Drunken Society

I can remember watching an episode of South Park where they were making fun of Stan’s Dad’s alcoholism. They were mocking people that called it a disease, and at the time a laughed along with it. Just have a little self control right? I no longer find that sentiment funny, as I have since come to find out I am an alcoholic.

Finding this out was the scariest moment in my life. Denial is strong amongst alcoholics. We like to think we have control of our drinking far, far past the point where we have lost control. I figured it out when I woke up one day, feeling like a piece of rotten meat inside a discarded trash can. I looked myself in the eyes in the mirror. In my head I said no more drinking. Immediately after saying that, as I had every day for weeks, I realized that wasn’t gong to happen. I literally couldn’t stop. Terrified, I looked into my eyes, and no longer recognized who I was looking at. The person in the mirror had dead eyes and a dead soul; slave to her master; alcohol.

That day, after a few more beers to quell my anxiety and the shakes, I decided to quit cold turkey. I lay awake all night, sweating, shaky, and completely unable to think. I could only count to ten over and over and over again. The night seemed like it would never end. I was screaming for relief in my head, and then I found myself praying to anyone/anything out there that could possible relieve me of the agony. That night, I found no relief. It was the worst night of my life.

The next day, I took 1.5 hours to get out of bed, get dressed, and go a block to grab a 6 pack. I couldn’t take it anymore. I drank half a beer that I REALLY did not want to drink, laid back down, and called my husband to take me to the ER. Detox was slow and painful, but it was in that hospital that I found AA and my first sponsor.

I have faltered since then. It’s a slow process of forgetting the pain and assuming you’re doing ok on your own. I stop going to meetings and then BAM! I’m right back in that miserable place. I know I cannot drink. I know I cannot control it. Usually when I decide to take that first drink, I have every intention of self destructing, because I have carried too much stress and bullshit for too long. I stop caring about myself. I take one drink, and it is never just one. Eventually, I go past the point of no return and have to snap out of the denial once more. It is never done without help and medical intervention.

  •  According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million adult Americans are alcoholics, and approximately 623,000 adolescents (age 12-17) are alcoholics as well.
  • About 88,000 people die in the U.S. from alcohol-related causes annually. This makes it the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the America; only behind tobacco and poor diet/inactivity.
  • Globally, alcohol is the 5th leading risk factor for premature death, however; among the age group of 15 to 49 years old, it is the number one risk factor. In 2012, 3.3 million deaths were attributable to alcohol consumption world-wide.

From what I know of the pain and struggle with alcoholism, there are a whole lot of people in our world suffering horribly and dying from this disease. Yet it really isn’t talked about much. There are two dominant perceptions of alcoholics that I regularly see in society.

One of these is disdain. There is always some accident report on the news about a drunk driver, the reporter concluding with finality police report the driver was drunk, intoxicated, over the legal limit. Period. Horrible tragedy, or close call, all because the person was so careless. There is NO excuse for driving drunk, but there is also no discussion why it happens. It is accepted with certainty that irresponsibility with alcohol was to blame, and then we move one.

No one asks why. No one thinks to address the fact alcohol is sold almost everywhere these days. Liquor stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, vending machines, movie theaters, and the list goes on. I find it harder to find a store that doesn’t sell booze than it is to find one that does. What does that say about us as a society?

The other societal perception of alcoholics I frequently see is amusement and/or entertainment. “Oh that’s just Uncle Larry,” the sexy misunderstood hero of a movie with the tragic past, the drunken anti-hero you just can’t help winding up rooting for, reality TV of drunk people making a complete fool of them selves and often time getting hurt: These alcoholics are taken lightly, gawked at, or even admired in a strange way.

Bad Santa was and still is one of my favorite “Christmas” movies. Showcasing a vulgar old drunk who cons malls as a Santa each year, Billy Bob Thorton plays a character who swears, stinks, is creepy, and he is constantly drinking. I still can watch it as it does a decent job of showcasing the misery of being a chronic alcoholic; albeit with a comical twist. Billy Bob’s character wakes up to take a swig out of a half drank bottle of beer with a cigarette butt in it. We chuckle, because it’s ridiculous. However, I guarantee many alcoholics have done the same thing. “Parking” at his new mall gig and a waterfall of beer cans and empty liquor bottles pour out the door as he emerges; and again, we laugh. How ridiculous?! Again, it has happened in real life, and there’s nothing funny about it.

  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental health Administration (SAMHSA), heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking 5 or more days in the past month (it does not state days in a row).
  • Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as drinking until your blood alcohol volume (BAV) is past the legal limit (0.08) in any 2 hour timeframe.

I laughed at these definitions. I certainly don’t need two whole hours to get tipsy, and I’ve gone weeks, maybe even a couple months doing it every single day… all day. But what do those statistics mean for everyone else? What does it mean to the party animal frat boy or the sports fan that likes to “celebrate” victories and “sooth” the wounds of defeat? What about the micro beer aficionados ordering beer flights or the wine coinsure at a wine “tasting.” You know you aren’t spitting it out ever time. Beer and yoga, painting and wine, happy hour; how much are you indulging?

Heavy alcohol use doesn’t automatically mean you are an alcoholic, and that is certainly not the point I am trying to make. The concerning issue for me is how pervasive alcohol consumption is in out society and across the world. Sporting events, concerts, weddings, or just because it’s Tuesday and your favorite restaurant has a special on your favorite drink; excessive alcohol consumption is not only everywhere, I feel it is encouraged and/or expected. This leads those prone to alcoholism straight down that path under a mistaken haze of normalcy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crash and Burn

More than once, I have let all my problems weigh me down so much I have been crushed. I did this again recently. Broke, divorcing, my little one acting out constantly, losing my home, debt ever rising, credit score plunging into the depths of hell, several sleepless nights in a row, and waking from vivid nightmares in cold sweats shivering; it all crushed me. I forget about self-care, there isn’t a drop of optimism in my heart, and I slowly get closer and closer to insanity. The flame of self-destruction ignites when I can’t carry the weight anymore. Exciting at first, it burns until I think I might die. At the breaking point, I surrender; accepting help or death. Time and time again, I feel I might die. Yet I always find a helping hand.

The journey of restoration is slow and painful. I used to picture it as a phoenix rising from the ashes; a beautiful image in my mind. Now, I just feel like a zombie crawling out of the grave yet again. Broken, bruised, worse for wear; slowly picking up pieces of myself try to put it all back together. No beautiful phoenix, I’m just a Frankenstein girl/woman/mother/partner or whatever.

This cycle leaves me more dizzied and drained each time I go through it. Coming to the point of accepting death if it is fate, being pulled back from that state of surrender, it’s just painful. As said in one of my favorite shows, Altered Carbon, “…coming back from the dead is a bitch. Every single time.” Despair to renewal to complacency and back to despair; why can’t I just stay happy, healthy, and at peace? I understand life is not always wonderful, but my dreams fade further in to the blackness. I’m not thriving. I’m only surviving, barely, and I am tired of it.

The Twisted Middle

After the birth of my son, I no longer had a 9-5 job to go to every day. I had a 24/7 job of keeping this tiny human alive, happy, and healthy. It’s both a terrifying and wonderful thing. After about three months, I started to feel like I had a grip on keeping the bundle of needs thriving, and I started to get stir crazy.

Longing for my old life, I started inviting old friends over. I could finally have a drink again! After all, I deserved it. Well, this is when I began down the path that would lead me to the rooms of AA. I knew I used to drink a lot. I classified myself as a “partier” in high school and college. I became a bar fly while my then boyfriend and I were dating. I was a connoisseur of fine beers. The bar we used to go to had 40 different beers on tap and a revolving door of new kinds. There was always an excuse to go. I thought it was normal to go there every day. It didn’t phase me when we weren’t able to afford the pricey micro-brews anymore and just ordered draft light beers that were cheap. None of it gave me pause.

It was only after I had my son that I started to realize it was not normal. I was home alone all day, every day. I was lonely and simultaneously dreaded my husband coming home. We fought all the time. I was exhausted from doing everything to take care of our son and home. He felt working all the time was doing his part and thought I was unappreciative. I began to drink every day. I got sick and was living off of soup, cold medicine, and beer. I realized I had a problem looking in the mirror one day. I saw a soulless, selfish person unable to stop herself. But I tried anyway and stopped cold turkey. I went through such bad withdrawal I had to go to the hospital over night. It was a wake up call.

I found two AA meetings with babysitting and never looked back. My husband resented this new part of my life. We grew farther and farther apart. My shame of being an alcoholic kept me from leaving him sooner. Every fight we had he would drag it up to sling in my face. A couple times he told me to go buy a bottle in anger. I stayed in the relationship out of shame until I finally forgave myself. I had healed, had a beautiful son, and decided to give my marriage one more truly all in chance. I let down all my guards and recommitted to being a partner to my husband.

The morning after we were intimate for the first time in a long time, I found out he was having an affair with his employee. Good ol’ Facebook Messenger tipped me off. My husband was asleep, he hardly used Facebook, and I was confused why the Messenger “ding” went off on his phone. It was a reply. “I love you too. Have a good day too,” followed by a mess of kissy faces and hearts. The words and hearts blurred, my husband woke up and snatched his phone before I could read much of it. He tried to play it off, but I’m no idiot. I was done.

I turned in to a paranoid creeper for a few weeks. Checking our phone text logs, his social media, etc. He met with her the night after I found out. He said he had to meet her in person “to end it.” That was a lie I wouldn’t find out until several months later.

Queue round two of marriage counseling. The counselor, although intelligent and compassionate, seemed hell bent on keeping us together. I was over the marriage at this point and was buying time until I could afford an attorney. I started a bartender job at a snooty Italian joint so I could save money from my tips without him knowing. He was very controlling and hated that I had a job. He eventually caught on to my motives for saving money.

I had to start recording my phone calls with him. He would threaten me with anything he could and deny it all to anyone else. I finally accepted that if I was ever going to get away from him, I had to be okay with the worst he threatened to do to me. It was a micro-step of faith in something outside of my miserable little world. Then, I was free. I was free of that horrible fear based grip, and he was pissed.