I was trying to explain to someone the other night why I’m not currently drinking.
She asked, “Well, does that mean you’re an alcoholic?” And emphatically, I stated, “Absolutely not.”
I have nothing against alcoholics and no judgments whatsoever towards them.
But I know how to correctly define one.
They are someone who can’t get up in the morning without a drink, someone who can’t go through the day without one, and someone who has to chug a good swig every night.
In other words, they are the opposite of me.
I don’t need alcohol. I don’t crave it, either. My body has never adjusted to it and is still shocked on morning hangovers when I overdid it the night before.
And on the subject of overdoing, for me it’s three drinks. That’s all it takes for me to swing into what my level of “drunk” is and act a fool.
My husband can drink five. Five drinks.
And he can drink them every night, function quite fine, and wake up the next day as if nothing happened.
He can remember everything that occurred the night before, and he doesn’t feel pulled to drink when he doesn’t want to.
Do I hate that other people’s ability to handle alcohol is better than mine? Of course I do.
I wish I could be a fun person to drink with, but I’m not. I lose control too easily, and I regret too much.
I can go weeks without drinking, and some years I’ve even spent half the year sober.
It’s not hard once I get started; it’s the staying put that gets difficult.
Because inevitably, there will be a vacation, a weekend away with my husband, a girls’ trip, or even just a simple dinner, and I’ll tell myself I can have, “just one.”
And then the spiral starts again.
There are many addicts, and I could fill the slot for many different things all by myself.
I am a food addict. I am a people- pleaser. I need affection and crave affirmation. I love alcohol.
It took me years to tell myself that the only thing that made me different than many other people was that my addictions had negative consequences.
The truth is, many of us have addictions that are messing up our minds in some way. They just don’t mess up our lives, and that makes them easier to mask.
For example, how many of us know a woman who refuses to leave the house without a full face of makeup? Or a man who lives at the gym?
Or a runner who would rather hit the pavement than spend time walking her kids? Or a golfer who lives for the course more than the family table?
And what about all our addictions to the glorious green woman with the coffee crown?
How many of us are glued to our phone screens or binge watch our favorite shows? Like it or not, those are all forms of addiction.
In many ways, having an addiction to a substance is easier than being addicted to something “clean.”
We can compartmentalize rights and wrongs, black and whites. Being addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex or even food is easy to stick in a box. Bad.
But what is the constant pressure to look good doing to us? How is the stress of performing wrecking our brains? Why are the lines fuzzier when it comes to the Good Box?
Because this year has been so rough for me, I’ve been forced to step back and take a look at a lot of issues happening in my life at the same time.
Just last night, I had a conversation with my older brother, a person whose life has remained stationary due to the massive trauma he endured as a child.
My heart breaks not only for him, but for his children, one of whom died by suicide in January, leaving two beautiful babies of his own behind.
I want my brother to be okay, but he’s not. And he believes that because I appear okay on the outside that I’m somehow magically perfect on the inside.
My seemingly “perfect” life shines a big old glare on his “imperfect” life, and it doesn’t matter what I say to convince him that’s not the case, he refuses to hear it.
We are all struggling this year in some way, aren’t we?
And for some of us whose generational sins have landed smack on our front door step, it’s even worse.
The quiet time at home has revealed all the issues we’ve tried so hard to push down.
Left alone with my thoughts during many months at home, I pondered all the ways that life had let me down.
It wasn’t my fault, I said, I didn’t do anything to cause my parents’ divorce, their subsequent actions, the sexual, physical and emotional abuse I’d endured at the hands of various people, or my struggles with faith and confusion over the nature of God.
I’d only responded the way I felt I should, acting as the victim I was, showing the world how they’d hurt me and I’d be damned if I let them think I was okay.
It’s really warped, isn’t it? To drink poison but expect another to die. I can’t give that quote proper credit, but it sure is true.
I punished my husband, my children, my parents and my close friends for my past.
I punished myself most of all, and it wasn’t until I put my thoughts in their proper place and gave my past to Christ on the Cross that I felt any relief at all.
But those pesky addictions, they just kept showing up.
I had a light bulb moment earlier this year when sitting down with my husband and chatting about my drinking and overeating.
I think in his mind, he’d always believed my drinking was for fun, and that when I had too much it was simply because I couldn’t handle my alcohol.
It sounded like a decent explanation and it certainly took me off the hook. If my body couldn’t handle alcohol then it wasn’t my fault, right?
Except, that wasn’t true. I knew exactly why I was using alcohol and food.
I was using them to cope. They were my escape, my moment to not feel anxiety about the junk taking up space in my head.
I wasn’t an alcoholic. I was an abuser.
I had what is now becoming known as Alcohol Use Disorder.*
I was using outside sources to alleviate inside pain.
But an outside source can’t fix an inside hole. Nothing outside will ever cure an inside pain.
Remember what Christ said?
It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”Mark 7:15, NLT
Dealing with heart issues is never easy. What makes heart problems incredibly painful to understand is that many issues aren’t fixable; there is no way to shift time. What’s done cannot always be undone.
Forgiving our own past is the hardest act some of us will ever have to do.
With man it’s impossible…but with God?
I had to let it all go. My childhood, my trauma, my young adult decisions, my hurt, my habits. I had to let them all go.
Wipe the slate clean in my mind and start over as if I were a completely new person.
A completely new person. Imagine that. It’s almost as if that’s exactly the way we were designed to function.
We have a chance every morning we’re alive to start a brand new day.
We are given twenty-four hours of choices to make, and while we won’t be perfect, the choosing to try our best part is half the battle.
Not an external, show-the-world kind of best–a less than best–but an authentic, this-is-me-flaws-and-all best that allows us to take a breath and accept the being God created us to be.
Why would we call bad what He called “very good?”
We are not the person standing behind us. We are not the person in front of or beside us.
We are not our parents, our spouse or our children. We’re not even the person we saw in the mirror ten years ago.
We are daily renewed.
Is it hard to describe what I am to people when asked why I don’t drink anymore? Yes. It still is.
One day I’ll feel comfortable saying, “I have Alcohol Use Disorder.”
For now, that’s not a term I care to define. It’s not widely used and I don’t have the mental capacity to explain it to people and watch their eyes glaze over. So I just reply, “I’m taking a break.”
And right now that’s good enough for me.
I’m here to chat if you ever want to talk through the junk inside your head. I’m not a trained therapist, and I cannot give you advice. But I’m a darn good listener.
Comment below if you want to share your thoughts.
*For information on alcohol use disorder, visit https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder