Trigger warning: This post may be a trigger for those feeling susceptible to relapse.
Everyday, I sit down to write this post and everyday I get stuck. I don’t know how to start without worrying family and friends because invariably, people are going to worry. I also feel a sense of responsibility to people reading who are struggling with addiction because my experiences, my journey, and my truth seeking is my own and comparisons can be dangerous.
A few months ago, I stopped identifying as an alcoholic. I reached a crossroads where I had to ask myself some serious questions about why I don’t drink. The most significant part of the last 3 years for me has been to get to a place where I trust myself and trust God. While I continually seek the help and guidance of others, I’ve had to learn to distinguish my truth from what is true for others and to not seek the comfort of being part of a group just for the sake of belonging.
When I stopped drinking over 3 years ago, I was desperate to find peace. Like many people who abuse alcohol, I didn’t realize how adversely it was affecting my life. I had never tried to moderate because it never occurred to me that my drinking was a problem. It was habitual and was something that I did for so long that it was part of my identity. Right before I stopped drinking, my anxiety was out of control. For months, I had been on a quest to change my life but I was getting no where. Until I heard God’s voice telling me to stop drinking, I never thought to do it.
So that’s what I did. I stopped drinking, announced that I was an alcoholic and submersed myself into recovery work. It saved my sanity and my life. There is no doubt in my mind that I absolutely needed to stop drinking when I did and that I needed to stop drinking for as long as I did. Once I took seriously the option to not drink, the pieces fell into place. If I never drink again, I won’t be missing out on anything vital to my happiness.
Here’s what I realized: I didn’t stop drinking because I couldn’t stop drinking. I stopped drinking because it became clear to me that I had a hole in my soul that alcohol was making bigger. The only way I could heal was to stop doing the things that made the hole bigger. I had to learn to feel, to experience emotion as a vital part of my humanity, to not shy away from the emotion of others and connect to people on an authentic level. I simply couldn’t do that as long as there was a wall of alcohol between me and myself and the people around me.
But alcoholism is a disease. You can’t just opt out whenever you want. It’s also one of the only diseases that people regularly diagnose themselves, often without the help of a medical professional. Self diagnosing alcoholism saves lives. I have no regrets over not drinking or with identifying as an alcoholic but I don’t believe that everyone who has a drinking problem is an alcoholic.
I know that this is terrifying for some of you to hear me say but I trust my heart and my body to know when I’m hurting myself. I’ve discovered that I can have a drink and not have the desire to want more. It feels like it does on the rare occasions when I eat fried chicken. I don’t need to put that shit into my body but sometimes I want a few bites and then I’m done. I would never have known this about myself if I didn’t stop drinking completely for nearly 3 years. I would never have known that I actually do have a “stop button” if I didn’t remove alcohol from my life so that I could get in touch with the needs of my body, mind and soul.
One of the reasons why I’ve been hesitant to write about this is because the purpose of sobriety is not to be “cured” or to get to the point where you can drink again. Alcoholism kills people, plain and simple. No one should ever take lightly the devastation that alcohol dependency causes and no longer identifying as an alcoholic doesn’t negate the damage my drinking did or could do again if I’m not vigilant in my recovery from numbing.
I’m the adult child of addicts, I’m a survivor of sexual and emotional abuse and habitually used alcohol to numb myself. There are complicated physical and psychological reasons for why I am the way I am. I will always work on myself, will always be a seeker, will always be mindful of what I put into my body (and why I do it) because I’ve chosen to live the life that God envisioned for me. A life where I participate in and contribute to society, a life where I follow my truth and help others to do the same, a life where I strive to be the best mom, daughter, sister, friend, lover I can be. I no longer abuse alcohol, drugs, spending, food, sex, or other things that are unhealthy because I respect my boundaries, my limits and myself. This is my hard truth.