Breaking Up With Alcohol, My Best Friend & Worst Enemy
Our culture has developed a rather loving relationship towards alcohol; it has become so ingrained in our society that you can hardly drive down the street without seeing at least one liquor store or alcohol advertisement. It’s hard to find a restaurant to go into that doesn’t serve alcohol and if you’re old enough you are offered a drink almost every time you sit down to eat out and if you decline the waiter looks disappointed. It has become a normal part of society and one that many people love. Here is the short version of my love story with alcohol and how my relationship with drinking didn’t work out all too well.
Breaking up with alcohol was by far one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Because I loved alcohol and the thought of living without it not only terrified me but in a sick and twisted way it sort of broke my heart.
I had what you would call an abusive relationship with alcohol, the kind where everyone on the outside can see it and encourages you to leave but your love keeps you there in that destructive relationship because you can’t imagine life without it. I would tell myself it was not always that bad because sometimes there were good times too… at least that’s what I’d tell myself to rationalize the situation, but deep down I knew everyone was right, but I couldn’t keep from going back time and time again.
I abused alcohol and in turn, it abused me. I’d often drink to excess and wake up feeling sick with bruises all over my body unsure of where they had come from. It left me in some pretty compromising situations where I’d pass out in unsafe places and wake up the next morning not remembering large portions of the night before. Alcohol was like that friend that pretends to always be there for you but at the same time stabs you in the back. Because my love for drinking was so strong, and I felt we’d been through so much together I ignored the warning signs and red flags.
When you’re caught up in the beginning stages of alcoholism you begin to let things slide that you normally wouldn’t. When your regular friends stop wanting to drink with you, you think to yourself… that’s ok, at least I’ve still got alcohol and we’ve got each other and that’s all I need, and on the bright side now I’ve got more for myself. So then you start to drink alone and drinking alone can be a very dark and lonely place, so you drink even more because hey, who cares, there’s no one around to judge you anyways. You slowly start to pull away from the people you love and you begin to lose things. They start out small and replaceable in the beginning like your phone or wallet and then they begin to escalate and become harder to replace. I lost my license and had to take the bus and then I lost my job. I lost friends and opportunities and eventually, I even lost my self-respect. Not to mention all the wasted time… the painful mornings clouded by hangovers, not the easy ones either like the kind you get after having one too many drinks, no; the ones I’m talking about hurt your entire body and leave your head pounding. The type of hangovers that turn friendly morning sunshine and singing birds into painful annoyances because they exacerbate the painful after-effects of the night before and all you want is quite darkness to recover from the self-inflicted abuse of drinking way too much alcohol. The type of hangover where you wake up so dehydrated that all you could dream about—if you dreamt at all—was water, yet when you get up to drink some water you’re so sick to your stomach you throw it up instead. So you slowly drink some of the stale leftovers from the night before to calm the raging beast inside and try to go back to sleep. I learned that trick in one of my DUI classes, not from the counselor but from another poor soul who was also consumed by their love of alcohol.
You begin to rationalize your otherwise crazy behavior, because if you don’t fool yourself into thinking its ok then you might just have to face the very real possibility that you might just have a problem. That you and alcohol just might not be working out, because it’s not very healthy and has actually turned into a rather destructive relationship. But admitting that there’s a problem poses the additional problem of having to deal with said problem and no one wants that because then you’d have to consider doing something about it. So let’s just forget about it for now and have another drink instead.
So I kept making excuses for myself in order to keep drinking and my first attempts at quitting or rather cutting back failed miserably. It didn’t matter that I had a court order to stay sober; the thought of sobriety scared me to the point that no matter what the potential consequences of my drinking might be I simply couldn’t care enough to stop. I figured if the people who loved me understood how hard it was to stop, how painful it was for me to be sober, how much I missed drinking when I tried to cut it out that they wouldn’t ask me to stop because they’d realize it was too damn hard. In my selfish state of mind that often becomes a side effect of addiction, I thought they were the ones being unreasonable by even asking… how dare they? Looking back on it I can see how illogical my thinking was, but that’s just part of being caught up in something so powerful, it blinds you to several truths that are painfully obvious to others in order to continue doing what you’re doing even if you know on some level that it’s wrong.
So I kept drinking and I kept sabotaging myself and straining my relationships with my family. My relationship with alcohol became more and more abusive and I didn’t care because in my own odd way I was in love with a substance that was masked as a friend but at the same time destroying my life. I can now see how it had been poisoning not only my body but my mind and soul as well. I drank when I was happy; I drank when I was sad. I drank to celebrate and I drank to drown my sorrows. I drank to kill boredom and I drank to try and escape the ever growing pile of shame, guilt, and resentments that I had been accumulating over the years due to my substance abuse. I drank even when part of me started not wanting to anymore due to the increasingly overwhelming problems that it began to cause me, because the hold it had over me was too powerful to ignore and it helped me forget the overwhelming problems that I continually tried to avoid—at least for a little bit.
I chalked it up to youth and figured everyone my age drank so what did it matter. But the truth was that not everyone drank the way I did… so I hung out with other heavy drinkers to make myself feel better about it, but after a while I noticed that even most of them didn’t drink as much as I did and if they did they seemed to handle it better than I could, or at least not get in as much trouble as I did, which didn’t seem fair. So often times I began to prefer to drink alone because I grew tired of getting cut off at the bar and of people getting mad at me for doing things and saying things that I couldn’t even remember because I had blacked out and had no recollection of them the next day but still had to deal with the consequences of said actions. In my mind, this didn’t seem fair either, and I quickly grew tired of making constant apologies and I could tell that the people I was apologizing to grew tired of hearing them as well.
It wasn’t all bad though otherwise it probably wouldn’t have gone on for as long as it did. I had a lot of good times while drinking too and lots of laughs and good memories. But those good times slowly became less and less and the majority of my evenings began to start off with a nice buzz that would later end up with my crying on the floor about how pathetic my life had become. Other times I’d turn into a mean drunk and end up yelling at whatever unlucky person happened to be around. I tried to do the whole moderation thing several times but towards the end of my drinking career, my ability to drink in moderation became less and less possible and more and more difficult. I would drink until I either passed out or ran out, and I always tried my best to have enough not to run out. The “peaceful” endings to evenings were the ones where I simply drank so much my body couldn’t take anymore so in an effort to protect itself I’d pass out and wake up hours later still tired and often times still drunk. It was a sad way to live but for some reason my love for alcohol caused me to overlook all of these things and so I kept drinking. I became content in a sad way that that’s just how life was. Deep down in the very center of my being, I began to realize that I had a problem. Part of me knew it long before I even had the courage to say it out loud and instead of listening to that voice of reason I just drank more to try and wash it away.
In an effort to show others that I was trying to not be such a complete mess I began to go to AA meetings. It was nice to hear that there were other people who had similar problems to me, and part of me began to actually want to get better. Deep down I don’t think I was ready yet because the most I could make it would be a day or two and then I’d be back at it On the way home from a meeting I would often find myself at the window of my usual drive through liquor store without even thinking about it By the time I pulled all the way up to the window they would have my regular order ready for me, I guess you could say I went there pretty often. I would lie to the people around me and tell them I was cutting back when all the while I’d go off and sneak drinks when no one was looking. For some reason, though I felt that as long as I was showing a minimal effort to not be such a drunk that it was a good enough reason for me to keep drinking.
So instead of actually breaking up with alcohol, I tried the whole “let’s just be friends approach” and only hang out a couple times a week instead of every night but that didn’t really work either. I was all or nothing when it came to drinking and the nights when I tried to slow down or avoid drinking alcohol all together were terrible. All I could think about was when I was going to get my next drink. I had to make a very deliberate effort to drink slowly and after a few drinks I’d figure what was the point and I’d go back to drinking too fast to moderate how drunk I would get. For some reason no matter how badly I wished I could be I was not someone who could be content with having just a glass of wine at dinner or a few drinks at the end of the day to relax. I never understood the point of only having a drink or two because I felt the purpose of alcohol was to get drunk, and if you couldn’t get drunk then why even bother.
After one too many late night emergency phone calls to my family, they’d finally had enough and the next day they got together and asked me to get help. I was terrified to quit but knew it was time to at least really give it an honest try. I knew that it had to be a clean break otherwise it would never work and I’d continue to destroy my life one drink at a time. I was afraid to leave drinking behind me, but I was also afraid to slip further down the rabbit hole of alcoholism. Being a sloppy drunk at 21 was considered somewhat normal, even at 25 it was still somewhat socially acceptable but I knew my days of acceptance were numbered and I didn’t want to become someone who threw it all away for their love of alcohol. Looking back on it now I realize that it wasn’t really all that acceptable to be a drunken mess at any age, it was just another one of the many lies I told myself to continue my bad habits.
When I looked ahead to the future of what things might look like if I continued my self-destructive ways… let’s just say I didn’t like what I saw. So I decided to try a new path, one that didn’t involve drinking. It was finally time to break up with alcohol and move forward so I went into a long-term residential treatment program and that’s what I did. It was by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but it has, in turn, become the most rewarding thing I have ever done At first, I thought about drinking all the time but as time went on I began to miss it less and less and through hard work and determination, my life has continued to improve and become more enjoyable.
May 23rd, 2017 will mark my fifth year of sobriety and another year free from the control that alcohol had on me. In the beginning breaking up with alcohol felt like losing my best friend.
I was an emotional rollercoaster and I would often cry myself to sleep at night wishing I could drink. However, by quitting drinking I regained an even better friend and learned to love someone else even more than the abusive relationship that I had formed with alcohol…
I finally learned to love myself.