Chances are, you don’t know me. You may see my pictures on instagram (@healthierverrsionofchris) or see my tweets (@OlFthfulFitness), but that’s just the side of me that I carefully craft. The pieces of me that I’m not afraid to show the world. My natural instinct is to hide the darker reaches. To conceal the very things that make the bright side of me so brilliant. Inside of me lurks the frightful -ism. Alcoholism. Addict. Reject. Mental. Stigma.
I am not what you might picture as an alcoholic. I have a home, a family, dogs, gainful employment. I was never homeless, on the street, brown bag in hand, begging for change. In fact, I was terminated from a pretty great job during the height of my active alcoholism by a boss who would go out drinking with me. I was deemed ‘unreliable’, which really irritated me at the time, but years later, I feel that he did the right thing. He helped to save my life. Interestingly enough, many people are still surprised that women can also be alcoholics. Maybe they are just shocked to learn that I am an alcoholic.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 60% of women have at least one drink a year…HAPPY NEW YEAR (right??). Of those, 13% have more than 7 drinks a week. In the United States alone 5.3 million women drink in a manner that threatens their health. So, when does it turn from HAPPY NEW YEAR to OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE? That is not easily answered.
Just as with everything else it seems, every body is different. Any person who has been in the rooms of AA, NA, GA, etc… will tell you that only YOU can decide if you have a problem. That then begs the question…if you are neck deep in addiction, how can you have the clarity of thought to decide if you are on the wrong side of the fence? Let me share with you my abbreviated story, maybe it will help.
I had my first drink at 12 years old. It was. a wine cooler. I had a ‘cool’ older sister who let me drink. Mind you, I went to church every Sunday, sat in the front of the church, knew my scriptures, and had a family that was straight laced and decently successful. I may have had one or two more, then guilt consumed me, I confessed to my church leader, and was back on the ‘right’ path. Forward eight years to age 20. I started drinking to defy my parents and the church, and show everyone that I was my OWN person. Once I was legal, I was off to the races! I was drinking every night. I was young. I was having fun! I got married, had a baby, got divorced, got remarried to a fellow alcoholic, led an insane life with his three kids and my one, was involved in things I swore I would never do, gained 130 lbs, and stopped having fun. At 3 o’clock every day, my mouth would start watering for my next drink. Every morning was a hangover, every night was hair of the dog. I got up for work and was on time every day. I managed people. I had successful teams. I met deadlines. And I was barely hanging on by a thread.
Unrelated, or so I thought, I committed to a ‘Biggest Loser’ challenge at work (more on this story in a future post), and drinking was keeping me from losing weight, so I quit. I was angry and self righteous. I decided that my husband had a problem, so to show him that I was more powerful than him, I very publicly went to an Al-Anon meeting. Well, I thought it was an Al-Anon meeting. I took a wrong turn, and ended up in an AA meeting instead. As I sat in the back, I realized that I was sitting among my people. In a moment, I saw the wreckage of my life flashing in front of me. I knew that I was done, and it was time for me to face this.
In a review of my past, I realized that I had a problem when I recognized all of these behaviors:
- Drinking every night. Even if I was trying to cut back I was scheduling my drinking. (I am only going to drink on the weekends, I am not drinking on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Sundays-because that’s a holy day).
- Inability to take any responsibility. Nothing was my fault. I was not the problem, I was the VICTIM!
- Paranoia. EVERYONE was against me. No one cares about me.
- Powerless over alcohol. Powerless over my destiny.
- My kids begged me to please just not drink today.
- Other people joked that I was an alcoholic, because what makes jokes funny? (Answer: because they are true).
- Thinking that harming myself was a good way to control the people around me. (If you leave me, I am going to kill myself).
- Committing wreck less behavior with little thought of consequences (drunk driving is a big one here).
While it is true, only you can decide if you have a problem, chances are, if you are wondering if you have a problem, you probably do. HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: there is help. There is a way. I’m not preaching one form of recovery over another. What I know is that I was a hopeless cuss back then. Today, I haven’t had a drink in over 8 years. The more I learn, the more I understand that certain brain chemistry causes a predisposition to addiction. It’s not your fault. But though it is not your fault, you can only get into recovery by accepting that this is your life and that you are the only one that can take steps to recover. Ain’t no one gonna do it for you, kiddo!
On the same note, if you have a family member who suffers from addiction, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT EITHER! There is help for you, too! You can still love these people, and not contribute to their addiction. In fact, the more you hold them up and prevent them from hitting the bottom, the longer they will drain the life out of you. Remember, these are not BAD people. These are SICK people.
If you need immediate help, please reach out to your local Alcoholics Anoynomous chapter (for the alcoholic) OR Al-Anon (for family members of the alcoholic). There are many resources available to you. If AA isn’t your deal (a lot of people get hung up on the ‘Higher Power’ concept, because once you are at the point of no return, you’re kind of done with God for a while or maybe forever, and that is OK!), find something that does work. But don’t give up. And just don’t drink.
I promise you…you’re probably not crazy!!