Addiction has affected me in some way my entire life. Starting with family members who had problems with addiction to my own issues with substance control in my adult life. I didn’t used to think I had a problem. Drinking was a massive part of my social interaction. Alcohol allowed me to be “fun”. At least that is what I told myself. I didn’t drink during the day; I wasn’t missing work or life events. I just partied hard when I did socialize until the partying turned into an every evening event.
I would immediately start drinking most nights when I got home from work and continue until I could no longer stay awake. Binge drinking was something I had heard of but was not associating with myself.
This destructive path of using binge drinking to cope with my complete unhappiness with my life finally culminated in a very nearly successful suicide attempt in April 2018. I had decided I was done trying and overdosed on my anxiety meds plus a gross amount of alcohol. I will never forget the jarring feeling I had waking up in the ICU, then reading my discharge papers detailing my overdose. It was in that moment I knew I had to change my destructive behavior.
The sense of comfort alcohol provided was false. It was wrecking my body physically and causing more stress mentally than it was relieving. I had allowed alcohol to bring out the worst of myself, hurting the people around me who loved me. The amount of money I wasted on numbing myself is staggering. I can think of so many more meaningful ways I could have used that money. Getting unstuck from negative thought patterns like that has helped me to move forward.
Staying sober from alcohol has not been easy but forgiving myself for the mistakes I made helps with the process. We can not change the past. I can’t take back the hateful words I used or actions I took out of anger with myself. The effects of my actions will always be.
For me recovery is changing the way I live. Through therapy and my small circle of support, I work consistently to change my thinking. The biggest challenge I have faced in this process is liking myself. Redirecting my perspective to acknowledge the positive aspects of my life and accomplishments helps combat the negative self-talk. When I start to get overwhelmed, I remind myself that I am doing everything possible to fix my life and that change takes time. There is already a noticeable difference in how I handle adverse situations that come up. Instead of immediately intoxicating myself to avoid dealing with the negative, I think through what actions I can take to make things better.
My social life has changed considerably since stopping my alcohol use and I have learned to be ok with that. Watching people I used to spend a lot of time with drift away has been hard. I hold no bad feelings towards this, relationships shift and change all the time. While being around others who are drinking is not a trigger for me, I have found I do not enjoy those environments anymore. I don’t hold that in common with those people that were in my life previously.
I also found that I had to strengthen my confidence in letting people know I do not drink. While to me it isn’t an issue that I don’t drink, I have received a variety of reactions when telling others. When I started this journey I would feel uncomfortable turning down a drink when offered because of the follow up questions that frequently followed. The well meaning “oh, one drink won’t hurt”, “but you’re so fun when you drink”, and my least favorite to deal with the misguided pity responses. In my ideal world just saying no would be enough. When pressed I generally reply with “Alcohol and I do not agree anymore” and leave it at that. I still go out; I still like to see live music and art shows. Now I do it without masking my anxiety with alcohol. I take a minute to go outside if the crowd is overwhelming. Also, allowing myself to be ok with
leaving an outing earlier than others helps so much. I enjoy myself and when I’m out of social energy it is time to go home. Putting my health and well being first felt weird in the beginning, but soon became a habit I don’t even notice anymore.
Addiction looks and feels different for all of us. It is a very personal issue to deal with. I hope sharing my story and how I handle this continuing journey will bring some hope. It is possible to survive after addiction and while it isn’t always easy, keep going. There will still be days that suck and challenge you. Every small change you make to create a better life for yourself will pay off. The proof I have to offer is myself. I am still here, still breathing, still trying, and succeeding. I hope this gives you the energy to try too.
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