People generally hate the term “drinking problem.”
I used to tell both my best friends and my parents that I had a drinking problem.
Their knee-jerk reaction was to say I did not.
Due to its representation in film and TV, a drinking problem is assumed to be debilitating, excessive or life-threatening.
I would argue my drinking problem was all of these things, but because of luck, good humor and the current culture surrounding binge drinking, my relationship with alcohol didn’t seemingly meet these qualifications.
My undergrad life as a sorority member and student at a large public university consisted of a great deal of binge drinking.
The reason nothing catastrophic ever happened during these drinking events is most likely due to the region and location of my school.
It was a small college town, and I had very good, caring friends.
One of them usually stayed sober.
I would get blackout drunk almost every time I drank, and I was not alone.
Pregaming became a competition about who could drink the most the fastest.
It was a source of humor, as most of my friends did the same.
We were all successful and ambitious, so it didn’t seem to be an earnest problem.
Several somewhat horrific things happened to me while I was drunk, yes.
But again, our culture of drinking reaffirms that these things are humorous and deserve to be moved past.
After I finished graduate school and became a working professional, I definitely scaled back on the frequency of drinking events, but the results were usually still the same.
I would want to consume moderately, but my habits from undergrad would prevail.
Even if I only imbibed a few drinks, I would feel terrible the next day, both morally and physically.
Enough was enough.
I didn’t want to socialize with people in a way that I felt wasn’t truly me.
During my decision to quit drinking for good, I learned several things that might potentially help others who struggle in a society where we make light of so many dangerous, harmful situations that are ultimately the result of alcohol.
Here are six things I learned when I made the decision to quit drinking for good:
1. Even those closest to you might not support your efforts to stop drinking.
It isn’t because they don’t love you or don’t, in fact, support you.
Even my best friend would implore me to drink with her.
She meant no true harm, but to her, I did not have a “drinking problem.”
She didn’t understand my addictive personality doesn’t allow me to have a normal or positive relationship with alcohol, and part of that is a side effect of our cultural attitude toward drinking.
People who truly love us often might have their own issues with alcohol, so our realizations can be threatening.
It is easier to assure ourselves we don’t have a problem, even when our unhappiness insists we do.
2. You're the only one who knows if you have a drinking problem or not.
No matter what relationship you have with alcohol, you are the only one who knows how it truly affects your life.
If you are unhappy as a result of drinking, I would classify that as a problem.
If you feel you need to make a change, don’t rely on others to assess your relationship.
Even a few drinks would make me feel extremely guilty the next day, and I'd experience paralyzing paranoia about possible bad things I may have done.
The guilt and deep depression I felt after any night of drinking were not worth it to me.
3. You are not your friends.
I have so many friends who can drink and simply be fun people.
They can drink and be happy, social and great people to be around.
It took me a long time to admit that even though I might do better than I imagine, the aftereffects of drinking were personally not enough to justify my behavior.
Everyone is different, and everyone responds to substances differently.
4. You can quit drinking and still go out.
As with any life choice, you can still do the same things you did before.
They just don't involve alcohol.
You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.
If it helps, get a soda to hold when you go out.
I enjoy being social, but it doesn’t mean I have to drink.
This is a hard truth to accept and try out, but I promise your friends will still want you there if you’re not imbibing.
5. You don’t have to be a teetotaler.
At a celebration dinner or on a nice date, I have had one glass of champagne here and there.
But the rule for me is one.
I drink it, and I actually taste it.
I don’t go near hard alcohol because I know I don’t enjoy the taste.
Once I decided to not drink to get drunk anymore, it alleviated the appeal of drinking things that didn’t taste good.
I learned that I can have a drink, but more often than not, I don’t really want to.
6. You’re still you.
You’re still fun. You’re still the person you were before.
Drinking, even if it is what you remember as being the most fun times with your friends, does not have to be part of your life.
It can still be part of your friends’ lives, and it doesn’t have to create a huge schism.
It can be so difficult to go against the grain of what we’ve always done.
For me, it was the real fear of not having the same types of memories.
But I was forgetting the truly terrible feelings on some mornings after.
No one understands the truth of alcohol in your life except you.
I’ve had friends who seem entirely happy and fun, but they end up committing acts of terrible harm to themselves.
I have friends who are successful, well-adjusted people. They can drink like fish and be happy as clams.
I can only be myself, and I do not do well with moderating alcohol consumption or accepting myself the next day.
Quitting drinking gave me peace of mind, a better feeling of control over my life and the strength to feel like I was doing what I needed to do for my mental health.
It wasn’t easy facing my own truths.
But once I did, I realized my personality and alcohol do not mix.