Part 1, Part 2
This is the second part of this article on the stages of alcoholism. Below, you'll find a personal account of a journey through alcoholism - but do be sure to check out Part 1 (if you've landed here first). There you'll find important information about alcoholism stages - from your perspective, and the professionals'.
Below, Chris starts by describing how his drinking started when he was at university. Don't let that distract you - his journey may well be much like yours or your partner’s.
Below are my personal thoughts, feelings and experiences during my time as an active alcoholic.
When I started drinking I just looked like another teenager, new to drinking, enjoying it. I was still able to refuse drink. Although if the truth be known, I'd have preferred not to refuse it.
I was at university. Uni - a license to drink as much as I liked. Of course this is well camouflaged, as everyone does it - at least, that’s what you tell yourself.
Still at university, only now I often didn't go to lectures or hand in assignments. If it was a choice between the library and the pub, the pub won every time.
Some part of me knew that what I was doing was wrong (even if I could justify it: I'll hand in my work later or I'm in a bad mood), but it started to erode my self-esteem (see also: How to build self-esteem)
I was drinking because I was bored. Drinking in itself seemed to constitute an activity. Worthwhile and esteemable activities such as study or what had been enjoyable sporting pursuits took less than a back seat.
The 'I'm a loser' and 'I'm bored' phases ran alongside each other. This was perhaps when I started to lose my sense of identity.
I quit uni and decided that I'd cut down on my drinking and get a job. Instead, I continued to drink on a daily basis.
I often found myself drinking lager at the edge of a soccer pitch, watching my friends play. I would be thinking: I used to be like that. I used to be good at this game. Has it come to this? A deepening of my low self esteem.
Excessive absenteeism - sometime in my mid-twenties. Not only was I drinking every night, but also during the day - if I could think of a good enough lie to get out of work. Apart from increasingly feeling too sick to work, I found that I couldn't face going into work and being around people.
Even though I felt guilty, I couldn’t stop. I told myself that I was just being a bit cheeky. Having just told work another lie, I would then find that I had the rest of the day on my hands - time to drink.
If I didn't have a good enough reason to drink I'd tell myself that I was just like a certain character that happened to be drinking a lot in the book I was reading or film I was watching.
Brick from A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is my favourite example of this. He was still young and athletic, but spent all day lost in an alcoholic haze. This appealed to me.
By now I was becoming aware that something was wrong with my drinking.
Far from admitting I was an alcoholic, I began to pay attention to anything with alcohol as its subject. It might have been an article in a men’s magazine – I’d turn straight to it. Or if Oprah had an alcohol special I’d put it on immediately.
With hindsight I can see that I was looking for answers. Not just for why I was drinking a lot but why I seemed to feel so bad all the time. Miserable and unsure of myself. Life seemed so unfair.
This stage is only a half truth. I didn’t really want to stop drinking. I just wanted to be able to drink as much as I liked and not have any consequences. To be able to do all the stuff that my friends seemed to do so effortlessly (and which I was beginning to resent them for) – party happily, go shopping when I liked, form a meaningful relationship.
But I was beginning to sense that when I wasn’t drinking and even managed some periods of sobriety, that I felt better. This made me think…
I resolved to quit drinking. Maybe get some help. Everything would be OK once I stopped drinking. Life would become worthwhile again. I’d be better at my job, get a girlfriend and somehow become even more socially adept than before. Oh dear….
After a 3 month period of sobriety life did indeed seem to be improving. Unfortunately this is what AA members often refer to as a ‘Pink Cloud.’
Real life returned with a bump. Nothing spectacular, it was just real life. The very thing that everyone else seemed to manage so well and I seemed to fail so dismally at.
I decided that nothing had really changed (I was more right than I realised) and my resultant sulk lead to me picking up the first drink. Why not? It was the only method I had for achieving happiness – except it didn’t make me happy anymore.
Alcoholism and depression go hand-in-hand. Every drink I took I felt I was taking myself a little bit further away from anything deserving and worthwhile in life. Yet I would still defend my actions and ‘Right to Drink’ to the hilt.
Low self-esteem? Self-Pity on steroids more like. I just couldn’t see the point in living anymore. I was suicidally depressed. Life was a curse and God was punishing me. (I didn’t believe in God but had a habit of blaming him anyway. Hmmm, consistent?)
I was still drinking every day. Work was short and I was in debt. My last relationship, not a happy one anyway, was over. I’d had a row with my ex-girlfriend (because she’d done something that I didn’t like, but wasn’t really my business anymore) and I had just finished my last can of lager. I was fed up with being fed up and I hated myself.
Suddenly the thought came into my head that my ex-girlfriend wasn’t to blame for the way I drank. Neither were any of my other life experiences (that I haven’t gone into here), even the nasty ones. The next thought was… ‘You did this to you. You are the only one responsible.’
Moments of clarity are great but they need to be followed by constructive action. All my thinking about sobriety and relatively few actions towards it had proved insufficient. I needed help. I went to Alcoholics Anonymous to get it.
At AA I came to further realisations. One of them was that simply quitting drinking is not enough, not for an alcoholic. The illness of alcoholism runs much deeper than that and must be addressed mentally and even spiritually.
Physically I wasn’t that bad (bit shaky, bit sweaty), but mentally I was beaten (psychologically damaged, even though I wouldn’t have told you that at the time).
Spiritually I was broken – this isn’t meant religiously. What I mean is I hated who I was. I saw no value in myself or that I could contribute to the world in any positive way.
This has all now changed. I have been sober for several years now. Getting dry was a beginning. But of far more importance, I have learnt (and continue to learn) how to be happy. I am now a happy bunny. A sober happy bunny.
You’ve landed on this page because you’ve got an alcohol problem. I very much suspect you need more help than I can offer you here. There are so many different ways of getting help and it is important that wherever possible, you find it. Recovery from any addiction is so much more likely to succeed if you’re not trying it alone. Alongside external support, here’s something else that you can use to help...
In the early stage of alcoholism you may still be able to manage the addiction with the use of hypnosis. Hypnotherapy is one of the ways to stop drinking alcohol by self-help.
You could start with Moderate My Drinking and use it alongside any other help you can get. See my page: Hypnosis FAQ and Downloads Drinking
Give yourself no more than a month to see how it goes. But, be prepared to seek further help to stop your drinking if necessary. Heed the complaints and advice of your partner and friends.
Trust that you do have the strength you need to seek help and overcome this addiction. I believe in you, and you don’t have to battle alone.
Part 1, Part 2
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