spontaneous, you CAN say yes to things that normally got in the way of your drinking/buzz/party/whatever, . And as far as I’m concerned, you’re awesome.


  12. A great quote I recently read that summed it up for me, in my new phase of sobriety. “For peace of mind, retire as general manager of the university” ~ Anonymous


  13. Oh yes I tried to control everything, both myself – how I looked, how much I weighed and how others saw me – and also personal situations and work. Drinking was my escape valve from my constant self monitoring, it felt like a release but ironically when my drinking became excessive both I and those around me experienced a very unpleasant, out of control person. Now almost 80 days AF I have peace of mind and recognise very clearly that life cannot be controlled but I can and do choose how I react to whatever life shows me. More often than not life has been good to me recently but perhaps that’s just what clarity brings, an appreciation of life.


  14. Congrats on the progress. Keep it up, and God bless. I’ll check in later.


  15. I’m with you and the Pickled Pastor. Beer was my release valve. My career requires a ton of self discipline and control (as do most careers.) Maybe because my personality is somewhat ill-suited to the very conservative nature of what I do, I have to work very hard to meet/exceed expectations to be something I am not at my core. Beer was my rebellion; my own way of controlling what I did in my free time. I could toil for the man for 50 – 60 hours a week, controlling myself and putting myself in their little box, but then I could “control” who I was outside of work. Until beer started to control me. Funny how that works.


  16. I wouldn’t say that I have successful controlled things in my life but I sure like to try. I love that you said “Now in sobriety, I LOVE the knowledge that I have total, constant control over myself”. I had not thought of it like this but yes, I have taken control of myself in this way. I still need to work on letting things happen and being ok with imperfection.


  17. It felt like life happened to me and was chaotic so that’s why I drank. Turns out that the chaos was self-created as was the feeling that life was passing me by. Now it is calm and still if I want it to be and any uptick in pace is considered and catalysed with thoughtful intention by me. Life happens because of my choices not in spite of them 🙂


  18. Alcohol was my escape–a welcome reprieve from the constant vigilance with which I monitored my life. “I”s dotted? Check. “T”s crossed? Check. Commitments kept? Phone calls returned? Colleagues saying good things? Check. Check. Check. Talk about control?! I worked like a mad woman to keep EVERYTHING looking good. That is, until alcohol took over and everything went to shit. Those precious hours of welcome escape had morphed into an ugly obsession that had my life spiraling OUT of control. I finally came face to face with the woman I had become and it was not a pretty sight. Today, I’m a little over three months sober. Not a long time, but long enough for me to know sober is better. I am caring less and less what other people think of me and more about what I think of myself. For me, that’s huge and, I think, a promise of things to come.


  19. I have never, as an adult, enjoyed the peace of mind and serenity that I now have, 100 days alcohol free!!
    i copied this from above, it sums it all up for me. I am finally free.


  20. I feel like I am really able to feel now – being three weeks and two days sober. I was so happy and high after the initial withdrawl. These past few days I feel like I am crashing. Holiday guilt and family drama doesn’t help but I am trying. And crying inside and out. Just not sure what to do with all this clarity. Alcohol made things fuzzy for me, it was easier to check out mentally. I didn’t deal with things – I just let them hang suspended. Now I am trying to sift through it all, I know I need to let most of it go. I know I can’t control others or the choices that they make. But I can control my reaction to these things- that is one control I hope to manage delicately.


    • Take a break from their drama ! Do something different ! Take off with your s/o to a cabin in the woods ! You don’t have to partake in the craziness and dysfunction but you DO have to protect your being free from alcohol , which is in it’s infancy ! Infact imagine having a few days old brand new baby and taking it to thanksgiving to be pawed , handed around , exposed to all the viral contamination of an healthy environment ! You could go and be very protective and stressed ! Or you could sit this one out ! That’s what I do with my in-laws ! They are such a big trigger for me with their guilt tripping manipulative judgemental ways ! I make sure I’m working all the holidays so I don’t have to deal with them ! Imagine being triggered like Hell then the same people that are triggering you are trying to ply you with alcohol ! Then when you tell them you’re not drinking they start being very invasive and questioning you about it ! I feel so bad for M -I-L because she SO wanted to stage an intervention ! Guess I beat her to it ! Haha


  21. I have overcome some pretty serious shit in my lifetime: I quit smoking, cold turkey and lost almost 40 pounds (not at the same time!). I’ve seen firsthand the power of taking control of a situation and using my unhappiness to propel myself forward into change. I guess I never felt powerless over alcohol – only unable to successfully moderate. Knowing myself as well as I do, I knew abstention was the only way for me to go. I feel completely in control of my life, inasmuch as the universe is random. The only thing I can control is my decisions and choices, and how to react to what life throws my way. I have never, as an adult, enjoyed the peace of mind and serenity that I now have, 99 days alcohol free!! So very grateful to all of you blogging away in the sober universe – you provided me with comfort, advice, and support when I needed it so very badly.


  22. The biggest benefit AA has had in my life, especially after being sober a few years, is that the steps really help me focus on my need to control everything. Realizing that not only do I not have the ability to control everything, but that I am not obligated to TRY to control everything, has been such a gift. On the flip side, realizing that things will go wrong in life even if I have done everything “perfectly” — i.e. I can’t prevent loss and challenges by making sure every choice is the “right” one — reduces my stress immensely.


  23. Control is at the centre of my addiction. Over the years I developed more and more rigid rules around food and exercise as I became less and less able to control my drinking. Drinking had at one time been the one thing that helped me relax and reduce my anxiety. Until it became part of the anxiety problem.

    In recovery I have relinquished my overwhelming need to control my life and it has been so relieving! Letting things happen takes so much pressure off me. Surrendering to that has been so positive!

    It has applied to all aspects of my life. I no longer follow rules with food. I do yoga because I love it, not bootcamp to punish myself. I am happier and content and I bask in the small joys of a life of sober contentment.


  24. I am sober one week today :). Very happy to say that. Control, thinking about that for me – I used to drink to relax after a hard day, taste, habit and then finally to insure I would fall asleep (or pass out) so I wouldn’t have to think. Actually, I think it was because I was addicted…or should I say am addicted. I feel good, clear minded, in control. I have to experience feelings, decisions and trust myself to deal with whatever comes my way. I’m trying to experience how to live at “5”, not 0 or 10 like in the past. There are some difficult moments, but aren’t there difficult moments while drinking? Like when can I have a glass, how many should I have, do I have enough…then comes guilt, shame, bloated feeling, self loathing. I love being sober! Thank you Unpickled for being the catalyst of change for me!


  25. Control. CONTROL!!! How wonderful it feels to be able to let go of it (well, most of it). I still tend to feel that my way is always the best way… for everyone. You know, if everyone would just listen to me and do things my way everything and everyone would benefit greatly. Haha! Being able to relax and just let it be. That feels nice.


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