Today was a really good day for me. I got a raise, FEMSA’s twitter account gave a Follow Friday gave the twitter account that I manage for work (@GAESresearch), and, here’s the biggun, I accepted that I am alcoholic!
I know that sounds grim, but it’s actually really terrific. Some people, namely my mother, have suspected it since I was in college. I don’t drink to escape my problems, more like there have simply been too many times when I haven’t controlled my drinking. I had admitted it (that I am an alcoholic, not just that “sometimes I drink too much”) to a few people, mostly because my boyfriend made me, but I didn’t really feel good about it. That is the difference now: I actually feel good about myself as an alcoholic. I was beaming as I walked home from work, singing a little song… la la la, I’m an alcoholic, and I’m okay…la la la, it’s okay! Two aspects make me particularly happy, other than the pleasant surprise that yes, even after acknowledging this weakness, I actually love myself for it, is the feeling of peace, relief, strength and power that this acknowledgement has given me. It is who I am. The ser form.
I have, since college, wanted to control my drinking better, and so of course deep down I always knew that it wasn’t only that I party too hard. However, for a combination of reasons related to my social environment and a misconception about alcoholism, I hadn’t really leveled with myself. I had tried to, but it turned into me being too hard on myself and then later recognizing that the negative things I had told myself weren’t actually true and sort of setting the situation aside. I hang out with people who drink a lot. I lived in the UK in my early 20s, where binge drinking is normal. And I didn’t understand alcoholism that well, either. I looked at from the classic AA perspective, that if you are an alcoholic that means it is impossible for you to control yourself, that abstinence is the only solution. I used to joke that I needed to cut back because if I became an alcoholic then I would have to quit and that would be annoying for boring social functions. I thought admitting that I am an alcoholic meant admitting that I couldn’t defeat it and had had to give up. I was really uncomfortable with that prospect. It didn’t feel right, because I really do believe that I can learn how to manage it. I have just haven’t yet.
So today, troubled by my boyfriend’s reaction to seeing me trashed last night, I was doing some reading online (summaries of Johns Hopkins-published research, even) that said that “all or nothing” is indeed a misconception, that roughly half of recovered alcoholics quit drinking, but the other half actually learns how to manage drinking responsibly. I realize that a skeptic could say I am just listening to the advice I want to be true– Alcoholics Anonymous, though widely criticized, is also widely respected, has helped millions of people, and definitely adheres to abstinence as the only measure.
However, reading this factoid today really, really inspired me. I can acknowledge an important feature of my physiology without feeling that I don’t really have any choice in how to handle it. Recognizing that I have a medical problem with alcohol abuse doesn’t preclude my being able to manage the problem. In fact it is very possible for me to control my drinking itself, not just controlling (trying to) the situations in which I drink. And what’s more, I feel like, after ten years of wanting to learn how to handle my alcohol, I have finally taken a definitive step forward in doing so. Now instead of being this storm cloud hovering over me, threatening to burst if I let it, every time I go to a party, it just sort of seems like some routines I have to learn and make sure I stick to. Since I am an alcoholic, I have to alternate my drinks with soft drinks. Since I have medical problem, I have to make sure I eat before I go out. Rather than just “try not to get plastered tonight.”
So let’s see if this paradigm shift works. It’s Friday night and I have a despidida to get to.