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What No One Ever Tells You About Addiction

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An Addict’s Guide to Warning Signs of 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 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 the 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 is 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.

Addiction is tricky that way. It wants you to keep doing the thing you shouldn’t be doing.

Looking back, I had quite a few warning signs that weren’t on any quizzes. 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 I am not a professional psychologist, just a garden-variety wino who lives to give other people advice.

Crying on a first date.

Crying on a first date is 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 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 sets out to get hammered. When people who don’t have a drinking problem start feeling buzzed, their brain gets a signal that they don’t need any more. When I’m feeling good, my brain gets a signal that more is even better! So if I were at a party and my wine glass kept getting refilled, I would keep drinking. This could end peacefully or with a lot 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 when I tried to limit myself to two glasses of wine and 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!” That’s 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.

Reading articles like this.

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

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is an author, blogger and podcaster. She’s talked sobriety on Dr. Oz, Larry King Live, Dr. Drew, GMA, 20/20 and The Today Show. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three sporadically charming children.

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