When I was struggling with admitting the truth about my drinking problem, I spent a lot of time in a magical place called Denial. It was a diverse, overpopulated place filled with delusion, ignorance, and fear. I didn’t just camp out there, I moved in. I paid rent. I unpacked. I decorated. Living years in denial was expensive. Financially. Emotionally. Mentally. And physically. I lied to myself daily. I told myself that I was fine. I told myself that I was happy. The thought of addressing my drinking problem, giving up alcohol, and living a life without booze sounded next to impossible.
I didn’t know anyone who was sober. All I knew about sobriety was what I saw on TV or in movies: someone who’s lost everything and they have to go to AA to rebuild their lives. I told myself that I wasn’t one of “those” people. It was nice to pretend that everything was fine and that I had a healthy relationship with alcohol. That was a big fat lie. Here’s a few other lies I told myself so I could keep drinking…
1) I Haven’t Hit Rock Bottom
When I was drinking I thought rock bottom meant jail, job loss, or homelessness. I was surrounded by people who got DWI’s, got arrested, went to jail, had unplanned pregnancies, or got into serious car accidents. I didn’t really think much of it. This just happens. It’s part of the scene. It would shake me up for a few days, then things would go back to normal. I’d tell myself and my friends that I’ll be safer next time I drove/had sex/whatever situation applied at the time, then take a shot of Jack Daniels to celebrate my “maturity”. I never got arrested. I never got a DWI. I never got pregnant. Those things were all signs that I didn’t have a problem, right? No. They were signs that I was incredibly lucky. Sometimes I’d wake up and my car would be parked horribly. Sometimes I’d fall asleep next to someone I barely knew. I never hit rock bottom because I was living in a rock bottom. But as long as I kept telling myself everything was fine, I could keep drinking.
2) I Don’t Have a Drinking Problem
I generalized people with drinking problems. I thought they were people who needed alcohol everyday. I thought they were people who would tremble without their daily drinks. I thought a drinking problem = alcoholic. They were nothing like me. I’m happy! I work multiple jobs! I teach Zumba! I eat clean! I went to college (eventually)! I have my shit together, man! My drinking buddies reiterated what I needed to hear: “Tawny, you don’t have a drinking problem, you just like to party!” So I believed that for a few years, too.
3) My Drinking Doesn’t Affect My Work, Relationships, or Finances
I got into many dysfunctional romantic/sexual relationships. I slept with men who liked getting drunk and then pretending that I didn’t exist during the day. I ended up in a mutually abusive relationship (both physically and emotionally). A few good guys stuck around long enough to actually be my boyfriend, but I’d sabotage any shot at happiness because I didn’t think I deserved it. My relationship with money was equally unhealthy. I spent more than $100,000 on alcohol and alcohol related activities. I dropped out of college repeatedly because binge drinking was more important than studying. I chose jobs (waitressing and bartending) that encouraged me to engage in the party girl lifestyle. Looking back, these are classic examples of someone who was living in rock bottom. I just couldn’t see it at the time. I thought it was normal.
4) Drugs Cancel Out the Booze
I convinced myself that doing coke during a night of heavy drinking would “sober me up”. The reality was that I loved doing blow because it let me drink more. I was equally delusional about weed. Towards the end of my pot-smoking days, weed started to make me feel paranoid. Instead of quitting smoking, I taught myself that I had to be drunk before getting stoned. Since my body was relaxed from the alcohol, I didn’t get paranoid from the weed. I was a hot mess who told herself anything in order to get (and stay) fucked up. Now, I see that drugs and alcohol worked together to exacerbate my depression and anxiety…the complete opposite of “canceling each other out”.
5) Socializing Sober Would Suck!
The concept of socializing sober made no sense in my world. I was a bartender in a small, Texas town and most of my friends were bartenders. Drinking was what we did. Sobriety was like sooooo boring. How would I hang out with my friends? How would I meet new people? What would I drink? What would I talk about? It turns out socializing sober is pretty freaking cool. Telling myself that I needed booze to be social helped me when I felt uncomfortable. Therapy is now helping me learn how to deal with that discomfort (a.k.a. anxiety) instead of drinking to forget it.
6) I Can Stop Drinking Anytime I Want To
The fact that I could go days, weeks, and one time even 3 months without drinking made me feel like I didn’t have a problem. I wasn’t like those people who got the shakes from withdrawal or as Jim Morrison glamorized “Woke up this mornin’ and got myself a beer”. I rarely drank alone; I liked the social component that came along with drinking. I can count the times I got drunk alone on one hand. It was never my thing. I just loved the party. This false belief led me to keep drinking for years because “I could stop anytime I wanted to”.
7) I’m Never Drinking Again
I was a proud binge drinker. I drank to get drunk. Black-out, pass-out drunk. I was also a fan of the “puke & rally” method (drink until you throw up, get it out of your system, then start drinking again). As I got older, I developed terrible hangovers. These hangovers had me curled over the toilet vomiting while last night’s mascara desperately dripped down my cheeks. (I was such a catch!) Between throwing up and chugging water I’d promise myself and a God that I wasn’t sure I believed in that this was the last time. This is it. I’m getting my shit together. I hate feeling this way. Never again. Then I’d sleep it off, rest, and get ready to go out again that night.
On November 30th, 2015, I said “never again” for the last time. I was sick of the hangovers, the trashy hook ups, and everything else that went along with the self destructive lifestyle that I created. Quitting alcohol wasn’t easy and it’s still not. But it’s a hell of a lot better than lying to myself all the time. My unhealthy relationship with alcohol kept me living in denial for years. Now that I’m just over a year sober I’m learning how to live a healthy life instead of pretending that everything’s fine.
EDITED BY: ALISSON WOOD