I often say that I was 12 years old when I had my first alcohol beverage, but I was actually 8 years old. It comes and goes from my memory. It was a Mickey’s, one of those short little bottles. I don’t recall drinking again until I was 12.
I drank and smoked pot through my teen years. I gave up pot at about 17 for several years, then dabbled in it a few times in my adult years, nothing frequent. I continued drinking into and throughout my 20s. Usually on weekends, and not every weekend. There were periods every now and then where my drinking became more frequent. My ex wrote me a letter while we were still together informing me that my drinking was getting a bit out of hand. If memory serves me right I had been drunk like 7 out of 10 days or something along those lines. She gave me the letter when I was drunk, as you can imagine, that didn’t go over very well. However, when I sobered up, I realized she was right. I had been drinking more than necessary those couple of weeks. I am at a bit higher risk of being an alcoholic so I’ve always tried to be mindful of that and to not drink frequently. So I backed off a bit. Went back to drink periodically on weekends.
My ex and I broke up in May of 2010. We shared the house we lived in for a couple of weeks after we broke up. I didn’t want to be there so I spent a lot of time with a friend; a friend that drank a lot, so I did too. After the couple of weeks living together at the house I moved next to some mutual friends of ours. My ex spent a fair amount of time at our friends house after I moved in, this lead to a stint of frequent drinking for all of us. I lived there for about 4 months then moved about an hour away. I needed to break away from that life to start something new. At this point I had pretty much detached from almost all of my friends, the ones I saw most often anyway.
For about 5 years after I moved away I didn’t really drink at all. I set limits for myself when I did. I only drank at home, for the most part, and it was no more than 2 glasses of wine at night after 7pm. I broke the no more than 2 glasses rule twice and drank two bottles instead. I stopped the nightly wine for a bit after that. When I started again, the same rules applied. Eventually though the after 7pm rule became the after 5pm rule.
Once in the Summer of 2014, I got really drunk at my ex’s place and decided to drive home (about an hour). The only thing I really remember about the drive home is that I threw up all over myself because there was a cop in the parking lot I wanted to throw up in. I noticed somewhere along the way that I didn’t have my glasses on. And at some point I remember realizing I was driving on the shoulder and not in my lane. I knew that I had been terribly irresponsible driving in that drunk state, I was very happy I didn’t hurt anyone on my way home. I almost never drank like that anymore, it just got away from me that night.
From that point I didn’t drink in excess at all. My life started going well and I was on a, healing myself and overcoming my past abuse, path. I was meditating regularly, I was doing yoga and running, I spent time out enjoying and capturing the beauty of nature with my camera. I had begun to surround myself with people who really “got” me. I went on a road trip with an aunt and uncle; we visited family in Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri (places I had never been). It was great to connect with my aunt and uncle on that trip, and to spend time with members of the family on a more intimate level rather than funerals, and an occasional family gathering (I didn’t really know that side of my family until that trip). Life seemed good and so much more manageable than it had ever been.
Early Spring 2015 (right after my trip) a different story started to play out. I started hanging out with co-workers, bowling and happy hour (drinking included). We all came to be good friends. We were like a little family. The bar started to become a regular thing. Summer hours at work started and we only worked half days on Friday. Most of those Fridays were spent on the patio at a nearby bar. I found myself regularly getting drunk and driving home. This raised concern for my therapist I had been seeing for nearly a year at that point, others as well. They felt my drinking was getting out of hand, and at the very least I needed to set limits when out drinking so that I didn’t drive home drunk.
So I started setting limits. I agreed with everyone that it was irresponsible of me to be getting drunk and then driving. I sat in my therapists office and set a drinking boundary. If I had to drive I couldn’t drink more than three beers. I shared my boundary with my coworkers, some believed me, while others didn’t.
First time back at the bar after setting the boundary. I was on beer three and we had only been there for like an hour. I shattered the boundary I had set. Drove home drunk again. Communicated this with my therapist. Then I set another boundary, same boundary, but this time I was going to stick with it!
Second time back at the bar after setting the boundary. I think I slowed my pace a bit, but busted right through that boundary too. Drove home drunk again. And again I communicated this with my therapist. And again I reset the boundary.
Well, I went around in this circle for several weeks. If it wasn’t already clear that I had boundary issues, I was beginning to do a fine job proving I had boundary issues. Me in all my boundary setting wisdom, thought I’ll just adjust my boundary. So with my therapist again; this time the boundary was no more than 4 beers if I have to drive. Apparently I thought that if I allowed myself just one more beer, I could manage the boundary. My therapist was not on board with 4, she was sticking with 3, and truth be told she would’ve rather I just not drink if I was going out. Somewhere in all of this boundary setting and boundary breaking she asked me if I was concerned about my drinking. I told her no, I wasn’t. I said I need to stop driving drunk, but I had gone years without really drinking at all. Why would I be concerned about my drinking (she very obviously was). I had things under control though. I could choose to not go to the bar with my coworkers/friends, but I wanted to go, I was having fun. Lots of people do what I was doing. Why was it a problem for me to do it?
Well After a couple more shattered boundaries, I decided I needed to be better about holding to them. Sooner or later something bad was bound to happen. It didn’t take long before I had the opportunity to prove myself with holding a boundary. A coworker was having a party for just the people on the production floor. I knew there would be a lot of drinking, but I did NOT want to get drunk that night. I had a session with my therapist right before I went to the party. The boundary was this: I could drink one beer an hour, up to 6, I was not going to get drunk and I was going to drive home because I would’ve been sober enough to.
I stuck so firmly to that boundary for about the first hour and a half. I got so incredibly drunk that night. That was one of the drunkest nights I had ever had. I did VERY regrettable things that night that I will never be able to undo. The next morning before anyone woke up, I quietly slipped out the door with my head hung low and my tail between my legs. I left my dignity somewhere in the spare room.
It took me a bit to come out of how shitty I felt about my boundaries and my behaviors that night. In time I came to forgive myself, but when I think back on that night, I am still filled with regret.
Once I got beyond the guilt and shame of that night, it was time to set new boundaries around drinking. Going forward I could only have 3 if I was going to drive and never more than 6 for any reason. I was NEVER going to get drunk again…until I did. I wasn’t going out near as much, and very seldom did I drink wine at home in the evenings. I may have broken the boundary again, but I don’t drink as often anymore. I cut back on the frequency of my drinking. I was managing my drinking. I had it under control.
And again somewhere in this mix my therapist asked me, “Do you feel you have a drinking problem?” and again I said “No, I don’t”
Everything I had worked to accomplish before and during that trip with my aunt and uncle had completely fallen apart. I completely came undone. During my coming undone there was a family reunion on the side I went on the trip with. I wasn’t anywhere close to being the same person I was on that trip. I hardly spoke to anyone. I didn’t initiate conversation. I spoke when someone spoke to me. It was almost as though my ability to carry on a conversation was just gone. I was filled with so much shame, I was a fraud, I was not who they all thought I was. I felt like such a disappointment.
It was roughly 9 months, if that, when depression kicked in. I started an anti-depressant, it was a pretty low dose. It seemed to work okay for a bit, but then there was a period of a few days when I could hardly handle the depression. I’ve had some pretty bad days of not functioning, or any desire to get out of bed, but this span of a few days was the worst thing I had ever felt in my life. I contacted my therapist and said I need a psychiatrist, I need a Dr who knows about mental health and not some regular physician who knows nothing about it and only signs prescription pads for mental health disorders. It took some time, but I think we’ve come pretty close to balancing me out. It was time for me to do my part in my getting back to a place of contentment.
But, I still didn’t have a drinking problem. I had a boundary problem. I fix my boundary problem then everything will be back to good.
This time around I set a boundary I was sure to stick to, and I set this boundary to prove that I didn’t have a drinking problem. This boundary was the same as the previous one, no more than 3 if I’m driving and never more than 6. If I break the boundary this time I will start going to AA meetings. I had been to an alanon meeting a couple of times, and it wasn’t my thing so I was pretty sure AA wouldn’t be my thing either. There was no way I would break this boundary because I didn’t want the consequence of breaking it. The thing about setting personal boundaries and consequences for breaking said boundaries, is that there really isn’t anyone to hold you accountable except yourself, and we’ve established that I have some pretty massive issues with being accountable for my boundaries.
Months had gone by and I hadn’t drank at all. I was feeling a little better emotionally and I thought I had it back together and was back on track. I had no desire to get drunk or even drink for that. Not because I thought I had a drinking problem, if anything I was proving I didn’t have a drinking problem. I had gone a couple/few months with no alcohol. People with a drinking problem can’t do that, so I didn’t have a problem.
Went out to the bar June 10th with a coworker and a coworker who didn’t work with us anymore. I had zero intentions of getting drunk. It was a Friday, and we were on Summer hours. We got off at 10am, the bar didn’t open until 10:30. My coworker had brought some alcohol with her. I knew she was going to bring it, but I had told myself I wasn’t going to drink any of it. I was just gonna have a couple of beers when the bar opened and then be on my way. Well after a couple of shots in the parking lot before the bar opened and roughly 10 hours of drinking at the bar and yet another drunk drive home, I realized I couldn’t keep doing this. I could not keep drinking and driving. I was going to end up hurting or killing someone. I had to stick to my boundary of no more than 3 when driving (Still don’t have a drinking problem, but dammit I need to get this boundary problem under control).
I spent the Summer not drinking, I couldn’t trust myself to hold to a boundary I set. I have proven time and time again, that I am not good with boundaries. I have a terrible boundary issue, and until I can get this boundary problem under control I’m just not going to drink. And so I didn’t.
I was getting back on track. My disordered mind was feeling balanced. But I was completely miserable at my job. I interviewed with a couple of places. I felt pretty confident about one of them. The next day I went into work and I was given some info that I wasn’t very pleased with. It was the last straw. I took a leap of faith that I would get the job I had a good feeling about and I gave my two-week notice that morning. That very afternoon I got the job I had a good feeling about. The Universe had my back. I knew I needed a change in my life, I was getting closer to being me, my true self and the Universe agreed. My jerk boss terminated me after week one, but it really kinda came back and bit him in the ass.
One of my coworkers asked me if we were gonna go to the bar to celebrate my last day. I said yes because I knew the company wasn’t going to do anything for me. 8 years of loyalty means nothing to them.
I initially set the boundary that I wasn’t going to drink while I was there. I was just going to visit and drink my raspberry lemonade (I gave up soda/pop a while before this). As the day got closer I reset my boundary to just one beer, I mean we were there to celebrate me leaving and moving on to new and better. I had to have just one beer with them. They had all been so loyal and dedicated to me and gave me their best everyday. The day came, I had a glass of lemonade. I passed on the shots that one of the coworkers brought. I waited until everyone was there before I ordered my beer. Then the waiter brought me another one, I didn’t even order it. I didn’t want to be rude so I drank that one too. And then he brought a 3rd one, again I drank that one. By this time I realized I was maybe drinking them too fast and needed to slow the pace. I ended up having 6 beers that night. I paced myself pretty well throughout the night. I stopped drinking at about 9-9:30pm (started at like 4:30pm), and I ate two appetizers while we were there, and I didn’t leave until about midnight. I didn’t get drunk! I was able to drink that night and pace myself and not get drunk! I was very proud of myself. However, I still broke the boundary I had set that night.
I began to slowly realize that perhaps I do have a drinking problem. I think I realized it before I was even willing to admit it to myself. I had no real control over drinking. I didn’t need to drink all of the time. In fact if I avoided situations that involved drinking I could probably go a very long time without drinking, maybe an occasional glass of wine at night. But the fact that I would have to avoid situations that involved drinking in order to not drink, well that was very telling. I didn’t have the kind of drinking problem where I NEEDED to drink daily. I had the kind of drinking problem where I had no shut-off switch once I started. I was powerless to alcohol when I drank. I managed to control it that last night out with coworkers, but only because I started to realize that maybe I did have a problem. I was scared shitless about going out that last night. I was afraid I would get drunk again. I knew I did NOT want to get drunk. It took every part of me to control my consumption that night, and in the beginning I damn near lost control of it.
Could I go out and do it again, drink and not get drunk? Could I do it consistently? Could I, for the rest of my life not ever get drunk again, but be a social drinker who only has one or two when I go out?
Had you asked me those questions a year ago, 6 months ago, hell even 2 months ago I would’ve told you that yes, I can control it, I do not have a drinking problem.
Today, my answer is no. My answer has been no for about 7 months now. No, I cannot control my drinking once I’ve started. No, I do not have power over drinking once I start, it has power over me. Just because I spent years trying to convince myself that I didn’t have a problem didn’t actually mean I didn’t have a problem. Hell, if I had opened my eyes sooner I would’ve realized that me claiming I didn’t have a drinking problem was me having a drinking problem.
I have a drinking problem. I can no longer drink because I am powerless to it once it crosses my lips. I can no longer have a glass of wine in the evenings, even though I can control that, but if I give a little I will take a lot when I go out. I know that I do have some issues with boundaries, but alcohol wasn’t a boundary issue, alcohol was an alcohol issue. I am very at peace with no longer drinking. It is what is best for me and the life I want to live. I never saw myself as having a drinking problem, and I don’t want to have a drinking problem. I’ve realized that nothing good comes from drinking to the point of intoxication, nothing good comes from frequent drinking. All it did for me was bring me shame, guilt, and regret.
Now I get to move forward with my life. I start school in January. I have a job that I love. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink soda/pop, I don’t do drugs, and I don’t drink alcohol. I am living my life as my true self. I have been hesitant to write about this completely open and honest with no filters. I’ve been afraid of getting flack from others, I’ve been afraid people will tell me I don’t have a drinking problem, I’ve been afraid people will tell me that my drinking habits are pretty typical, but the drinking and drive should stop. These are all things I’ve heard anytime I’ve mentioned or suggested that I think I might have a problem. So speaking openly and honestly about my having a drinking problem that has resulted in me being sober and no longer drinking, was not something I was really looking forward too. And quite honestly, I needed to process it all for myself before I spoke openly about it.
This is part of who I am, it doesn’t change anything about me, other than I no longer get drunk and make regrettable decisions. I think I’m better this way than I was drinking. I am proud of my awareness, I am proud that I no longer drink, and I am proud of my sobriety.
If you have ever or are currently questioning whether or not you have a drinking problem, chances are pretty good that you do. Take time to explore it, open your heart, mind, and eyes to it. Then do something about it. Ignoring it, denying it, wishing it away, is not going to make it go away. You need to own it and take action to change it.
My name is Danielle, and I have a drinking problem