I knew I was an alcoholic pretty early, I think. I started young and I loved alcohol from the first taste. It was very hard to drink without eventually blacking out. I knew I couldn’t drink like other people, though I could pretend pretty well in public because I got quiet once I was drunk. I usually drank at home, though, and I drank a heck of a lot. The upside of this was that I never got myself a bad reputation as a sloppy, reckless drunk. The problem with this was that, once I went into recovery, many people in my life looked at me like I was a melodramatic teenager.
“Oh please,” they said. “You don’t even know what a real alcoholic looks like. Just have a damned glass of wine already.” Or “Don’t you think you’re going a little overboard with this stuff? It’s not like you lost your job or anything. I think you’re just being a little oversensitive.” Best yet was the eye roll coupled with, “You don’t go to those meetings do you?”
Well, those meetings were the only place where I was truly understood and believed. People like me sat in those basements with cups of coffee passing out coins and putting dollar bills in a basket. They shared stories like mine. I could share my story and people would know that alcohol is poison to me and that I have a disease just like they do. They told me time and time again not to drink and to stick to my program. I felt heard.
I was drinking myself into oblivion when I first stopped. I had visited a psychiatrist and told him that I was drinking a liter and a half a night and had consumed about 25 drinks at a party the night before- I didn’t think anything of it. I mean, this is what people do, isn’t it? Well he did think something of it. I was diagnosed with Alcohol Dependence and sent to AA.
I have bipolar disorder which was part of what I was numbing with my alcohol use. After I quit the first time, I later relapsed and attempted suicide... two separate times while impaired. Some people in my life still aren’t convinced that drinking is deadly for me. Eye rolls and sighs. “Just have a drink already.”
I have wondered if I make these folks uncomfortable on some level. Part of me feels badly about that, but part of me knows I can’t take responsibility for their feelings if that’s what’s going on. I don’t stand on a table and preach about the dangers of alcohol. I don’t lecture anyone. I don’t ask anyone else to not drink. I just quietly ask for a Diet Coke with lime and carry on with my life.
If I’m going to keep this up, I need these rooms and I need my fellow alcoholics. We understand each other. I know that I’m never going to be seen as a drama queen for walking through those doors. I’ll be welcomed with open arms.