“I don’t have a problem”
“I can stop any time I want to”
“I don’t drink every day.”
“ I don’t drink the heavy stuff”
“I can drink a whole bottle, and still stay sober”
“I can stop on my own, I don’t need help”
These are just some of the very few things an alcoholic will tell themselves when confronted with their problem. The list could go on and on because we alcoholics can justify ANYTHING and actually believe it in our own heads. I mean for real! We really DO believe the bold faced lie that’s coming out of our mouth. Living in denial makes it easy for us to continue living in our addiction. When confronted, we get defensive, argumentative and sometimes quite hostile. We lie to everyone around us, but more importantly, the biggest lies we’re telling, are the ones we tell ourselves. We don’t purposely hurt those around us. When we lie, it’s to feed our disease and that’s the ONLY thing we are thinking about.
Addiction is a double whammy. It’s both a physical AND mental disease. First we have to deal with the physical aspects. How it makes us feel physically and how we physically go through withdrawals when we try to get sober. Then it highjacks our brains which is why it’s also a mental disease. Both must be treated in order to get truly Until the times comes when the person suffering with the disease is sick and tired of being sick and tired, they will never get sober. This could be torture for a loved one standing on the outside looking in but as the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
When the disease truly has us by the short and curly s, we don’t have the capability of being reasonable, we can’t compromise and we can’t see anything beyond our substance of choice. The disease becomes our strength, our best friends, our lovers and our companions. It tells us what to do, how to act and controls our every move. We’re like puppets and the disease is the one pulling the strings. While we are putting our loved ones through absolute hell, we’re going through our own torture as well. Knowing we are hurting those who love us causes us to feel guilt and shame. In order to cover that up and make the pain of that reality go away, we drink more. It’s just another thing we don’t want to face. As alcoholics, we don’t have any coping skills. Our solution to everything is the bottle.
The disease takes our sense of self worth, self esteem and self respect. We develop a sense of self loathing that can be quite overwhelming. We know what we’re doing is wrong, but we don’t know how to stop. I was asked a time or two, “Why can’t you just stop?” If it were that easy, I’m sure I would have. If you don’t suffer from the disease, it’s not something you can fully understand. Just know that if you have someone in your life that is suffering from the disease, when they tell you they “can’t” stop, know that it’s probably the one time they are actually telling you the truth. Although I didn’t know why I did it at the time, I used to brush my teeth in the shower because I didn’t want to look in the mirror. I had such shame and self hatred within me so deep it consumed me. The bottle made me feel like I was somebody, it didn’t matter who, as long as it wasn’t the me on the inside. I could be in a room full of people at one point, and still feel completely alone.
Like when you’ve been diagnosed with any deadly disease, there’s anger. We’re angry because we have the disease, anger because we can’t drink like other people, anger because we are different. We’re full of anger. Most of the time of course, whether we admit it or not, that anger is towards ourselves. Add that anger with all of the other emotions and you just have fire burning out of control The only way we know how to put it out is to extinguish it with alcohol. Unfortunately, it doesn’t but it’s the only way we know how to get numb and not feel so disgusted with ourselves. If we numb it out, it doesn’t exist.
When the disease has got us in that seemingly helpless phase, we spend every waking moment being afraid to drink, and at the same time, we’re afraid not to. For some of us, the torture gets so bad we pray that God takes us in our sleep, then we’re pissed off when we wake up the next morning. Of course these are all things that we do not let the outside world see. To the outside, all they see is someone who drinks too much. They see the results of a binge and the actions that follow. They don’t see the pain behind it all. We spend days, weeks, months and even years feeling sorry for ourselves and not seeing any way out. It’s not until we feel so incredibly broken that we’ll become desperate enough to make the necessary changes. If you’re wondering what it’s like to be an alcoholic, it’s pure Hell.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for my sobriety. I don’t miss anything about those old days. I don’t miss the person that the booze caused me to be, I don’t miss the black outs’, the hangovers, the feelings of uselessness and hopelessness. I still suffer from the disease and I will for the rest of my life but it no longer controls me. Sobriety is something that you have to work on every single day for the rest of your life. If I allow myself to forget where I was, it won’t be too long that I’ll be back in that place. THAT isn’t an option for me. Today I’m an alcoholic, but I’m no longer a drunk.
AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist.