“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.” — Charles Bukowski
There are so many stories out there.
Stories of friends and coworkers and acquaintances that were at the bottom of life, at the bottom of the bottle. People who can’t keep it together without handles of booze to keep their hands steady, to tuck them in, blacked out at night.
You know the stories. They are the ones who ‘have a problem.’ They are the ones that ‘need help.’
Compared to me, they have a drinking problem, they need sobriety or they will likely end up killing themselves.
These stories are hard. I feel deeply for my friends and acquaintances that struggle with sobriety in this way. It always makes me feel like a fraud, claiming I need sobriety when alcohol doesn’t have me in its grip like it has them.
Sure, there were times in college and after where I had my moments. Those moments when I wondered why I had to drink to get drunk, when my friends could have one drink and call it a night.
But I could hold down a career. I could go a few nights without drinking. I didn’t need alcohol to get through my day. Maybe to ‘take the edge off,’ but I didn’t need it like they do.
These stories always felt like the line. The one that, if I crossed it, then I would know.
Then I would know I had a problem and would need to stop. But until then, happy hour and my favorite Sunday brunch Bloody Mary Bar was fair game.
Embarrassing myself and falling down flights of stairs and bruising my ribs was fine so long as my story wasn’t as bad as there’s.
I think that’s how a lot of people measure their relationship with alcohol. The awful rock bottom stories are what we use as the measuring stick.
Unfortunately, the problem can still be real if it’s not obviously killing you.
The problem can still be real if you feel shame around it.
The problem can still be real if you’d rather your life didn’t include alcohol.
The problem can still be real if you’ve ever questioned your consumption.
The problem can still be real if you know your life could be better without the booze.
When we measure our stories and our relationship with alcohol against the scariest and worst in the bunch, we’re playing a losing game.
There’s a lot of trouble and illness and heart break between where you’re at and the horror stories.
That’s the trouble. There’s a whole lot of bad that can happen between questioning your nightly consumption and being so addicted to alcohol you have to drink handles a day to get through.
I’m here to say that just because you’re not at the bottom of what we’re told ‘alcoholism’ is, doesn’t mean you can’t have a problem with your consumption.
You just have to question it, to be curious about your consumption. You are not a fraud just because you’d rather not drink alcohol, or are choosing it as a lifestyle choice instead of the better option between death or jail.
Even if your hangovers are mild and you’re holding down a career and all your friends drink, and its socially acceptable to drink every night.
This is a case for sobriety as a lifestyle choice.
I built a lot of shame around my alcohol consumption. Our brains are powerful things.
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” — Napoleon Hill
I proved to myself repeatedly that when I drank, I was a failure. I wrote about it in this article. This belief, shaped every aspect of my life. I failed at most things I tried while I was drinking.
If my mind conceives that I am a failure because I got drunk again, and I think this repeatedly, then failure I will become.
That was my bottom. I convinced myself I was failing if I couldn’t maintain sobriety.
But besides the ingrained shame-shit-storm I have with alcohol, I can also make the case for sobriety because it gives me clarity every day.
Every day I don’t wake up with a hangover or with the shame of having a hangover (again), I have clarity.
Clarity in what next steps I need to take to pursue my dream life.
Clarity in who I want to be, instead of reacting to the shame I feel.
Clarity in who in my life is bringing me closer to my highest self, and who is holding me back.
Clarity in what habits and routines in my life are bringing me closer to my highest self, and what’s holding me back.
When I woke up with a hangover every day, I had to react to that hangover. I had to baby myself because I felt like shit.
I had to react to the emotion of shame because I got drunk again. That reaction to shame often times was further numbing, I would justify drinking again, or overeating, or binging and purging because it made the shame (and the hangover) feel better.
Alcohol was setting me up to live in this spiral of reacting to circumstance, instead of allowing me to create the life I wanted with a clear head every day.
Everyone’s relationship with alcohol is different.
I have plenty of friends that can imbibe and still carry on with their life as they see fit — healthy, happy and stable.
I have other friends who are sober now because their addiction was killing them.
I am somewhere in between. I am the average. I am the mediocre. In this case, I’m ok with that.
But sometimes being in the middle of the “addiction spectrum” is the most difficult, because we feel like we don’t have a problem and so we don’t have to change anything.
So we keep on going, kind of living, kind of not, somewhere in the gray area of alcohol abuse.
There is no direct answer for us, we don’t have other people telling us we should stop.
We don’t feel like we belong to groups like AA because our stories aren’t the worst in the bunch.
In fact, we often have friends that encourage our consumption and laugh at us when we say we’re trying to get sober. Friends that hand us the bottle with a smile.
This is where I found myself.
If you find yourself here too, I’m telling you its possible, that you don’t have to wait for the day that you’re killing yourself with booze to stop. More than likely, that day will never come.
What they don’t tell you is there can still be a lot of suffering, wasting time and health consequences that happen even when you’re not addicted.
This is my argument for sobriety as a lifestyle choice. Because it can make our lives better, because it gives us clarity every day, because feeling good and feeling like a success is better than feeling hung over and like a failure every day.
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