MH – My experience with alcoholism

Today begins the series for Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ll put “MH” in the front of every subject. If you’d like to contribute a guest post, please check out this post about it.

The first two posts will be about my experiences with mental health issues. Tomorrow I’ll write about what my therapist calls “adjustment disorder”, which I always called situational depression. I’ll touch on that a little in this post, because depression and alcoholism went hand in hand for me.

I’ve already shared a lot of my story on this blog, and to go into great detail in this post would make it extremely long haha. I’m going to focus more on the mental health aspect of my alcoholism.

My heavy drinking began in 2000 and into 2001. I pretty much had waited to drink until I was 21 and legal. Good girl, right? When I had moved out of my dad’s house a little over a year after my mom died, I shared a house with three other girls, and we had a lot of parties. At first it was all social drinking, but before I knew it, I was drinking a glass of wine to sleep, which eventually turned into a few beers before bed and before long, I was drinking every night. The years that followed became all about drinking. Working was just a means for money to drink. A home was just a place to crash. I bounced around from home to home and man to man, job to job.

Towards the end of my drinking, the depression started. At one point it got so bad that friends urged me to go to an emergency mental health clinic and I did. When they asked me if I had been suicidal, I said no, because I knew they’d lock me up for that. I think I talked to the clinician for an hour or so, and I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Ask B today if he thinks I have that and he’ll laugh his butt off. It’s incredibly hard to diagnose any kind of mental health disorder when someone spends their life drinking, constantly altered by the alcohol, never truly being in touch with reality. So I was given Celexa and told not to mix with alcohol. Ha! Yeah that didn’t work.

I didn’t stay on the medication because it completely numbed me out, to the point where I couldn’t feel happy or sad. Granted, I liked to escape with booze, but I didn’t like feeling totally shut down. I didn’t keep up any kind of therapy, just went on drinking.

Eventually I lived in an apartment all alone and I could drink whenever I wanted. I had gotten back together with my high school sweetheart and we just drank and played pool. Eventually I got a job at the pool hall. That led to the demise of the relationship because I would be out until all hours, going to a coworker’s house to drink after work. My boyfriend thought for sure I must be cheating, because I had lost interest in sex so he thought I was getting it elsewhere, and I was hardly ever home. All I cared about was where the next drink came from. Eventually he got fed up and left me and when I came home to find him gone, I got a cab to his parents’ house, drunk out of my mind, banging on the door in the middle of the night. Yeah, that’s the way to get someone back.

After he left I fell into such deep depression that my apartment was disgusting. I hibernated in my bedroom, a garden of empty beer bottles and cigarette butts all over the computer desk. I had stumbled upon a mental health forum before my relationship ended, because I was trying to fix my sex issues.

So I ended up hanging out at Psych Central, going into the chat room nightly to drink because I didn’t want to drink alone because that would mean I was an alcoholic. So I’d have drinking competitions with the other depressed people.

Eventually, something, a thought? An idea? At the time I didn’t know, but something told me I had to stop drinking. When I got sober and read ‘The Doctor’s Opinion’ by Dr. William D. Silkworth in the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, it all clicked. I finally understood why I drank.

I didn’t drink because I was depressed. I was depressed because I drank. Alcohol became my master. Alcohol ruled everything. It came first, before relationships, before jobs, and most of all, before me. Once I took that first drink, my body reacted, the phenomenon of craving took over and I couldn’t stop. There was no such thing as just one. One was always too many and a thousand was never enough.

It didn’t take long before my mind started clearing, after I learned how to fall asleep that is. I knew how to pass out, but I didn’t know how to fall asleep. It took about a month of listening to really soft music and sleeping with that book, for me to fall asleep naturally. I started taking the steps that others before me had taken and before long, the depression lifted. I learned that I had to change my thinking. That it wasn’t a matter of being weak willed, it was a matter of not having the skills to cope with life’s curve balls. Who wouldn’t be depressed if they don’t have a way to cope? It wasn’t my mom’s death, it wasn’t the fact that I dropped out of college or couldn’t keep a man or a job that made me drink. It was my reaction and inability to cope with those things that led me to the bottle, my best friend, my salvation.

I had to find something greater than alcohol. A higher power they called it. To this day, I don’t know what that is. But I know I believe in it. I know my faith in a power greater than me and more importantly, greater than alcohol, has kept me sober for 5 years, but not just sober, happy. Joyous. FREE.

By changing my thinking and my outlook on life, by learning to accept what I can’t change, I am free. The alcoholic depression has not returned. The desire to drink has been lifted. Sure, I still drool over commercials sometimes, but that’s just a good reminder that I’m an alcoholic haha!

Eventually I ended up being asked to be a moderator at Psych Central. The place where I had drank with other depressed people. They trusted me now to give me access to the mod forum and chatroom, the ability to edit and delete posts. Talk about redemption. I held that position with esteem. That site had saved my life until I got sober. I fully believe that.

There’s debate as to whether alcoholism is a mental health disorder. It has been classified as such, but there are still people who believe that we’re just weak willed. They can have that belief, but for me, it’s a lot more comforting to call it a disease and not just something horribly wrong with me. I still have the alcoholic thinking. That will never go away. I constantly have to work on it. I am quick to judge, quick to feel judged, quick to be offended, quick to emotions. But today I recognize it when it happens and I tell the shitty committee to shut up.

Turns out I really did need therapy though, which I’ll go into tomorrow when I talk about the adjustment disorder, or situational depression.

I don’t know if I’ve made alcoholism make any sense. There’s a whole book about it so I know I’ve only scratched the surface. But that was a brief glimpse into my own experience. I figure this was a good way to kick off Mental Health Awareness month, especially since I’m asking you all to contribute. Only fair if I contribute, right?

I’m curious to see what this month will bring! Let’s get aware!

7 Comments

Filed under awareness month, faith, mental health, sobriety

7 Responses to MH – My experience with alcoholism

  1. Thanks for writing about what you went through. I think it’s a hard one for those of us who haven’t had to dance with the demon of alcoholism to figure out. We all want to make it simple, quantify it. “Well, ya know someone has a problem if they drink this many drinks or if they drink this often,” never mind that the bigger issue is who controls whom. It’s a funny chicken/egg dilemma, and it’s never as simple as just the booze…at least I don’t think so.

  2. My computer decided to freeze just as i wrote this!!!!!!!! Grrrrr!!!!

    Wow ro that must have been so hard to write about. Thanks for giving us an insight.

    I think it is something to look back on, and you can say “I am an alcoholic, but i have come out the other side”. I know you might not feel that way, but i think that you are probably stronger now because of the alcoholism.

    I hope this doesn’t come across too nastily.

    Take care, and i am so interested in becoming more aware. It is so good when you have the knowledge to say “I now am more aware of……”.

    Take care, xxxx

  3. Ro

    Oh absolutely I am stronger because I am an alcoholic. I am so grateful I discovered what the problem was haha! There’s no way I could have survived the last few years without the tools I gained because of my problem drinking. I mean, if I weren’t an alcoholic, I might have just naturally had the coping skills like a lot of non-alcoholics have. But I might not have. I know I had alcoholic traits long before I ever started drinking, so if I had never drank and then found sobriety, I’m pretty sure I’d still be really effed up 😉

  4. “It’s never as simple as just the booze…at least I don’t think so.”

    It’s not. If it was, I’d be a raging drunk. I’m not saying that to be funny or an idiot, I’m saying it because it’s the truth. I grew up around alcoholics. My dad was (is?) one. He’s been one for his entire adult life, actually it’s even longer than that. He drinks less now, but that’s only because since the stroke he had 4 years ago he’s physically incapable of doing what he used to do. Some people can have a few beers or a drink every couple of nights or even get themselves a bit wasted now and then, some can’t. My dad and most of his friends fall into that second category. For people like that it’s booze or it’s nothing, drinks above all else. When you can lose your family and eventually your home in spite of having a good job and still not learn anything, you’re in the second group. When you have a stroke when you’re still a relatively young man and one of the first things you do when you get yourself out of the hospital is figure out how to open bottles with your teeth and the hand that still works, you’re in the second group.

    Me, I’m lucky. Yeah, I probably drink more than I should in fact I’m considering a beer or 5 right now, but that’s ok. It works for me, I can do that. And if I decide not to do it, that’s my decision. For people in the other group there’s no decision to be made, it’s just life, that’s how they role. I’ve always heard this talk about how the children of alcoholics are more likely to follow in those footsteps. I’m not sure how true it is, but I know that in my case things worked out. the idea of drinking used to freak me the hell out for that very reason and when I did start drinking it used to bother me when people would mention it as a possibility, but I’ve become comfortable in my own skin. I know who I am and what I can handle, and while I like the booze, I don’t absolutely need it. I’ll hope it’s around, but it’s not the end of the world if it isn’t. It’s not that way for everybody, and that’s why it’s not as simple as the booze. It’s the reaction to the booze and whatever it is that causes that reaction that’s the major issue.

  5. Ro

    I remember my mom warning me when I was young, that alcoholism ran in our family. She caught it in time, back when she saw herself becoming dependent on it. We call it the jumping off place, where we crossed the line. I never thought I’d cross the line, but I know exactly when it happened. It was that bottle of red wine I had brought home from a family gathering, when I lived with the roommates. I started obsessing about it one night, and convinced myself I needed some to sleep. That’s when it started. How I remember that with such clarity, I don’t know.

    I think for me, a big part of it was genetics. Pretty much the entire side on my mom’s side were alcoholic and they’re all dead. My mom was the exception, having caught it in time. I’ve since found out about alcoholics on my dad’s side as well. I wasn’t raised about alcoholics, so I never saw how terrible it was and therefore my mom’s warning held no creedence. I’m grateful for that now, because if I hadn’t drank out of fear, I never would have found a way of living that worked. I fully believe that the booze was my solution in those years because I didn’t have the coping skills.

    The doctor’s opinion that I linked to, really explains what goes on in the mind and body of an alcoholic. I read it again today, after I wrote my post, and it still amazes me, like he’s talking about me haha!

  6. I’m really not sure if alcoholism runs in the family or not. for all I know it could, but my dad was adopted so I’ve got no idea where the line goes after him. My mom’s side, at least among the ones I know, there doesn’t seem to be one in the bunch. I had an uncle that used to drink his share, but that was in his younger days and I’m pretty sure most of that is out of his system now.

    If I had to make a guess I’d say it likely doesn’t. Me, my younger brother and younger sister all drink and none of us are what you’d call problem drinkers.

  7. I read your post on the way home on the ferry and I had a good comment to write then but blogger wouldn’t let me on my blackberry and now I can’t remember exactly what I wanted to say other than thank you for sharing your story and I look forward to reading this month’s awareness posts

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