I used to try and QUALIFY for alcoholism (more like, DISqualify). Long after I knew deep down I had a problem, I told myself (and others) I wasn’t an alcoholic because I
1.) never had a DUI
2.) never missed work
3.) didn’t drink alone
4.) never lied about it
5.) never humiliated myself
6.) still had my family
7.) hadn’t been to jail
8.) didn’t go to happy hour or close down bars
9.) got up early every day, worked out, and took care of home and family
10.) hadn’t been confronted by anyone else about my excessive drinking
But…I was obsessed. Despite my best efforts, promises to God, country and others, I couldn’t go more than 24-48 hours without taking that first sip. And then….that first sip turned into many gulps, even though I was 100% convinced THAT time would be different. (Insert Eyeroll Emoji)
I was equally consumed by NOT drinking as I was with drinking. If I was trying to control it (you know-only on weekends, or holidays, or insert whatever justification), it maddened me as much as drinking with abandon.
My day was dictated by thoughts of drinking. How soon could I justify that first one? Fridays and weekends were easy. Monday…those were a little trickier. I was always restless, irritable and discontent. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything socially outside of my job, without drinking before and during. Liquid Courage? No. Liquid Tolerance. If I wasn’t drinking within any sized group, no matter if it was friends, family or strangers, I was crawling out of my skin.
Maybe physically and at first glance my alcoholism wasn’t obvious (you know, the way society determines eligibility), but my mind was tormented. Insanity. The harder I tried to stop, the more I drank. The more I drank, the more guilt and shame I felt. The more guilt and shame I felt, the more I drank to numb the discomfort. I continued to do the same things over and over and over, expecting the outcome to be different. The lies I was telling myself were poisoning me from the inside. My secret was toxic. I was dying inside, I just didn’t LOOK like an alcoholic…YET.
I hadn’t been pulled over or arrested…YET. It wasn’t impacting my job…YET. I hadn’t embarrassed myself or my family…YET. I hadn’t lost my husband or my children…YET.
Thank GOD for plucking my application to ALCOHOLISM before it was reviewed by the admissions board.
The best analogy ever shared with me takes place in an elevator. All of us addicts are sick, riding together on the same elevator. We each step (or are pulled) off the elevator on a different floor. Lucky for me, I wasn’t on that elevator very long. I was miserable the entire ride and got off before it fell any further. Others choose to stay on a little longer. In recovery, I’m told I have a “high bottom.” So what?! That doesn’t make me any better than someone with a lower bottom. We’re ALL SICK. Cancer patients don’t compete with each other based on what stage their disease has progressed. Whether they have Stage 2 or Stage 4 Cancer-they’re all sick and they all need treatment.
Instead of trying to justify my acceptance into Alcoholism because of which floor I walked on, I’d rather show other women with similar “symptoms,”, an easier, shorter way. Alcoholics aren’t measured by the route they take to get to the hospital. Some of us are pre-registered, others are dropped off. Some of us already know the way, others get lost. Some of us are determined to find it on our own, others ask for directions. We’re admitted at all ages, from all backgrounds and places. Our disease does not discriminate based on how we complete the registration. But early admission prevents the pain, suffering, and hopelessness felt when the bottom floor, that last stop, closes in. The sooner we get off and the earlier we get in, the more options we have, and the more time we are given.