That question pops into my head almost daily, although it usually takes the form, “how did you get here?” This isn’t an existential question. It’s not The Question that has intrigued Humanity, spurred philosophical debate and spawned a multitude of religions.
No. This question is a more functional inquiry.
There was a time in my life when I was very busy, active socially and content. I endeavored. I was going places. I had hope and I was not uncontent. Now, I’d like to know, how did that change, why did that change and how can I get back to happier me.
When I ask myself, “How did you get here,” I hear the familiar voice in the back of my head repeat what she’s been saying for years. In my brief moments of clarity, I nod in agreement and we quickly make a pact to right the ship and set sail on a new course, back to happiness. I make a few changes, primarily to my diet, and all goes well for a little while. And then things collapse again.
I am really not sure what the problem is. That is really a bummer. I do know, though, that some of the behaviours I engage in aren’t helping me find or fix The Problem. In fact, the one behaviour I keep repeating, I probably do so I don’t have to think about The Problem.
Is that The Problem? No. But my drinking is keeping me from understanding and fixing The Problem. My drinking is like a hammock I lay in as The Problem swirls around me. I catch wisps of it and know almost instinctively that I do not want to confront THIS Problem.
I have a martini (or wine or tequila) and like magic, I don’t see The Problem. Time slows and the noise subsides.
Now, I know (because I’m smart this way), that The Problem has not gone away. But I’ve just bought myself a brief respite from its insistent and persistent nature. I’ve deferred, if you will, the apprehension of The Problem. I’ve pushed it aside with alcohol so I don’t have to contemplate its nature and do the hard solving of it because I’m pretty sure solving The Problem is going to upend my Life as I know it and upend the lives of those closest to me.
And so I Avoid The Problem with Alcohol.
I’m miserable and I’ve been miserable for years.
Yes. I do have a good life. I live comfortably, in a nice home. I have a skillset that is in demand and not boring. And I don’t want for more money or any more material things. I could put myself on autopilot and let The Problem lurk in the shadows of my disconnected, miserable life. But that’s not really the point of life, is it?
So I think it is fair to say, I am here because I want to stop drinking.
Whatever The Problem is, I need to let it come to the surface so I can address it. I need to stop avoiding it and come to terms with it. I use alcohol to avoid The Problem and, truth-be-told, I am really not comfortable drinking alcohol on a daily basis.
That’s right, I’m not an alcoholic. When you compare the “traditional” definition of alcoholic to my behaviours, you too would likely say, “You’re not an alcoholic!”
I’m functional as hell; I’ve never missed work because of alcohol. I’ve never busted a regulation around work and alcohol. I’ve never gone to work with a hangover. I’m able to stop for long periods of time - days, even months - when I’m working or have a project I want to complete. I don’t get stupid drunk every time I drink; in fact, I rarely get “drunk.” I’ve never fallen down, gotten hurt or hurt anyone else while drinking. And I can still count on one hand the number of times throughout my entire life that I’ve vomited because I drank too much.
But I drink every day. Not a lot, but something. I’ll have two glasses of white wine, maybe, or, two vodka martinis. Lately I’ve enjoyed margaritas - two, of course. Some days I’ll have a couple of martinis and then a glass of wine. That’s really pushing my limit.
I’m usually a pleasant drinker. There have, however, been times when I’ve been argumentative and not very nice. I don’t have the pleasure of waking up the next day without remembering what I said. So my brain replays in detail the whole thing for me. And I apologise (hell, you were drinking too…) vowing silently to not drink (white wine) ever again, quickly making plans to switch to vodka.
So no, I don’t fit that traditional definition of “alcoholic.”
When drinking alcohol, time stands still.
In other words, I do not have to continue my day. I can stop right there with that first sip and disconnect from The Universe and The Problem. No more deep thoughts, tactical planning, strategizing, or meaningful connection to any other human being, family included. You see my face, we’re talking to each other and it looks like I’m having a good time (and I probably am) but I am not there. Whatever we’re doing, it’s happening on the surface only. And you can be sure, if I’m drinking, I don’t want to deal with my stress, your stress or The World at that time, at all. And I’m certainly not exercising or creating.
And that is why I need to quit.
I live day after day after day of meaningless endings, lost opportunities for clarity and bar-stool conversations with the veil of alcohol covering my eyes. It is a barren wasteland, a sort of dull, soulless existence.
There are no creative dinners with friends, no making art, no walks on the beach, no folding up the clothes, washing the dishes or taking responsibility for the loose ends of life - just the slow slide from the afternoon into the evening and into the bed. Let’s do it again tomorrow, yes?
Do you know how many hours are wasted each and every day between 5pm and 10pm? Yeah, that’s not a trick question.
How many Day Ones will I have? If the past is any predictor of the future, I’m screwed. But today is my new Day One. And yes, I’m looking for help along the way.