I’m an Alcoholic, Always Have Been, Always Will Be

Sometimes I think I was born a recovering alcoholic. It runs in the family after all. My father was an alcoholic. My maternal grandmother drank heavily for much of her adult life, and it’s quite possible my maternal grandfather did too. It just might be that I was destined to be an alcoholic myself. I think the only thing that would’ve stopped it is if I had never started drinking at all.

You could say I quit drinking quite young, at least the first time. As a child, I used to take sips from adults’ beverages at family gatherings. Often it had a strange taste, and I would ask what it was. “Booze” was the typical reply. I don’t remember ever getting drunk, but I definitely liked taking my sips of this “booze” stuff.

Sometime before puberty, I learned my father was an alcoholic and that was a primary reason why I never saw him. Despite never living more than 20 miles away, I had never met him, and I never would. So well before many of my peers even began drinking, I quit. I made the decision that I would never start, never risk becoming an alcoholic myself.

I held to that decision until well after my 21st birthday. Most of my friends were well-experienced drinkers by then. Thinking it would take a couple decades to lose control, I figured I could have some fun. A friend had bought a six-pack of hard cider, and I decided to give it a try. With no tolerance built up, three of them was enough to make me stumble. I became a fan quite quickly.

After a few years, hard cider gave way to hard liquor. Vodka was so much more effective and never left with me a hangover. I reached a point where I could take down an entire fifth by myself and still function the next day. I might’ve thought I had a problem then, but I found plenty of ways to talk myself out of it.

I made sure never to drink alone. Even better, some of the people I drank with were heavier drinkers than I was. I kept strict limits on frequency. Drinking was limited to our Thursday bar nights with the occasional holiday or party thrown in. Sometimes just to make sure I was in control I would commit to non-drinking for a predetermined period of time, a month or two here and there, all the way up to over six months once. Those stretches could become stressful, but I made my goal every time. Surely I wasn’t an alcoholic if I could maintain that much control.

I ignored the fact that missing one of those bar nights would cause me tremendous anxiety and stress. I looked forward to each of those nights with great anticipation. I was usually a very fun drunk which probably alleviated any concern from friends. Getting drunk almost every Thursday night had no adverse effects on my work life since I never had hangovers. I was far too functional to consider myself an alcoholic.

Within six years of getting drunk that first time, I made the decision to quit permanently a second time. A friend had never tried vodka before. I brought a fifth to a house party, planning to have a couple drinks and let others enjoy the rest. I don’t know if that old friend of mine ever did try vodka. After collapsing in the backyard, I woke up to my problem.

I wish I could say that was the last time I quit drinking. It did last more than five years, and I thought I was well into the clear before my first relapse. Life wasn’t going so well. My anxiety was going crazy. Far away from home, none of the people around me had any clue about the significance of my decision to drink. A month or so later, I quit again.

I was able to hide my shame through that relapse and the next and the next and the next. I’m not entirely sure how many relapses I’ve had. Four? Five? More? Will there be more?

There is a rift in the recovery community between those who believe in 12 steps and those who don’t. I take a pragmatic approach and tell people to do whatever works for them. AA has worked for some friends of mine but never worked for me. In fact, I often hate talking to people in the program about my recovery. The common phrases they used often made me feel worse.

“Don’t worry. It gets easier,” said far too many. That always felt like a lie. I never had an easier day than that first one. Even when I believed it, I wanted to know when it would get easier so that I could treat my recovery just like I treated those earlier stretches of sobriety. If I can hang on to that point where it gets easier, I’ll be fine. More than a decade later, I’m still waiting for that.

“Was your life better when you were drinking?” You bet your sweet ass it was, but I usually lie and say no. I’ve dealt with terrible social anxiety most of my life. I always felt much more at ease when I was drunk. My greatest social anxiety nowadays is often in the company of other recovering alcoholics. That often makes me want to drink.

Worst of all is the shame I feel for all of my relapses. Almost nobody knows about all of them, and many of my friends know about none of them. I certainly haven’t told my recovering alcoholic friends about them. I used to know the exact date of my last drink and even the number of days I’ve been sober. Now I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve relapsed or when that last drink was.

That’s not entirely true. I could figure out when that last drink was. I’m just too ashamed to admit how recent it was. Besides, overcoming that shame would probably require me to drink. I’m also really scared that last drink wasn’t my last.

My name is Drew, and I’m a recovering alcoholic. I always have been. I always will be.

Drew Sheldon is a feminist, survivor and ally. Read more from Drew on Straight White Man Seeks Knowledge

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Andrew Sheldon goes by Drew to many of his nearest and dearest. Just don't call him Andy unless you're his sixth-grade teacher (who died in 1994). He is a disabled veteran and a feminist. A survivor of numerous traumas and a PTSD sufferer, he advocates passionately for his fellow survivors and people with mental illness. He was raised by a single mother whom he dearly misses and lives quietly by a little lake with his beautiful kitty Francesca.

31 thoughts on “I’m an Alcoholic, Always Have Been, Always Will Be

      1. I feel your pain. Your story is my story,constantly relapsing but I keep on trying and I try not to lose hope and then sometimes I just think that I should just accept this rollercoaster of a life!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Alcoholism runs in my family too. My maternal grandfather almost died from liver damage as a result of it, and his sister owned a restaurant & bar my mom used to work at.

    I made the conscious decision not to pick up that habit. I can drink my husband under the table any night and walk away perfectly fine, but I’ve also learned to be content with just one glass or two.

    I also made sure I never picked up any other habits. Didn’t try weed or anything else, and never will…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks Drew for that honesty – my husband was an alcoholic and it broke my heart.

    I used to try to keep up with him but as I got older I simply couldn’t take it and there were the children and work to think of.

    He was a fun drunk and then he was not. He died in 2000 at age 57 – of throat cancer from 2 packs a day, but no doubt the grog did not help.

    I miss him still and think of him every day

    Sara

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hey Drew! It’s a disease, not a choice.

    Giving up alcohol has kept me from worrying about cancer recurrence.

    It wasn’t hard for me to give up alcohol because I wasn’t addicted and hardly drank anyway. When I got breast cancer I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and there’s a direct correlation between some cancers and alcohol.

    BUT I still can’t believe how many people are in my face at parties and ask me why I don’t drink. It’s none of their business!!! When I tell them about the correlation between cancer and osteoporosis, they are always shocked. It’s a well-kept secret, but I am equally shocked at the social pressure.

    Now that I’m going on two years, I’m noticing more have made a choice not to drink. A few of my friends have gotten cancer, so I think that’s been a wake up call for everyone.

    Keep fighting the good fight! The good news is there are a lot of healthy choices for socializing. That has changed a lot in the last 25 years. You’re not alone!

    I’m not sure if you knew about the cancer connection, but now you can put that in your arsenal!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had not heard of a cancer connection. Thank you. I have noticed peer pressure has always been so much worse since high school than it ever was during the days when we constantly heard about not giving into it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your honest post, Drew. It’s never easy. That’s a lie people tell themselves so that they can trick their brains. I used alcohol to treat my bi-polar rage. I’m a happy drunk, too. I often wish I was drunk instead of unhinged. I’m sorry it’s so hard. *hugs*

    -Recovering alcoholic, relapsed last week.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. You are too sweet. It never has been all that easy for me. Plus people have always really enjoyed me as a drunk, including me, and that makes it so much harder. Hugs to you.

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  5. I think most f us, at some time, have something dark that draws us and takes hold longer than it should — whether it’s a relationship, chemical addiction, etc. My “drug” was anorexia. It was an escape as well as a tool for self-harm. I made myself small so the world couldn’t see me, or couldn’t bear to look. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to openly say what you said, Drew. Thanks for sharing your story. I know it will inspire many.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s sad how this addiction affects our lives and the people we love, how it deteriorates our health and sound mind. Believe that you can get through this and you will. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

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  7. I am 37 years sober as of March 12. I am the only one in my family, which is full of alcoholics, who is in recovery. But, I am no better than anyone struggling with alcohol, and I am fully convinced that I am only one drink away from losing everything. I share this, only to give hope to anyone who needs or wants it. I relapsed many times over a four year period until I found continuous sobriety. But, it hasn’t always been easy. When I gave up drinking, I recovered memories and feelings from years of childhood sexual and ritual abuse, for which I spent seventeen years in therapy. Mostly, today, I am free of shame, and blessed with healing and friendship. Hang in there, Drew. It’s worth it.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. 10 years sober here. There are often times when it’s a sunny day and I wish I was sitting in a beer garden with a cool, fresh glass of beer. Yet the feeling is fleeting and momentary 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your story – social anxiety is one of the worst. If I were you I’d look into CBT, perhaps hook up with Shawna Ainslie if you haven’t already, and look into Psychotherapy 🙂

    Spoken as a survivor myself 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Brave man, thank you. Couple things. First: I like how your write, how your words flow, how they kept me IN and empathizing with a very raw and tough to talk about subject. Second: I appreciate that none of what you wrote was neither poor me nor preachy. It was a simple, true and edgy glimpse into your world ‘as is’ and I stayed in it with you because of your vivid details but was able to pull from it things that I will be mulling over in my own world. Sharing ‘you’ with the world is always optional and very scary, but so NEEDED. Do keep doing that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I value your kind words of encouragement. I believe that empathy and gratitude are the best means of reaching out to others. Sharing, without judgment or condescension, is what brought me the most healing, so I try my best to respond to others in the same way. Writing is a tremendous source of strength in my recovery. Writing continues to free me of shame, on a daily basis. Your thoughtful reply has brightened my day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Writing is as important as air for some people. I know I would be lost without it. So much good happens as a result of putting your heart on paper. Have a wonderful day!

        Like

    2. Thank you so much. It is so scary to do these things sometimes. Shareen and Shawna make it so much easier, but it is terrifying whenever one of these things posts. Your words are very touching, and I will certainly keep working at this. I still have more to tell.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fantastic Drew. I’m so glad I found you and look forward to reading more from you. I have been cyber stalking Shareen and Shawna hee hee! They have a lot going on and seem to bring in major talent that really IS raw. I love this. I tend to hide behind humor a lot in my writing; reading you and some others has challenged me to try some things. Maybe. HA!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Technology hates me sometimes, and this particular computer/browser is keeping me from replying to some of your comments. I will keep working at it and will try again in the near future. Thank you, everyone.

    Like

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