I had many “rock bottoms” but they never really stopped me from drinking for too long. Only one thing eventually stopped me. Learning the reason why I was drinking.
It took too many years to figure it out but when I did it made everything clearer for me.
Drinking took away that empty ache I always had. It took away the anxiety I felt 24 hours a day. Yes, I know alcohol causes more anxiety as the alcohol leaves your system, but it was so bad I didn’t care. I just needed some time without it. Feeling like you’re on a roller coaster all the time is exhausting. Without alcohol I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. I never would’ve left my bedroom. Some would say that would’ve been a good thing. But they were not inside my head. If you have General Anxiety and Social Anxiety, which used to be called “Social Phobia” than you understand.
Alcohol took as much as it gave. It took my money, friends, family, health, dignity, and what little self-esteem I had.
I tried to stop drinking many times over 20 plus years. Some of these times were court ordered and some I decided on my own. I attended AA for two years and disliked it immensely. I also went to an outpatient rehab 3 times a week for a year. That wasn’t bad but I still went back to drinking. The reason? I never asked myself why and neither did anyone else. Self-medicating was never brought up anywhere I went. Not at any of the Psychiatrists, Therapists, AA meetings, or rehab.
It wasn’t until I was 36 that a Doctor asked why? I answered honestly. So I wouldn’t feel anything that I was feeling. He dug deeper. He asked about my family history and if anyone had addiction issues or mental health problems. When I told him my family history I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head. I didn’t understand why.
He said “No one has ever diagnosed you with a mental illness?” I told him one Psychiatrist diagnosed me with “Social Phobia”. He asked if she had given me medication for it. I told him she prescribed me Paxil then Prozac. At this point he was shaking his “NO” so hard I was worried.
We talked more and he made an appointment for me to come back the following week when he had my test results.
I was diagnosed as Bipolar with Social Anxiety. The Conversion Disorder came a little later. My hands shook but I didn’t think to tell him. I thought it was caffeine. It wasn’t until food started falling off every utensil that I knew it was something else. When I started to stutter and my head started to shake a little I was terrified. My Doctor had an idea what it was but sent me to a specialist to be sure.
I stopped drinking the day I was diagnosed. It’s been about 9 and half years. I do not know the exact date and time because I forget a lot of things. I’ve forgotten more since I had a round of ECT (Shock Therapy) that didn’t go as planned. Also I didn’t plan on dying for a few seconds or being under anesthesia for so long or so many times. But that’s what happens when you go into Kidney Failure and don’t know it.
I also don’t believe that if you “fall off the wagon” one time that should you should go back to zero. I know too many people who had years of sobriety slip up once and because of the shame kept drinking. I believe if the stigma and shame were taken away this wouldn’t happen. I’m living proof.
Five years ago I drank one night. One night. Since then I have not had another drink. I was honest with my family about it and they understood but were not happy. They didn’t shun me or make me start over either.
I recently read a Tweet where someone had a drunk dream and their biggest worry was that they would’ve wasted their 5 years of sobriety. It shouldn’t be like that. What if you’r at a wedding and accidentally grab the wrong soda and it has rum in it? Do you start over? I know it’s different because it isn’t intentional but it was the first concert I had ever been to sober, I was alone, in another state, I was manic and I had just died a few weeks before. When I showed up alone I felt like everyone was looking at me (not in a good way because why would they do that?) Then when I realized it was in a good way I didn’t know how to react. I had always been over 200 pounds at concerts and now I was 125 (because I was sick) so I panicked.
The next morning I booked a flight home and talked to my family. It’s been 4 and half years since then. So 9 and half years. If you don’t like it you don’t have to do it.