My name is Stephanie Price, and I am a recovered alcoholic.
Now you say, “Hi Stephanie,” and I start talking. ...
I was chatting with my 7-year-old daughter recently about this and that, my past I think, and had to pause to do some mental math after she asked me, “Mom, how long has it been since you drank alcohol?” Well, I last knowingly consumed alcohol was when I was 24 years old; it was 1996. So 17 years.
“Wow,” I realized. I have been sober longer than I even drank, which was about ten years’ total. Interesting.
“And why did you drink?” my daughter wanted to know. I told her, in 7-year-old terms, something like this:
Alcohol, for me, brought about great relief from what one might call existential angst. I had not even known I was so troubled until I drank and the angst was, temporarily, gone. For most anyone who enjoys a glass of wine, a beer or a fancy cocktail, alcohol takes that edge off, and it did for me, too.
Frankly, like a good pain pill should, alcohol made me feel better.
Problem was, I’d get that edge softened — ah, the nice, fuzzy, rounded corners of a few beers — but keep on drinking.
You know that girl who orders pitchers at last call? That was me.
Then, when I decided I should leave alcohol alone — “We just don’t get along well,” I might have told myself — I found I could not. Somehow, for some reason or no reason, on a good day or a bad day, after a “trigger” or no trigger, I would find myself drinking again when I really had not wanted to.
People would suggest I “chose” to drink again. I had not chosen, yet I could not explain why I drank after I had firmly decided not to. Talk about feeling like you’re absolutely CRAZY.
I did make it three miserable months without a drink once before finding myself nearly suicidal. Sufferingly sober was no way to live, either. I was trapped.
Then, someone in the know, a recovered alcoholic himself, told me what an alcoholic is. It looked like I just might be one. Catching on to that was both a crushing blow and a great relief, very bittersweet. You see, if I was alcoholic, it meant I was really, really sick. And who likes that word, “alcoholic?”
But if I WAS alcoholic, it meant I “qualified” for a proven treatment for alcoholism, a solution I saw at work in that man who shared his kindred experience with me. He was sober and not sufferingly so. Maybe if I did what he did, the same would be true for me?
Alcoholism really is a simple deal and can be fairly quickly diagnosed with two assessments: One, if one cannot “control” his or her drinking or two, if one cannot stop drinking altogether — forever — one might be alcoholic.
I know: Books and treatment centers and questionnaires look for a lot more, like when, how, what and why one drinks. I often chuckle when I read those assessment tools. “Do you drink in the morning?” might ferret out a problem drinker, but a real alcoholic just drinks — morning, noon or night — and for those of us who were in the habit of saying, “It’s noon somewhere!” we look for ways to rule ourselves out with questions like that.
Considering those things matters, I suppose, at some point in an alcoholic’s recovery, but if one wants to know, “Am I an alcoholic?” one really only needs honestly ask and answer those two questions I mentioned. Remember, they are “Can I control it?” and “Can I leave it alone altogether?”
And those are yes-or-no questions, by the way. No adding caveats allowed. Most alcoholics try to qualify. I did. To wit: “I can control it when I want to” or “I could quit if I stayed away from all my old friends” or a thousand other “ifs,” “whens” or “buts.” No, no no. Either one can control it or leave it alone or one cannot.
I can do neither. Thankfully, I do not have to try.
I can, certainly, remember the miseries of untreated alcoholism — miseries for me and most anyone who had the unique blessing of interacting with me — but the pain of that life has dulled or is gone altogether.
When I do remember, like I did with my daughter, it is for the sake of others who might experience the same.
Now RECOVERY is fresh in my mind.
Make no mistake: That is not a type-o above. I am, absolutely, a recovered-with-an-ED alcoholic. Recovered, not recovering by white-knuckling it through life one day at a time. “Recovered” is not cockiness speaking, by the way; it is confidence in the One Who recovered me.
See, my sobriety is not dependent on me. It comes from dependence on and service to that “Higher Power” you read about in the book “Alcoholics Anonymous.” That One does for me what I cannot not do, which was not drink.
I cannot not drink. Thankfully, I have not had to try in 17 years.
Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”