Many people ask me: “How would I know if I drink too much? How will I know if I am an alcoholic?” The answer is not simple but if you are wondering about it, it is already a clue.
I am not writing this as a professional because that I am not. I am simply speaking from my experience, hoping that it will resonate with you.
You do not have to drink every day or all day for it to be a problem. You can drink only at night. You can drink only on weekends, or every second week. That is not the issue.
Here are a couple of questions:
1. Does your personality change? For instance, do you get difficult and aggressive when you drink?
2. Do you frequently have trouble remembering the night before (black-outs)?
3. Does your partner/children/parents complain about your drinking? Do they avoid you when you drink? Have they told others that they dislike your drinking?
4. Do you worry that might be drinking too much?
5. Do you experience guilt over your drinking?
6. When you fill a glass, do you have to empty it? And everybody else’s left-overs too?
6. Is your drinking taking up a lot of your thought-life? Wondering and/or worrying about it?
If the answer is yes to any of the above, chances are that you have a problem. If it is yes to all, well …
So the question is not whether you have a problem, but rather what you can do about it.
Now believe me, I know how hard it is to be where you are. I lived there for a long time. I knew I had a problem and admitted it but did not know how to fix it.
I spoke to many people, but they were always the wrong people. Spouses, friends and family are all well-meaning, but they CANNOT help. They do not have the knowledge or the tools. At most, they are sympathetic ears that will listen while you air your fears.
The last three or four years before my rescue, I spent at the bottom of a pit. When I awoke in the morning the first thing I did was to try to assess who was angry with me. I stopped greeting everybody cheerfully (even though I felt like death) because I was met with angry glares. Usually because I started an argument the night before which I knew nothing about. My husband said it was like pushing a reset button. No matter what I did or said, in the morning we all acted as if everything was okay. And it really was for me.
You do know how horrible a hangover is right? Well, that was my life. Inevitably you land up feeling so crappy that it is almost impossible to do what you have to do. When this happens day after day, you eventually become non-functional. You might sit behind your desk pretending to be busy but eventually the people around you cotton on that you are getting very little done. Towards the end, you will get nothing done.
Living inside the nightmare of substance abuse is like falling off a cliff, only difference is, you never hit the bottom. You can and eventually will, but it is called death.
We all know that you can start drinking because you are depressed, however, drinking also causes depression. That is why rehabs generally place alcoholics (and drug users) in the Duel Diagnostics Unit (DDU). Professionals know that you have a two-fold problem, substance abuse and depression. They will attempt to ascertain which came first and treat you accordingly, but that is not the point. Whether or not you started off depressed, you will end up depressed. Most alcoholics try to commit suicide at some point. I did.
Almost a year before the end came, I sought help from a psychologist. I also saw a doctor who put me on anti-depressants, anti-anxieties etc, etc. I was even hospitalised for a week of sleep therapy. Yet, I was not drinking any less.
While, or because (or both) I was non-functioning, I started playing on-line games. Farmville, Cityville, Frontierville you name it. One that I particularly enjoyed was called Yoville, it is almost like the Sims but you interact live with real people.
While hanging with my friends in Yoville one night I met (the avatar of) a substance-abuse counsellor. I told him about my drinking and we chatted for a long time. Even though nothing had changed, for the first time I experienced a sense of hope that the end might be near. I believe this was because I had met someone who knew what I was going through, and could offer reassurance. Most, if not all counsellors, are ex addicts. He encouraged me to join a local AA meeting which I did. And every week I went there drunk. One night I confused my tranquilizer dosage and took too many (with too much whiskey) before going to the meeting. I kept falling asleep and people thought I would fall off my chair lol! It was funny.
I think I have made it clear that I did talk to people and that I did seek professional help. And that it is possible to drink your way through all sorts of attempts to stop. However, you cannot give up! Nothing worth having comes easy and this must be one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
To cut a long story short, my psychologist eventually called in my husband for a session and realised that the family was at breaking point. He suggested rehab and I agreed.
I am not advising rehab for you, nor any of the other things I did. What I am advising is that you do not give up looking for the answer for you. I can promise that if you mean to bring and end to your horror and if you trust God (the real one) to do it for you, it will happen. My life as an alcoholic lasted 13 years.
I do not think that I could not stop because I tried the wrong methods. Rather, I believe that I had to walk to the end of a road that I had begun. You are a different person and your walk is different. The only things we need in common is desire and faith.
Rehab worked for me because I was ready for it. It was good being with people who were all in the same boat. We established a warm sense of camaraderie and that can be fun. Also, you are treated by people who had been in, and escaped that boat. Everybody speaks your language.
If you are here, just make sure that your mind is open to all suggestions and try everything that presents itself to you. Obviously I don’t mean anything foolish. And never give up!
In finishing off I will say this, I cannot take any credit for coming out of this alive, nor can I credit anybody or anything for it. The people and the AA and the hospital and the pills etc, were all just tools used by a greater Hand to bring me to my freedom.