A reader writes in and asks:
“I am 24 years old, and am having a really tough time admitting my disease of alcoholism. I know that I fit the description of an alcoholic, such as sometimes losing control when I drink, a change of personality, and blackouts. There are several times when I can have a couple of drinks and be fine, but I am never sure when that will be. I guess I am just scared of thinking that I will never have a drink again in my life! I am only 24 and not married, and the thought of not being able to drink champagne at my own wedding freaks me out! Also, all of my friends drink, and my social life revolves around drinking on the weekends. I am so scared and do not know what to do. I am also afraid of hanging out with friends and others, such as my boyfriends family, and not drinking because I have a hard time letting loose sober. Any suggestions would be great!”
There are a couple of issues to address here:
It sounds like you are still on the fence with your diagnosis of yourself. There are a couple of stages when it comes to breaking through denial. The first stage of it is when you realize that you are, in fact, an alcoholic. Now you may or may not actually be an alcoholic, no one can determine that but you. I can’t tell you that you are. But recognize that admitting to being an alcoholic is only the first part of breaking through your denial.
The second part of breaking through your denial comes when you actually accept your alcoholism on a really deep level and decide to do something about it. This is the point of surrender. Most people in recovery would argue that no real change can occur until a person reaches this point of surrender. If you haven’t accepted your disease at a really deep level, then you’ll just keep trying to control your drinking and continue to dabble with experimental drinking.
Do people suggest that you might have a problem with alcohol? If they do, and if this angers you, then let go of your anger about it. No one can tell you if you are an alcoholic or not. You must ignore these other people fully and find out for yourself. Yes, they are probably just trying to help you but if you have resistance to the idea then they are just getting in your way.
No one can diagnose you. Only you can say if you are an alcoholic.
Fear of life without drinking
I can definitely relate to this fear of facing the rest of your life without drinking. Before I got sober (but was considering it), the idea of facing the rest of my life without the crutch of alcohol was unthinkable. Truly, it was terrifying. The reason this was so scary for me personally was because I medicated all of my fears with alcohol. I drank to overcome anxiety. So the idea of being completely sober, forever, was about the equivalent of either torture or death. We’re talking super-mega scary. I think most alcoholics have a similar stance regarding the idea of having to face the rest of their life sober.
But here I am at 7 years plus of sobriety, and I obviously no longer have this dreaded fear hanging over me. Instead, I’m excited to live sober today, and have no worry that I won’t be able to self-medicate in the future. The fear has been overcome. I’m not sure exactly when I got over this fear (it wasn’t during my first week of sobriety, I can tell you that much), but I know that sometime in that first year I was completely relieved of the obsession to drink and use drugs. The craving just left me and I was completely free.
If we really wanted to expand on this here, I think we could fully explain how the creative approach to recovery fully eradicates the fear or sobriety and the emotional loss experienced with giving up alcohol. In other words, once you start living a sober life with real passion and purpose, those fears will slip away and you’ll no longer mourn the loss of your old best friend.
Emotional attachment to alcohol
Speaking of which, there is an emotional element when it comes to giving up drinking. This can be more powerful than you think. We tend to romanticize the idea of social drinking, even after we suffer great consequences due to our drinking. Many people will feel like they are “missing out” on something if they get sober.
I definitely felt this way in my early sobriety, especially when I was at a social function where others were drinking. But it’s actually ridiculous if you think for a moment and watch “normal people” drink alcohol. You’ll notice that they don’t even get drunk! In fact, I’ve actually seen someone set down half a glass of wine at the end of dinner and walk away from it, leaving it unfinished. These are clues for you when you start to romanticize the idea of social drinking. You’re not a social drinker, and if you picked up a drink to give it a try, there wouldn’t be anything social about it. It would be about you getting properly sauced up. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you could drink socially and have fun with it.
Today I know better when I see people drinking socially. They aren’t really drinking (not to get drunk, anyway). At first, my brain tells me this looks like fun, but I remind myself that I never had fun with 1 or 2 drinks. Drinking like that wasn’t fun for me at all. These days, I have more fun sober than I ever had during my years of drinking. Life is worth living again. I really thought that if I quit drinking alcohol, that I would never have any fun again. Turns out I was miserable while I was drinking, and life is a blast when you’re sober!
Good luck to anyone out there who is wrestling with the decision to give sobriety a try……