If you asked the people closest to me whether or not I have a drinking problem, I can guarantee you’d get a resounding chorus of mostly No’s, along with a few “WTF, are you crazy?” looks. But a few hold-outs, one or two, might say “Well…why do you ask?”
Those hold-outs – probably my husband, and a few select friends – those are the people who have a small, tiny clue. They might suspect that something is awry, or that I “haven’t been myself lately”. But they chalk it up to stress, or the mayhem of the last couple of years, or an early mid-life crisis. They don’t really see, though, and that’s because I don’t think they want to see it. That, and I’m a pretty good liar.
I’m secretive. I’m guarded. I will flat-out lie to my husband about how much I’ve had to drink. I’ll stay up late “working” so that I can drink more. I hide wine bottles; I sneak hard liquor. I buy the exact same label of wine so that it’s hard to tell exactly how much I’ve drank. For a time, I started buying boxed wine so that it was more difficult to tell how much I’d consumed. I’d regularly go through two boxes a week (easily 8 bottles) but tell my husband that “Gosh, it’s so much cheaper to buy the boxes, they last almost 10 days!”. (For the record, that didn’t last long, because let’s face it, most boxed wine is nasty).
While I’m terrified of sharing my secrets with my husband and closest confidantes, I’m even more terrified that they won’t believe me. On some level, my husband has to notice that I drink too much, but I don’t think he realizes just how much. How bad it’s progressed, and how desperately I need him to understand. To accept. To forgive. To hold my hand, take a giant leap, and grow with me.
When I made the commitment to cork the bottle for a while, I sat down and wrote out my reasons. There are lots of logical reasons – time (spent thinking about drinking, but also spent not doing shit because of it); money (spent on booze); extra weight (that I can’t lose, because of the booze); the persistent hang-over; my attitude (insolent and isolated a good chunk of the time).
And then, there’s the reason, one I’m certain I share with many “problem drinkers”. Shame. Plain ol’ ordinary, non-sexy shame. Yes, there are some intoxicated events I think about and just cringe. Yes, there are life choices I’ve made due to alcohol that I desperately wish I could reverse. And yes, there are a couple of “oh-shit-I-can’t-believe-that-happened-because-of-drinking” moments (I guess you could call those my bottoms, even though they, in isolation, did not prompt this change). But the over-arcing, solid push to this decision is shame.
Why would any sane, logical person live with a behavior that left them feeling guilty, humiliated, and disgusted if they could reasonably do something about it? Once I asked myself that question and I truly and honestly let myself feel all of the feelings that I truly and honestly felt about alcohol – well, then I knew it was time. I knew I couldn’t continue living the way I was.
Which brings me back to The Big Question, and the only honest answer I can give is “I just don’t know”. After everything I’ve lived with for the past decade – the bad decisions, the guilt, the shame, the deceit, I still can’t bring myself to use the a-word. But you know what? I honestly don’t care. I’m calling bullshit on the labels. Because really, who cares what I call myself? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I am making a choice to take a break. I’ve lived under the delusion for years that alcohol added something good to my life, but that ship sailed a long time ago (if it was ever even anchored). To be totally honest, I’m not going to lie and tell you that I’m done for-like-ever. But I am done right now.