What is it like to be an Alcoholic?

I discovered alcohol in my teens, today I am sober. This is an attempt to take you inside the mind of an alcoholic.

Many people out there simply do not understand what goes on in the mind of an alcoholic. How could they?? Unless you are, you can’t. Many times us alcoholics do not even understand our own thought process – at least until we find sobriety, and research ourselves. We can’t possibly expect normal people to comprehend what is inside our minds.

I am going to take you on a little journey, I’ll try to keep it short! It may just exhaust you emotionally if you have a loved one who is or was an alcoholic. What sucks so much and makes it maddening at times is that alcoholism affects everyone in the family, not just the person. The alcoholic, of course, suffers physically when heavy drinking occurs, I blew up 3 times my size, but the family also suffers emotionally and psychologically in dealing with the alcoholic, and that in my eyes is the true tragedy of this disease.

As I’ve said a million times over, alcoholism does not discriminate, it allows membership to any race, creed or gender. This disease is a ruthless killer, taking prisoners is not it’s goal, death is. Unfortunately you can not see-inside the mind of an alcoholic no matter how much research you do, so I will attempt to guide you.

There are millions of alcoholics around the world, so naturally what I say does not apply to all but there are a great number of similarities among us. So let’s start our journey through this scary place.

Alcoholics are generally intelligent beings, we have to be to be able to manufacture as many excuses and lies as we did. It’s not an easy thing to juggle hundreds of lies at a single time, remembering which lie was told to which person. Just stating my experience. We are also troubled, usually suffering from low self-esteem and poor self-image, even though we may not show it. Alcohol tends, at first to give us the extra something we need to forget, all my life I thought I was happy with myself and had a good self-esteem so this one was a struggle for me… until later. Once the disease kicks in, however, alcohol no longer blots out these troubled memories but only intensifies them.

I’ve heard endless stories of alcoholics saying they sensed being differently from others in their childhood, I don’t remember feeling this way, I sometimes felt detached and that I was just doing what I thought was normal. But I do remember struggling in some social settings.. in my mind this was great fun, everyone around me having a great time, laughing, doing all the things, etc. Not until now do I realize how much I analyzed all those good times, it’s like my brain was in overdrive and I would feel tired afterwards. I was very social.. all the time social, but still struggled a little to accept it all. I would give anything to have those half ass normal social things in my life again. I oddly still look back at times and can see where my drinking was out of control but nothing was being destroyed yet.. that was to come.

What was really difficult for me as I moved into troubled stages of this disease is that I couldn’t understand how now.. after all these years of drinking.. I can not drink like normal people drink. It still baffles me at times but I know that I can’t and so I don’t. It’s very difficult to admit you have a problem. Even after all the experiences that I’ve written about in my previous blogs, it’s very hard to come to terms with it. It requires a serious shrinking of your ego. Self-will run riot very accurately describes an alcoholic as they reach the problem stage. Ego and fear prevent us from admitting to a problem so we try to find a way to drink normally, search and try fiercely to get it together ourselves so we can continue on with the way of life we are used to and love. Cutting back, setting a time a day to never drink before, switch from wine to beer… I tried all of it just to fail. That balance will never ever be found with this disease.

Once drinking becomes a necessity and once the alcoholic realizes that fact then the hiding and lies begin and by this stage. It becomes very apparent that loved ones do not approve of your drinking habits, and I didn’t really care, that’s why I hid out a lot. BUT.. I did realize that I could not or would not stop drinking at that point so the only solution was to hide and lie. This is also a stage where moral decay begins, if you will. We are not only covering up drinking but we also cover up behavior, whether it be affairs or stealing or cheating someone in any way, shape or form, I did it ALL! Then the self loathing kicks in and we hate ourselves for our weaknesses, because I of course was always very strong on the outside and to the outside world… so this disease kicking my ass was not anything I was willing to admit for a long, long time. Telling lies at this point was almost second nature, hell even when I could tell the truth, I didn’t. Quite frankly, being an alcoholic is exhausting, the constant crap day in and day out trying to make up for our lack of character and strength.. becomes too much. Our very own existence at this point becomes fear-based. Fearful that you will find out what we are, fearful that you will find out who we are. I was most fearful that I would have to eventually live a life without alcohol in order to survive and that was damn near unthinkable at one point. By the time I became who I was, an alcoholic, I was basically tied to it psychologically and physically and could not even entertain the thought of living without it. I would literally do anything to protect myself and the disease because we were both so intertwined it was impossible to see the difference.

By this time we sense we are losing complete control and so we try harder to establish control in all aspects of our lives. I for one would become angry when a person would not act the way I wanted them to or accept what I was doing or go along with me. I felt everyone was out to get me that wouldn’t agree with me so I would be rid of them. Friends and family start to hate you, like literally hate you for the lack of control and care you have for yourself. I found everyone around me to be the pain in the ass, not me of course. I felt like no one understood or they would let me be and leave me the hell alone and let me continue to do what I was doing. I wanted everything on my terms and If it didn’t happen, then you wouldn’t be “allowed” around me. This makes me laugh now, only because nobody in their right mind wanted to be around me, me not allowing them was a gift to them, promise!

This next phase goes on to be .. close to the end, the choice has to be made to continue or to go ahead and keep on your path to death, that is inevitably the destination. The lies start getting found out, the poor performances in every aspect of your life become discovered. Friends are dropping like flies and families is embarrassed and shaken to the core, frightened, angry and considering options in life that have nothing to do with the alcoholic. The end is near and that terrifies us as the alcoholic who by now is helpless and going to have to claim defeat. It’s almost unfathomable to comprehend. I fought it until I couldn’t lift a finger anymore. I knew once I claimed defeat, I would never be able to have a drink again and I still to this point in the madness didn’t want to think about that being an option or my only option to stay alive. I’m very creative and I created tons of scenarios that included me still being able to drink to some degree… I was set straight soon enough.

And so it ends, one way or another it ends. The lucky few find a way whether it be treatment or some other form of intervention. Also in my previous blogs are all of my many experiences and attempts, I’m not going to go through them all again in this blog but feel free if you haven’t read them to go back and read. The unlucky either find themselves in prison, in a mental institution, or dead. Facts! There is no magical cure for this disease, and the number of deaths from alcoholism is staggering.

Without a program of rigorous honesty the alcoholic is defenseless, that’s why I choose to be 100% open and honest about what I have been through, believe me when I say its excruciating at times to go back and relive all those devastating years and times and situations and circumstances and choices of the most horrible time in my life, but I do it to help me and others, being rigorously honest is key in recovery and that is the hardest. When I decided to do this, I decided to give it as much energy and will and all of the above that i contributed to drinking. Both alcoholism and recovery are exhausting, but in a much different way. When I made this decision, I committed to give it my all to help, even if it swings me into a million different emotions. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

Without completely changing my life there is no hope for happiness so i chose to change any and everything that was needed. I truly hope this has helped someone out there who is either suffering from alcoholism or who loves someone who is an alcoholic. If my experience can help someone else, it’s all been worth it.

I on this current day look back at the weekend of adventure and fun I just had, being an alcoholic didn’t consume me or alter my happiness and plans, I don’t let it. I have had many many life experiences over the past few years living in recovery. Alcoholics don’t get a break from life, we learn a new life. We still have to pay bills, follow rules, do LIFE just like everyone else, I’m just a little more grateful than I use to be. I get to pay my bills now, I get to have a job and follow rules, I get to be happy. Most of all i get to help others and I will never be able to express how grateful I am .. for being able to do just that. Being honest about every single thing I’ve done in life isn’t easy but it keeps me sober and it shows how much you can over come and most importantly it shows you how forgiving people can be.

I’m still Sheila at the end of the day, just a better one that doesn’t drink. I still cuss like a sailor, have more energy than I know what to do with at times, annoy the hell out of my kids, just in a different way now. I’m still the BOSS of everything when I go home to Texas, I still constantly tell people what I think and what they should be doing, all of it. I still get sick of talking about this stuff at times and just want to live my life but then I realize talking about it helps others and this is my life so.. that’s what i do. I’ve been called an alcoholic a time or 2 in my recovery, it’s not an insult as many would like to think. I’ve moved mountains that I could have never touched before, I have the strength of a warrior at times, I have the depths of compassion for sick people that most can’t think of having… all because I am an alcoholic in recovery. God put me here for a reason so I’m rolling with it. I am definitely one of his problem children but for a purpose!

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