Alcoholic?

The other night I was talking with a friend, who, I have known for a very long time. The conversation had somehow made its way to alcohol, and drinking. She brought up the question, eventually, asking if I considered myself an alcoholic.

I personally, have only attended a handful of AA meetings, but the one thing that I never liked was the admitting. Oh sure, you have to eventually, admit that you have screwed up, drank a bit too much, and you need help. But admitting that you’re an “Alcoholic?” That was never something I could do, and it wasn’t because I was in denial like so many thought.

It’s a question that people who have known me a long time, like to ask. Slumped over on the edge of a table, they will say…“So, are you an alcoholic then?”

To me, it was a choice. A series of choices. A decision that I had to make, sober or not. To drink. To take the next drink. To put myself in a situation where things were only getting worse. Like it or not, I was the one making the choice to drink. I didn’t have a disease that was forcing me to drink. I was, making the choice, the conscious effort, to drink. Sure, some times, I may not have thought about it, I didn’t put too much thought into it, I may not have ever thought about it. But I was making the choice. Not anyone else.

To me, admitting that I was an alcoholic, was something I didn’t want to do. I may have been addicted, may have relied upon it, may have thought I needed it. But I was making the choice. It ultimately came down to the fact that I was choosing to get drunk, choosing to drink. Choosing that way of life.

Over a matter of time, I also made the choice to give it up…and after a few months of struggling to get cleaned up, and a long year of fighting myself, and even still, fighting back the thoughts on occasion, I have been sober for over two years. I am not an alcoholic. I choose not to drink, because I know that one drink could easily take me back. I choose this, because right now in my life, I have choices that I am making, and one of those choices is not to drink.

The conversation took a turn, when she asked how long I had drank. Was it a social thing?

Before Aimee passed, I drank as a social thing. I drank here and there, but nothing big. After she passed, it was free for all, and I went off the deep end drinking. Attempting at first, to drown whatever thoughts I could and when I couldn’t, I drank more. I drank stronger. I tried mixing. Eventually, I was addicted…and drank because I thought I needed it. I needed it to get through my day. You often here people say that their drink is always there. Which is true. Even in my lowest points, I knew that I could always head to the store, and pick up another drink. It was never far from my reach…

Which led us head into a difficult question. How did I care for Emmy?

Its something I havent tackled in my mind. Something I havent thought about, and havent WANTED to talk about. Its something that pulls me down, and makes me stumble. Every. Time. Because it’s the one thing that no matter what anyone says, I know I screwed up on. I was not the kind of dad that she needed. I was not there for her like I could have, SHOULD have been. When I was there, I was drunk. Or drinking. I watched her grow up, with a fog over my eyes, because facing reality, facing my beautiful angel, was too much.

She took her first steps in the cemetery, with a six pack sitting just out of her reach.

I don’t like to think about it. I don’t like to talk about it…and I don’t like to remember it.

Remembering Emmy, is difficult enough, without remembering what kind of a dad I was to her. Without remembering the things I could have done, the things I should have done, and not in a “Should have could have” sort of way.

I screwed it up. My only chance. Her life. I watched, with the alcohol within reach. I watched her life unfold, and fold…in a constant fog of drinking.

Someone asked me why I quit. If I quit for her. And the answer is plain and simply, no. I did not quit drinking for her. If I would have, I wouldn’t have quit. Because she isn’t here anymore, and quitting wasn’t going to bring her back. Infact, it made things more painful, to relive those moments, those days, those years…without a block. To meet them head on, and tackle them all at once. Everything I had pushed aside, was bubbling to the surface, and I had no where to hide.

I talked to someone, not to long ago. Someone, who, claims to be “Recovered” “Recovering” and “New.” Someone who is drinking his life away, passing the blame, and choosing not cover things up…with names like “Alcoholic” and “Addiction” to crutch him along.

Hes divorced, told me how his daughter has grown up, and he hasn’t been there. Because of that. Drinking. Hes told me how its ruined his life. But hes always ended by saying that he cant quit. Cant give it up. And then quickly recovers by saying that he HAS quit. That hes changed. Hes better. He gave up years of drinking, in days. And has had no withdrawals.  Amazing, no?

To quit, I believe, is not to admit that you’re an alcoholic. But rather, admit that you, and you alone, are the one making the choice. That no one can make it for you. That you choose to drink, and that you and you alone, can choose to stop. Just like no one can make you drink, no one can make you stop.

No one can take the pain away. No one can tell me that what I did with Emmy was right, because if they did, they would be lying. I didn’t quit drinking for her. I quit drinking because I was tired of running. I was tired of not being “There.” I was tired of loosing everything, and everyone. I was tired of it not ever being enough. I quit drinking because I needed to. I quit, because I was that close to loosing everything. I quit, when I made the choice to.   

My name is Dave, and I am NOT an alcoholic.

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One comment

  1. Dave, I congratulate you on your 2 years of sobriety. I am proud of you because I have seen the weaknesses of alcoholics and I know the strength of character it takes to stop.
    BUT I challenge your determination that you are not an alcoholic. My reason for saying this is because of something that you said. You said that you “choose not to drink because I know that one drink could easily take me back.” Only alcoholics are afraid of the possibility of not being able to stop drinking if they start drinking. Non alcoholics don’t think about that. If we drink too much we will feel crappy in the morning – that’s it.
    People use any number of destructive behaviors to escape their realities. They eat too much and become morbidly obese, they don’t eat enough so they become deathly skinny, they run, they watch movies, they lie, they take drugs, and they drink alcohol. Why? So they have some control in their lives – even if that control in their lives means being out of control.
    I applaud your choice not to drink and the day that you know you can have a drink – one drink and you don’t have to worry about having another and another until you wake up one day and realize that you have lost years in your life, then I would say you are not an alcoholic. That day may never come but that is okay because YOU choose not to drink.
    Forgive yourself Dave. Feel sad that you drank too much and Emmy didn’t get to know the best side of you. Feel angry because you drank too much and weren’t the best dad Emmy could have had. But Dave, live in the here and now. You are a sober caring man who has made the choice not to drink because you are a better person sober. You know that you need to be the best Uncle you can be for Madison, Dylan and Josh.
    Forgive yourself Dave. Congratulate and love yourself for the choices you have made today.

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