“Are you an alcoholic?”
I was talking to a mentor of mine about some mental hurdles I’ve been having lately when the conversation turned to my drinking problems. That’s when he asked me that question. I told him that I’m something of a binge drinker. I’ll go for long periods of not drinking, but then I’ll usually go out and drink way too much. I told him that I would have massive hangovers the next morning. I told him that I know it’s a problem.
He said that my answer wasn’t good enough because I didn’t own it. He said that the first step to recovering is admitting that you have a problem. “Peter,” he told me, “you gotta own it. You said everything but the words that matter. You need to say that you’re an alcoholic.”
For me, winding up with a drinking problem was more of a slow process than something that happens all at once.
It started a few years ago. I was living in the city. I had a bunch of friends who were the type that liked to drink and play. So I did too. We would go to the bar or club and I’d drink until early in the morning. But the next morning was always rough. I’d be hungover for nearly half a day afterwards and barely functioning the rest of the day. But I was only hurting myself, so I didn’t think it was a huge problem. I didn’t see any issues with it. And to me, it was worth it, because I was having fun.
And then … one day, well, it stopped being so fun. I didn’t have as many great nights. The hangovers got worse; I felt worse for longer periods of time. The bad started to outweigh the good. And there was a dark period when I actually couldn’t stop. Because after the hangover passed, I didn’t go back to feeling like a normal sober person, I actually felt worse. I can only describe it as like a deep depression. I wanted to feel better again and the quickest way to do that was to drink again.
And then maybe a year ago, I just kind of stopped drinking to have fun and began drinking to drown out my sorrows. I wasn’t celebrating like before, I was commiserating. I was stressed and not in a great place, and started drinking to solve my problems or at least escape them for the time being. I’d drink with people to complain about my life. Get things off my chest. I was drinking like I was trying to find an answer. Maybe I was trying to hurt myself. Either way, I knew that needed to change as well, I just couldn’t find a reason or motivation to do it.
I can’t exactly pinpoint where the turning point came for me. The point where I really decided to change. I think I always knew that I needed to change. Maybe it was due to getting older. Maybe it was my health. Maybe it was the person who cared about me enough to try to get me to quit. Either way, I started taking baby steps.
Fast forward to today. I’m getting a healthier relationship with alcohol. I can drink and don’t need to get excessive. I can stop at two glasses. Next year, hopefully I’ll be able to do even better. I’ve improved much, but I still have relapses, where I’ll drink so much that I don’t remember certain events the next morning, feeling morbidly sick and feeling an immense amount of guilt. Still, I’ll keep working at this. I made a goal to not get wasted anymore this year, but I failed that. So my new goal for 2018 is to be able to count the times I get black out drunk on one hand. It may sound funny to people but for me it’s a real and honest goal.
My mentor told me that this is something that I’m probably going to be battling with for the rest of my life. If that’s the case then I’m okay with that.
I know I’ve lost a few relationships due to this lifestyle. Good people that I didn’t deserve. You know who you are. But I want to take the time to say that if you’re that person reading this now, if you’re someone I hurt, someone I neglected, someone that I failed or let down … if you’re reading this … I’m sorry. You can put all the blame on me. Lord knows I deserve it.