The stigma around alcohol abuse has definitely shifted a bit, but many people still have a very specific perception of a person who drinks too much. Here are the most common connotations: They struggle financially. They have multiple health problems. They are on the verge of losing their job, home and family.
When I was at the peak of my drinking, my life looked better than average on the outside. I was a single mum, so what? I had a good job and was doing really well, my income was steady, my flat was spotless. Everything seemed nice and stable.
No wonder even my own mother didn’t believe me when I said I had signed up for a rehab.
I was a typical grey area drinker: nobody knew the extent of the issue except me.
I will never forget the day when one of the therapists asked me a few basic questions:
“What are your values? What is the most important thing in your life? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?”
I burst into tears. Every single answer was: “I don’t know”. The realization of how little I knew about myself was extremely uncomfortable to say the least. The identity crisis was brutal, and I knew there was some hard work ahead.
Here are a few things that I discovered about myself. They absolutely threw me in the beginning, and it took some time to come to terms with them.
I Was Not A Party Animal
That was a real shocker! I had always thought that my social life was my everything, that I couldn’t live without a crowd of people around me. Surprisingly, after a few weeks of staying alcohol-free, I discovered that I truly enjoy being on my own. It was so strange to realize that this very important part of my self-image was nothing but booze-fueled fiction I made up only to give myself an excuse to drink.
Some of My “Friends” Didn’t Really Care About Me.
I feared being socially excluded for not drinking. And guess what, many people who I thought of as my friends suddenly disappeared from my life. It did hurt, but I realized that it meant something about the quality of those relationships and not about ME. Put simply, people who cut themselves off were nothing more than drinking buddies and a majority of them had a drinking problem themselves. That awareness made it much easier for me to allow them to make that choice and let them go.
I Was Able to Stick with Commitments
One deep belief I had about myself was that I lacked consistency in every area of my life. I would start one thousand things, come up with lots of ideas, make multiple commitments but could never stick with them. It was frustrating and affected my self-esteem really badly. To my surprise I learned that it is a very common trait amongst people who drink too much. Alcohol takes up so much space and energy in your life that it is very difficult to stay focused and push through any resistance on the way to reaching one’s goals.
I Was Not Bad at Relationships
That was probably something I was the most ashamed of: I was unable to maintain a relationship. I desperately wanted to settle down, but the harder I tried, the less things worked out. I started believing that there was simply something wrong with me and that I could never be fixed. But after a few months of sobriety, my brain fog started lifting and it finally got through to me: I had been making wrong choices one after another. I had happily ignored all the red flags and just went for it. Not to mention that 90% of my boyfriends drank at least as much as I did. I took a long break from men and then BAM! I met my husband. We are great together. I was never bad at relationships, but the drink was affecting my choices surrounding them.
I Was Not Damaged or Faulty
When I drank, my life sucked. Nothing ever worked out, nothing ever felt right. I constantly thought it was some kind of punishment for being an evil human being. My self-esteem was on the floor and it seemed to me like everyone else had it all figured out, so what was wrong with me? The answer is: NOTHING. Except my weekend binge drinking. Once I kicked the habit with the help of all the amazing rehab workers and my beautiful friends in recovery, everything started falling into place and I slowly became the woman I was always meant to be.
You never know where your recovery can take you. I know for me it feels like it has brought me home.