“Alcohol lies to you….it tells you you can dance when you can’t, that you are funny when you are not, and that you are cool when actually you are being an ass…..”
~words from a wisewoman
When do you realize that you are an alcoholic? Is it possible to be an alcoholic who controls their consumption, or if you can control your consumption is it then just a habit? Can one change an addiction without intervention? And how long does it take to commit to positive change?
My first taste of alcohol was my mothers wine. I was 8 years old and curious, I had never seen wine in our refrigerator before, so I tried it and did not like it. But I could feel it – and I think I liked that, even then.
When I was in the 8th grade my friend got me drunk on her fathers liquor. I did not like the taste, but I did like the buzz.
I was 15 years old when binge drinking entered my life. I figured out how to get beyond the undesired taste of all alcohol because I loved being drunk.
I was not a teenage screw-up. I was a “good kid”. I received good grades in school and always had a job. For the most part I was considerate of my parents, wanted to please them, and was good at not creating chaos. Therefore they left me alone. Or I guess I should say, they were totally clueless, and the fact that I was living on my own from 17 on left them even more clueless.
A turning point for me was when I was 18 or 19 years old – I watched the sun rise while walking along a highway. I don’t remember much but somehow in a drunken stupor I walked from a camping location at Dead Horse Point to the main highway into Moab – a state trooper picked me up and dropped me off at a local cafe.
I feel embarrassed even now as I write about it. The saga ended with a friends mom arranging care for me from SLC — she secured a place for me to sleep and flew me home, on a tiny plane, the next day. I say a turning point because a good dose of shame helps one see themselves and this pointed me in a better direction – but it would still be years before I got my shit together.
As I write this I know that I was numbing myself via drinking to intoxication – too often. But back then I was just having a good time. I was young, immature, bored, carried a lot of baggage, and felt everything which did not feel good.
If I was to summarize my internal life as a teenager I would say – I was not happy. But I appeared to be fine.
Drinking until I was good and drunk was a pretty normal activity, but I managed to graduate from college with a degree and eagerness to make life happen.
And then on my 26th birthday weekend my then boyfriend, now husband, and I conceived our first pregnancy while taking a trip away from his grad school demands. It was a fun weekend with too much alcohol involved which greatly affected what we knew better than doing — getting pregnant. The pregnancy was terminated before 7 weeks…….
That weekend, that choice, and the aftermath have shaped my life more than anything else.
That is another story in itself.
I loved being pregnant at 30 and 35. I loved it because they were both conscious conceptions, I was completely sober throughout my pregnancies with good reason to be, and was taking really good care of myself. I was healthy and I felt very content. I breastfed both of my girls for a total of 3.5 years. So – I consider my 30’s to be my most sober years. That said, I certainly timed breastfeeding with enjoying a drink often enough, and especially within my first experience of becoming a mother.
I noticed my consumption start to increase again after my youngest was no longer utilizing me for nourishment and comfort.
Many parents who drink will tell you that parenthood turns you into an alcoholic. It could be true because it is the only coping mechanism that you can easily have once kids come into the mix. Going for regular excursions or even going on a quick hike or to a yoga class (my natural highs) becomes challenging when you enter parenthood.
And in my experience parenthood is when the effects of your life story – all the way from pre-conception (and therefore includes your parents life story too) to current time comes alive in a strange energetic matrix sort of way. Things get real in a not so pretty, silent, kind of way.
And being here 10 years later in motherhood, I can say that entering parenthood is when you either slowly succumb to the negative side of your life story, or you unravel it, turn the negative into the gift that it can be – and rise to your potential.
And that sounds noble – but it is fucking hard.
Sometimes succumbing is easier, more fun, more accepted by others, and it is true – “ignorance is bliss”.
I had a good scare a few years ago. I had been diagnosed with a “floating kidney”, something I knew since I felt it dislodge years prior. The diagnoses was a relief – I felt a bit crazy talking about what I thought it was – but how I felt internally would not allow me to stay quite about it; I could feel the sagging sensation of it and it caused nerve pain in my right pelvis and leg. At about the same time as my diagnoses I started waking up at about 2am with very fearful thoughts and in a cold sweat – and I could not fall back to sleep.
This happened every time I had too much to drink which was anything more than an 8% beer or a healthy glass of wine. After many episodes I became serious about looking at my habit, or addiction.
Things become more real when you create the potential for premature death in your head and you have children….
I don’t think I am an alcoholic. At this point in my life I can go to a live music show, enjoy it, and not have a single drink prior or during — this says a lot. I do know that I wired my brain, at a very young age, to need/want alcohol. And then I had a pretty good love affair with it for many, many years. But, I guess I never became addicted – because I could stop without much of an intervention (unless thoughts of death can be that).
Or maybe I don’t understand addiction – because it is not like this has been an easy path, I have had to work very hard on reprogramming myself, and I still have cravings and desires. But I have established parameters and I constantly keep myself in check – that said, it is still challenging. There is a constant pull within myself to drink – there just is.
So maybe I am an alcoholic who controls her consumption. Is that possible?
Is alcoholism simply about choice?
As a mostly sober adult looking back on my life I know that I was drinking to numb everything that I could not handle from my childhood, my adolescents and my adult years. I have never experienced “big trauma” at the hands of another person, thank goodness. I think I did experience some unintended neglect, and multiple divorces with my parents, and certainly my life choices have caused me some deep seated trauma of sorts, but how did my drinking become so prevalent in my life?
It is as if I identified with that woman who had alcohol in her system more than the sober woman I avoided. Not to mention I needed something to numb the weight of the world. When you feel everything (highly sensitive indeed) life can become heavy in a way that is challenging to describe.
Regardless — I am glad to see so many billboards focused on curbing underage drinking. The brain and liver are very important organs and when you are young — you are kinda dumb. I think it is my generation that spurred the campaign for awareness around underage drinking. I think all of us who partied in our younger years would now admit that we needed someone to wise-up, like our parents or the person selling us booze, and step in and stop us.
At this point in my life my family and friends say that I don’t have a drinking problem. Actually, I think they never thought I had a drinking problem in the first place which is curious…..
I can enjoy a healthy glass of wine or a good beer a couple of times per week – and it stops there, usually. And in being completely honest, controlling my consumption is always on my mind.
There is a very fine line between a healthy buzz and too much to drink – and I think most drinkers cross that line every time they drink.
I know that I did….
Not crossing that line requires you to stop drinking before you even start to feel ‘comfortably numb’. The state that we desire….
Why are we so uncomfortable in our skin, in reality, in our life?
Why do we seek that numb state so often?
My habitual drinking coupled with the complex layers of motherhood became a catalyst for wanting to know myself better and for optimal growth and well-being. So ultimately I feel okay about things now, but I can not help but wonder where I would be in my life if alcohol was not so significant for too many years. I am certain that my consumption has limited me in ways that I will never fully know. It is sad to think about really.
I pray that my girls, and nieces and nephews, never drink like I did. I pray that they will fully embrace their power way earlier than I did and hit the pavement running in their young adult years.
We have one life to fully embrace.
Addiction (or habit) to anything certainly derails our capacity to live fully and match our potential.
Kuddos to the brave souls who look their issues in the eyes and muster up the courage it takes to stare down what lures them in unhealthy ways. These folks just might have more wisdom and potential than the person who has never had a drink ,or other addictions/habits (right..), in their lifetime.
Empowerment stems from whatever has stolen our power – we need things to overcome in order to fully embrace our essence
and live from a place of personal integrity.
At least in my experience.
Habit or addiction – either way it is an opportunity for empowerment.
Because anymore – I look at being an addict as a choice. It comes down to choosing to stay stuck or choosing to rise. It is really that simple. (and so damn hard….)
By the way – I have been composing this off and on for almost 2 year now. Finally I can “publish it” because I finally feel free from the sticky web of addiction. And also – once I put something out for people to read/know I stay committed to what I claim I am doing. It works like a charm.
I am done being a phony, being stuck, and playing small — and writing about my inhibitions and goals helps to keep me honest.
In this case I claim that I am mostly sober ~ and plan on staying that way.
And I deeply appreciate how this feels.