This is the last part in a 3-part series about my struggles with alcoholism. In Part I, I wrote about how former NBA star Allen Iverson’s battle with alcoholism really hit home with me. Part II covered my early days of sobriety in the hospital up until today, and mentioned how I have put together a toolbox to help me when I feel like drinking, get depressed, or get stressed. This final part covers my toolbox and other lessons I’ve learned in my 24 years of being clean and sober.
Let there be no mistake, there is such a thing as a “dry drunk” and I do not believe the desire for alcohol ever goes completely away. I loved the taste of beer and of the “hard” liquor I choose to drink; I’ve often thought how lucky I am that all these specialty brews and flavored alcohols were not in vogue back when I was still drinking.
The real benefit of (too much) drinking was not the taste, but the temporary numbing of feelings. The problem was, as soon as the buzz wore off, I not only had to face those feelings, but also deal with the hangover and other consequences of my behavior.
There are as many different types of alcoholics as there are people. People who don’t miss work, for example, may think they do not have a drinking problem. People who “only” drink beer or “only” drink wine, or who “only” drink on the weekends may think the same thing.
The most important thing I can recommend to those trying to get sober is to find a good counselor. If you don’t have insurance, there are many who will work with you on a sliding scale. Another important fact is to examine whether you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT), as any of these alone or in combination can cause a binge. HALT is one of those things I learned in AA, like “fake it until you make it” and “Let go, let God.” Really irritating when first introduced, but ultimately very helpful.
Another important tool in your toolbox should be a sponsor or accountability partner. This is someone to check in with regularly and to call when you think you are going to drink (or drug, or eat, or whatever your addiction is).
Some sort of “spiritual” practice is important, be it meditation, prayer, reading sacred texts, chanting, yoga, journaling; something that forces you to be present in the moment. It is crucial to make this a non-competitive ritual. Comparing one’s self to others can be part of what gets one addicted to begin with, so having one area that is “about you” and not about how fast, how many, or how well is really important.
My toolbox also includes trying to take care of my physical health as well as my mental and spiritual. Again, without insurance this can be problematic, but an annual physical is really important. We all know the “natural” high that is made possible via exercise. Just taking a ten-minute walk can make a huge difference in your perspective.
I have found that volunteering also is an important tool. While I do not believe in comparative suffering in general, there is something about helping other people that can make your world seem less overwhelming.
I’ve often wondered if there is any difference in rates of alcoholism between introverts and extraverts. I am painfully shy at heart, which may be a surprise even to those who know me well. It is part of my underlying fear that I am just not good enough, just not smart enough, just not whatever the measuring stick is. My toolbox would be incomplete without the tool of socialization. There are groups for just about any interest on sites such as meetup.com. It is important to get out of the house and go do something with others; otherwise there is too much time to “think,” which can be a dangerous.
I hope sharing the tools in my toolbox has been helpful. Nothing I’ve written is a substitute for medical advice; if you think you have an addiction problem or love someone who might, it is imperative you seek qualified medical attention.
Thanks for reading. My name is Doreen, and I’m a clean and sober for 24 years (one day, sometimes one moment at a time) alcoholic and drug addict.