Falling Under the Radar
The other lesson to be learned about the misconceptions about being an alcoholic is that many of us (alcoholics) fall under the radar. What that means is that we (I) continue drinking and functioning (sort of) relatively well. Well enough that no one would ever suspect that we are in fact an alcoholic. It also could be that society supports and encourages drinking that I, and many like me, were the norm, so that it didn’t seem that we had an issue. But we do, and we did.
That is a bad thing because it helps us to hide from our alcoholism. And it shields others from it as well so that no one ever really knows what it is to be an alcoholic. There is no way for others to learn the lessons that we have when we hide those lessons from others (and from ourselves). When we hide, it makes others feel that they need to hide also. It is an interesting cycle of denial, fear, and shame.
As I have written in several of my previous posts about childhood abuse and also alcohol, it is easier for people (society) to keep alcoholics (and childhood abuse survivors) in the shadows. Well, maybe not easier, but there is something. I think it may be that any abusive situation or any drug addiction shows the ugly side of society and people don’t want to see that. They don’t want to know it exists. It does and it needs to be talked about.
Misdirection or Misconception?
I am not sure if this next observation is a misconception about being alcoholic or just something born from fear. Either way I am fascinated by the fact that people feel the need to distance themselves from me in one way or the other. Whether it is the conversation about how much they drink (as an indicator of not having an issue) versus how much I used to drink.
An interesting comparison because amount is certainly not the only indicator of being alcoholic. It is certainly one of the many factors that I saw as an issue that lead me to this determination about myself. And how they approach drinking which really makes it about them and not me, and without saying it out right, differentiates them from me.
Or my new favorite, which is the “I am cutting back, but I am not going to stop drinking.” As the other way to distance themselves from me. Like I have a disease that they have to keep denying themselves that they may have. As if that would be a horrible thing. Which from my relatively newly sober perspective, means that you may actually have a problem with alcohol on some level. If you feel the need to make it a point of saying that you are cutting back because you are concerned about how much you are drinking, but not enough to be “like me” and cut it out of your life completely then perhaps you should re-evaluate that previous statement.
Everyone Has Their Path
I probably sounded a bit judgey and annoyed in the previous section. Maybe I didn’t. The people pleasing side of me felt that need to write a follow up either way you feel. Because I do want people to engage in conversation with me. I may not be emotionally in a space to handle that conversation at that moment but I do want to hear and understand what is going on with other people who are beginning to question their relationship with alcohol.
After reading A LOT about alcohol and what it looks like to be an alcoholic (hint, it is different for everyone), what I have realized is that everyone has to do what is best for them. Not everyone who decides they need to cut back is someone who needs to cut it out of their lives completely. I decided that I needed to do that for myself because I know once I start I can’t stop. There is no cutting back for me.
There is no one size fits all for anyone. No matter what they are dealing with, alcohol, PTSD, etc. We are all different. And approaching every single situation that you may face as an individual and not comparing yourself or worrying about what others may think of you is truly the best approach. I read a lot, I watched documentaries, and I researched treatment programs. What I figured out for me was that stopping drinking, writing about it in my journal, and then here on my blog, is the way to being a healthier, better version of me. That process is not going to work for everyone.
And that really is the key.
Finding Your Why
For me I had to figure out first and foremost why I drink. That can be a very slippery slope because there are a lot of reasons that I initially used as the reasons why I drank. All of those reasons were a lie that I was telling myself. None of them had to do with me at all. It was the usual reasons, ‘I like the taste of beer, wine, etc.,’ or ‘It’s the thing I do with my friends.’ That last one was certainly not as accurate as I would have liked it to be. Over the last couple of years I was doing more drinking without my friends than with them. Which is the side that no one saw.
All of those reasons were the surface reasons. They were true but they weren’t the real reasons I was drinking so much every night that I am surprised I could even function. I mean, when you go deeper on the question of why that is where you have to face yourself and discover what is really going on. And what I found there was this: I drank because I was in emotional pain. Truth be told I was in emotional pain most of my life. My lifelong relationship with alcoholreflected that.
Alcohol is a Drug
Let’s just be even more real than we have been for a moment here. Alcohol is a drug. It is a socially acceptable drug, but at its very core, it’s a drug. The thing with drugs is that you become addicted to them. Alcohol as a drug is no different. Each and every person who starts out doing any drug has a reason. What they may or may not expect is that they will become addicted.
I think alcohol is the sneakier of all of the drugs. No one talks about it as a drug. It is drugs and alcohol, as if alcohol were something different. Well, it actually is different because it is socially acceptable, and encouraged to an extent. The alcohol industry, well, I wrote it there. It’s an industry. In the United States it is a ninety billion dollar a year industry.
The alcohol industry has a lot of influence. For example, liquor stores were identified as essential businesses during the pandemic. The laws pertaining to alcohol sales became more relaxed. You could order alcohol with your food delivery. So many other things became more strict or had different guidelines associated with them that made it harder to engage with. What does that say about us as a society that access to alcohol, a drug, is considered essential?