'How I let drinking take over my life'
January 8, 2018 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I have the same feelings about alcohol that I had when I was 10. It’s dangerous; it’s disgusting; it causes cancer; it rots your liver and makes you look, and smell, like a much older and sicker person. Still, I’ve never stopped wondering why it grasped me so firmly, and for so long, why I allowed it to ruin parts of my life, parts I will never get back. What did drink offer me that was so much better than sobriety? What, exactly, was its magic?
posted by Memo (76 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
 
Drinking is a very easy answer to boredom. That's part of the appeal, especially if you have limited means of entertainment. Drink a sixer, space out in front of the tv and that's an evening taken care of; no thinking, no worries, just time killing.
posted by Ferreous at 7:12 AM on January 8 [25 favorites]


The problem with this article is it treats the author’s alcoholism as a moral failing, not an addiction.

I believe most alcohol abuse would be significantly curbed if people didn’t start drinking in their teens. Growing up, I was told over and over that my family was predisposed to alcoholism, so I didn’t start drinking until I was almost 21. What I have observed is the few of my siblings who postponed the onset of alcohol consumption have had no issues with drinking as adults, while those who started drinking as teenagers have struggled to varying degrees with drinking. Research seems to bear out my observation.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 7:16 AM on January 8 [13 favorites]


It is sweet and delicious.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:16 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Big Al, I don't think he's taking it as a moral failing; he's rather trying to get deep into the experience of it-- the phenomenology. He was certainly an unusual drinker: 3 or 4 months of the year sober until his birthday. And then, the flood.

My parents both died of a kind of hidden, quotidian alcoholism. I drink less than 14 drinks a week, and did not start until my late 20s ... but his description of the call of it, of feeling the bottles, etc., still resonates.

It's great writing, whatever else.
posted by allthinky at 7:24 AM on January 8 [11 favorites]


I'm still too new in my sobriety and trying to fix all of my broken neurotransmitters to feel like it's an easy thing, but all the other stuff rang so so true that I'm on the verge of tears. I didn't start drinking problematically/heavily until my mid-thirties and I quit drinking just over a year ago. Alcoholism and addiction of all sorts runs through both sides of my family just like brown hair, blue eyes, and freckles.

Also the author's alcoholism didn't read to me like a moral failing at all, but rather the way the author coped with his stress and anxiety and all of the other shit that he had no other way to deal with besides booze.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:24 AM on January 8 [18 favorites]


As a friend who has managed to stay sober for over twenty years now told me, “drinking is but a symptom.”
posted by azpenguin at 7:24 AM on January 8 [21 favorites]


I believe most alcohol abuse would be significantly curbed if people didn’t start drinking in their teens.

But is the earlier onset of drinking actually a contributing factor to later alcohol abuse? It could be that there's a physical, psychological, or social effect of drinking while still a teenager that sets you up for later problems. But another possibility is that whatever physical, psychological, or social factor that puts a person more at risk of developing alcohol problems also leads to earlier drinking.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:24 AM on January 8 [6 favorites]


I read this earlier in the week, and quit for many of the same reasons. In particular, the lines about the accelerating pace of a night out felt like he’d pulled them straight out of my brain.

I find moderation very difficult, so I sidestep it by just not drinking at all, which I find comparatively far easier. The biggest surprise to me had been how little other people are bothered. Nobody cares, and I thought they would.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:28 AM on January 8 [9 favorites]


Also the increasingly apocalyptic hangovers were a motivating factor. Two days minimum of feeling physically shit followed by a week or more of feeling pretty down made drinking no longer worth it for me.

Plus I discovered I could still hang about in pubs fine and just drink lots of lime and soda, so my social life has survived. I just leave a bit earlier now.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:44 AM on January 8 [6 favorites]


I'm very lucky because alcoholism runs through my mother's side of the family, but I don't seem to have an addictive personality. If I did I'm 100% certain I would be an alcoholic because I basically didn't drink at all until my third year of university, and when I did start I went from zero to sixty with it over the course of a few months and it was like "Binge drinking, where have you been all my life?" It felt fucking great. Not just the social lubricant aspect of it; being shitfaced felt physically fantastic. Of course, the hangovers were brutal, but being 21 I would be more or less fully recovered by mid-afternoon the next day and ready to go again.

This, of course, is not a sustainable lifestyle, and when I look back on it I realize I was self-medicating my depression and really playing with fire, but I kept up the weekend heavy drinking into my early 30s because most of my friends were still living that party lifestyle to varying degrees until they got married and had kids. But the hangovers got worse and worse over time and the level of drunkenness at parties got lower and lower and now getting smashed doesn't even feel good and being sloppy drunk would be embarrassing. My wife (then girlfriend) also expressed reservations about my drinking at one point and laid out what she would and would not accept in a partner's drinking, and because I valued her more than I valued alcohol I listened to her and modified my drinking accordingly.

I still like to drink and get tipsy (my wife and I enjoyed a couple of strong cocktails last night while watching the Golden Globes) and do Tie One On every now and again, but a sobering (yes, you all see what I did there) number of my friends have quit drinking over the years and those who haven't (mostly) imbibe at a responsible and appropriately dignified level, at least at social gatherings. Two of those who quit told me they were worried that our social circle would cast them out because they weren't going to be "fun" any more and I was all like "Friend, please."
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:50 AM on January 8 [8 favorites]


Big Al 8000, the problem with assuming that early drinking causes alcoholism is that correlation doesn't imply causation. I know that quite a few of my family and friends tried alcohol at about the same age that I did, and most of them didn't become alcoholics. (Kutsuwamushi put it well.) I'm not particularly concerned with how or why I became an alcoholic so much as that I am, and that very bad things will happen to me if I drink again, based on my past behavior.

I do remember why I stopped, though. I'd gotten my second DUI, and was starting to grasp the consequences of having done so, above and beyond my girlfriend breaking up with me that day; I had started to go to AA meetings again, but had already relapsed twice. I'd made an appointment to get a BAIID installed on my car, and the installers, probably quite cognizant of how many people continued to drink after installation, gave me information on how long I'd have to wait to drive after having a single drink... as if I'd ever stopped at one. I went out on one last bender at a bar that I could walk to--I don't remember what my last drink was, because that was how I drank--and that was it. It will be six years at the end of this month. I can't say that I never think about drinking any more, but I no longer believe that it's necessary under any circumstances.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:00 AM on January 8 [8 favorites]


This, of course, is not a sustainable lifestyle, and when I look back on it I realize I was self-medicating my depression and really playing with fire, but I kept up the weekend heavy drinking into my early 30s because most of my friends were still living that party lifestyle to varying degrees until they got married and had kids. But the hangovers got worse and worse over time and the level of drunkenness at parties got lower and lower and now getting smashed doesn't even feel good and being sloppy drunk would be embarrassing.

I'm 32 and this hits really close to home with what I myself am facing right now...
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:06 AM on January 8 [9 favorites]


I know for me, alcohol is a useful way of quieting the panicky Social Anxiety Lizard that likes to make life difficult when I'm in an ostensibly social situation. I've had nights where, when I titrate the consumption just right, I can quiet the Social Anxiety Lizard and keep it from freaking out as I try to meet people and do things. And I've had just as many nights where I fuck up the titration and things go completely off the rails.

In recent years, I've managed to find other ways of quieting the Social Anxiety Lizard. Turns out, it's a side-effect of ADD, and getting _that_ treated has gone a long way to making it easier to quiet without alcohol.

But I still do drink. I enjoy the taste of many alcoholic beverages, I enjoy the effects of mild intoxication, and I enjoy the situations I find myself in where I am drinking. I've learned to pace myself, however. I eat before I go out on a night where I'll be drinking. I make sure to get plenty of water between drinks. I also don't drink too heavily: usually beer, and never anything too strong.

I don't plan to ever quit drinking, but making sure I'm in control, and not the alcohol, goes a long way to making sure I can do this stuff responsibly. Now, as I enter my late 30's, I'll have to see how my body reacts going forward, but for now this seems to be a good balance.

That said, I also don't judge anyone for opting out of the whole thing.
posted by SansPoint at 8:12 AM on January 8 [7 favorites]


I tried to quit drinking for many years, I would say 30ish. I tried AA, meditaion, accupuncture, hypnosis, years of individual and group therapy with addiction specialists, intensive outpatient therapy. I even shelled out $1000/day for a "brain spa" treatment consisting of NADH+ IV therapy for six days. Nothing worked for longer than two weeks despite promises and assertions it would definitely work--not even close. My therapist at the time said I failed these programs--how demoralizing. I would go in with so much hope and enthusiasm that it would work only to fall back into daily drinking and being constantly hungover. A couple of things that did work for me: Baclofen and Allen Carr. I have no desire to drink, don't even think about it even though I haven't been taking Baclofen for 6 months. It's been over one year of complete sobriety. I think the reason I drank was all mentioned in this article but seeing alcohol for what it is, a poison that provides zero benefits but only the illusion of providing benefits, turned off that inner voice craving alcohol. Everyone is different--this is just my brief story. Also, Allen Carr's book didn't work for me 10 years ago when I first read it but it worked very well this time around.
posted by waving at 8:18 AM on January 8 [14 favorites]


What worked for me was getting scared shitless that I was going to advance into late-stage alcoholism, like where you wake up in the middle of the night with the shakes, and then die after years of suffering and despair. I had known for a long time that I had to quit - once you can drink a 750 ml bottle of whiskey in a night, and it doesn't even make you throw up, it's pretty obvious what the deal is - but I had to feel that animal fear before I could really do it.
posted by thelonius at 8:25 AM on January 8 [7 favorites]


I find moderation very difficult, so I sidestep it by just not drinking at all, which I find comparatively far easier.

YES SAME and I don't understand how I can be so bizarrely iron-willed about self control in some regards and so wholly lacking in it in others. I should just be glad that the one aspect I can control is substance abuse, but. It's been 7 years for alcohol and maybe 10 for other terrible things and I feel a constant low-level guilt that it wasn't hard for me at all.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:25 AM on January 8 [8 favorites]


I believe most alcohol abuse would be significantly curbed if people didn’t start drinking in their teens.


In the UK its commonly held that we might have less problem drinkers if we started drinking earlier, and thus had a better attitude to drink taught within families, as is perceived to be the case with many of our European cousins.

(I'm not making a case either way.)
posted by biffa at 8:26 AM on January 8 [6 favorites]


Well, my last time drinking was after I had drunkenly looked at myself in the mirror and literally said out loud, “You are drunk. No more drinks tonight.” And then a few minutes later somehow found myself pouring another drink and drinking it, and had a brief flash of “I don’t want this! What am I even doing?” I had decided years ago that I needed to quit drinking SOMEDAY, but I had that moment where it became crystal clear that I wasn’t in charge and there was no way to guarantee i ever would be.

I have so many more thoughts on this; I’m almost at 6 years. Thanks for posting this.

(On a “superficial” level, I loved the note about how aging drinking is. I recently met someone — at a bar — who was exactly my age, it turns out. He looked OLD. Turns out sobriety and sunscreen are just as effective as retinols and moisturizer!)
posted by jeweled accumulation at 8:27 AM on January 8 [13 favorites]


they keep those joints where old drunks go dark for a reason
posted by thelonius at 8:31 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


Article rings true. For those caught in the "I know I can't keep on like this but I know I can't stop" phase, my experience is that every single item your brain is telling you right now is an outright lie. You can be happy without it, nobody will care that you don't drink (nobody that counts anyway), anxiety is controllable without it, peacefully laying your head on the pillow each night is attainable, many of the things you've lost are recoverable (most importantly your self-respect) and, critically, past failures at sobriety inform but do not determine future outcomes.

Every thought you have contrary to these truths is the product of a brain warped into helplessness by a chemical parasite intent on your demise. There are lots of roads to recovery, for those in a serious state an honest conversation with a doctor isn't a bad place to start.
posted by SoFlo1 at 8:35 AM on January 8 [21 favorites]


Need to read this and give it some more thought, but in my one brief brush with a serious drinking problem, I found it relatively easy to break the psychological dependency (but I was never hardcore enough with booze to get DTs, so presumably, I had no physical dependency in that case; when I developed a spice addiction about seven or eight years ago while casting around for less legally risky alternatives for using weed to manage nighttime anxiety and insomnia during especially stressful periods, there was a much stronger component of physical dependence, like with nicotine cravings and withdrawal, so that was a much stickier situation to pull myself out of; unlike with weed and alcohol, the spice use gave me persistent, increasing cravings over time until eventually I was pretty much always jonesing or looking forward to the next fix and couldn't stop myself from seeking it regardless of what I might have been dealing with or feeling otherwise).
posted by saulgoodman at 9:06 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Most of my friends seem to have 2-3 drinks every single night and participate mainly in social activities that revolve around alcohol. I wonder how many have a serious problem, and how many are going to in the future.
posted by miyabo at 9:06 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Hi, my name is Soberiffic2014, and I am an alcoholic - haha - true though! I've been almost a daily Mefi reader for 10sh years and never signed up because I did not think that I had much to add to any comment section that had not already been fairly well covered by someone. This topic is very close to my heart however, as I am someone who has struggled with substance use and abuse for most of my 54 yo life - currently 3+ years clean & sober. I can relate to all of the aspects of the struggle described in the article, to some degree or more. I guess my takeaway - fwiw - of many years trying to control and enjoy chemically altering my consciousness, interspersed with periods of group based sobriety/ recovery would be that, the causes and conditions of/for addiction and it's effects, vary somewhat from individual to individual. Personally, I pursued the illusion (far beyond any reason) that if I could only figure out "WHY" I was the way I was, it would somehow magically provide the much needed solution(s), and I would be struck sober or something - lol. Turns out -counterintuitively for me anyway- that by getting sober 1st, and abandoning myself unreservedly to a sober way of life, all those "why's and how's" do eventually become apparent in due time, but that sobriety is not at all contingent upon these awarenesses, they are merely a bonus. For me without question, there would be no real progress of ANY kind, without sobriety 1st, as the foundation. Hope this helps someone in some way, if only by planting some seeds and I am happy to discuss further with anyone who is interested :)
posted by Soberiffic2014 at 9:33 AM on January 8 [70 favorites]


In the UK its commonly held that we might have less problem drinkers if we started drinking earlier, and thus had a better attitude to drink taught within families, as is perceived to be the case with many of our European cousins.

In the U.S. we say that also (and of course we have an even higher drinking age) but I think it is more likely to apply to decreasing dumb college binge drinking than to decreasing the rate of chronic alcoholism.
posted by atoxyl at 9:37 AM on January 8 [6 favorites]


I'm going to have to read this tonight. Alcohol almost killed me, this May will mark 5 years of sobriety. It's been one heck of a journey. I still have no idea why I drank the way I did, but many things I could blame it on. It is absolutely an addiction, not a failing of will power or morality or anything else.

I too enjoyed Alan Carr's book, and another call out for the graphic novel "The Alcoholic". My takeaway is if it works for you, and it's not killing you or hurting anyone else, stick with it. Whether it's a AA, SMART, exercise, or whatever. Whatever gives you that epiphany.
posted by diziet at 9:37 AM on January 8 [6 favorites]


poffin boffin: "YES SAME and I don't understand how I can be so bizarrely iron-willed about self control in some regards and so wholly lacking in it in others. I should just be glad that the one aspect I can control is substance abuse, but. It's been 7 years for alcohol and maybe 10 for other terrible things and I feel a constant low-level guilt that it wasn't hard for me at all."

The metaphor I've used when people ask about it is that it's a bit like owning a monkey. The beer monkey, in my case. I've had some great times with the beer monkey. Even made a few friends. But I can't take the beer monkey out for a little walk on a lead. That always ends in tears.

What I can do is stop hanging out with the beer monkey at all.

I fully expected 'not hanging out with the beer monkey' to be as difficult as my experience of attempting to moderate. But it just isn't. When I was drinking and attempting to moderate, which was most of the time, every night out was a constant self-negotiation, which was exhausting, and usually ended with me saying 'fuck it' to myself and going at it pretty hard.

Whereas when I've made a broader meta-decision to say 'I don't drink', it's really easy. I'm lucky enough to have never had a physiological addiction to alcohol, so no cravings, or shakes, or any of the stuff that people usually associate with the problem drinking > alcoholism scale. But I also found it incredibly difficult to stop once I'd started. So it's better to just not start.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:39 AM on January 8 [6 favorites]


The author William Leith also published the book The Hungry Years: Confessions of a Food Addict
amazon link
posted by Theta States at 9:56 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I tried to quit many times and always fell of the wagon. It wasn't until I went on Zoloft and my social anxiety disintegrated that I realized I didn't even want am entire drink. I didn't realize that I was using alcohol solely as a social lubricant until I didn't need it anymore.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:25 AM on January 8


As someone who quit drinking 882 days ago, I can honestly say I don't miss being drunk. I miss ending sobriety. Sometimes you need a break from yourself. As someone who has an incredibly unquiet mind, and who has terrible intrusive thoughts, I often miss having a good way to just shut down for a while. Add in chronic pain, and being sober 100% of the time sucks hard. It took me a long time to realize the alcohol made things worse, but like I said, I still miss being able to check out for a bit.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:31 AM on January 8 [23 favorites]


I have gathered that the current “party line” on alcoholism is that it’s a compulsion, something like the brain chemistry explanation for depression. That is to say, neither one is a moral failing or a weakness of character. Now, I fully accept this for depression but not for alcoholism. Depression is a state of being; alcoholism (when one is not clean & sober) involves behavior. I’m interested in hearing what others think about this, because to me, the alcoholism-as-a-compulsion thing seems just way too convenient: “I can’t help drinking a quart of vodka in 15 minutes every day at lunch because I have a disease!” Thoughts?
posted by scratch at 10:36 AM on January 8


And to those of you who have quit drinking: all plaudits and praise. Regardless of whatever else, that’s a tough row to hoe.
posted by scratch at 10:39 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


As the male son of a male alcoholic, I've always been intensely conscious of my own genetic risk. Thank god I've made it to the age, or have the metabolism, where a few drinks puts me straight to sleep. I literally just don't have the physical stamina to drink more.

Recently, as part of a general life-improvement scheme, I've started tracking some personal data on an iPhone app - exercise, meditating, sleep time, drinking. It's interesting to have that data at my fingertips, and sobering whenever the numbers start to go in an unwanted direction. I wonder if data tracking could help short-circuit the self-deception aspect of problem drinking.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:40 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


This TED talk resonated with me, to the extent that alcohol and other substance abuse provides temporary relief from boredom and lack of interpersonal connection. Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.
posted by simra at 10:44 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I wonder if data tracking could help short-circuit the self-deception aspect of problem drinking.

All drink tracking apps I've seen don't seem very useful. I'd welcome one as well as I'd like to track that with all the other data I track on myself.
posted by Kitteh at 10:47 AM on January 8


I’m interested in hearing what others think about this, because to me, the alcoholism-as-a-compulsion thing seems just way too convenient: “I can’t help drinking a quart of vodka in 15 minutes every day at lunch because I have a disease!” Thoughts?

That is something that can be applied to a wide variety of human behaviors, actually. Just yesterday, my mother totally embarrassed me (again) in front of a bunch of people, and when I later called her on it, she said "Well, I couldn't help blurting that out because I have anxiety!" (People have actually asked me whether she's an alcoholic due to her behaviors; she is not, but the underlying brain chemistry that causes people to want to self-medicate is the same, I think.)

Mental illness, by definition, does not want to heal itself. It is a blessing and a miracle when we find something that helps us overcome it, medication or yoga or what have you. But when it can't be cured, we shouldn't judge the person for it. And at the same time, while not judging, we can also set boundaries (no, you are not welcome in my house because you are known to steal for your addiction). That is not judging, that is protecting yourself. You can still love someone and hope they heal, while at the same time stating that you have a right to be safe.
posted by Melismata at 10:50 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Sometimes you need a break from yourself.

Yeah, you know, my dad was an alcoholic so I've worried off and on my whole life I had some secret gene for addiction that hadn't yet manifested itself. But it took a serious personal health crisis in my late 30s and the accompanying emotional turmoil to understand why alcoholics drink the way they do, and that I needed to get my mental health under control right quick.

I knew alcohol didn't work for me - I've never really liked it that much, and physically I don't tolerate it well at all - but I still had a couple of glasses of wine more often than I felt comfortable with, and I could feel my mind casting around, exploring ideas for various other things (weed? pills?) I could try to make myself stop feeling like a black pit of anxious garbage all the time. Despite knowing nothing would actually work and that I wasn't even going to bother trying, I still went through the mental gymnastics every day. My husband, a longtime recovering addict, told me, "After 20 years I finally feel like you can understand my brain!" It's been a couple of years and I'm all right now. But those few months of real depression and anxiety for the first time in my life gave me a lot of insight into the people around me who've struggled with mental health and substance abuse for years. It's hard, being human.
posted by something something at 10:51 AM on January 8


“I can’t help drinking a quart of vodka in 15 minutes every day at lunch because I have a disease!” Thoughts?

Alcoholism as a disease is extremely well-trodden territory, both here and in the psychology and medical literature. Maybe let's not do this drive-by uninformed commenting thing to try and stir the pot here in an otherwise interesting and empathetic thread. A google search on this topic will provide many resources for you.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:02 AM on January 8 [38 favorites]


Scratch, you might be interested in the work of Dr. Erik Fisher, an addictions specialist who recently wrote Against Willpower. Here's a takeaway quote:
Willpower may simply be a pre-scientific idea—one that was born from social attitudes and philosophical speculation rather than research, and enshrined before rigorous experimental evaluation of it became possible. The term has persisted into modern psychology because it has a strong intuitive hold on our imagination: Seeing willpower as a muscle-like force does seem to match up with some limited examples, such as resisting cravings, and the analogy is reinforced by social expectations stretching back to Victorian moralizing. But these ideas also have a pernicious effect, distracting us from more accurate ways of understanding human psychology and even detracting from our efforts toward meaningful self-control. The best way forward may be to let go of “willpower” altogether..
I find it interesting you make the comparison to depression. There are behaviors that depressed people know will ease their symptoms--like sleeping regularly, getting exercise, and socializing with friends. Yet they don't do them, and that is also a behavior that gets the same kind of moralizing response. ("You just need willpower.")

If you don't think that compulsion can drive a behavior, then I expect that you don't have any negative behaviors of your own. I expect that you go to bed consistently at a sane hour, that you never eat foods you believe are bad for you, that you don't procrastinate--i.e. that you have no bad habits. These are examples that are mild in comparison to alcohol abuse, but if you struggle with them at all, imagine the difficulty of struggling with something much bigger.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:02 AM on January 8 [7 favorites]


but the underlying brain chemistry that causes people to want to self-medicate is the same, I think.)

Self-medicating isn't about brain chemistry, it's about legal systems and individualization of therapy.

The most effective medication for my lifelong ADD is absolutely nicotine. Full stop. The best therapeutic medication I've found for my anxiety and insomnia is marijuana. Full stop. There's no doubt or equivocation or denial involved in my case, I'm absolutely sure of it after having used both prescription therapies and both of those.

Now I'll admit, with the nicotine, there's also an underlying real addiction, but that's often true with long term prescription meds for complex PTSD and ADD, too, and there's also no doubt I have those conditions and always will.

Over the counter sleep aids inhibit my function and make me "not sober" just as much as even fairly excessive doses of THC do and nobody accuses me of having a "brain chemistry" problem for "self-medicating" with those, even though they cause me to have liver problems, restless leg, and severely aggravate my ADD when used for more than a couple of days.

There's something I just don't think makes sense about our attitudes to this stuff, but I'll be the first to admit, I think the reality is more complicated and individual than just about any one person thinking only from their own private, personal POV and experience could hope to understand.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:24 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


but seeing alcohol for what it is, a poison that provides zero benefits but only the illusion of providing benefits, turned off that inner voice craving alcohol.

Yuuuuup. The increasingly apocalyptic hangovers mentioned upthread helped considerably with this, and then my body went haywire in other ways. I’m now at the point where I can have a drink — and I still enjoy the feeling of being tipsy, which is annoying — but fuck me I will feel even one the next day. I’ll be anxious, and sad, and my muscles will be tight enough to cause this low level pain all the time. It sucks.

Except that it doesn’t, because otherwise I don’t know that I would have been able to stop. And I’m really glad I did.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:37 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


This hits home for me right now. I've been a frequent (almost daily, but usually just a few beers or so these days) drinker for about the past decade. I have periods when I'm hitting it more or less, but can't seem to make actual sobriety work for more than a couple weeks. I think I am better than I used to be when it was usually a bottle of wine or a six pack per day. At that point I saw how much I was consuming and got a medical weed recommendation to try and switch my need for messing with my brain to a better option, but of course it wasn't too long until I was usually just combining the two (as well as whatever else was around).

Recently I had a couple incidents of where I made a complete fool of myself in front of coworkers from not realizing when to quit at company holiday parties. I ended up acting in ways that were a shock to myself when I sobered up. Like not just "I shouldn't have done that", but more "Who the hell was that guy?!" I couldn't recognize myself in the person I had been the previous night. So I know I need to quit. I know I don't have a handle on things like I had been telling myself. But damn if it isn't hard when everyone around you is drinking.
posted by downtohisturtles at 11:40 AM on January 8 [5 favorites]


Kitteh: "I wonder if data tracking could help short-circuit the self-deception aspect of problem drinking.

All drink tracking apps I've seen don't seem very useful. I'd welcome one as well as I'd like to track that with all the other data I track on myself.
"

Yeah - to effectively track drinks it would have to be somehow automated or track without user intervention, which is not something I'm keen on. I tried moderating by using Drinkaware's apps and so on, but after the third or fourth drink, I'd forget to track a drink, get annoyed and that was that.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:42 AM on January 8


Also on the willpower vs brain chemistry discussion, I recall listening to an episode of Radiolab (I think?) a while ago about medical treatments for alcoholism and one of the interesting bits I gained from it was that the prevailing culture around treating alcoholism (and most other types of addiction) is in part a quirk of history.

In the US in the postwar period, there were a lot of empty TB wards (as that condition, which required isolation, began to be controlled), which got repurposed into wards for dealing with alcoholics. So the idea of isolation and overcoming personal addiction issues all sort of got folded up together, along with AA and the idea of group therapy, such that for a long time there was a heavy medical bias against pharmacological treatment for addiction issues.

It was an interesting episode, but I can't find it, which is annoying.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:50 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Chiming in to say my last drink was over 43 years ago and it's much easier for some of us simply not to drink at all than to try moderating it. Alcoholism in family, early drinking, emotional/neurological issues (ADHD), stopped drinking at 22 with the help of a program. Never regretted stopping. Don't really care what the medical model of addiction is, because it honestly doesn't matter to me.
posted by Peach at 11:56 AM on January 8 [8 favorites]


Yep. Do what works, don’t get too caught up in the it’s a diesease/it’s an addiction/it’s a symptom/it’s a moral failing debate. I quit drinking 5 years ago, now - almost. I have approximately one drink on my birthday, on my wife’s birthday and at Christmas, under supervision. And you know, I don’t even like it anymore, at all, the feeling. It’s really is easier for me just to not drink than attempt any kind of moderation.
posted by Jimbob at 12:04 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


Maybe let's not do this drive-by uninformed commenting thing to try and stir the pot here in an otherwise interesting and empathetic thread.

I mean, I guess I’m saying - AA, for example, is silly, AA is dumb 1935s woo-woo theist self-improvement group therapy, but hey it can work, it has saved lives and minds. As have other methods and ideas. There’s nothing wrong with people asking questions, there’s no need to jump on them because their ideas don’t meet clinical guidelines.
posted by Jimbob at 12:20 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Pleased to see a nod in that article to Caroline Knapp's "Drinking: A Love Story" (previously)
posted by rmd1023 at 12:22 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


This rang very true, in the same way that Sarah Hepola's "Blackout" did.

Previously on Metafilter.
posted by Thistledown at 12:54 PM on January 8


I wouldn't have said I was an alcoholic in my late 20s because I had my game on lock. I mean Friday after I got off work, some buddies and I would go to the liquor store and I'd buy two bottles, usually 750 ml, and go over to someone's place and we'd get completely hammered. The next day would be devoted to nursing our hangovers and sleeping it off, and we might go again Saturday night and spend Sunday hungover, too. It was a blast. But on looking back, drinking 2 750 ml bottles of liquor and god knows what else in 2 days is probably indicative of a problem of some kind.

Nowadays I don't drink for medical reasons but I do miss the ability to have a couple drinks and have no problems for a few hours. Or curating a good bar and making mixed drinks. The culture around drinking is really fun. But lord once you get over 30, those hangovers aren't worth it anymore.

And yeah I was drinking to not feel feelings, I had a problem.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:55 PM on January 8


"All drink tracking apps I've seen don't seem very useful. I'd welcome one as well as I'd like to track that with all the other data I track on myself."

Funnily enough, the one that did it for me was Untappd. I was in my late thirties and attempting to moderate by only drinking the contents of the beer subscription I was treating myself to. Six exotic bottles a month. One every 5 or 6 days or so. It was fucking torture! But I enjoyed using Untappd to log the details of the weird things that came in the box. And of course, it was OK to have just a few standard beers now and then too because they didn't really count. I logged them too.

And after a while I realised that it was stupid trying to limit myself to just six bottles a month because who was I trying to kid, plus craft beer was really staring to happen and there were a couple of great bars in town where you could spend a lot on fancy booze and feel like a connoisseur. I logged all them too. That year I put €400 behind the bar so my friends could drink with me on my birthday.

Then I worked out that there was a wholesaler around the corner from my house where I could buy my favourite beer for about a third of the price I paid in the bars so I started picking up slabs of that every couple of weeks. And for special occasions. And so on.

Then I noticed the "top beers" list on my Untappd profile, and how each beer had a "loyal drinkers" gallery. Now I had an ambition! I jokingly started trying to get to the top of the leaderboard for one of my regular drinks, ha ha. But it wasn't really a joke.

Pretty soon I was coming quite close to the top spot but I was annoyed that the #1 guy had a big lead over #2. I was at #4 or so. I was going to have to get through a lot of pale ale to unseat him. I was about to roll up my sleeves and go for it when I came to my senses. 

I felt sorry for myself. It was time to walk away. But not just yet...

I planned to give up on New Year's Day, so I made sure I went out in style. On New Year's Eve I got mean drunk on shit lager, acted like a dickhead to my wife, and dropped my six-month old baby girl on her face. The next day I said to my wife "I need help", and a couple of days later I went to an AA meeting.

That was four years ago. I just checked the "loyal drinkers" board and I'm still there, just hanging on at number 11.

What might have been, eh?

P.S. reddit.com/r/stopdrinking
posted by ZipRibbons at 1:11 PM on January 8 [13 favorites]


a problem.

When I was gearing up to take another shot at quitting, the one that took, 6+ years ago, I took the quiz in the sidebar of r/stopdrinking. All the shit that I thought mitigated the severity of my situation (like I didn't drink every day, and sometimes I could drink like a normal person, like have a glass of wine with dinner and stop) was totally eclipsed by the sheer amount I drank when I did binge drink, and by the frequency of that binge drinking. The test came back at "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GET HELP NOW" not "maybe you should back off, dude". It was eye-opening in that it gave me a more objective point of view; I remember one question asked "Have you ever injured yourself or someone else when drinking" and I was like well, of course, who hasn't? (Myself - I think I would have been alarmed had I hurt others). Turns out that's not normal!
posted by thelonius at 1:12 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


Between this post & the one immediately previous about depression, I have to just say thanks to MetaFilter for being a site that delivers a space for considering these questions so closely, & all in a space that's as supportive as it is. The piece linked is a powerful one, & I'm about to head into the comments here & into the other link too, but at the moment I'm just filled with the urge to say thanks: both to the site & also to all of you who make it what it is. Today has been -- these last 6-7 weeks have been -- heady times indeed for me, headier & harder than that holidays usually are. I'd just this afternoon come home from a pretty good day (but a scarily despondent night & morning) planning to just sit & journal about these issues, & other issues too. Instead, I wrote a poem about said issues first -- well, about the sensation of depression, at least, which in my mind earlier today manifested as a sort of vessel or tub that as it's filling with water or ill feeling can't possibly expand to accept more ill water *does* expand & does take on more, but without any of the relief that said expansion or adjusted parameters might imply... I'll get to the journaling. I'm derailing (the comment). Point is: I am so, so glad for you MeFites & for MetaFilter, here & now, in what I hope is going to be a warmer & brighter 2018.
posted by foodbedgospel at 2:52 PM on January 8 [9 favorites]


I’m very well acquainted with the literature on alcoholism, depression, mental illness in general, thanks. I’ve suffered from major depression for almost my whole life, and I have four people close to me who are alcoholics. And also I RTFA. The point of my post was to explore differing attitudes towards addiction. Perhaps I didn’t express myself very well, in which case mea culpa. But I hope you didn’t sprain your ankle jumping to conclusions, Lutoslawski.
posted by scratch at 3:36 PM on January 8


I believe most alcohol abuse would be significantly curbed if people didn’t start drinking in their teens. Growing up, I was told over and over that my family was predisposed to alcoholism, so I didn’t start drinking until I was almost 21. What I have observed is the few of my siblings who postponed the onset of alcohol consumption have had no issues with drinking as adults, while those who started drinking as teenagers have struggled to varying degrees with drinking. Research seems to bear out my observation.

Unfortunately, it's impossible to draw a causal conclusion from this information. It could very well be that it's exactly the kinds of people who end up having drinking problems who start drinking early. Or it could be that the inadvertent drink caused them. Without a controlled experiment, we can't know.

I'll say that I know for sure that waiting until you're 21 or older doesn't guarantee that you won't have a drinking problem.
posted by billjings at 3:37 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


> Perhaps I didn’t express myself very well, in which case mea culpa. But I hope you didn’t sprain your ankle jumping to conclusions, Lutoslawski.

Well you certainly didn't strain your eyes trying to read the room, friend.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:37 PM on January 8 [14 favorites]


This was my experience. I started drinking late compared to my college friends and then only drank fairly sporadically until I reached university. It took until I was into my 30s and diabetic (it ran in the family but working though years of unnecessary alcohol consumption probably didn't help my pancreas) before I realised I really didn't want to carry on. I also found myself thinking in the abstract about what alcohol was for - it gave you a mild case of poisoning and altered your perceptions and then what? It made you feel sick and anxious and old and tired. There were too many problems with having been drunk and not enough pleasure in the act of drinking in and of itself -I didn't particularly like the taste of a lot of alcohol so there seemed to be not much point in just cutting down. I still have an occasional drink, but often don't finish the glass.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 3:42 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I can say that the things that point out fellow alcoholics to me are the justifying drinks, counting drinks, setting limits around drinks. And saying things like, “I didn’t mean to get so drunk, but the bartender was pouring them strong.” Or too weak, so you could have 4 when you went out and planned to have 2. Giving anyone else the responsibility for you getting too drunk.

To speak on the willpower idea, I also have problems regulating my sugar intake. It’s easier for me to not have any at all than to eat it in regular, healthy amounts. I wish there were more research into the connections, there seems to be a little but it’s not talked about a lot. That’s what makes me think it’s just my body and that’s what it is, so I just can’t drink. Sugar is hard, but it’s a lot less damaging than alcohol so I’m more lax about that am kinder to myself about it. I guess that’s my “higher power”: just accepting that I can’t do it, it’s just the body I’m in, and that won’t change any time soon. I’ve only recently been comfortable referring to myself as an alcoholic, and part of it is the language and pathology associated with it. Accepting that it was just my body and how I processed alcohol removed the moral stigma for me and finally got me to realize that it wasn’t just a failure of discipline on my part. Because I had spent years trying to regulate my intake and be “moderate”, and that’s not uncommon with alcoholics. (See my first paragraph up there.)

I went to a couple of AA meetings last year when I was coming up on 5 years and was having feelings about it and wanted to explore those more than I had let myself in the past. And was surprised about how closely my quitting matched up with the steps/format. I didn’t go to meetings but had taken up a serious meditation practice before I quit, and was very disciplined about it (and I honestly credit that with getting me to stop faster than I would have without it). I was very disciplined about excercise. I created many structures for myself that supported me and my brain, and it ended up making quitting drinking “easy,” but all of that work went into it. I think AA often provides that kind of structure and discipline, along with community, and I can see how it’s very helpful. But I think it won’t stick until you’re ready. And I feel dorky saying it, but I’m grateful every day for my sobriety and that my life took me to a place where I was ready to quit and made it happen. Like I said in my previous comment, I knew i had to quit but wasn’t sure when, and I’m very grateful I got to that day. I was doing work on myself but it wasn’t with the intention of quitting drinking, even if that was the end result.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 3:51 PM on January 8 [5 favorites]


165 days.

I am under so much stress right now. Next week, I have to make my sweet pup for a surgery consult (it's been a rollercoaster of "is it cancer?") and meet with my lawyer over a Thing, both of which were scheduled today. I woke up this morning, drove the kid to school, stopping to get us both coffee on the way since we had time, went to work, stopped by the lawyer's so they could make copies of my files, got some blood work drawn, returned a pair of shoes, all regular annoying every day stuff. But also stuff that triggers my anxiety. And I did it, like a regular annoyed person, whereas if I was still drinking, I'd be too hungover and I'd call out of work and I'd have a panic attack and avoid doing the things.

I love doing the things. I'm still in the honeymoon period with the things. I can drive anytime I want to! I run errands. Sometimes I deliberately forget something at the store so I can go back out later to get it, just because I can.

I have also decreased the dosage of my anti-anxiety medication in the past 165 days. I had the quiet little voice in the back of my brain telling me I was an alcoholic for a while, but it wasn't until I realized that my drinking was preventing me from making any progress in improving my mental health that I actually quit.
posted by Ruki at 3:51 PM on January 8 [11 favorites]


In the U.S. we say that also (and of course we have an even higher drinking age) but I think it is more likely to apply to decreasing dumb college binge drinking than to decreasing the rate of chronic alcoholism.

Here in Australia this is how those infamous red cups are marketed: College Cups. Synonymous with Get-Real-Drunk-Real-Fast Cups. When people overseas associate 'college' with 'binge-drinking', maybe it's time to look at the culture in your colleges.

Also, outlaw fraternities.
posted by adept256 at 3:57 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I can say that the things that point out fellow alcoholics to me are the justifying drinks, counting drinks, setting limits around drinks. And saying things like, “I didn’t mean to get so drunk, but the bartender was pouring them strong.” Or too weak, so you could have 4 when you went out and planned to have 2. Giving anyone else the responsibility for you getting too drunk.


And I don't want another drink/I only want that last one again

via the James McMurty thread from last month
posted by thelonius at 4:06 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I love doing the things. I'm still in the honeymoon period with the things. I can drive anytime I want to! I run errands. Sometimes I deliberately forget something at the store so I can go back out later to get it, just because I can.

That is so great! 2 things that just about everyone who posts at stopdrinking eventually mention: the joy of weekend mornings sober (getting more done by noon than you used to do in a week), and not being ashamed of taking out the recycling.
posted by thelonius at 4:12 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I always refer to it as my superpower as a sober person, that I can go to a party or show at night and also make it to a commitment early the next morning.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 4:17 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I think unpacking space between the phenomenological and physical/chemical dependencies of alcohol is a good thing. They both influence each other and both parts need to be treated and understood compassionately.

Hugs y’all.

My own relationship with alcohol is an emotional and chemical dependency cycle I’ve learned how to monitor. When my life is situationally bad I know i probably should be more wary about my alcohol consumption. And oddly enough when my life is situationally great I hardly consume it. The problem for me is when I drink daily, eventually the cortisol levels in my brain overtake the dopamine levels and I get stuck relying on alcohol to give me the dopamine flush in the evenings.

When that happens and I realize I’m relying on alchohol to go relax I don’t think “oh I’m causing dopamine flushes because I drank too much too regularly and now I’m chemically dependent” I think “what’s going on in my life that I’m avoiding by using alchohol? And oh yeah girl, you need to lay off the alchohol for a bit to let your brain build more dopamine back up”.

Then I figure out the problem space in my life, get to work sorting that out and for 3-4 days deal with that evening after work feeling of “a beer sure sounds good right now” that comes with using alcohol as a means of triggering a dopamine flush.

So yeah that’s just what I’ve uncovered along the way and I’m still learning and growing and maybe in five years I’ll re-read this comment and think “you’re totally full of shit”. Who knows.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:12 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I am very thankful that I'm not apparently not physically addicted. I spent years drinking at Ozzy Osborne and nearly Andre the Giant levels. There are parts of my history where I could drink more than 750 mls of vodka every night for months on end. I've had professional bartenders/alcoholics comment that they can't believe I'm not slurring my speech, much less standing, and they didn't know about the flask in my pocket on top of everything else.

This isn't ok. There should technically be a smoking crater where my liver is.

I am thankful and I feel very, very fortunate that apparently I just got so bored with alcohol and even the general concept of spending any kind of money on it that I just kind of organically quit. I am also thankful I have some goals that aren't compatible with heavy drinking that make it easier.

The hardest part is that it's really boring. And it's hard to find a social scene outside of bars or drinking. And being around hard binge drinkers sober gets less entertaining when you're not there with them, and it's really hard to get them to do other things. Comon, let's just go for a hike! Oh, what's that? You're canceling because you're hung over?

I'm still working on this. It seems helpful to just get used to the idea that being bored is actually ok and kind of healthy, like being a little hungry. But it's harder to find some of the same social camaraderie that comes so easily from the fake challenges of social binge drinking and making bad decisions together.

Moderation is hard, too, so it's easier to just not drink. I find that if I have a beer or two with dinner and a social event, it's fine and manageable but after I really just want to take a nap or call it a night - or keep drinking. It's bizarre how a CNS depressant can keep you up all night and energized and wanting more.
posted by loquacious at 5:15 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


Sober this time for two years, been sober before for four and six and three years.

The key to my sobriety is managing a chronic depressive disorder with medication and a structured approach to meetings and helping others get better. Take away the "work" involved in staying sober, and I go drink. Take away the antidepressants, and I go drink.

I'm tired of drinking. Tired of hangovers, of lying, of secrets. I also know that no one out there is going to fix this for me. It's my thing to address. Nothing about my drinking would have changed if I hadn't changed it myself. I would have gone on, and on, and on, in the same old swamp until I decided it was time.

I don't think I'll drink again but I don't promise that anymore.

What I do promise is that I'll wake up tomorrow, make my bed and take my pills, and then go to a meeting. They're expecting me.
posted by disclaimer at 6:40 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


In another week, I’ll have been sober for longer than I drank — 20 years. I feel, looking back, like I have lived 2 completely different adult lifetimes. I’m so far removed from the idea of wanting to be drunk that it’s just not an idea that enters into my head.

It’s been an incredible journey. I started smoking pot when I was 9, and probably smoked every day by the time I was 12. It worked for a while. But I was always the awkward kid - too slow with the sly comment, always hanging back, never much of a joiner, though I had a social life revolving around music, which has been my enduring passion since I can remember. I tried a beer once when I was fourteen (stole one of my stepdad’s Budweisers and hated it, blechhh) But a few months later when I was 15, we were out driving around after rehearsal & someone pulled up to the liquor store & asked what everybody wanted. For some reason, I said “get me a bottle of Andre,” and BLAM it worked.

When you’re four or five, or even 15, you don’t really know how to say “I’m anxious, I’m worried, and I don’t know why” but when you stumble across something that fixes that, you learn pretty quickly. I spent my high school years and my 20’s In a happy oblivion, having a great old time working enough to get by, playing in bands and partying my ass off. Hangovers were a thing to brag about.

But by my late 20’s, shit started to get real. The hangovers were hurting worse, I was getting a whole lot of nothing done, & I started to become cognizant of the fact that my life was slipping by me & I hadn’t lived up to any of the things I believed I’d do or be, and the self loathing began to set in.

You know what fixes self loathing for a little while? More alcohol. But by the time I was in my mid-30’s, The self-loathing was ever present & the booze wasn’t working at all, so I tried to stop. And couldn’t. I tried to stop again, and couldn’t. I don’t know how many times I stopped, only to start again the next week, and towards the end, the very next day, and I can’t tell you how much I hated myself for it. But come noon, or 5 pm, it was just “fuck it.”

On my 35th birthday, a buddy & I went on an epic drunk, & I ended the evening as I often did, kneeling before the porcelain god at 3 am, the room spinning. I can’t explain what happened that night & I’m not a big follower of things supernatural, but as I lay on that cold tile floor of my friend’s bathroom, in the middle of a divorce I was trying to drink away, I heard a voice as loud and as real as though there was someone standing in the room speaking to me, which said “You will kill the body before you kill the pain.” I literally sat up and looked around. I woke up the next morning devoid of the desire to drink - something had finally snapped.

I went 2 months sober after that, then decided to celebrate my sobriety on New Year’s Eve by drinking. Smart. I went straight to the bottom of a bottle, then another, then another of champagne, (It was the good stuff, this time- I was a high-class drinker by then) chasing that thing, that phantom. I found myself at dawn, in my hotel room after the gig, trying to drain the last drops out of that last bottle for just one more sip... there was just never enough alcohol in the world until the room was spinning & I was puking.

2 weeks later, I tried a controlled experiment. I sat down with one single beer, to see if I could just have one & not need another. As soon as I’d finished that beer, I wanted another more than I’d wanted anything in my life, and I had to sit there with that fact- defeated, and baffled by the situation.

I came to the realization that I couldn’t stop without help that night, & the next day, I picked up a phone & called someone & asked for help.

All I know to this day, 20 years later, the help was enough to get me over the hump that next few weeks while I tried to regain some semblance of what was my life. I got desperate, & will always be grateful to the people who cared enough about me to support me through those tough times & through the desperation to something better. I still participate in AA because it feels like home to me, & I’m glad to be there to help. I learned a lot about myself & why I drank, & I managed to unlearn those errant ideas about what would fix my fucked up brain. I learned to live my life as though today was the only day I had, and it’s been true. Every time I wake up it’s today, and I’m not going to drink today. I’m learning to meditate & find ways to quiet my mind — the journey is ongoing, but I’m loving this journey, and I’m certainly never bored.

Not sure if I’ve got another 20 years in me but I’ll be glad if I get to spend them sober. I’ve heard people say they were sorry they started drinking, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say they were sorry they stopped.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:46 PM on January 8 [25 favorites]


Growing up, I was so sure I’d be an alcoholic if I ever started drinking. I’ve got a bit of an addictive personality. So I didn’t take a single sip of alcohol until I was old enough to legally buy it. I’m not sure I have a healthy relationship with alcohol: the only part of drinking it that appeals to me is the getting buzzed part. But, any amount of alcohol makes me feel gross enough the next day that I only drink it a few times a year. People look at me a bit funny when I say that I like alcohol only for the buzz, but unwinding with a single glass at night does nothing for me. I’d much rather drink water.

The funny thing is, in all my worrying about addiction growing up, I didn’t see the internet coming, and I probably am addicted to it to the extent that it’s negatively impacting my life. The point in the article about long-haul flights really rang true on that front. Some of my most relaxing moments have been on long flights where I knew I wouldn’t be able to use the internet, so I just didn’t think about it. I sometimes try to mimic that effect in the evening or on the weekend, but because I know I can always flick out of airplane mode, I feel this incessant little pull towards absorbing my mind into the internet. It must be an escapism thing. Going to chew on that one for a while.
posted by mantecol at 8:09 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


I wonder if data tracking could help short-circuit the self-deception aspect of problem drinking.

A couple of years ago, I decided to start tracking my drinking. Not just by approximation, but by literally measuring out every drink and recording it in a spreadsheet. The thought was that 1) it would help give me an honest view of my alcohol intake, and 2) seeing the numbers written down might shame me into drinking less. Arguably, I think it did meet goal number one. I can tell you unequivocally, however, that goal number two did not pan out. Ultimately, documentation just became part of the ritual. I have 3+ years worth of data now. I still drink too much.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:10 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


One more comment that I'd like to make, about the subject of willpower, and how I think that it applies to alcoholism, or at least my experience of it. I don't think that I lacked for willpower when I'd get drunk; on the contrary, I think that I managed quite a bit of it when I was driving home drunk. (The statistic that was tossed out in my mandatory post-DUI counseling and classes was that there are an estimated 700 drunk drives for each DUI arrest. Based on my own experience, that estimate may be on the conservative side.) I also exercised a lot of willpower in resisting the idea that I had a drinking problem. The thing about stopping drinking after a reasonable amount was that, once I started drinking, I simply no longer cared about stopping, even with the full knowledge of where that usually led me. In fact, not caring about stuff in general was largely the point for me. That's an almost Philip K. Dickian view of the mind--that one's decision-making ability can be profoundly altered with the ingestion of a few ounces of a fairly mundane chemical--but there you go. Even with years of sobriety, and with the full knowledge of how catastrophically another DUI would ruin my life, I would be literally powerless to avoid it if I drank again. (It's also why I'm not interested in trying another method of sobriety or "controlled" drinking. The potential risk if it doesn't work outweighs any potential benefit.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:21 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


Also, outlaw fraternities.

My alma mater, Alfred University, is infamously known for the very first well-publicized hazing death, back in 1978, when a kid was put in the trunk of a car and told to drink the booze and driven around. I was editor of the undergrad paper in 1990 when the book Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing came out, and we reported on it. (The kid's mother formed a national organization to go after hazing.) After another alcohol-related death in 2001, the university put together a task force and decided to abolish all social Greek organizations. The report is actually very interesting reading, talking in great detail about college drinking culture and how fraternities, after WWII, started as a great way for students to bond but had since devolved into drinking chaos.
posted by Melismata at 9:19 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


I really appreciate reading everyone's thoughts and candor here. Something that helped me find a place of moderation with alcohol was this "lifehack" about having a maximum of two drinks at a party. The way it was written really spoke to me and helped me reset my expectations, though it may not resonate with everyone. The comments section pushing back against the idea that two drinks is enough is interesting/sad in particular.
posted by Emily's Fist at 11:45 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


P.S. reddit.com/r/stopdrinking

A good community there it looks like. IWNDWYT is an interesting device.

A good friend of mine seems to be on the path to drinking herself to death these past years and damn I wish there was a "get your shit together" stick to hit her with. Sadly, the more I read these turnaround stories there's never a hero other than the self and supportive friends on the upswing :/
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:22 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


A good community there it looks like.
It really is.

A good friend of mine seems to be on the path to drinking herself to death these past years and damn I wish there was a "get your shit together" stick to hit her with. Sadly, the more I read these turnaround stories there's never a hero other than the self and supportive friends on the upswing :/

Yeah that's the horror of it, for friends and family. If someone doesn't come to believe that a better life is possible and that they can achieve it, there's not much you can do.

A guy told me a story about going to visit a friend of his who had cancer, and stealing some of his pain meds while the friend was in the shower. The next day he went into rehab. He said "I decided I could not be that person for even one more day". I think they call that "the gift of desperation" in 12-step circles.
posted by thelonius at 12:43 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Yeah that's the horror of it, for friends and family.

Man, the collateral damage. Went to a little meeting the other night, there were maybe 12 people in the AA meeting. The building also houses an Alanon group & an Adult Children of Alcoholics group that were meeting at the same time in other rooms. We ambled out of the AA meeting a couple minutes early, then I sat on the porch waiting for my wife, & the stream of probably 60-70 people pouring out of those other 2 meetings really hit me -- I sat there & thought "wow, look at the damage we've done."

It was humbling & more than a little bit sad. Lots of people go through trials dealing with sick family members with cancer or what have you, & it's all tough, but alcoholism seems to really stand out for causing damage across families.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:42 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the link to The Guardian piece. It rings true.

Coming up on three years at the end of this month, and I have been half-jokingly half-worrying I won't make it. Reading that was a good reminder of things.
posted by old_growler at 10:08 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


This entire thread is sobering, and I really had no idea so many people here were struggling at all. It's actually helpful to be able to look around the room and realize I'm not just not alone, but some of my favorite folks here are right there with me.

I guess this is one huge reason why people go to meetings.

Something I meant to say in my last comment is that I'm very proud of everyone in this thread for doing the harder things. It gives me hope, and I really wasn't trying to humblebrag above - but that I'm sincerely, deeply thankful that I'm having an easier time of it than the last few times I tried to quit or even cut back. And those here that know me or who have seen me drink definitely know I've had major issues with alcohol.

I mean, it's not exactly easy-easy, just easier than it's ever been. And, full disclaimer: I don't even consider myself sober or an ex drinker or any label at all at this point. I'm not opposed to having one or two now and then. I had a few when I went out on NYE, but haven't since, And 'm definitely not sitting at home chugging bottles of vodka anymore, either.

So I guess that's what social drinking and moderation looks like? If so, that's kind of nice.

I still want to stuff cookies in my face metaphorically or not and I have cravings. But mostly I'm frankly as mystified as anyone to know what the hell happened but the nearest thing I can figure is that it's a combination of "This feels gross and isn't fun any more." "And this is boring and deeply unsatisfying." Oh, and "This is making you fat and dumb" certainly helps, too. (And I mean this above and beyond the damage it has done to relationships. Thankfully most of that damage and wreckage has been contained to myself and a near lack of relationships, which isn't great, either.)

Another part of it for me is I had a couple of totally awful failures of photography missions where I rationalized getting all liquored up for some liquid jacket to fight the cold, make the long hikes easier and - so I told myself - get the creative juices flowing.

And I'd come out with garbage, mostly. Weird framing, lack of focus depth control 'cause I'm blotto and cold. It's a good thing I'm not shooting film because it could be several hundred wasted frames and dollars worth of shots, even before I counted the price of the booze and general wear and tear.

And I thought of this thread and the people in it today when I was in the store picking up my brand new and long overdue vitamin D prescription (omg, weeeeeeeee!) and having to wander past the bottle aisles. It made it a lot easier to make it an easy "Nope. Not today."
posted by loquacious at 5:26 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


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