06 Oct, 2020 · · Comments
Sobriety And Secrets
06 Oct, 2020 · · Comments
*Trigger Warning - Addiction and Suicidal References*
Originally shared on my personal Facebook page October 6th, 2018
As of now I am six years sober. While every year (or every day for that matter) that I add to this progress is monumental to me, there has always been a cloud hanging over my head that I have told no one. I haven’t hinted about it, nor addressed it directly, but I think now is the moment that it really needs to be said. In the final year of my alcohol dependency, I was suicidal.
I always assumed that being addicted to a substance was arbitrary, that being addicted wasn’t an illness, but a weakness. “Anyone can quit if they want to.” “They’re choosing this life and can stop if they actually care about their job, kids, spouse, or whatever.” But it wasn’t until I found myself in denial of my own condition that I realized how wrong I was about every single bit of those assumptions. You see, I had tried to quit drinking over a dozen times between 2008-2011 and failed every single one of those times because I was trying to quit for the wrong reasons. Mostly to spare the social embarrassment of it all in front of my peers or family. I never went into wanting sobriety because I actually thought I was addicted – it was for the sake of others, and I relapsed every single time.
Of course I wasn’t an alcoholic, I just liked drinking. The thing about addiction though – the thing that really gets you, is that you start to justify and normalize your behavior in your own mind. The very process of addiction effectively rewires your brain to make your habits seem normal. I started by comparing my consumption to that of other people I knew. When I passed them, I started looking at days of the week: “Okay, I’ll just not drink on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.” When my drinking became a daily ritual, I focused on quantity instead and justified an amount of whatever it was I had chosen to drink that day. I started with a pint bottle of Jack Daniels alternated each day with a six pack of 16oz Miller Lite cans. When I realized it was cheaper to buy the fifth of Jack instead of the pint, that was another justification – cost savings. Add in that the beer I alternated with was less than ten dollars for a 12-pack and therefore cheaper than the six pack, I had more reason to increase. I eventually normalized in my head that everything was fine as long as there was some left in the bottle or a can or two left in the box the next morning. See? That’s not how a stable person thinks about those situations. However, I was so deep into my addiction and justifications that I didn’t even notice what I was doing. I also didn’t know I was addicted at the time. It wasn’t denial, I was honestly, completely oblivious.
“How could you not know that you were an alcoholic when you were drinking so much?” Well, as I said, substance addiction rewires the way your brain works and keeps you in a continual fog of what is and isn’t normal. Some people can identify with that idea, but there are still some who wouldn’t believe that to be the truth unless they were to experience it themselves. Until I realized I was an addict, I was in the latter camp and thought addiction was a result of being weak-minded.
That all being said, I still take full responsibility for myself during those years. It was my problem to deal with and mine alone, but that is also why I became suicidal. I don’t hold what I am about to say as a grudge against anyone, but during those darkest of years I was alone because nobody told me what I was going through when I couldn’t see it for myself. After I crossed the initial sober hurdle years ago, I had a lot of friends tell me they knew I was struggling back then. The only thing I could think in those moments was “Why didn’t you tell me?” They all just assumed I was aware of my condition, when in reality, I was pretty oblivious to what was going on. Like I said before I arrived at this point, I don’t blame any of them for what I was going through, but I do wonder if I would have stared at a loaded gun, waiting for the moment I convinced myself to use it. This happened on a daily basis for the last few months before I became sober. A nightly ritual of wondering when I was going to allow myself to leave my own misery because I was in too much of a haze to realize my problems, my depression, and my altered mental state were a result of the alcohol. I had been diagnosed with clinical depression in 2009 and refused medication. I thought the alcohol was helping me fight it at the time when the opposite was actually true. At the end, I was actually holding the gun and made a weeping decision that I had to end something – luckily I chose to end the addiction and not my own life.
There was a moment I thought to myself that maybe I did have a problem. Maybe the thing that was most holding me back in life was in the bottle beside me. I took my finger off the trigger and threw the bullets into the woods. That was the day I chose the better way out. It was a really horrible six months after that as my body readjusted to coming off the chemicals. While my body was physically hurting, my mind was quickly healed and I looked back to realized all of the ridiculous actions I had been justifying because of my altered state. I haven’t had a single suicidal thought since the day I stopped drinking.
Addiction is a horrible disease and I have no idea how I managed to get through it with as close as I often came to ending it the wrong way. I’m just incredibly thankful that I allowed myself the clarity I needed in order to value myself enough to heal. These reasons are why I have become blunt when it matters and why I choose to not spare feelings when it comes to confrontation if I see the potential for harm. It’s because I still wonder what would have happened if someone had spared my feelings and confronted me about what I was going through when they could clearly see it but I could not. As I’ve said a few times, this was all me, I’m not blaming anyone else for my issues, but I do wonder if that would have brought me out of it before the suicidal contemplation. I have no way of knowing at this point, but I don’t want anyone else to wonder in the same way that I sometimes had. That’s why I have no problem with calling things like I see them, because I often witness others normalizing situations they’re in when those same situations look horrible from the outside looking in. Justifying behaviors for the sake of themselves or others when it is really just hurting them because they have been blinded for whatever reason. I don’t ever want to see someone get hurt, as I was going to hurt myself, because something horrible has become “normal” or a routine, and I also won’t apologize for it. I nearly killed myself a few dozen times. If anyone wants to hate me for being direct, that’s fine. If it affords them a little clarity or opportunity to reflect, that’s all I care about. I always think back to all of those times I nearly ended my own life because I lacked such clarity. I’m just happy to still be here, and six years sober at that. Why did I even take the time to say all of this? Just in case someone who reads it happens to be in a similar place and doesn’t realize their own issues without having a thought planted in their head about it. I have been there and its awful, but you can get through it. That’s all. Cheers.