It’s a story I don’t like to share. Every time I recall what used to happen to me some years ago, I shed tears—not because of pain, but because of joy.
For more than 20 years, alcohol was my companion. I was a daily drunkard. I used to drink alcohol even when faced with a minor problem. I couldn’t sleep without having a drink. It was my way of life. Although I didn’t love the experience, I always found myself turning to the bottle.
I struggled with alcohol abuse. Although it was ruining my life and that of my family, I couldn’t pull myself out.
How I Became Addicted to Alcohol
When I started, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
My drinking habit started at a young age. I found myself consuming alcohol in college, at first out of peer pressure, and continued because it was fun. I would drink with my friends. We would go partying and enjoy alcoholic drinks.
Then, when I left college, life was difficult. I found a job, but I didn’t know how to manage my finances. To cope and unwind, I would join my friends in bars and social places where we spent a lot of time drinking.
By the time I got married, I realized that alcohol was a problem and I tried to stop drinking, but I couldn’t. Slowly, I started lamenting about why I drank alcohol but I couldn’t seem to stop myself, even though I knew I was being irresponsible.
The Bottle and the Damage Done
The many years I drank alcohol had huge negative effects on my life. The more I continued drinking alcohol, the more problems I had. Everything seemed to be going wrong—I was always struggling to make ends meet, my job was at risk, my marriage was in trouble—but the more I thought about my life, the more I continued to drink.
My health was in decline, too: physically and mentally. My blood pressure went through the roof, I was getting sick a lot more often, and I had no sex drive. I was anxious or depressed pretty much most of the time.
It was a struggle between my inner voice and reality. Every morning after I went home drunk, my inner voice would tell me, “No, you can’t continue doing this to yourself.” However, I still found myself in a bar at the end of the day.
Things seemed beyond my control. I knew I was hurting my wife and the kids. My family was lonely—at one point, I isolated myself from other people and would sneak out to go drinking—but it was as if I didn’t care about myself or my family.
My wife tried several times to talk to me about my drinking problem. I would always tell her, “I will stop, baby.” However, she knew that I had gotten to a point where I could not manage to stop without the help of a professional.
The Turning Point
Finally, I realized that I couldn’t hide the bitter truth of the life I was living. I talked to my wife. I accepted that I had an addiction and admitted that I really needed help.
We went to a counselor who explained to me that such acceptance is a brave and necessary step. Acknowledging that alcohol was causing harm to people I love and myself was the biggest thing I ever did for myself and even for my family. It was the starting point of a sober life.
The counselor explained that it was not my fault that I was addicted to alcohol. No one wants to be an addict. There is an underlying cause that drives us to the bottle or the needle or the pill. It may be a genetic predisposition, a trauma, or a co-occurring mental illness.
We start drinking to feel good, but, after a while, we’re drinking not to feel bad, despite the harm to ourselves and our families. Quitting alcohol after you’re deeply addicted is painful. In the short term, continuing to drink seems preferable to the alternative. To stop drinking abruptly can even be fatal.
So my alcohol rehab began with a medically monitored detoxification, the safe elimination of alcohol from my body, with medical assistance—including medications—available if my symptoms were too severe.
After detox, I received counseling to learn healthier ways to cope with life’s setbacks and stress, and how to maintain my sobriety after rehab.
The Strides I Made After Quitting Alcohol
After months of counseling and learning how to stay sober, things started changing. The little problems that would send me to bars or on drinking sprees were no longer affecting me. I started tackling my problems while staying sober and finding solutions was easier.
My health improved and the feeling of being lonely and isolated was gone. I could spend more time with my family and they were happy times.
We started saving money; the financial problems that had become a thorn in our sides were reduced. We could now manage our finances.
With the support of my family, the counselor, and our priest at the local church, I found new life and a new beginning.
The Changes Sobriety Brings
When I stopped drinking, I realized that lots of things had to change, including my friendships. Part of staying sober is to avoid people, places, and activities associated with my past drinking. People tend to gravitate to groups of friends who have the same habits.
When I drank alcohol, I didn’t relate to my sober friends. I thought people who liked to get drunk made the best company. Also, I wanted to be in the company of people who didn’t think drinking was a problem and wouldn’t question how much I drank. This “confirmation bias” allowed me to pretend I didn’t have a problem.
By stopping drinking I changed my lifestyle. I started associating with people who aligned with my new values and believed in sobriety, which helped me shed toxic relationships. Staying away from those who drink has helped me stay on top of my sobriety.
When I was drinking, I didn’t care about my health, my job, my family. I didn’t think about saving for the future or investing to safeguard the rest of our lives. When I quit, however, I took a different tack.
Today, I love and uphold my job. I put my health—physical and financial—and that of my family first. I also discovered that I don’t have to drink to have fun.
Now, I take my family for picnics and outings, something we never did before. The bond between me and my family has grown stronger and I can attest to the fact that I feel stronger, younger, more energetic, and loved.
I have found a purpose in life, which I couldn’t have found if I went on abusing alcohol.
Today My Life Is So Different, and So Much Better
Today, I am a picture of sobriety. People who also knew me when I was drinking say that I am a living testament for those who are struggling with alcohol addiction.
I am always happy to help others who want to stop drinking. I have been there before
The challenges of life are still there, but I find it easier to tackle them now and I don’t even have to think about hiding behind a bottle of beer. I can talk about my problems and seek help from the right people, those with positive values.
One thing I have learned is that it’s not easy to stop addictions, in yourself or others. Providing help for alcoholics on the journey to a sober life is noble and helps me maintain my sobriety while making it less difficult for them.
If you can’t quit on your own, don’t be embarrassed or proud or stubborn. My advice is that you talk about your addiction problems to people who care about you as I did with my wife. They can help you find treatment through a rehab center to start your journey to recovery.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. Please seek help from a medical professional or treatment facility if you believe you need help with any addiction.
About the Author ...
Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. Patrick is currently a writer for Mountain Springs Recovery as well as on his own blog.