What No One Ever Tells You About Addiction

Before I quit drinking, I mean really quit drinking, I wasn’t convinced I needed to quit drinking. I thought maybe, possibly, there was a slight chance I should but I wasn’t convinced. So I found myself looking online at quizzes or lists of warning signs that could help me determine if I was truly an alcoholic or if maybe I was just drinking a little too much due to stress and didn’t need to quit entirely.

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After all of the quizzes and questions, there were some warning signs of addiction that no one told me about.

Before I quit drinking, I mean really quit drinking, I wasn’t convinced I actually needed to quit drinking. I thought maybe, possibly, there was a slight chance I should. But I wasn’t convinced. So I found myself taking online quizzes or looking at lists of warning signs that could help me determine whether I was truly an alcoholic. After all, maybe I was just drinking a little too much due to stress and didn’t need to quit entirely.

The problem was, a lot of those quizzes used diagnostic criteria that I found too easy to rationalize. Like, “Do you drink to relax or feel better?” Duh, of course! I don’t pour myself a glass of Pinot to feel worse! Or they asked questions I didn’t find relatable to my stage of drinking. Like, “Have you ever had to have an eye-opener upon awakening in the past year?” or “Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time?” Am I on a Caribbean cruise? Then yes, but otherwise, no. And there you go, case closed. I could easily convince myself I didn’t have a real problem. Until one day, I couldn’t.

The truth was that I didn’t want to quit drinking, so I wasn’t willing to see it. Addiction is tricky that way. It wants you to keep doing the thing you shouldn’t be doing.

Looking back, I experienced quite a few warning signs that weren’t on any of the quizzes I’d taken. So I’m going to put them down here, just in case anyone else is having a little look-see at their relationship with liquor.

Keep in mind that I am not a professional psychologist, just a garden-variety wino who lives to give other people advice.

Crying on a first date

For me, crying on a first date was almost always a direct result of drinking too much, and it’s not a turn-on. Once I went out with a guy I really liked, and due to nerves (or maybe alcoholism) I ended up crying—about my childhood, an ex-boyfriend, or maybe my haircut. Who really knows? The next day he called, but only to ask if I was okay. I never saw him again. This was not the only time that happened.

Arguing with my husband and not remembering it the next day

This was a big one for me. I’d have too much wine, get aggravated about something, pick a fight, and go to bed in a huff. The next day I’d have a vague recollection that we’d argued but no clue what it was about. I’d be forced to pretend I was still mad so he wouldn’t suspect I’d had too much to drink. Sometimes I had to keep this up for hours. Good thing I have a background in improv! I think it goes without saying that quitting drinking improved my marriage.

I didn’t have an “off switch”

This is a big one. The times I’ve been really intoxicated have always been an accident. I’ve never been someone who set out to get hammered on purpose. But I couldn’t seem to say when. When people who don’t have a drinking problem start feeling buzzed, their brain gets a signal that they don’t need any more. On the other hand, when alcohol starts making me feel good, my brain gets a signal that more would be even better! So if I were at a party and my wine glass kept getting refilled, I would … just keep drinking. This might end peacefully, or it might wind up in a storm of shame and regret. It was always a crapshoot!

Trying to moderate

Not to state the obvious, but moderation is very hard for an addict. The giveaway for me was that on the occasions that I tried to limit myself to two glasses of wine and actually managed to stick to that limit, I threw myself a mental parade. “Look at me, only having two glasses of wine like a normal person!” Spoiler: that thought process is not normal.

Taking up yoga or a health regime to help curb drinking

There is nothing wrong with trying to be healthy! But I often tried to exercise to curb stress, thinking I would drink less as a result. It never worked. Now that I’m sober, exercising and taking care of my health is very helpful. But I had to quit drinking first. I couldn’t exercise myself into drinking less.

Reading articles like this

Hey, I’m not saying it means anything for you! I’m just saying that I read a lot of these kinds of articles, that’s all. I’m sure you’re fine. Really.

Want to learn more?

Learn more about alcohol and alchol use disorder, read stories of recovery, and find helpful tools on our blog.

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is an author, standup comedian, TV personality, writing teacher, and co-host of the popular podcasts, For Crying Out Loud, Rose Pricks, and Bored A.F. She has authored five books, starting with the irreverent best-seller, Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay: And Other Things I Had to Learn as a New Mom. She’s talked sobriety on Oprah, GMA, 20/20, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, CNN, and more.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three sporadically charming children.

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