This week I posted a special series of interviews on The Bubble Hour, featuring former hosts Ellie, Amanda, Catherine and Lisa. It was so good to hear their voices again. Long-time listeners of the show have missed them and new listeners will want to go back and dig through the archives to get to know them after hearing these episodes. Lisa N. mentioned this piece she’d written and asked for it to be shared as a supplement to her interview.
I was terrified to acknowledge that I had a real problem with alcohol. The question lurked below the surface constantly, though. Especially during the 2-3 years I spent drinking before I finally quit. At first the, “Do I have a little, fixable problem or a full-on, real problem?” question was just a tiny whisper. Then it was a clear voice. Then it became a scream.
I tried to ignore it. I tried to make light of it. I tried to tell myself that I didn’t really have a problem. I tried to outsmart it. I tried to prove to anyone who would look or listen that I was a successful person, therefore I could not have a real problem.
Deep inside of myself, in the part of me that I longed to keep locked away below the surface, I was scared I would spend the rest of my life drinking alone at night. I was also scared that I would spend the rest of my life not drinking alone at night for the rest of my life. I was stuck in the murkiest of places. I felt trapped in quick sand.
I knew it was unhealthy-mentally and physically- but I really (really, really) wanted to get it “right”. I wanted to be able to drink because I loved it so much. I loved the physical sensation of a drink going down my throat and into my blood stream. I loved the mental sensation of a drink smoothing the rough edges. That was the problem. I loved it too much. I relied on it too much. I couldn’t drink like a normal person drinks, no matter how hard I tried.
For me, relief came when I stopped questioning whether or not I had a problem. I knew in my heart I did, so I stopped asking myself the question, which meant no more second guessing the answer. I stopped searching for loopholes. God knows I was good at finding loopholes, too. I stopped making excuses. I stopped caring if people close to me thought I was “going through a phase” (yet again). Instead of questioning, I started listening to the tiny voice of wisdom living inside of myself.
It didn’t happen over night for me. I had to take it all one day (or minute) at a time. I had to stop using my same tired excuses for reasons to drink. Here were some of my favorite excuses:
My job sucks.
I’ve made a mess of my finances.
I’ve made a mess of my relationships.
All my friends drink.
I have to drink this weekend because it’s my birthday.
I have to drink this weekend because it’s my kid’s birthday party.
I have to drink or people will ask me why I’m not drinking and I’ll look weak/stupid/out of place if they know the truth.
I’m going on vacation and how can I not drink on vacation?
Life is great.
It’s a holiday.
It’s the weekend.
I’ve had a shitty day.
I’ve had a fabulous day.
I had a flat tire.
I got a new car.
I locked my keys in my car.
I locked myself out of my house.
I got a promotion.
I didn’t get a promotion.
I’ve not had a drink in 18 days…I don’t have a problem or I would not have been able to pull that off.
I’m so ashamed of my drunk behavior, I might as well drink so I can forget about it for a minute.
I’m capable of modeling what responsible drinking looks like in front of my kids. I’ll prove it now.
My kids saw me fall down head first in the front yard at a neighborhood party after 1.5 bottles of wine. I have a scar on my shoulder from that fall. I’m reminded that my children saw me drunkenly fall and injure myself when see that scar every single day of my life. I need to drink to hide the scar from myself.
I had a shitty childhood.
I overcame my shitty childhood.
I ordered an entire living room worth of furniture from Pottery Barn online last night while drunk and don’t remember doing it.
I can drink reasonably and not order anything online. I’ll prove it now.
I was able to only drink 2 glasses of wine last Sunday.
I can drink only 2 glasses then stop. I’ll prove it again now.
Instead of drinking 2 glasses, I drank a whole bottle while hiding from my family in my closet. Might as well drink again since I failed last night.
So….those are just the first excuses that popped into my head while writing this. There are so many more where those came from.
Looking back, it is clear to me that my denial was huge. Of course I could not drink. I knew I couldn’t…but still I did. In the meantime, my drinking became progressively worse, because that’s what happens. It gets worse and we might not even recognize we are in the middle of it getting worse.
Now that is truly terrifying to me.
If you’re on the fence, let me help. If you’ve used one or all of my tired excuses, you need not keep testing yourself. I did it for you (see excuses above).
There’s never a good time to quit, so now might as well be your time. Don’t wait until it gets even harder, because it will get even harder. That’s a fact.
The good news is that it can happen. If I did it, you can do it. There is life after sobriety, and it is good. It is not perfect, but it is wonderful in its own messy way. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Please don’t give up. I almost gave up because I almost couldn’t bother to care or to fight for myself. I’m so glad I didn’t give up. I hope you’ll consider what I’m saying and give yourself a real chance at sobriety. Listen to your own tiny voice. It is telling you something important and you need to hear it.
There has never been a single night when I have regretted putting my head on my pillow and going to sleep sober. Sobriety is the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself. Courage, dear heart. You can do this.