A reader posted an interesting question on About UnPickled that I wanted to address here so that more of you might add your feedback. Here is the original comment from sunandsand52:
I wonder if you have ever addressed those feelings that overwhelm so many when they desire to stop drinking. ..the feelings of, “Well, I may quit but I have been in this abuse pattern for so long that I most certainly have caused irreparable damage, so what’s the point?”
How did you handle these thoughts? How did you overcome this and other excuses to continue to drink?
The question contains a kind of blind spot we develop in active addiction, which is selective awareness: acknowledging that damage may exist but using it to justify continuation of the behaviour. This thinking also requires the denial that addiction tends to get increasingly worse; there is nothing static about it. So as the addictive mind is telling itself, “I’ve already done the damage so I might as well just keep hanging out at this level,” the reality is in fact that the damage will increase, the behaviour will progress, and problems will mount.
Problematic drinking does not often self-resolve or even remain at the same level for long. Tolerance increases until the body stops metabolizing alcohol, and then the proverbial shit hits the fan for most people. People at this advanced stage of addiction find that their response to alcohol is completely unpredictable – one drink could cause a black out. Additionally, heavy drinking impairs the digestion system so the effects of malnutrition appear as mental confusion, emotional instability, loss of appetite and sleep disturbances. Withdrawal symptoms present themselves if there is a break in alcohol intake. At this stage, a person feels terrible and ironically believes the only relief comes from the originating problem itself: alcohol.
Essentially, it is wishful thinking that the drinking habits (and the associated damage) can just continue at the same level unchecked. SOMETHING will tip the scales – it might be an emotional or physical crisis requiring hospitalization, social repercussions such as family or work-related consequences, or even criminal charges like a DUI or public drunkenness that force the necessary changes. In truly tragic circumstances, alcohol will cause injury or death – either to the drinker or to others in their wake.
So what’s the harm in continuing to drink if some harm has already been done? Plenty.
A better question might be, what’s the harm in living without alcohol? What is there to regret? Who could be hurt? Much of the physical damage can be repaired with abstinence and certainly the social/emotional damage can be much better healed in the absence of alcohol.
My hope for everyone who is drinking problematically is that they might find the willingness to quit before some dire consequence makes the choice for them. My wish is that the hurt, pain and damage that alcohol causes to families affected by addiction could be cut to the quick, and that no one would ever get behind the wheel of a car, tractor, semi truck or bulldozer while drinking. My dream is that we could be as aware of the health hazards of drinking as we are of second-hand smoke, UV rays, asbestos, and old sushi.
It is so confusing to onlookers why the drinker keeps drinking. They cannot possibly understand how addiction scrambles the messages from the body and brain so that alcohol looks like the solution rather than the problem; how a mom who is about to drive her kids to school would drink vodka to stop shaking, actually believing it will make her a safer driver. You can’t even call that a rationalization – it is pure delusion and that’s how addiction keeps itself alive.
I am thankful every single day that I got off the merry-go-round before I got to this point, but it could have happened if I had continued – it was only a matter of time and continued drinking. For me, that knowledge alone was enough – I didn’t want to get to the terrible places that alcohol was leading towards. I had a flashing moment of clarity in which the truth of my trajectory hit me, and it shook me to the core. That was what I needed, and I am grateful.
I could be flippant and say, “If awareness is not enough for you, keep drinking and let the problems build until you get uncomfortable enough to quit.” I hate to say that, though, because of all the innocent people whom that strategy endangers.
All I can do is tell you the truth and hope it is enough: my life is better without alcohol. It is easier, safer, happier and healthier. I do not regret a single day of not drinking; I’ve never gone to bed and wished I drank that day. I feel better about myself. I am more honest and authentic and just a better Jean all around.
I wish the same for everyone, whatever the burden: Lay it down, free yourself. Spare yourself and others the potential pain ahead by believing there is a better way. Know you are worth the effort. Know there is help, and you are not alone.
Know it is possible; know that we do recover.
I am on day 4 sober. Unfortunately I had to get to the point of severe health problems to stop. I am 34 and was hospitalized for heart failure in October. Yes it is now February and I am only at day 4. Even faced with a major medical crisis it wasn’t enough to stop. But I started to relapse back in my hf symptoms and it finally clicked. I don’t want to shorten my life any more, I want to be here for my kids. And I am just sick of feeling like crap and feeling my body give up.
Holy shit, that must have been terrifying. I am so glad you made it through and that you are realized how getting booze out of your life can impact your health. You have a lot of years ahead of you and your lucky kids will be glad to have you be the best parent possible – present, healthy, strong and free. Beautiful.
This is a great post. There is a chasm between the knowledge that one needs to make better decisions (or take life in a completely different direction), and the feelings of “but will it really make a difference?” Hope helps bridge that divide.
Thanks so much for this post Jean- i have just come back to re-read it- I find this post really powerful as it explains the power of addiction and the path it can take us down. I am still finding my way, but addiction will not win, and therefore I will ensure I take no innocent victims with me. xx. Ps this will be a post that I will keep coming back too
Hey Miss Meg, you can do it! Print this post and write a letter to yourself on the back. Tuck it in a zippy bag and carry it with you as a reminder of your hopes and dreams. You can do it! and ps – don’t be a afraid to check out a recovery meeting, even if it is just to listen in and see how that feels. The company of those who “get it” is powerful!
I am so glad i found your blog. I wrote that full on knowing the response. But to hear this from you, put in such a way that really drives the point home….that is exactly what i needed to hear .
It is a gift that you have and it is very generous of you to take the time to share so openly … I’m at the beginning of this journey to a new life. I need help and support from those who have gone down this path. I’m done escaping my fears and bad feelings. Time to just feel them and time to feel better.
Thank YOU for opening a great topic. This is the best part of recovering together with others, the discussions we spark and ideas we exchange. Often it’s where we find some little nugget or expression that perfectly captures what we needed to hear, some wisdom to treasure throughout a phase. Turn and face those bad feelings. Time to nuture your inner child instead of telling yourself to be tough. Examine those old wounds and you’ll start to see how they pop up in other ways today. That’s recovery…..staying sober helps us get to the recovery part. I’m glad you’re here. Please keep commenting and share your journey. We learn together.
Fan-Bloody-Tastic post my friend.. have shared the link at Living Sober xxx
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Thanks, that means a lot. I miss talking to you. I should come for a visit, don’t you think?
And I am a better Anne. The Anne I always was, but who was drowning.
I, too, hope people hear the truth, that life without alcohol is fun, light and free. That alcohol is the problem and that all other problems are negatively impacted by drinking.
That the bottom is where we stop digging. It doesn’t have to be any deeper.
Thanks jean. You put this so well. We definitely do recovery! With grace, style and a lot of fun!
This message is so full of hope. I am happy for you that sobriety has helped you become a “better Jean” I’m damn sure definitely a better Jenn now. We do recover.
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Wow, after a month of sobriety, I was going to join my spouse for wine tonight. Reading this woke me up. It is so easy to think I can have a couple wines and stop. I’ve lost weight, felt happy again and proud of myself. My family is proud of me….we are quite candid about it. So, why have to start over again when I again feel like crap from over drinking. Thank you for this means of snapping me out of it. I’m looking forward to waking up again tomorrow without a hang over.
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Thank-you Jean😊 Friday at 5 ,at the end of a long work week is the toughest. I was wavering, but your words snapped me back to reality. No safe amount for me. Sunflower.
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Thank you, Jean. Annie x
Absolutely spot on, there is always a point in stopping x
Completely agree Jean. Stop while you still have some semblance of control because once the addiction tips over from psychological to physical you are no longer in control – booze is and then things get considerably and progressively worse than they already are and at a much faster lick. As someone who nursed alcoholic liver disease patients that was the knowledge that made me stop – I wasn’t unique or different and their fate would be my fate if I kept on drinking. The nurse would become the patient and it could happen a lot sooner than I would chose to imagine …..
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This is perfectly said by you!
I have been sober now for 17 months!
We do recover!
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