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.
- Do you keep your drinking friends separate from friends you would bring home to meet your family?
- Do you ever lie about where you are going so you can get away and drink by yourself?
- 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?
- 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?
- Do you bring a “to go” bottle of your favorite liquor into places where you shouldn’t (the movie theatre, school, work)?
- Have you lost your wallet, driver’s license or car keys more than once or twice recently?
- 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”?
- Have you ever had hysterical bouts of crying and sobbing or punched things while drunk?
- Do you drink the leftovers when the party’s over and the booze is gone?
- Do you live for those sick days when you are free to gulp the Nyquil?
- Have you asked a friend to give you their urine sample because you knew yours was dirty?
- Have you ever wet your bed after a night of drinking?
- Is your identity wrapped up in being a C O O L Party Animal?
- Do you often use the phrases, “To go cup,” or, “Road beer?”
- Do you drive around searching for the after-hours party – not wanting the night to end?
- Do you constantly drink until you pass out, black out or throw up?
- 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.
Photo by AwayWeGo210