How To Spot An Alcoholic

Of course, we all know the easy way to spot an alcoholic: red face, preoccupation with alcohol, unable to stop drinking once started etc etc. But today I am going to share with you some insight on characteristics of an alcoholic you may not know. Keep in mind, that what applies to spotting an alcoholic also applies to spotting a relapse because drinking alcohol is only a symptom of a greater problem inside the heads and hearts of people inflicted with the disease.

  1. Anger and resentment- This is nothing new to someone who is in AA. The whole book is written around this subject. Alcoholics have a pattern of being angry and resentful. Often, if I am on social media and I see someone with hostile posts I instantly become suspicious. Alcoholics are triggered by what they deem to be unfair acts against them especially when it comes to close relationships. The disease makes it very difficult for the alcoholic to not take someone’s actions personal. However, in recovery we learn that even the most atrocious acts of unkindness are not personal and we are taught to believe what other people say about us is none of our business.
  2. Comorbidity- Almost all alcoholics have secondary afflictions of the spirit, mind and body that manifest prior to the age we begin drinking. I suffer from anxiety and depression. Always have. In recovery, we are bonded by identifying in each other the same twisted personality traits. It seems like everything we feel is to the extreme. Alcoholics are extremely sensitive. In alcohol we look for relief in caring so much about anything and everything.
  3. Big Plans but No Follow Thru- The brain of an alcoholic is very different than a person who is not inflicted. The pleasure centers of our brain are not naturally full and it takes action every day to get into a pleasurable space. Alcohol replaces action in a way that we think of a big ideas, sometimes brilliant ideas, that are never completed due the fact that the intake of alcohol gives us the same reward response as if we had actually followed through on goal or a task. For example, when I want to write a book, if I drink I most likely will never write the book because alcohol makes me feel as if I had already done the work. This is why in recovery action is far more important than thought. Someone in relapse will begin slowly not to accomplish anything that is important for daily functioning and in the grander scheme of life.
  4. A Track Record- This is very hard for alcoholics to see. We feel things are happening to us. That we are just unlucky. It is very difficult for an alcoholic to link their drinking as a consequence of what they choose. An alcoholic does not have to be drunk to make bad decisions. Once again, drinking is only a symptom that masks what drives a person to be reckless, irresponsible and sometimes very foolish. And the next thing we know we have multiple situations transpiring at once but cannot figure out why. For instance, we get in fights with significant others, our bills are not paid or we lack money, our health deteriorates and we stop doing things that we usually love all at the same time.  When someone is in their disease it is almost impossible for them to be accountable because their disease wants more alcohol. I know that is hard for a normal person to understand but it true.
  5. Unhealthy Boundaries- I am not sure if our inability to have healthy boundaries starts in the family of origin who is likely full of other alcoholics or if it is just the nature of the disease. But alcoholics do not have healthy boundaries. They are often promiscuous, codependent and often expect others to do for them what they should be doing for themselves. They are abusive and they let themselves be abused. They do not know where they begin as a person and others start. This is very hard to master even in sobriety because our extreme feelings and thinking tend to create scenarios both in our heads and in our lives that cross lines of respectability and human decency.
  6. Great Senses of Humor- Recovering alcoholics know how to laugh at themselves. They are usually very funny with off color remarks and ideas. The way we view the world is quite different than a normal person and we are not afraid to embrace that side of themselves because they are usually rewarded by other people for it.
  7. Moderation in Moderation- Alcoholics are all or nothing thinkers. Balance is just not in our vocabulary. If we eat, we eat a lot, if we exercise,we exercise a lot, if we love we love far too much and we don’t see much reason to change.  We have a history of doing everything in our life to excess. Once again, we have a blind spot. We are unable to match our thinking with our behavior. We do not see the link unless we are practicing being mindful. I do not think being moderate ever becomes easy for someone even they have years of sobriety. That is why it is helpful to go to meetings, have a sponsor and be able to tell on ourselves. Otherwise, we slowly or quickly unravel into some sort of extreme.
  8. A Need to be Special- Alcoholics almost always feel that they do not fit in. Because of this, they have a desire to be more “special” than their peers. They truly believe they are superior because of it. But at the same time, being special creates distance which in turn breeds loneliness. One of the greatest things I learned was to find the similarities I have with my fellows if I want to feel fulfilled in my relationships.

This list is not extensive. But it can tip a person off to know if someone has a problem with an alcohol problem. I usually can spot someone right a way. However, it is seldom useful to tell a person that they are alcoholic. An alcoholic usually can figure this out on some level and either desperately tries to hide it or is willing to seek help.

Could it be ME?

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You enter the room again. You know you have to wait. You are just a number in a line. The doctor finally comes in and recommends another doctor and this pattern continues for 10 years. Your pain is insignificant to the giant medical beast. Your theories are trivial in the three minute intervals the doctor is allowed to spend with you. And you are left frustrated, hopeless and depressed.

But imagine…why are you having so many health problems? It is not old age…you are far too young still you are constantly seeing an onslaught of doctors, taking far too medications and  you find yourself having a surgery every year and a half for ten years.  There is a reason. And the reason is you.

You don’t go out to make problems for yourself. These problems are so embedded in your psyche that they are totally unknown to you. Yet they manifest. They must find a way to be freed from your heart and your mind therefore they creep up like some unwanted weed in what was once a beautiful garden. A place where you played and you loved. All the while, you have been depressed since the beginning of your toddler years.

And this is where I stand. Finally, after ten years of major surgeries and a lifetime of self medication I realized  the doctor can fix the symptom. But I am the problem.

Fear of abandonment takes someones heart and leaves it guarded; unable to accept love because your walls are too thick from the pain of yesterday. In fact, if I look closer, I see there is a pattern of people and experiences that I still dwell on as if they were happening now. Even if I was the person who left the friendship or relationship or vice versa, I struggle with people moving on without me. I struggle so much I make myself sick.

I am suggesting that anyone with chronic health issues consider that it may come from inside our brains and not our body. We all have a certain amount of energy we yield. We have the capability to change what form that energy takes through our actions, through how we love and to what degree to we love ourselves.

If you look closely, you might dislike yourself a lot more than you realized.  Although, this is a misinterpretation of the real you, it becomes part of you because you believe it. Plus your actions show it. But denial is very strong within us and we place labels in the wrong places.

My  great epiphany came when my friend wrote to me to discuss my upcoming total hip replacement surgery. Many months before he had a total hip replacement as well and we both agreed we had a propensity for yummy painkillers. He said not worry and he would get back to me. On the same day  I left the hospital after my total hip replacement I learned that he died in a drug related accident.

This was so painful to hear. And I grieved for sometime. I kept trying to wrap my brain around it and I knew it was drug related. I kept thinking , this could be you.  Yet I rationalized over and over again”I know I like pain killers but I am not having surgeries on purpose. The pain is real. There is solid evidence to support my need for the operations.” This was a thought that had twirled around my brain for several years. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I receive some message. It is you. You are making yourself sick. But I did not know why.

Instantly, I began to listen instead of think. I let a few walls down and felt an absorbent amount of pain I carried within me. In fact, it was too much and I needed to deal with it in doses. The answer would come…I was sure.

I began discussing this a few doctors who did listen to me. They agreed with me and they wished more patients could see their health difficulties for what they were instead of looking for the fix.

And I share this now because I believe I have found my reason. I was neglected as a child, my mother left our family when I was ten, I had some people cut me off from our relationships in my teens and early twenties and my father’s death was a form of abandonment that still seems beyond repair.In fact from that moment on my health became in decline. I see know coincidences.

Additionally,  I recognized long ago that I try to tap to someone’s tune before they even know they had one. It was highly important to me that a  person would like me and eventually depend on me. I do not share these examples to blame someone because that would be useless. I am saying these are facts; no one bears responsibility.

And just when I thought it was over, I had to have an abdominal hysterectomy.  But this time I suspected ulterior reasons. I spoke with a spiritual advisor and she listened to my theories and all of sudden she asked if I had ever been raped. I thought for a second and two repressed memories emerged.

I did have two situations where I could not be sure if it was rape or not. The first time, I was already making out with this guy for a few days but one night he was going full forward and I kept saying no, no, no. But he did it anyway and he never spoke to me again. On another occasion several years later I was screwing around with an old boyfriend. We always used condoms but one night I passed out and he had sex with me in my sleep with no protection leaving me pregnant and alone. I never looked at it as rape because I knew I had put myself in risky situations but I did not agree to either sexual encounter. And the hardest thing for me to bear was that a person would do that to me and leave. (Back to the initial issue of abandonment.)

She had me scream to the top of my lungs practicing some sort of primal therapy. And I screamed and I cried and I hit a pillow trying to heal. It was amazing to me that i held those two events I held in my reproductive system for more than 20 years. And then I felt free.

Today, I have a long way to go to get my health at normal levels. I have gained a huge amount of weight,  I have trouble walking and I am sleepy most of the time. But with baby-steps I will be back. The baby-steps are what it takes to show myself that I matter. I will have to fight the indifference and pain that I allow to be parasites in my body. But I will fight. I will fight to live and I will fight to live well. It is a blessing that I was able to be totally honest with myself for just one moment of clarity. I foresee other moments in the future.

The END

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

In the mornings, looking over the Ventura sunrise, I began to show up at the grocery store to buy liters of gross white wine.I was thirty years old, I had very little money at that point  but I tru…

Source: The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

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In the mornings, looking over the Ventura sunrise, I began to show up at the grocery store to buy liters of gross white wine.I was thirty years old, I had very little money at that point  but I truly could not stop drinking around the clock. Alcohol had me in its clutches.

I thought I could fool the checker at the grocery store by purchasing a potato or something small with my wine so that they would think I was having the wine for the evening. I would also go to many different stores but eventually I was recognized everywhere I went.

One time I went to this liquor store at 8am sharp. I casually walked in slowly to pretend I was in no hurry for my wine. The guy at the counter rang me up and then smiled “I haven’t seen you in a while.” I felt caught and ashamed. I was not fooling anyone but myself.

While most alcoholics drink everything they can and pass-out, I always saved a glass for the morning. I desperately wanted to avoid the pain of withdrawals and therefore I stayed very disciplined about that rule. I rescued myself from myself in a sense.

But..more problems accrued. Beside the normal financial problems and relationship problems that most alcoholics create, I had essentially leaped into being part of some Jerry Springer Show  production with no way out.

Pregnant!  But by whom? I had been sleeping  with two guys off and on during the summer. The days were blurry and my peculiar ability to remember dates and times suddenly disappeared while my life was being lived out in the fog of substance abuse.

Well, I did what any normal person would do and left a message on one of the guys answering machines about the pregnancy. It is fair to say this did not go over well.  But I did not know when he would return my call and I needed to talk to him now. I had a hunch he was the father because condoms were used in all my sexual encounters except for one time when this guy (who I actually knew for many years) had sex with me in the middle of the night with no protection as I laid sleeping.

The message went something like this, “Hi (jerk -0ff) , if your daughter is there turn off this message immediately (long pause) but I am pregnant. Please call me back.” I heard from him shortly and he was like “get rid of it.” But I thought I was pro-life and I was very hurt how insensitive he was being.

Please know this: All my life I was exposed to the 12 steps of AA. I knew them by heart. I looked forward to some at an early age. For example, the inventory one…oh yeah. I was ready to do that by age twelve. But there was one..an important one I could never fully understand and nor could anyone else unless they are truly in the grips of addiction.

Step One: I admit I am powerless over alcohol; that my life had become unmanageable. Powerless? Unmanageable? Hmmm…that was starting to make sense. And for once in a long time I had a moment of clarity. My life had become unmanageable by me.

But powerlessness? I don’t know. I simply thought I am pregnant I will go to meetings and give the baby up for adoption. And when I say simply I mean…I was totally freaking out and was at a total loss for a solution. It is one thing for me to abuse myself and whole other to try to bring someone else in the world while I was so sick.

I got in the car, drunk, and headed to my first AA meeting. But I was spinning and inebriated therefore I ended up in Taco bell instead.

From then on…maybe every forty minutes I would declare that I would not drink every again along with smoking nasty cigarettes, too. But then the withdrawal would come and i had to have the drink. I truly belonged in the hospital but the only thing I figured out was that I was absolutely powerless over alcohol.

I fell to pieces and made an appointment with Planned Parenthood to see when I could get an abortion. In my eyes, I would have killed that baby anyway. At the point of no return nothing is clear.

The guy who got me pregnant paid for half and never spoke to me again.

I was early enough in my pregnancy to have the at-home abortion with medications. Therefore, early in the morning, completely alone, I follwed all the doctor’s directions and for 12 hours with a glass of wine in one hand and a Tylenol 3 in the other, I cramped, I cried and I died inside a little more that day. It was the loneliest day of my life. And I still live with the guilt of having to make that decision fifteen years later.

But I was powerless and unless there was a miracle, I was just going to continue to go down farther and farther into the abyss. Luckily, miracles do happen….