How Did I Know I Was an Alcoholic?

How Did I Know I Was an Alcoholic?

I asked myself recently, how did I know I was an alcoholic?  Sure, I liked to drink, I was a connoisseur of fine wine, a lot of fine wine, I’m a grownup gosh darn it.  Towards the end, there was no difference between me, and the homeless man on the street.  Our outsides might have been different but inside we were the same, lonely, full of self-doubt and utterly defeated.

There were some telltale signs that my drinking had surpassed normal – I was in denial, refusing to take that hard look in the mirror – but the signs were as big as a flashing neon sign on the Vegas Strip.  One of my last nights of debauchery played itself out at the Canal Club in Venice Beach, a favorite Friday nightspot for us locals.  The appetizers (What?  Who am I fooling?  I never ate!) were ½ price.  And the Margaritas (the best in Southern California and served up by Jose) were the strongest in town and cheap that night.

I arrived by taxicab, something I had started doing recently because I wanted to be sure I was free to have the best time possible, like taking a limo to the Oscar’s, my drinking nights had become events.  I was only inside for about an hour when I knew I had been over served – by myself, not Jose!

I looked around the room for the “friend” I had come with to see her sitting on a stranger’s lap, ready to plant a wet kiss on his face.  “Yuck!”  When I had finished judging her, I lost focus and the room started to spin.  I got down on my hands and knees – yes, I pretended to be looking for a “lost” earring.  I don’t think I would’ve reached the door had I done otherwise – and I crawled to the sidewalk and into a waiting cab.

It was a miracle I made it home as that’s about all I remembered.  The next day I was aware that there was a significant difference in the amount of money I had in my wallet from the night before.  OK I had none left – when I had started out with over $250.  So, either the cab driver had helped him self or I threw my money at him as I exited the cab, again on my hands and knees.

Now, here’s the really painful part:

My kids were home when the cab dropped me off.  I don’t know that because I remember, I know it because my oldest one, 16 at the time, does.  She described me crawling from the cab down the driveway to the back door and into the guest bedroom.  She told me she was scared and worried for me and embarrassed to let her younger siblings find out so she distracted them until they went back to watching television, eventually putting them to bed for me.

Oftentimes the stories of alcoholics can be humorous, but we laugh to cover the wounds and the tears inside.  I had been drinking and using drugs from the time I was a young girl.  I come from a well-to-do family who looked good on the outside.  My father was a rage filled alcoholic and my home life was chaotic to put it mildly. My earliest memory is one of feeling unbelievably uncomfortable in my own body.  I was awkward, unsure of where to place my hands, how to stand, what to say.  I felt as if I was always wearing a dirty dress to the party when nothing could’ve been further from the truth.  Shame penetrated every cell in my body, every aspect and feeling I had of myself.  I was not a happy child.

Still I pressed on, numbing my pain with alcohol and drugs.  I drank and drove, was pulled over and let go, lost relationships and blamed my father for giving me the crappy end of a stick.  I lived for thirty years pretending to be someone I was not and it almost killed me many times.  Does the way I was raised make me an alcoholic?  Maybe – maybe not.  Is alcoholism genetic?  Maybe – maybe not.  I don’t know the answers and it’s no longer important to me that I do.

Not immediately, but soon after that “incident” I had my moment of clarity and started my road to recovery.  There were signs I didn’t want to see but they were there, looming over my head like a personal rain cloud.  I didn’t want to grow up to be an alcoholic like my father, so it was hard to admit it at first.   I needed to identify with people similar to me so that I could get on with it and recover.  I came up with a list that I would’ve liked to see earlier in my drinking – so it would’ve been clearer to me.  My hopes are that it will help someone else whose life is being ruined and run by alcohol and drugs.

  1. Do you keep your drinking friends separate from friends you would bring home to meet your family?
  2. Do you ever lie about where you are going so you can get away and drink by yourself?
  3. Do you have trouble concentrating on the conversation at the table because you are busy wondering why someone is not finishing his drink and whether there’s a tactful way you can find out whether you can have the rest?
  4. Have you ever arrived at a party with your own alcohol hidden and stash it somewhere because it is either too good to share or you want to be sure you have enough in case they run out?
  5. Do you bring a “to go” bottle of your favorite liquor into places where you shouldn’t (the movie theatre, school, work)?
  6. Have you lost your wallet, driver’s license or car keys more than once or twice recently?
  7. Do you repeatedly drink alcohol you don’t like or do drugs that give you bad side effects telling yourself, “It will be different this time”?
  8. Have you ever had hysterical bouts of crying and sobbing or punched things while drunk?
  9. Do you drink the leftovers when the party’s over and the booze is gone?
  10. Do you live for those sick days when you are free to gulp the Nyquil?
  11. Have you asked a friend to give you their urine sample because you knew yours was dirty?
  12. Have you ever wet your bed after a night of drinking?
  13. Is your identity wrapped up in being a C O O L Party Animal?
  14. Do you often use the phrases, “To go cup,” or, “Road beer?”
  15. Do you drive around searching for the after-hours party – not wanting the night to end?
  16. Do you constantly drink until you pass out, black out or throw up?
  17. Do you ever pretend to go home when the party’s over, but call a different set off friends to continue partying, so the other ones won’t think you have a problem?

If you’ve asked yourself, “How do I know I’m an alcoholic?” in the first place….chances are you know the answer.  And these questions were just a confirmation that you might need help.

It’s time to move on to the second set of questions now, the Twenty Questions of Alcoholics Anonymous….good luck.

http://www.barefootsworld.net/20quests.html

Photo by AwayWeGo210

Martha Lockie

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Martha Lockie’s goal as Director of Community Outreach at New Life House is to bring their community focused living paradigm into their local neighborhoods in order to greater serve the recovery world at large.  Her work is about exploring opportunities for New Life House to be of service wherever they are needed and to give the public accurate information about their mission and role.  Martha studied creative writing at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico and Literature at Montana State University.  She enjoys combining her life in recovery with her love of writing. Martha’s motto is Unity + Recovery + Service = Love.

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23 Comments

  1. Hi Martha,
    That was a courageous and incredibly inspiring post. Coincidentally, I was raised in an alcoholic family in Inglewood, California. I turned to drugs, ignorantly thinking it was better to be a “drug freak,” than an alcoholic like my parents (this was the 70′s). Another coincidence, I live in Montana now! Your story and your work at New Life House will help so many people. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Reply
    • Hi Linda,

      Wow, it’s always such a small world. Although I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I moved to Bozeman, Montana for 8 years! In fact, the drinking night I described took place during a summer visit back home. I moved home for good 2 years later.

      Thank you for your comments – it’s always nice to know that we don’t recover alone.

      Martha

      Reply
  2. What a brave, brave post, Martha. There’s alcoholism in my family, too, though it took me a long time to figure that out. See – neither my parents were alcoholic, THEIR parents were (my grandparents), so the insanity was still there without the alcohol abuse. Your recovery is a PERFECT story for the change blog. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Marcy,

      Thanks for your feedback! It’s interesting now to share sobriety with my father who just celebrated 44 years! Forgiveness is the key.

      Best,

      Martha

      Reply
  3. Great post. Very honest and painful, but important to share. So many people are on the verge of figuring out that they have a problem. They’re usually the last to know, right?

    Reply
    • Yes, Hugh. We usually look at everything else in the room except the elephant standing right in front of us!

      Warmly,

      Martha

      Reply
  4. Everyone else has already said it, but I say it again. That was a courageous and inspiring post. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your struggle. I’m sure that reading it will someone going through similar struggles.

    Reply
    • Yes, Hugh. We usually look at everything else in the room except the elephant standing right in front of us!

      Warmly,

      Martha

      Reply
  5. Thank you for sharing! I would say I’m no longer a drinker – and when I was in my wild ways I had no idea I was in fact an alcoholic. I was not an every day drinker, I was a binge drinker and it was never a good night out unless I got so drunk I would black out. I have really slowed down the drinking -almost never have a drink these days. It seemed like once the drinking stopped I had no control in my life, my emotions, my self esteem. I now realize I really did use drugs, and alcohol to self medicate from a painful childhood. I’m now on the journey to healing and learning how to let go of it all – but reading this gave some comfort to my soul – just knowing I’m not alone. Thank you for that!!

    Reply
    • Jenny,

      Thanks so much for your feedback. The hard work for me begins now…making living amends to my children, looking at self-defeating patterns and beginning to build a life in my 50′s that most people start in their 20′s. It can be done though! There are millions of us out there who can never give up. The gift is in being able to help others going through the same challenges.

      xxoo

      Reply
  6. Is there a way to email this article? I have an alcoholic husband who would never read this with an open mind if he knew I sent him this :( Please include an email link here cos I very badly want him to read this..

    Reply
    • Denita, I too am married to an alcoholic and understand how much you want your husband to read Martha’s poignant and honest post. I’m a codependent who tried desperately for years to change my husband and open his eyes to what his relationship with alcohol was doing to ours. My man drank a fifth of Jack Daniels and a fifth of vodka every day. He was killing himself slowly and believe me, I was suffering right along with him. Alanon helped me to see his disease differently, which helped me to react to it differently. It led me back to a real relationship with Christ which enabled me to stick it out while I let Him work on my husband. Tommy has been sober for eight and half years. People, including myself, did not believe it could happen. We serve a miracle working God and with faith in Him all things are possible. Get yourself to an Alanon meeting my friend. You will be glad you did.

      Reply
    • Danita,

      it has been my experience that the more I work on my own spiritual program (I use this term in a broad sense – not a religious sense) that the most miraculous things transpire. I urge you to find your own support group, Al Anon, CODA, a self-help group, and begging your own journey of self discovery. You won’t be disappointed, I promise!

      xxooMartha

      Reply
  7. Martha,
    I love your honesty! I grew up in an alcoholic home. Not a pretty sight!

    To dull the pain I started drinking in high school and it took another 15 years of being the party animal before I realized I had become what I hated. This was the turning point of my life.

    We hide so much, if only we could open up to someone maybe we would not have to resort to this.

    The work you are doing to spread the word is wonderful!

    Reply
    • Carolynne,

      So true, thee are millions of people walking around with smiles on their faces and hearts that are broken, from bullying, from alcoholism, abuse, you name it. We need each other. All it takes is a kind word.

      Love,

      Martha

      Reply
  8. Martha. A truly honest, authentic and very sad post Except the part where you were on your road to recovery. This is powerfully told and so real, I felt like I was there. I have a friend (an ex) who I believe is either an alcoholic or alcohol dependent. The reason I am not sure because the list you have he doesn’t really do any of those things, however he drinks every night, takes drugs and normally doesn’t remember the next day or what he has said. His father is an alcoholic (not that he would admit it) and I can see why he is the same. He is such a lovely man and it saddens me the denial and the life he leads but I know there is nothing I can do. I use do drink a lot too and take drugs, but I hardly do it at all now I knew it wasn’t me and I grew up and took responsibility for my life. Any addition is there to cover up some kind of tragic thing from the past and pain, it’s so frequent these days and I hope your story can help others move on. Thank you for sharing. I love reading stuff like this, its so empowering and it helps us all grow and change. That’s what its all about. Thank you again

    Reply
    • Paula,

      Thanks for your feedback. The funny thing is, alcoholism comes in so many shapes and sizes that there’s no exact cookie cutter model for it. It’s all self diagnosed – so the alcoholic himself/herself has to be in enough pain to seek change. I hope your friend gets the help he needs. I definitely agree with you that underneath all addiction is a wound – needing to be covered up if it can’t be cared for. Thank you again!

      Reply
  9. Martha, Thank you for sharing your story with such boldness, honesty and reflectivity. You are inspiring. xoxo

    Reply
    • Jackie,

      Thanks! It gets easier to be honest when we put down the drink!

      xxooMartha

      Reply
  10. Very well written description of the alcoholic who comes from a nice home etc.

    Reply
    • Shirley,

      Thank you always for your inspiration and example of how to walk through the world without numbing the pains of lifes up and downs!

      xxooM

      Reply
  11. HI
    Very courageous of you to post this out there. The first (and most important) step to recovery is realizing that you have a problem and I am so happy that you’ve done that. A job well started is half done.

    I wish you all the very best in your road to recovery and I hope you stay on the wagon and remain a teetotaller.

    I have been through this myself (you can find my own experiences here – http://www.virag.in/2014/07/road-to-detoxification.html) and if ever you need a word or you feel you’re falling off the wagon, please do feel free to reach out. A support system is crucial to pull through alcoholism. We’re all here for you. :-)

    Reply

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