Not an alcoholic

My name is Lannie and I'm an alcoholic. When I came to my first meeting last week, I thought that admitting I was an alcoholic would be the hardest thing for me. All my life I had denied it. I was an evening (and weekend) drinker, and quite functional. I never lost a job, never went to jail, and never got a DUI. I only ever missed a couple of days of work due to hangovers, although the lord knows I spent many a day sitting uselessly in my cubicle, suffering. I never had an automobile accident—until the end, that is. I'll get back to that in a moment.

My drinking did impact my relationships. I got married the day after my thirtieth birthday, just missing my personal goal of being married by time I turned thirty. My drinking wasn't the problem when my marriage broke up five years later. There were a few reasons, but probably the biggest one was that my spouse fell in love with methamphetamine.

I had two other serious long term relationships, and my drinking was at least partially responsible for their failures. The last one was a sad fiasco. We moved in together much sooner than was smart, due to certain financial circumstances. We didn't know each other very well. It soon came out that my lovey-dovey was the child of alcoholic parents, so my drinking did not go over well.

My lovey-dovey's older brother is a recovering alcoholic. I met him a few times. The two of them discussed my drinking habits and concluded I was not an alcoholic, just a heavy drinker. That strongly reinforced my own denial. Silver stars to both of them for being enablers.

Getting back to my driving record, a couple of year ago I totaled a Buick LeSabre. I was headed home from a bar and I got lost in a strange neighborhood. I came upon a Yield sign, and I did not yield. In fact, I went straight through the sign post. It mushed the Buick's front end and the pole must have flown up over the car and crashed down on the back end of it, because the trunk was crushed and the back window was demolished. Fortunately, I was not injured; I was even able to drive the car away, just barely. By the grace of god there were no cops around, so I did not get arrested, either. But you can be sure that it really shook me up.

This was a wake-up call for me, and I took it quite seriously. I quit drinking on the spot. I already knew the booze wasn't good for me, and it really wasn't fun anymore, so I was ready to quit. I had tried to quit a few times before, but I had never been able to do it. This was just the incentive I needed. I quit, and I never touched another drop. Not until a couple of weeks later, that is. I was in Las Vegas, taxiing around town and not driving, so I figured it would be okay to drink. Soon I was making excuses why it was okay to drink a little every weekend. I could see I was headed back to my same old drinking routine. Then my doctor did me a great favor. Upon examining some blood test results during a routine physical, she asked me, "Do you drink?"

"Duh, yeah!" I told her.

"Well, you'd better stop or else you're going to need a new liver within five years," she said. That really was all I needed to hear. I spent Thanksgiving Day of 2001 by myself, drinking, the way I spent most of my holidays. And that was the last drink I ever had.

Not drinking was pretty easy for me. I was lucky that I didn't have the brutal chemical cravings that punish a lot of alcoholics. But maybe the downside of that is that I didn't realize there is a lot more I need to do to fix my life. I've been sober for two years, but I still feel that emptiness inside. I feel that my life is over. I don't know what to do.

My therapist had been making noises about antidepressants, but I really hate to start down that path. She also suggested that I try an alcoholics recovery meeting. She was hesitant about it because she knew I didn't consider myself to be an alcoholic; but she's very smart, so I thought I would take her advice.

When I came to the meeting last week, I filled out the little card with all the questions about my drinking. I checked five boxes. I thought that was pretty good, since there are something like twenty boxes on the card; and I didn't even check any of the terribly serious ones. I was absolutely shocked when I got the bottom and read that if I checked three boxes, I was definitely an alcoholic! But this still didn't convince me. What did convince me was hearing the people at the meeting tell their stories. These were my stories! These were my feelings! Very quickly it became clear to me that I, too, am an alcoholic.

So I am going to come to meetings, and I am going to get a sponsor, and I am going to work the steps. I sincerely hope the program can help me get a grip on my life. And I guess that's all I have to say for now.

I'm Lannie and I'm an alcoholic.

—Lannie R, 4/2004

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