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When I was deep into my struggles with daily heavy alcohol use, I had a hard time labeling myself an alcoholic. Yes, I had no problems finishing off a large bottle of wine, or downing several double rums with Coke Zero every single night, but I still functioned, thrived even, despite my addiction. Because of this, I never identified as nor considered myself an alcoholic.
When I finally realized I MIGHT have had a drinking problem, I bought a well known AA book and buried it deep in my closet under clothes that I never wore, hoping and praying that there was some other way to control this monster that was slowly yet surely unraveling my life. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I had to resort to buying a book about alcoholism and how to get sober, and so there it sat, buried and never read in the back of my closet.
I would remind myself that I am NOT an alcoholic, far from it.
A few years later while cleaning out my closet with my husband, he came across the book and there we sat, both in silence, staring at it as I hastily threw it into a donation bag….
….Maybe that book about alcoholism can help someone else. I don’t need it, I am not an alcoholic! Besides, how can reading anything help someone sober up?
My husband knew I had a problem with alcohol but stayed quiet.
When I finally got sober years later, (ironically, after reading this book!) I noticed that I still had a problem labeling myself an alcoholic at times.
Some days, I embrace the name, but deep down, I feel like it is a label that doesn’t define me.
I am a person who had a problem with abusing alcohol. I am a woman who couldn’t stop drinking alcohol once I started, and would get pissy, blackout drunk most nights. I am a mom who drank anything she could get her hands on in order to get shitfaced enough to escape her anxiety and anger issues.
Functional drunk? Yes.
For me, the word alcoholic evoked thoughts of a middle aged drunk man lying passed out in the back alley of a bar somewhere with no family to go home to. Divorced from his wife, estranged from his kids…His family has written him off because in their mind he repeatedly chose alcohol over them. His body shows wear well beyond his years because he drinks his daily calories instead of eating them. His health is poor and maybe he’s hoping that one of these days….he will drink himself to the point where he won’t wake up.
In my mind, I didn’t fit this description of an alcoholic, which was yet another reason why at first I didn’t identify with it. I am a woman, a mom of young kids, happily married with a wonderful passion for Pilates and wellness with big goals and dreams to create a fulltime business from it. Yes, I have problems, anger and anxiety issues to name a few, but that’s what alcohol was for. To make the not-so-good things feel better.
On the outside, I was thriving and appeared to be the furthest thing from an alcoholic.
Of course I have come to realize that alcoholism, the disease, affects both men and (a sharply increasing percentage of) women from many different walks of life. I am one of many afflicted with the disease.
I wasn’t so different than the man I label as a typical alcoholic. Instead of passing out in a back alley, I would pass out in random areas around my house, and usually not in my bed…I’ve woken up in the bathroom, on the living room floor, in the dogs’ bed…I would wake up in some random places.
My husband was deeply concerned with my drinking and confessed to me later on that he considered divorce at one point to keep our kids and himself safe.
My kids knew mommy was happier only once she had her Mommy Juice. Mommy would yell less and laugh much more once she had her Juice.
I began to strictly limit my food intake to account for my alcohol consumption so I wouldn’t gain weight.
I wasn’t so different from that alcoholic man, after all. I too suffered from alcoholism.
Yet science and medicine has moved away from using the term alcoholism, instead referring to it as alcohol substance use disorder, from a medical standpoint.
Perhaps the shift away from using the term alcoholism was realized because so many people like myself never felt they identified as one. Maybe it’s the whole taboo factor of the word alcoholic that caused medicine to shift towards using alcohol substance abuse or alcohol substance use disorder.
Having a disorder sounds a lot easier to digest than having a disease.
Either way, I have become okay with calling myself an alcoholic. It’s a heavy word with a lot of implications, but I truly needed help to get out of the ditch that alcohol was digging for me. And if identifying as an alcoholic helps even one other person, woman, or mom get sober by reading this and hearing my story, then it is totally worth it.