Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 3 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.
Quitting Drinking Saved My Life, but Boy Do I Miss My Old Drunk Self Sometimes
I gave up drinking when my pancreas exploded.
In early 2014, after celebrating a job loss with a two-week bender, I spent a sunny Sunday with a knifing pain in my gut, vomiting so hard that I ripped my gastrointestinal tract. My mom gave me a ride to the emergency room, and I spent a week in the hospital. A doctor told me that if I kept drinking, I would die.
And I had to think about it for a second.
If youíre not blacked out, is life worth remembering? Would I rather live in sober mediocrity for four more decades or be a kickass rock star for four more months?
When I was drinking, my life was a mess ó but I didnít have to find things to do on weekends. I couldnít honor my commitments, so I didnít have many commitments in the first place. I had lots of free time, but I had high-powered explosives that annihilated boredom. I could sit back and watch the explosions in my brain.
I was hooked on meth for 11 years. If you know and love an addict, this article is for you.
I thought sobriety would be a fresh, clear-eyed start, but sometimes it feels more like an endless homework assignment. Thereís a reason you donít see long lines or velvet ropes in front of AA meetings.
The first few months of sobriety are dangerous and challenging, and the first few years arenít much easier. Recovery is less like the heroís journey than it is like a car ride through Nebraska with nausea, a headache, and AM radio. I keep going with it mostly because I want to get out of where I am.
I donít want to strap on those rose-colored goggles again, but Iím not doing anyone any favors if I lie and pretend that alcoholism didnít have its advantages. I donít remember much from that era, but a few things stand out.
1) I Had a Social Life
When I am sad, I reminisce about a Thanksgiving dinner at Waffle House, dodging bottle rockets in Northwest Indiana, or making out with a friend in a filthy alley as we scouted the right SUV for her to piss on. Even now, these memories feel warm and fuzzy because I was having fun.
I never thought of myself as an alcoholic. When I was drinking, the word I used for it was ďhappy.Ē People like to be around happy, confident people, especially with the thrill of knowing a scathing rant or crying jag could happen at any time for no reason. So, when I was drinking, I had an abundant social life.
The key to building a social life is to experiment and pursue your interests in public. When my only real interest was happy hour, I had no problem making new pals. Conversation flowed freely and the stakes were low, since we all knew we probably wouldnít remember most of what was said. We bonded over how brilliant and hilarious we felt, not how asinine we sounded.
I thought I would have an easier time socializing when I could talk without spitting, slurring, and losing my temper. But I lost a lot of my thoughtless, stupid confidence, and it turned out that was a crucial part of my charm. I donít have as many friends now. Even internet marketers have stopped checking in on me. When I stopped drinking, I realized I no longer had anything in common with the people Iíd surrounded myself with, and staying in touch with them became depressing. Iím still alive, but Iím not sure who else is.
2) I Had a Hobby
When I was drinking, I knew that no matter how humiliating and pointless my work day was, I had somewhere to go at 5 pm. And I knew that, under the neon and Christmas lights, watching baseball and sipping watery domestic would be enough to make me feel like my life was worthwhile.
Now, I have to go out of my way to find things to do, and I often do them alone. I tried doing stand-up comedy again, but I ended up talking to myself on the subway.
Alcoholism is a dull hobby, but itís popular. Drinking gives you a ready-made group of friends complete with slang, perspectives, and inside jokes to run into the ground. Itís like a theater group with an edge, or the military without a purpose, or a less obnoxious version of people who watch way too much South Park.
My creative endeavors were crap, but thereís always an audience for trainwrecks. Instead of mentors and collaborators, I had a peer group held together by stories about breaking furniture and vomiting. It was a shallow sense of belonging, but we werenít in the position to think deeply about anything.
3) I Could Become a Different Person
Transforming your personal core takes years or decades of frustration, persistence, and hard work. Getting wasted takes a credit line of $10. I suffer from chronic depression and loathe myself a lot of the time, so I was always looking for shortcuts to feeling like a different person.
My interior monologue is a drill sergeant. It knows all my sore spots and heaps abuse on me whatever I say, do, or think. If I am suffering, itís because I am too sensitive, too weak to handle the harsh truths of the world, which means I deserve to feel bad. If I am not suffering, I should be. If I donít like myself, itís because there is nothing in my insignificant mediocrity worth liking. Itís a repetitive, cliched stream of insults, and I sit there and take it, because I must be too weak and stupid to defend myself. As with any bully, to engage is to concede. If I ante up for its game, Iíve already lost. The joke is on me, and Iím not in on it.
When I was drinking, I dissociated from myself, I behaved like a pathetic jackass, and I had nothing to be proud of. But at least I didnít have to listen to that torturous commentary.
For the inner bully, a shot of Cuervo was a punch to the gut, a rag in the mouth, and a time-out locked in the basement, where it grew even more resentful and vindictive. But at least I got nights and weekends off.
Now Iím sober, and I worry that I screwing this up, too. I returned to work too soon. I never properly righted my wrongs, mourned my losses, or experienced the right cheesy epiphany. I canít do anything correctly. I am bad and wrong and I will never be okay. And now I am beating myself up again, because I am stupid and weak and bad. Itís pointless and endless.
The people who are still in my life see the good in me and challenge me to be better. They are firm but fair. They help me laugh, grieve, and heal. I have learned to respect the humanity of others and seen a glimmer of faith in my own. But, sooner or later, I am alone with my thoughts.
Since I stopped drinking, Iím not as much fun to be around. And now I have to be around myself all the time.
4) I Didnít Have to Work Hard to Achieve My Goals
Somewhere in the back of my mind, there was a low hum of regret, and a droning, deadening sadness I didnít have the creative wherewithal to call out by name. But itís easy to blot that out when youíre rocking as hard as I was.
I can form complete sentences now, but there isnít much to talk about. I have a few projects going, but my progress is slow and lonesome. The past decade flew by, and I feel older and slower than I anticipated. My career is sluggish, my best friends are tumbleweeds, and Iím not even getting enough app notifications.
I lost 100 pounds in a year. My "weight loss secret" is really dumb.
Nevertheless, I am working a lot harder than I have in years.
Addiction funnels all the little problems into one big problem. When youíre focused on getting wasted, you donít have the patience for trivial matters such as making a living, meeting the basic obligations of citizenship, or treating those around you with dignity. You sweat a lot, but you donít sweat the small stuff.
It was easy enough to stick to my drinking schedule, and I didnít think I was missing anything. I didnít think, or do, or dream much at all. When I did, all my dream characters were wasted, too.
5) There was Plenty of Drama
No one watches TV shows about healthy relationships. Except for Roseanne. My drinking career was not as well drawn as Roseanne. But it had plenty of drama.
When youíre sober, you may find health, wealth, and fulfillment, if youíre willing to work for it. But youíll never experience the thrill of sending dozens of incoherent text messages to people you met once during the first George W. Bush administration.
Things are never stable at home, which keeps you on your toes. There are constant screaming fights to keep the adrenaline pumping. There is the looming threat of losing jobs or the humiliating hunts for new ones. There are tensions with neighbors and scrapes with the law. There are blistering hangovers, nasty flesh wounds, and emergency room visits, the touchdowns of alcoholic achievement.
You may be cutting short your life expectancy, but while the ride lasts, you really do feel alive. Whatís the point of living if youíre not burning bridges, screaming at strangers, and almost dying?
Thank you and Goodbye
Bono of U2 has an anecdote about eating dinner with Johnny Cash. ďJohnny said the most beautiful, most poetic grace youíve ever heard. Then he leaned over to me with this devilish look in his eye and said, ĎBut I sure miss the drugs.íĒ
When youíre wounded, numbing the mind has a magnetic allure. One sip of booze right now would send me down the royal road to misery and oblivion, and I still miss it. Recovering alcoholics use the phrase ďone day at a timeĒ because, even after years and decades, contemplating 25 hours without the sauce is too ambitious.
Before alcohol wrecked my health, my bank account, and my pancreas, it helped me have a lot of cool conversations and adventures I may not have had otherwise. It helped me learn a lot about my weaknesses and what I donít want to be anymore. It helped me bury a lot of emotions I wasnít yet ready to process. And I once used vodka to get a nasty wine stain out of a friendís white carpet before he even saw it.
So, thanks, booze, even though we arenít friends anymore. When we were, I humiliated myself, but at least you helped me forget about it. I owe my life to sobriety, but Iíll be the first to admit that itís a daily pain in the ass.
It requires relentless honesty, so let me honestly say that, sometimes, I sure miss alcoholism.