I used to think you had to be an alcoholic to have a drinking problem. To me an alcoholic was someone who was physically dependent on alcohol. They needed it to function. An alcoholic drinks alone and hides bottles of booze in their house. And while this is true, alcoholics fit this description. There is another level to drinking that society has normalized.
Alcohol Use Disorder
According to The Mayo Clinic, Alcohol use disorder is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol or continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems. This disorder also involves having to drink more to get the same effect or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. Alcohol use disorder includes a level of drinking that’s sometimes called alcoholism. Read the entire article here. There are so many different definitions of alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder that it can be really overwhelming. As a society we have blurred the lines when it comes to alcohol consumption. Glorifying 21st birthday’s and Reality T.V. that uses drinking benders for their main entertainment source have all distorted what is considered normal drinking.
I was a Binge Drinker
The CDC states that binge drinking is 4 or more drinks per sitting for women and 5 or more drinks per sitting for men. The fact that I rarely, if ever had less than 4 drinks in a sitting is a red flag in itself. But, not everyone who binge drinks has a problem. Some can binge drink on a weekend and not touch alcohol again for a week or even longer. For me, binge drinking was a problem because it was habitual. I was binge drinking 3-4 days a week on average. This put me at a higher risk for serious injury and multiple diseases.
I drank anytime things got uncomfortable
Using alcohol to suppress feelings is another reason it was a problem for me. I started using alcohol to cope with life’s struggles at a very young age. Some may ask, why is this a problem? It’s a problem because it didn’t work. It was a temporary fix. And because I never dealt with emotions and problems head on they festered and became anxiety. Which leads me to my next problem.
Drinking gave me horrible anxiety
In my blog post Which Came First Anxiety or Alcohol? I write in detail about my struggles with anxiety. I dealt with anxiety attacks for 17 years. In an effort to calm the anxiety I drank. The relief was short, but in my mind it was relief and so I continued to abuse alcohol for this reason. It wasn’t until I started noticing that my anxiety attacks were worse after heavy drinking that I decided it was a problem. When you have to use the thing causing your suffering to end the suffering, that’s addiction.
Alcohol had all my time
If I wasn’t drinking, I was thinking about it, or recovering from it. We all have things we spend our energy on throughout the day. The goal is to spend our time on something productive and makes us feel good. This was not the case for me. My relationship with alcohol had become codependent. It controlled my time, and decided how it was spent. It made me believe that I was worthless without it. I needed it to drown the bad, amplify the good, and recover from the hangover.
Drinking made me insecure
There was always an underlying feeling of not being good enough. I didn’t trust myself. I was sold the idea that alcohol would give me “liquid courage.” In reality it kept me small. It paralyzed me and prevented any growth I tried to achieve. My confidence in who I was, was non existent. There was no trusting myself or my thoughts.
Working out, wasn’t working out with alcohol
I have always been active and fit. Nutrition has always been on the forefront of my mind as well. I wanted the lifestyle of being fit and healthy, but I didn’t want to let go of alcohol. I spent so many years trying to balance drinking and fitness. Every time drinking would tip the scale to it’s side. There are many factors that came into play that stacked the odds against a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Things like motivation and commitment were always out the window. I was so used to alcohol giving me that instant gratification that I expected the same from eating well and working out. So when I didn’t see results right away I would give up. I also burned out easier because I was pushing my body to do things that it wasn’t in any shape to do. If my body is trying to process and eliminate a toxin from my body, it’s going to be really hard to push through a workout, let alone see results.
I had a lot of belly fat
If I had a nickel for the number of times people asked me if I was pregnant. Once, while I was holding a beer. I mean, come on! I have always been relatively thin, but all the extra calories consumed by alcohol became belly fat. Also known as visceral fat, this type of fat is hard on your organs. Read more in this article on healthline.com. Not only physically was it bad but I was very self conscious about it. I would hide under big sweaters and would suck in until my stomach would ache.
The list could keep going
There are a lot of other things that have come up since I quit drinking that I didn’t realize were problems. I talk about them in my blog “11 Things I Didn’t Expect to Happen when I Got Sober” Check it out, you might be surprised as well. But for the sake of keeping this blog on point I touched on the major red flags. The things I was fed up with and wanted to break free from. These were the major pain points that I no longer wanted to suffer from.
I broke free of society’s belief
When people say to me “You didn’t have a problem” it can be frustrating. Just because I didn’t fit “society’s” definition of an alcoholic doesn’t mean it wasn’t a problem. My reasons don’t need to align with society’s belief of what a drinking problem is. If something is having a negative effect on my life, then it’s a problem. Period.
Yours Truly Sober,