Can I be honest?
If you saw this post and clicked on it, the answer is most likely yes. You do need to quit drinking.
People who don’t need to quit drinking probably wouldn’t read a post about quitting drinking.
If you are still with me, you either know you need to quit or you suspect you need to quit. Maybe deep down you already know the truth. You know your drinking is too much or out of control or more often than it should be.
You know but you don’t want to know. Knowing might mean doing something about it and that is not what you want to do. Doing something about it might mean quitting and that is not what you want to do. You just want confirmation that you don’t have a problem. Desperately want that.
So you scour the internet looking for something to prove that you’re fine. You read stories about other people who have quit and think, “She was way worse than me. I’ve never had a DUI, didn’t drink in the morning, haven’t embarrassed my family… (fill in the blank).” You compare your intake and behavior and level of life destruction.
I understand. I’ve done the same thing. Many times.
The problem was that it didn’t work. The problem was that I did need to quit drinking. The problem was that I had a problem. And I knew it. I just didn’t want to believe it.
I didn’t want to quit drinking. Give up wine? That was way down my list of things I wanted to do at that moment in my life. Get a root canal, run a marathon (sorry, runners!), eat liver? Maybe. Quit drinking? No. Definitely not.
I took a quiz on the internet to determine if I had a drinking problem. If a woman scores more than 13, “it indicates your alcohol consumption puts you in position of considerable health risks. You are probably moderately to severely physically dependent on alcohol. You are advised to see a medical doctor who will probably carry out further investigations, recommend therapy/counselling or alcohol reduction strategies.”
I scored a 34. True story.
I still didn’t quit drinking. I’m not sure I cared I scored a 34. I wanted to score a under a 7 which meant all is well. When that didn’t happen, I shrugged it off and mentally moved on. I couldn’t possibly be a 34. I had a family and a husband and a farm and I was a published author and I went to church and I homeschooled and I was not a 34.
I was so in love with my wine that I refused to acknowledge the truth. I was a 34.
I read Caroline Knapp’s, Drinking: A Love Story, several months before I actually quit. If you haven’t read it, do it. It was the first book that got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could walk away from all these years of struggle.
In her book she lists 26 questions from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency that will help you determine if you have a drinking problem. Take a look. (This is an updated version from the one in the book.)
1. Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?
2. Can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink?
3. Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though your friends say you didn’t pass out?
4. When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it?
5. Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available?
6. Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be?
7. Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking?
8. Has a family member or close friend express concern or complained about your drinking?
9. Have you been having more memory “blackouts” recently?
10. Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough?
11. Do you usually have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily?
12. When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking?
13. Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking?
14. Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your drinking?
15. Have you ever had a DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) violation, or any other legal problem related to your drinking?
16. Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you are drinking?
17. Are you having more financial, work, school, and/or family problems as a result of your drinking?
18. Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your drinking?
19. Do you eat very little or irregularly during the periods when you are drinking?
20. Do you sometimes have the “shakes” in the morning and find that it helps to have a “little” drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind?
21. Have you recently noticed that you can’t drink as much as you used to?
22. Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time?
23. After periods of drinking do you sometimes see or hear things that aren’t there?
24. Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking?
25. Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking?
26. Have any of your blood relatives ever had a problem with alcohol?
People who answer “yes” to questions 1 through 8 are in the early stages of alcoholism which can last ten to fifteen years. People who answer “yes” to questions 9 through 21 may be in the middle-stages. Answering “yes” to questions 22 through 26 indicates the beginning of the final stage. This is when alcoholism can kill.
I could add my own questions: Does your liver feel large and painful? Is your face red and puffy? Do your eyes look odd? Is your belly more belly than it should be? Do you long for alcohol as much as you hate it? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.
Did I want to quit? Yes, but only if it meant I could keep drinking. At least a little. So illogical but so true.
What I really wanted was not to have a problem drinking. I wanted to go back to the days when I could have a glass or two of wine over dinner and that’s all. I wanted to go back to the days when I didn’t think about alcohol, when I didn’t worry about how much I had on hand and how I would secretly get more, when I could enjoy a glass of cold, crisp wine on the front porch without getting that look from my husband. I wanted to go back to before. Before it all started spiraling out of control.
But I can’t. I know that now.
Even if I could turn back time with every intention to control my drinking, I would likely end up in the same place. Addiction runs strong in my family.
The truth is I wouldn’t be able to control it. Even knowing what I would eventually go through, I have no doubt I would convince myself that drinking is acceptable. I deserve it. It’s not that bad. Others are much worse. Just look at me. I’m fine. I’M FINE! Oh, the lies we tell. I’m a very good liar, especially to myself.
My only chance at not ending up here would be to not drink at all. Ever.
There is good news though.
If you think you need to quit, you can. If you know you need to quit, you can. If you’re not sure if you should quit, do it anyway. Alcohol is poison and if nothing else, it makes you fat.
Life doesn’t have to stay on that roller coaster of craziness. We can get off, turn in the rest of our tickets and leave the fair.
No matter how much in love you are with drinking, you can break up with it and survive.
Will you be brokenhearted for awhile? Yes, you probably will be. Will you miss your beloved friend and all the time you spent together? At first, yes you will. You will miss it desperately. Will the thought of never drinking again seem unbearable, maybe even undoable? If you’re like me, yes, it will. That may be the thing that’s hardest to swallow. The foreverness of it all.
Like any heart-wrenching loss, the first days can be filled with misery, sadness, and anger. You will want to go running back to your love, say your sorry, work things out. Don’t do it. Stay strong. Life may seem too difficult, too hard, too much at the beginning, but hang on. Just when you think it will never easier, it does.
Like the first days of spring when you still shiver a little from the cold but can feel the slightest bit of warmth promising better days to come, so it is with the early days of sobriety. One day the cold will not be as cold, the longing not quite as sharp.
The dark days of the winter of your addiction will begin to give way to the spring of your recovery. Slowly at first and that’s okay. True healing takes time, intention and patience. Give yourself that time. You will heal.
There are better days ahead. Much better days than the ones you’ve spent stumbling around drunk. Clear-eyed days where you sleep all night and wake up with no shame and no regrets. Mornings where you enjoy a cup of coffee with a clear conscience and a clear memory of all that took place the night before. Days when you can look your loved one in the eye and tell them you’re good and mean it. And there will come a day when you drift off to sleep and suddenly realize that you didn’t think about drinking once the whole day. That’s a good day.
Is quitting drinking easy? No, it’s not. At least it wasn’t for me. Giving up my wine involved a lot of stops and starts and more stops. Is it worth it? Yes, 100% yes. You will get your life back. You will get a life back. Your loved ones will get you back. The you that’s whole and present and real. The you they love.