A couple of days ago I talked about trying to decide if I had to label my current situation with alcohol. I was worried about needing to figure out if I should be called an alcoholic, although that doesn’t feel like it fits. Not to mention, the idea terrifies me for so many reasons, one being that my dad was an alcoholic. But, he was on a completely different level. If he were still alive, he was the type of drunk/addict that one might see on that show Intervention. You know the one where you are faced with the sight of people who are passed out on their front lawn with an empty bottle of Costco family size mouth wash in their hand? That was the type of drunk he was becoming before the alcohol took his life. Hell, at times that was how we was even in the earlier stages.
I remember being a kid around 9 or 10 and watching an episode of Family Ties where Tom Hanks made an appearance as the uncle with a drinking problem. When they showed him chugging a bottle of vanilla extract to catch a buzz, that was something I was already all too familiar with. It wasn’t that dad didn’t have the money for a proper drink, but I think it was during the rare occasion when he claimed he was laying off the booze that I saw him raid the kitchen for a tiny bottle of extract. If it wasn’t that, it was cough syrup – Nyquil, or some such. Later in life, when it was hard for him to hold down a job and money was no longer readily available, I can’t imagine what he turned to in order to catch that buzz. I am reasonably certain that, in addition to whatever cheap alcohol he could get his hands on, crack cocaine was involved.
That brings me back to my original thought. Do you have to be that kind of drinker to be considered an alcoholic? I’m a 43-year old woman with a nice house, a successful career, and a loving husband. You won’t find me rifling through the cabinets for the vanilla extract and you certainly won’t discover me passed out on my suburban lawn. Although, there have been a number of incidents in recent years where I’ve had enough to nearly deaden my memory of the prior evening’s events. Otherwise, I’m the woman that everyone says they can never even tell when I’m drunk. I hold it together and handle myself well for the most part, but it’s the drinking alone and drinking every day that concern me the most. I’ve taken the various online quizzes, all of which indicate that I likely have a problem, but none of them tell me that I am an alcoholic. So what am I?
It’s amazing how much time you focus on alcohol when you stop drinking. Sunday night was my last drink and since then I’ve been consumed with it, and mostly I’ve been consumed with the thought of what alcohol makes me. I think I’ve admitted that I have some sort of problem with it, but my efforts at trying to figure out what that problem should be called and how to deal with it has only left me feeling more frustrated and insecure. Then, last night, I stumbled across the Hip Sobriety website and right there on the front page I found something that spoke more reasonably to me than anything that I have seen, so far:
“Your only label is your name. There are hundreds of reasons to reject the labels “alcoholic” and “addict”. First, most of us aren’t clinically addicted in the first place and don’t meet the qualifying criteria. Second, regardless if we do “qualify”, labels do NOTHING positive for us. They stigmatize us, keep us stuck in an old story, and perpetuate an idea that we are flawed or different. Yes, you need to admit that it’s a problem and you can’t do it anymore. That almost goes without saying. But you don’t need to identify as anything to stop drinking. This is about moving beyond where you are. Not staying put.”
This description might be my saving grace this week. I think I need to stop trying to put a name on what I’m going through, and just keep my focus on how to move forward. I’m a little nervous about the upcoming weekend. I spend the weeks by myself while my husband travels for work, so when he returns on Friday nights, the typical routine involves dinner and a cocktail. This is usually followed by a full weekend of visits with friends, friends who drink. Friends who drink pretty heavily, I might add. It’s maybe a bit concerning that I haven’t decided fully how to handle my drinking moving forward, but I do want to put it out there to the universe that my fifth day of sobriety feels pretty good and I plan to make it through seven.