I’ve Told Myself All These Reasons When It Comes to Drinking – Here’s Why They’re Wrong

Lies You Tell Yourself to Keep Drinking

If you’ve been on the “trying to quit drinking” roller coaster, then you know the harder you try, the more your inner addict tries to trick you into doing it. Your brain will rationalize and give you all sorts of reasons you should go ahead and give in to the craving. I hate to break it to you, but your brain is NOT your friend.

Here are the reasons your reasons are wrong:

If you have a glass of wine, you will be more patient with the kids.

If you have an issue with alcohol, one glass of wine will actually do the opposite. The kids will be screaming, you’ll pop that cork, hear the familiar glug glug glug of the wine pouring into the glass, take that first sip and feel the sweet relief. But then what? After the first glass the kids will still be arguing, the dog will still be barking incessantly at a mosquito eater, the coffee table will still be loaded with empty plates even though you told them not to eat there! And now, the idea that you can’t have four glasses of wine will only make you edgy and angry and more prone to issuing time-outs. Maybe try giving yourself a time-out in your bedroom to catch up on Real Housewives until the craving passes.

A drink will help you get to sleep.

Let’s seriously stop fooling ourselves with this one, shall we? Alcohol might help you fall asleep faster –and too much alcohol will help you pass out faster- but your actual REM sleep will be disrupted and you will only feel more tired the next day. If you have insomnia and self medicate with alcohol you’re only exacerbating the issue. Switch to warm milk or a boring late night show like Jimmy Fallon. And I’ve heard that staying off of electronics before bed can make it easier to sleep but I haven’t actually tried it. Isn’t it enough that I quit drinking?

Having a drink will make you feel sexier with your spouse.

It’s hard to get romantic with your partner or date when you can’t shut your brain off and relax, right? I know. I get it. But truthfully although a glass of wine or a beer could do that, five beers will actually dampen your body’s responses and make your special time, well…less goal oriented. A lot of my sober friends report that sex is hotter sober. It just takes some getting used to. Like diet soda or sushi. For a while you may have to only do it with people you really like.

I’m going to a party and I need to drink to be able to have fun and socialize.

This is a seemingly great excuse. Who among us is a fan of small talk? No one! That was a rhetorical question! Chelsea Handler has a joke in her act where she says, “I don’t drink to make myself more interesting, I drink to make you more interesting!” So true! But if you’re someone whose off switch is broken, having that “fun starter” drink in your hand only leads to more drinks and before you know it, you’ll wake up in the morning fully dressed with a face full of smeared make-up and only fuzzy memories of the night before. Did the alcohol make it more fun? You’ll never know! Next time, get a sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon and enjoy watching other people get drunk and embarrassing. Now that’s fun!

I need to practice moderating.

No you don’t. You’ve had enough practice. You’ve practiced yourself into a big hole. Now you need to practice getting through a craving and seeing that life is totally doable without alcohol. Before you know it you’ll be able to be patient, sleep, be romantic, make small talk, laugh hard, breathe deep and be happy. I’m living proof!

Having Drink Cravings? Here’s What I Do To Fight Them Off

No Matter How Long it’s Been Since You Quit Drinking, at Some Point You’ll Crave a Drink.

I’ve heard people say, “Once I quit drinking the obsession was lifted” and sure, maybe the obsession was lifted, and they weren’t thinking about drinking all day every day, but that doesn’t mean they never again had the thought that they’d cut a bitch for a Budweiser. We’re human! It doesn’t matter how hard you work on your sobriety: You can practice transcendental meditation two hours a day; visit an expensive therapist weekly or journal endlessly about your childhood, but the fact is, sometimes it all goes out the window and you crave a drink. You want a momentary reprieve. You just want to alter your goddamn mood for a minute, even if nothing’s wrong!

“You want a momentary reprieve. You just want to alter your goddamn mood for a minute, even if nothing’s wrong!”

About a week ago I had some impure thoughts about a White Russian.

Let me explain: Last Sunday night I was snuggled into a booth at California Pizza Kitchen with my cute husband and three kids, enjoying a bowl of chicken tortilla soup and a chopped salad, feeling entirely content, when a waiter walked by with a White Russian on his tray. The layers of coffee liqueur, cream and vodka glistened in the glass due to the restaurant lighting and the moisture from the ice cubes. It looked incredibly delicious. And that’s when the fantasizing started. How would it feel if that drink was for me? What would it feel like to be able to have a nice drink at a restaurant while relaxing with my family?

“I was triggered. I was romanticizing drinking.”

I mean, sure, I was definitely appreciating my evening; I was sitting back listening to my son make burp and fart jokes, smiling at my daughter’s tales of middle school, I wasn’t tense in the least. But how nice would it feel to have a little buzz? Wouldn’t it just elevate the experience? Wouldn’t it be that much nicer? I was triggered. I was romanticizing drinking. This kind of thinking always leads to resentment: Why can other people have a drink and I can’t? It’s not fair. Why can’t I just have one?

This is when I had to employ a tool I learned in recovery called “Think Through the Drink.”

In this tool, you follow what would happen if you had a drink to its probable conclusion. For me, it probably doesn’t go the way you might imagine. If I had a White Russian I don’t think I’d end up having seven more, fighting with the waiter and then commandeering the car from my husband and driving the whole lot of us home in a blackout.

“This is when I had to employ a tool I learned in recovery called “Think Through the Drink” where you follow what would happen if you had a drink to its probable conclusion. For me, it probably doesn’t go the way you might imagine.”

It would never be that dramatic — at least not at first. Here’s a more likely scenario: I’d have a drink and I’d really love the feeling, especially after not having had one in such a long time. Immediately, I’d think about having another one because if one drink makes me feel loose and relaxed, two will make me feel that much better. But I’ll stop at one to show I can. The next day I’ll think, well I managed to have just one simple drink out to dinner with my family last night so why not experiment with drinking a glass of wine at home? And since I’m just hanging out at home, why not have a couple?

Soon, I’ll be back to having a few glasses of wine every day until one weekend, I’ll go to sushi and have a large sake and a large Sapporo all to myself because that’s how I roll! I’ll probably insist on going out for another drink or four after dinner because now that I’m drinking again, might as well! Let’s live a little! We never go out! The next morning I’ll wake up with a crushing hangover, not remembering whether I paid the sitter or whispered good night to my children — who before that White Russian had only known a sober present mom and I’ll be full of regret.

I didn’t have the White Russian and the craving passed. They always do.

Why You Don’t Need to Hit Rock Bottom to Start Getting Better

Defining Your Own Rock Bottom

In recovery, you’ll hear a lot of talk about rock bottoms. You might hear someone say they stopped drinking because they finally hit rock bottom or you might hear people say when describing a person who just can’t seem to quit despite having numerous consequences “I guess he hasn’t hit his rock bottom yet.” But what does hitting rock bottom actually mean? And do you definitely have to hit one to stop drinking? Well, let’s start with what it is: the dictionary defines rock bottom as the lowest level possible. This can mean different things to different people.

“But what does hitting rock bottom actually mean? And do you definitely have to hit one to stop drinking?”

My bottom was driving after having too much to drink with my kids in the car. Luckily, I drove a short distance and arrived home safely. I say “luckily,” because despite the lack of consequence, I was able to see that dangerous behavior as a low point. I was “lucky” I understood right then and there that left unchecked, using Xanax and wine on a daily basis as my only reliable means of stress relief would eventually lead to much worse consequences. My low point could definitely be a much lower point and I was willing to work my ass off in recovery to not let that happen.

But truth be told, that wasn’t my first drunk driving rodeo. In my twenties, I drove drunk on a fairly regular basis. Many mornings, I would wake up after a night out with a spotty recollection of the night before and not know for certain if my car would be parked in my apartment’s parking space. There would be a moment of sheer panic before I peeked through the vertical blinds to check, knowing if it wasn’t there, I’d have no clue where to start looking. It wasn’t that I was too embarrassed to ask someone to drive me home from bars or parties or even that I was too cheap to take a taxi – I just never thought I was that drunk until the next day. On some level, I knew the behavior wasn’t good and that I was dodging a bullet, but since nothing horrible came to pass, I didn’t worry I was anywhere near the bottom. The denial was strong in this one.

I know other people who have had awful penalties from their drinking and still didn’t stop. I have a friend whose hard drinking brother lost several jobs, crashed several cars and once got so drunk while out with co-workers, he took off all his clothes in a bar and peed in the corner. He went to work the next day like nothing happened. Not his bottom.

So is it possible to quit drinking without hitting rock bottom? It is if you can shift what you consider rock bottom. Does rock bottom have to mean your wife made good on her threat to file for divorce and take the kids? Does it mean you have to get fired from the job you love because you got hammered at the office Christmas party and slept with your married boss? What if you brought the bottom up to meet you where you are? Maybe rock bottom could be that you cry at night while Googling “Am I an alcoholic?” or that you once again got drunk and texted your ex-boyfriend that you still love him and then didn’t remember it until the next day when he texted you back to please, please stop texting him because his wife doesn’t like it. My point is, your rock bottom doesn’t have to sink to The Girl on the Train level despair; you can stop at sick and tired of being sick and tired.

In the old days, people only headed to AA when they’d literally been institutionalized or thrown in jail. AA, for many people, was a last resort. But that was a hundred years ago. Now we know better; we know it doesn’t need to get that bad. Your bottom can be whatever the hell you say it is. Your bottom can be whenever you decide you’ve had enough.

“Your bottom can be whatever the hell you say it is. Your bottom can be whenever you decide you’ve had enough.”


Getting Sober Comes with a Tidal Wave of Anxiety – Here’s What I Learned

An Addict’s Story about Anxiety and Recovery

My first few months of sobriety went fairly smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, that I was starting to wonder why I hadn’t committed to this new life much sooner. I mean, sure, I missed it a lot –especially when I was enduring the witching hour with my eighteen-month-old twins – one of whom gave up sleeping right when I gave up drinking.  She would scream every night at bedtime “No! No! No!” until my husband and I either brought her out to watch the Daily Show or I fell asleep on the stuffed lamb chair in her bedroom and woke up stiff and tired.

So yeah, sobriety was not without its challenges, but with the help of my new sober posse and my regular meetings, it was doable. But about four months in I hit a major snag: Anxiety. When I quit drinking, I also stopped taking Xanax. And oh, how I loved me some Xanax. The first time I took it, I felt such exquisite relief that it almost felt like cheating. Other people had to do an hour of cardio or learn transcendental meditation or worse yet, practice mindfulness –whatever that means –to feel better; I just had to pop a Xanax. It was like world peace in pill form. I didn’t want to give it up, but I had been combining it with wine and not taking it exactly as directed and I knew to keep using it would be no different than drinking.  But when that anxiety hit like a tidal wave, I had second thoughts.

The feeling was awful, like riding one of those spinning carnival rides where the floor drops out from under you and you can’t get off. I thought there was no way that if people felt like I was feeling they could have stayed sober. Who could just sit with crazy thoughts coming a mile a minute, heart beating like a hamster and not take something to fix it?

“The feeling was awful, like riding one of those spinning carnival rides where the floor drops out from under you and you can’t get off.”

I tried everything I could think of to take the edge off: I went to a meeting, I wrote about it, I ate junk food, but nothing worked. By the end of the day, I was feeling decidedly worse and I realized that if I were going to survive, I would have to take a Xanax.

I decided to call my sponsor in the program and make my case. She’d understand. She’d have to. And if she didn’t answer, I’d take one. Naturally she answered the phone right away – so annoying. I got straight to the point. I told her how awful I felt and all about how I had been “diagnosed” with anxiety so I really needed a prescription for something to feel better. She said, “I understand. But that’s between you and your doctor. You should make an appointment, let him know you’re sober and see what he decides to do.” She didn’t understand at all. Set up an appointment? I didn’t need a Xanax next Tuesday, I needed one yesterday! Maybe I needed a sponsor with more experience. She’d only been sober eleven years.

And then I started sobbing.

“I really don’t think I can do this,” I told her. She was quiet for a bit and then she said, “I know you want a Xanax. You want one because it works. It’s a surefire way to make you feel better. But if you take one now, then tomorrow when you feel anxious you’ll take another one because you’ll think you can’t feel better without it. Then you’re right back in the addiction cycle.” Ugh, she was right.

“But how do I get through right now?” I asked.

“Just like this,” she said. “This is the guts of it. Getting through these moments, the times when it’s hard, when every muscle in your body is tense, and you’re forced to go on faith when I say that it will get easier.”

Thank God she was right. Eight years later, those early days are kind of blur and now being sober is my normal state of being and although I still deal with anxiety, it does go away without Xanax.

So if you’re where I was and you’re wondering if you’ll ever feel better, you will. You’ll just have to trust me.

Quitting Drinking is the Easy Part – It’s What’s Next That’s the Hardest

How Stefanie Wilder-Taylor Maintained Her Sobriety

I often get emails from people asking how exactly do you quit drinking? It’s really easy to quit drinking. It’s the staying quit that’s the struggle. I’ve quit drinking dozens of times. I’ve woken up in the morning after a night of accidentally swilling too many apple martinis, feeling like my brain was in a vise, too nauseous to breathe and I’ve promised myself this would be the last time. I will never drink again.

Sometimes I would only last a day, sometimes a week, once I stopped for 6 weeks, but inevitably I’d cave in to the cravings. The problem was that even though I genuinely wanted to stop, I didn’t actually do anything different. This isn’t surprising if you know me. I’ve never been big on change: I don’t make New Year’s resolutions; I’m not someone who takes up new hobbies or gives up gluten when it’s trendy. I prefer changes I can make from my living room couch. This attitude doesn’t exactly put you on the fast track to living your best life. It mainly leaves you anxious and depressed and unmotivated to do anything about it except maybe refill the Xanax.

Given this knowledge of myself, the last time I woke up hungover with shame and good intentions, I knew if I didn’t take real action, eventually I’d end up back in the exact same place and I couldn’t afford that.

So here is exactly what I did:

I told someone. 

I called a friend of mine who’d gotten sober two years prior and I said, “I want to quit drinking and I think I need help.” My friend didn’t judge me or say, “I told you so,” she just listened.

I sought support.

I found help in 12-step meetings, but if you don’t drink that flavor tea there are alternatives: Workit Health (that’s the site you’re already on), Women For Recovery, SMART Recovery and many others. Google it.

I made myself accountable.

By blogging about sobriety, even in those early days, I felt accountable to other people. It made it a lot harder to say, “screw it” and give in when the going got hard. If you want to be accountable, you don’t have to send out a “Just Quit Drinking” announcement to everyone in your contacts, but you can join a sober Facebook group and check in every day or embark on an alcohol cleanse -and while you’re at it, why not rope in some other alcoholics…I mean friends?

I immersed myself in sobriety.

I went to lunch with people I met in meetings, I called sober alchies nightly to bitch about sobriety, I read biographies about alcoholics, I made CD’s of songs that seemed like they might be about addiction and I listened to AA speaker CD’s. Nowadays there are podcasts you can listen to (try The Bubble Hour).

I rewarded myself.

I watched bad TV, made sure I had some sort of treat at the end of every day. I figured so what? It’s healthier for you than drinking! And you can’t get pulled over for driving while eating cake. Just remember, whatever it takes.

I attempted to help others.

This is an important part of my sobriety. When I was new to all of this there were women there to greet me with a smile and tell me it’s going to be okay. Now I get to be one of those people reaching out my hand. But as they say, helping you helps me.

The bad news is addiction can’t be dismantled by willpower, a self-help book, the power of positive thinking or taking a bath in rose petals –in fact, cleaning petals out of your tub is liable to drive you straight back to the bottle. But the good news is that in these modern times, there are as many ways to get sober, as there are addictions. And there is a ton of help out there for you if you just ask.

 

I Fell for This Huge Lie About Drinking – Just Like Everyone Else

How an Addict Overcame her Fear of Socializing Sober

For most people contemplating quitting drinking, a primary concern is how am I going to do the things I used to do sober? It can seem daunting to even sit on the couch and watch Netflix without a glass of wine in hand let alone go to a party and God forbid, socialize sober!

My first big challenge came 10 days after I quit drinking when I had to perform stand up comedy. I wouldn’t have done it but I’d already agreed to the gig before I quit drinking. I couldn’t remember the last time I went on stage without at least a few drinks in me. I’d never thought that indicated a drinking problem (despite having embarrassed myself on stage quite a few times) – I just thought that’s what comics do. I was edgy! – like Lenny Bruce if instead of getting arrested for tirades against fascism, he had been telling dick jokes at open mic nights.

Sitting backstage that night, I felt nervous and exposed and pretty sure I was going to suck. But once I was introduced and hit the stage, experience kicked in and it went fine. The worst part had been the anticipation. That became a theme for me in my first year sober. I’d gotten so used to drinking to avoid any uncomfortable feelings that doing normal things without the crutch of a glass of wine felt awkward and foreign at first, including: eating sushi without sake, having sex with my husband, dancing, going to parties, girl’s night out and especially, my first New Year’s Eve.

“I’d gotten so used to drinking to avoid any uncomfortable feelings that doing normal things without the crutch of a glass of wine felt awkward and foreign at first.”

I would have just stayed home that night and watched the ball drop from the comfort of my couch, but I had the misfortune of being invited to a wedding. Who gets married on New Year’s Eve? I tried mingling among the guests but it seemed like every single person had a glass of champagne in their hand except for me –well me and my sister-in-law, but she was pregnant. But I was just boring. I managed to white knuckle my way through it and I have to say I was thankful when I woke up on New Year’s Day to another first: no hangover.

Eventually, not drinking almost started to feel more normal than drinking. Almost.

One night I went to hear a band for the first time sober and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was possible to enjoy a concert without alcohol. I admit I started to pity myself sitting there with my stupid bottle of water and soft pretzel instead of the customary plastic cup of beer.  I felt jealous of the crowd, these people who could drink as much as they want whenever they want. They didn’t have to deprive themselves. But as I looked around I noticed a bizarre thing: tons of people had water bottles just like me. It didn’t make sense. I actually started counting and I was shocked that the number of water drinkers way outnumbered the beer drinkers. Finally I turned to my husband, “Do you think this is some kind of sober show?” I asked him. He looked at me funny. “I don’t think so. Why?” “Well, so many people are only drinking water. I don’t get it. They have to be alcoholics!” “It’s a Monday night. They probably have to work tomorrow.”

“But as I looked around I noticed a bizarre thing: tons of people had water bottles just like me. It didn’t make sense. I actually started counting and I was shocked that the number of water drinkers way outnumbered the beer drinkers.”

Oh. Yeah. That never would have occurred to me. And that’s when it finally hit me: not drinking every night didn’t make me abnormal; it actually made me normal – and healthy. Nowadays, I rarely think about drinking and seeing people drinking doesn’t make me feel left out. I have no problem going to parties, drinking green tea when I go to sushi and I even had fun going bowling. But I still prefer to stay home on New Year’s Eve and if that makes me boring, I’m fine with it.

Why Addiction Recovery is Exactly Like Whac-A-Mole

It’s Okay if Your Path to Recovery Isn’t a Straight Line

A funny thing happens when people quit drinking or even cut down significantly: other addictions tend to appear in their place. In recovery, we call this the Whac-A-Mole syndrome – named for the arcade game where you hit a mole over the head with a mallet only to have three more pop up until pretty soon you’re overwhelmed with moles and you just need a drink to calm down!

It would be great if people replaced their addiction to drugs and alcohol with things like yoga or macramé or cleaning the bathroom, but it rarely works that way. It’s more likely to be food or gambling or shopping. When I first stopped drinking alcohol, the mole that popped up in its place was sugar. It makes sense since sugar was my first love. Specifically ice cream. When I was little, my parents always kept a half-gallon of Neapolitan ice cream in the house. Every night after dinner I was allowed a half a coffee mug full, a very appropriate sized serving for a child, an amount that I would give my kids after a healthy meal.

But it wasn’t enough for me. Late at night, I would hear the ice cream calling to me. I’d try to resist but once my parents had gone to bed, I’d sneak downstairs and quietly, oh so quietly, open the freezer, pull the lid off the carton and eat a few spoonfuls. I’d always try to eat an even amount of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry and then smooth it out hoping to disguise the dent. But those few forbidden spoonfuls never felt like enough and ten minutes later I’d be back down again. And then again.

Of course I’d always get caught the next time my parents opened the ice cream and saw how much was gone. They would yell and I would feel embarrassed and ashamed, yet I couldn’t stop myself from doing it the next time.

This cycle defined my behavior around various substances throughout my life. I didn’t know it back then, but the feelings of shame and the sneaking around is a major indicator that addiction is at play. Whether you’re a kid trying to figure out how to get more ice cream or a grown-up trying to get a doctor to prescribe you more Vicodin, the desperation is the same. Addiction is addiction.

Whether you’re a kid trying to figure out how to get more ice cream or a grown-up trying to get a doctor to prescribe you more Vicodin, the desperation is the same. Addiction is addiction.

But when a few months after I got sober, I found my sweets eating creeping up I didn’t worry too much about it. Everyone said it was normal to crave sugar because of the relationship of alcohol and sugar. Plus, I needed something! How was I going to function if I was deprived of everything that gives life meaning! But it slowly got worse. First I was raiding my kids’ goody bags from birthday parties and rationalizing that it was better for me to eat it because sugar is bad for their teeth. But when I found myself sneaking into their Halloween bags after they fell asleep and gorging on Snicker bars until I felt sick, I knew I was getting in too deep. I didn’t feel sober.

At first, I thought it was my fault somehow. Maybe I needed to work harder on myself. Maybe my inner child wasn’t healing or my spirit was still sick or I hadn’t apologized to enough people for past behavior. But after asking around to my friends, I realized that this simply goes with the territory of addiction. It’s always something. We have to stay vigilant, but also be gentle on ourselves and understand that we aren’t weak; we’re just human. So I cut sugar out completely for a while and then, like any good addict, I tried to moderate again. When that didn’t work, I cut it out again and I feel much better. And although I don’t do macramé, I still manage to have fun. I mean… online poker isn’t a problem if you’re winning right?

We have to stay vigilant, but also be gentle on ourselves and understand that we aren’t weak; we’re just human.

When I Knew I Was An Alcoholic

An Addict’s Struggle with Acceptance

A few days after I made the decision to stop drinking, I went to a 12-step meeting. I didn’t want to go. I’d been to meetings before with the intention of supporting of a friend and I didn’t care for it. First of all, there are a lot of annoying slogans like “One day at a time.” Also, I’m not a joiner. In school, I didn’t belong to any clubs, sports teams or Girl Scouts.

I despise asking for help. I’m an “I got this” type of person, preferring to handle things myself because if I don’t put myself out, I won’t feel let down. 12-step meetings are a basically a big group of people helping each other and letting themselves be helped and I wanted no part of it. But, I knew I had a drinking problem, that much was clear, and I desperately wanted to stop. Therapy hadn’t worked, willpower certainly hadn’t worked, and meditating was out of the question, so I knew I had to try.

But sitting in the meeting, I felt horrified it had come to this. I didn’t want to be an alcoholic! I wasn’t convinced I was an alcoholic. In fact, I even hated the word “alcoholic.” It was so final! If you go around labeling yourself an alcoholic, then you can’t exactly start drinking again otherwise you’re a “sad alchie who’s drinking again” instead of just “a person who wanted to get healthy and sort things out before getting back to enjoying a glass of wine once in awhile.” But, alcoholic or not, I knew I didn’t want to drink again and I was willing to do what it took to make sure I didn’t.

“I wasn’t convinced I was an alcoholic. In fact, I even hated the word “alcoholic.” It was so final!”

So I kept coming back, meeting after meeting.

But I was still fighting it in my mind. For awhile, I only saw the differences in my drinking from other people’s: They came from a long line of Irish alcoholics, they had multiple DUIs, they’d been homeless, they lost everything, they woke up with the shakes, they drank vanilla extract when they ran out of vodka. I didn’t do any of those things! I was normal in comparison. I drove a minivan for crying out loud! I secretly suspected that possibly I was a special case, not as bad, dare I say superior somehow? In one meeting I bravely shared about it. “I think my situation might be different. I think it’s more complicated. I suffer from anxiety.” And everyone cracked up. Bastards.

But slowly I started to hear things I related to. About 9 months into my recovery, I heard a guy say, “I spent years wishing there was a blood test so that I could know for sure I was an alcoholic. But one day I thought, ‘if I died and went up to heaven and God told me that I hadn’t been an alcoholic after all, would I regret that I stayed sober all these years?’ and I knew the answer was no.” The answer was no for me too.

“But one day I thought, ‘if I died and went up to heaven and God told me that I hadn’t been an alcoholic after all, would I regret that I stayed sober all these years?’ and I knew the answer was no.” The answer was no for me too.”

I started attending women’s meetings where I met other people, including moms who had drinking histories like mine. When I listened to people tell their stories I tried to focus on the similarities.  It wasn’t magic but eventually it stopped mattering so much whether or not I fit a stereotypical movie depiction of an alcoholic. I focused on one of the traditions: The only requirement for membership is a desire to quit drinking. My desire to stay sober was always a little bit stronger than my desire to drink. I began to have gratitude for having been given the clarity to stop drinking when I did and not waiting for it to get worse.

And then one day, about a year into sobriety, I was having one of those moments where I wondered if I’d really been that bad. Hadn’t there been times when I drank normally? Did I really need to quit forever? What if I went on an all-inclusive vacation to Cancun? Am I really going to turn down free drinks? Who does that? And then I had an epiphany: People who aren’t addicts do not spend this much time and energy debating with themselves about whether or not they are addicts. Finally, I got out of denial and I found acceptance. And in giving up the fight, I found freedom. Looking back now it’s so obvious to me that I am and was a big old alcoholic. And so I stay sober, you guessed it, One Day at a Time.

What No One Ever Tells You About Addiction

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 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.

The problem is, a lot of the quizzes use diagnostic criteria that I either 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 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 my haircut, who really knows? The next day he called, but only to ask if I was okay. I never saw him again. This is 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 so 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 an improv background. 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’s 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 successfully only have two glasses, I threw myself a mental parade. “Look at me having two glasses of wine like a normal person!” That’s not normal.

Taking up yoga or a health regime to help curb drinking

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.