Today a woman told me she didn’t think she had a drinking problem because she never drank to feel better, or even to get high, the way others did; she drank so she didn’t have to feel anything. She found her emotions intolerable, and she drank aiming for oblivion. She wasn’t an alcoholic, she said, she was just self-medicating.
Okay. Yup. Sure.
I spent a decade or so “self-medicating” by drinking. I hated what I was feeling, and so I drank to drown that feeling, whatever it was. In spite of the consequences, I drank. This set up a horrible cycle: my life is crap, so I drink to stop the guilt/shame/self-pity/fear/rage/remorse/embarrassment/loneliness; but when I’m drinking, I do things that cause me to feel guilt/shame/self-pity/fear/rage/remorse/embarrassment/loneliness; and I can’t tolerate those feelings, so I drink. . . and so on.
For many people reading this, what I’m saying is hardly revelatory. It will sound like old news. But for some — perhaps for you, this might be new information.
Emotions — unmanageable, terrifying, overwhelming, panic- and psychosis-inducing — are the alcoholic’s home turf.
But here’s the good news: if you are drinking to anesthetize yourself, and if it isn’t working, or if the consequences are causing you pain, there is a solution. You can get help and you can get sober. It’s not even that hard. You just have to begin. You have to wave the white flag and admit that alcohol has won the war. You’re done. No more fighting.
There are many places you can go for help. Try one. And if that doesn’t work, try another. You might even try some 12-step meetings, which cost nothing and have the best success rate. Go to an AA meeting. If you don’t like that meeting, go to another — I’ll bet there are tons of them around if you just look for them.
And hey, maybe you’ll even meet some people there who can help you deal with those outlaw emotions, and with your desire for oblivion.
For what it’s worth, I’ve been clean and sober for over seventeen years. I can’t imagine craving oblivion. Are my emotions always comfortable? Of course not — hey, life’s like that. But at no time are they unmanageable. And above all, I know I’m not alone. Neither are you.