One of my clichéd Ah-a moments of getting sober was when I realized that I was a full blown alcoholic. I knew for years that I had a problem and I just figured I’d ride that sucker out until the wheels fell off. Thank god I got my wakeup call sooner with the State of California delivering me my 2nd DUI. This in actuality started my shift. The shift where everything changed and I knew I needed help. This shift didn’t happen overnight, and it took a few realizations for me to truly know to my inner most self that I was an alcoholic.
Up until age 37 I was living my life haphazardly and reckless. There was no joy, no consistency, no feeling of self-love or self-awareness, no integrity, no dignity and clearly no path for me to follow, except the path of Nancy’s yellow flagged road that had more pot holes, bumps and road blocks which only led to self-destruction. Because up until this point, the two things that made me the happiest were booze and blow. That’s it. As long as I had that I was ok. Those substances made me feel complete and sated. However, they were also my downfall and my greatest teacher – they got me sober.
Six weeks after that 2nd DUI, I was nudged by my attorney to get a court card signed at an AA meeting. That’s when I started my journey of discovering, uncovering and discarding. So here I am in early recovery knowing I needed help and that I had a problem, only to discover how bad of an alcoholic I truly was. In my early sobriety I had no problem saying I was an alcoholic, it was accepting that and being okay with who I was.
Here are the 5 things that led me to accept and believe that I was an alcoholic:
1. Connecting with other alcoholics:
That complete feeling when I walked into that AA meeting and I related and understood exactly what you were talking about. At my first meeting I heard the speaker and I knew then. But I didn’t want to. I ran out of that meeting, went home and drank 2 bottles of wine and for the next week thought about that meeting and what I had heard. I heard hope. I heard hope in that meeting and decided to give this sobriety thing a shot. A week later I went to my second meeting, heard another speaker who told my story again and I bought my first Big Book (which mind you I called the blue book for the first month) I was that naïve.
2. Normal drinkers don’t wonder if they are an alcoholic:
One of the things I used to hear others talk about in meetings was how normal drinkers don’t wonder if they are an alcoholic, because they don’t have a problem. That made sense to me. But it also had me chronicling others in my life who may just be heavy drinkers or moderate drinkers, but clearly it didn’t make them an alcoholic. They didn’t have consequences, they could have one or two drinks and stop and they didn’t get DUIs or wake up in strange places. I still love hearing this at meetings, because it is so true and really resonates with me – if normal drinkers wondered if they had a drinking problem, they wouldn’t be normal drinkers.
3. My alcoholic mind:
Another thing I heard early on was the “alcoholic mind” and all that goes with that. I knew I had that because of my craziness that would ramble on and on in my mind – my itty bitty shitty committee is what I call it and I still have it – not every day, but it still shows up now and then if I’m not keeping spiritually fit. “Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.” This statement is in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and it goes on to describe our warped perception and thinking that accompanies this statement. Alcoholics think, act, believe, and feel based on distorted perceptions of themselves and the world around them. We live at the extremes of all or nothing – complete black or white thinking. A lot of folks will say we have a thinking problem, not a drinking problem. Being alcoholic is considered a mental disorder and if you ask any Alcoholic, they can give you hundreds of reasons why they too have that itty bitty shitty committee talking to them. It’s the delusion that we can be like other people that can drink normally – it doesn’t go away until we get sober and understand our disease.
4. My consequences:
This was a big one for me. I remember being 60 days clean and sober and asking an AA friend of mine if I was truly an alcoholic. Her response, “Have you gone through your consequences and asked yourself that question?” As I started rummaging through my mind of the last 20+ years of my drinking and drugging, the images and memories of lost jobs, failed relationships, embarrassing moments, waking up in strange places with unknown people and racking up a couple DUI’s really convinced me that I was. It was like going through my first step again and really seeing the damage and destruction my drinking and drugging had wreaked during my life.
5. I don’t metabolize alcohol like other people:
Alcoholics, after a time, aren’t able to break down alcohol in their system like other people. They have crossed over the line of being able to drink normally, their livers and their bodies start rejecting the constant feeding of alcohol. I personally believe that there is a genetic component that you are born with, but not everyone becomes an alcoholic – it depends upon other factors as well. “Scientists have known for some time that people vary considerably in their drinking behavior and in their sensitivity to the effects of alcohol. The rate of alcohol metabolism can vary as much as threefold among people with similar drinking habits, and recent studies indicate that the development of alcoholism is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.”*
There are other factors that came into play for me on wondering if I really was an Alcoholic, but the stigma alone held me back initially, as I didn’t want anyone to know. My family, my employer, most of my friends – even the guy at Trader Joe’s who checked me out on a weekly basis with my cart full of two buck Chuck. I was trying to fool them too! But now I’m grateful that I can be one of those people that say “I’m a grateful recovering alcoholic”.
*Genetic influences on Alcohol Drinking and Alcoholism, Hal Kibbey.