Found this post on Quora. Thought it would be appropriate to post it here.
What’s it like to be an alcoholic?
At first, it’s great. Truly, truly wonderful. A few glasses of the magic potion and suddenly I was relaxed, happy, having fun and supremely confident. Alcoholanswered something in me. It took away my every-present anxiety. I could be in the moment. I was 13 the first time I experienced just how sublime being drunk could be.
I could drink a lot (comparatively) without showing it. At 15, I was at a bush party where a girlfriend was raped by her date–she was so drunk that she couldn’t fight him off–and I remember judging her for getting so drunk, rather than sympathizing.
I turned 17 and finished high school at the same time. My father told me I could no longer live in the family home. I went on a drunken tour of Europe for a few months and then moved to Banff, where I worked, drank, and drugged. By my 17th summer, I was drinking 3-4 bottles of wine at least five times a week and taking speed to prevent blackouts. But drinking was still fun. I was with a young, beautiful, and hard partying crowd. What I did was normal in context. There were some bad hangovers, a few guys I slept with that I regretted, and a night in the drunk tank when the RCMP found me literally crawling home in skirt and t-shirt in mid-January (think it was about -25 that night) and I was too drunk to tell them were I lived. They probably saved my life (or at least a few fingers and toes).
A couple of years later, my friends were leaving, giving up the partying and heading to university, careers, marriage, mortgages, kids and all the grown up stuff. And some of them were suggesting that I might be partying a bit too hard. I dismissed them as boring a-holes.
But it wasn’t fun in Banff anymore, so I went to university. In order to make the money to go there, I headed up to Yellowknife to tend bar at the Gold Range. The way the patrons drank made my drinking seem the epitome of restraint. So I was able to tell myself that I didn’t have a drinking problem. When I started university, I got a part-time job serving tables at the bar where the CFL and NHL players partied. Once again, my drinking and drug habits seemed pretty normal. I dated a player (who would later be booted out of the league for his coke use) who liked that “I could keep up with him.” I told myself that I didn’t have a problem with drinking because I only drank when I was with other people, so I was a social drinker. REAL alcoholics drank alone.
I was 21 and drinking was still, mostly, fun. I was getting great grades. But there were warning signs; people I wouldn’t hang out with because they were boring (didn’t drink more than a glass or two on weeknights), classes I missed because I was too hungover to make it in, I had to borrow money to pay rent and bills, because I was spending my earnings and savings on booze and drugs. Time passed and I dropped out of university because, I told myself, “I don’t want this.” Actually, I was failing that semester because I was drinking and drugging so heavily that I couldn’t do course work or pass exams.
So then, like countless alcoholics before and since, I decided that the problem wasn’t me, it was where I lived. So I moved. But no matter where you go, there you are. I was able to stop doing coke and speed in my new town, but my drinking got even heavier to compensate. Oh, and drinking no longer worked its old magic. I had to drink so as not to go crazy, but it didn’t make me feel good, it didn’t fill me with warmth and good cheer. It had become a dreary necessity.
Drinking pretty much took over my life. I had a few friends who drank as hard as I did. We prided ourselves on it and thought the rest of the world were boring sheep with no sense of adventure. I did things I was ashamed of. Maybe not the stuff you might be ashamed of–sex was as meaningless as drinking a glass of water by then–but stealing from friends and convincing myself it wasn’t theft, that they owed me or would want me to have it. I was best woman at a childhood friend’s wedding and I didn’t show up for the ceremony. I had gotten drunk the night before and, truthfully, didn’t want to stand up and watch someone be happy and move forward in life. I coveted happiness and hated everyone else for having a better life than I did. I hated myself even more. And the only thing I knew how to do was pick up a bottle.
Alcoholism is lonely. Even when you are surrounded by people, you don’t feel the connection. Even when those people really love you. Because you think they love the mask you are holding up to the world, not the real you, not the worm inside that is your core self. And I drank even harder to get rid of that realization.
Being an alcoholic is tedious and fearful. I lived in fear of being found out and I had to plan every activity to make sure that there was access to alcohol. I’d show up at parties and drop a bottle of wine on the table. Then I’d head to the bathroom and stash a bottle of scotch inside the toilet tank so that I didn’t have to worry about running out of booze. And people wouldn’t know just how much I was drinking. Over a decade later, I still know the closing hours of all the liquor stores in Vancouver!
Twice, during the last five years of my drinking, I managed to stop for about a month. But the entire time there was a hamster wheel in my head, one that kept repeating, “I am not drinking. I am not drinking.” The only thing I thought about was booze. And how horrible it was not to be drinking any.
I can tell a lot of funny stories about my drinking years. But most of the time I was scared, alone, angry, and bored. I knew the future that was coming was a bad one. And then I had that moment of clarity. I almost choked to death on my own vomit and I realized that I would die if I kept drinking and that I didn’t want to die like this. The long process of recovery began. Recovery is amazing and it is brutal. I had to grow up and become a whole person, so that I didn’t try and fill the black hole at my core with booze, drugs, sex, drama, and all the other distractions I had used. Growing up isn’t easy, especially when you are 20 years behind the curve. But it is possible, as long as I put in the daily work.
Today, I have a wonderful sober life with great friends, a marriage full of fun and love, interesting, meaningful work and a comfy home. And I believe that I could lose everything if I decide to pick up a drink again. Maybe that belief is wrong, but I’ve seen friends who started drinking again be just as bad or worse as they had been in a very short time and the family, wife, and bank account disappeared. When people ask me if I couldn’t just have one glass of wine, I put it this way, “If you were playing a slot machine that might reward you with a small payout, say $20 bucks, but if you got the wrong combination someone chopped off your right thumb, would you?” Nobody’s ever said they’d play those odds. And neither will I.
Originally from Quora. Special thanks Tom Waits for the cameo appearance.