Concerned About Your Drinking?

Are you beginning to wonder why you’re drinking more and enjoying it less? I’ve been there, done that!

Some 17+ years ago, I attributed my heavy drinking to the business and marriage problems I was having. It never occurred to me that I was having these problems because I was trapped in a restless and angry fog resulting from too much alcohol consumption.

I saw myself as simply an enthusiastic social drinker. I kept thinking that anyone would drink like I did if they had my problems. At separate times, a therapist and a psychiatrist both confirmed my thinking. In therapy sessions we would always talk about my business or personal problems, alcohol was either never mentioned or brushed aside.

In my own mind I wasn’t the image of an alcoholic. An alcoholic to me was someone unshaven, in a battered raincoat, homeless, sitting on a curb drinking out of a brown paper bag. I would learn later that I could easily have ended up like that had I continued drinking. Often, very talented and capable people, who somehow can’t accept their alcoholism, end up that way.

I never had a D.U.I., never had a car accident of any kind, let alone one related to alcohol. I had never been fired or kicked out of any organization for alcohol abuse. Later I realized how alcohol gave me a bad attitude that caused a long time employer to finally ask me to leave, even though I had never embarrassed the company because of my drinking. The words alcohol or drinking were not used during our severance discussions.

It took 35 years of consumption of various alcohol products in ever increasing amounts to bring me down. I was blessed (cursed?) with a strong physical constitution inherited from my father. When I was younger, I had no problem bouncing back quickly from a good toot. I was 46 years old when I finally quit drinking and by that time my health was on a downward slide. I had become slightly yellow from jaundice and constantly endured a pain in my side. I would learn later that the pain was from an enlarged liver due to alcohol abuse.

The incident that started the process of changing my life occurred at a neighbor’s house over dinner one evening. My wife and I were having fun with long time friends who also made up our primary drinking circle. I went overboard and drank copious amounts of white wine before dinner, copious amounts of red wine with dinner and copious amounts of brandy after dinner. I blacked out, for the first time in my life.

Upon leaving the neighbor’s home, I fell off the front stoop, bounced off a sidewalk, rolled down a small hill and spread-eagled in the street in front of their house. I had to be told what happened later as I had no recall of that evening whatsoever. I still don’t.

My family doctor treated me for bruises and congestion (from the histamines in the wine). When I confessed I was uneasy about my drinking, he suggested I go to Alcoholics Anonymous. I took his advice hesitantly; still not convinced I was an alcoholic. I continued to cling to the hope I could find a way to moderate my drinking and get back to a perfect two martini lunch, which I thought was the mark of a gentleman. Of course, it had been decades since I had been able to have only two martinis at a drinking lunch.

I became a reluctant, even belligerent member of AA. It took weeks before I could even entertain the thought of calling myself an alcoholic. Finally, with the help and support of a very gentle, non judgmental member of AA who listened to me and shared his experiences, some of which were highly personal and startling, I began to see I was not unique. I was suffering from an ailment that directly affects some 7-10% of the population. We are people who physically and mentally react differently and badly to ethyl alcohol. I didn’t ask for this condition, I just have it.

At first I was uncomfortable about the idea of alcoholism being a disease. It sounded like namby-pamby psychology to cover up my bad behavior when I was drinking. My sponsor, an experienced AA person, who’s sponsorial function is to guide a newcomer through the program, quickly relieved me of that notion. He told me I was not only responsible for my actions when I drank, but I would have to eventually face these actions and the people I hurt directly if I was ever going to find long term sobriety and emotional peace. He turned out to be dead right. I had some of the best experiences of my life in this regard.

I’ve now been a member of AA for over 17 years and recently wrote a story of my experience under the pen name used for this article. It’s a 200 page novel, primarily based on my personal story, but enhanced with many of the peculiarities and humorous idiosyncrasies found in AA meetings.

The book plays on the use of the incessant acronyms encountered at AA meetings such as: F.E.A.R., D.E.N.I.A.L., H.O.W., S.P.O.N.S.O.R., T.I.M.E., H.O.P.E., K.I.S.S., R.E.L.A.T.I.O.N.S.H.I.P., N.U.T.S., S.T.E.P.S., S.L.I.P., and S.O.B.E.R. The last, S.O.B.E.R., is the title of the book. I tried to show the real AA with all its humor, irreverence, witticisms, tough love and spiritual mystery. If you have concerns about your drinking, you may find this book is a non threatening way to explore the question of your drinking. To see more, go here: http://www.esober.com.

I’m not promoting AA, just trying to demystify it. My wish is that every alcoholic or problem drinker gets sober by whatever method works for them, AA or any other means. Too many lives, families, friends, careers and businesses have been devastated by alcoholism – the good news is there is a great way out of the problem!