Living an Alcohol-Free Life – Why It’s Better than Ever
Things I Don’t Miss About my Alcohol Addiction
From feeling constantly angry and depressed to being permanently broke, my alcohol addiction caused a series of bad decisions that I will always regret.
Only the other day, someone asked me if I missed alcohol. Almost a decade ago, I had my last drink after twenty years of drinking anything I could get my hands on.
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No, I didn’t miss drinking – sometimes, my depression tries to tell me that I’m happier with a bottle in my hand, but I know that’s not true. When I was drunk all the time, I remember a lot of feelings, but happiness was never one of them.
Before heading to Castle Craig, my biggest fear was losing everything that my life had become: the pub, after-work drinks that never seemed to end, poker on Fridays, drinking endlessly, sleeping in the spare room and hiding bottles from my wife.
And while I’m not a doctor and cannot give sound medical advice, I can tell you what I know and what I learned from experience. So here are the ten things I don’t miss about my addiction to alcohol.
1. Thinking Alcohol Was My Friend
Alcohol allowed me to distance myself from stressors, challenges, and even people.
If you have ever been dependent on alcohol, you’ll understand that somehow alcohol makes you feel safe and carefree. It’s what you know, and it comforts you.
Sadly, alcohol became my friend as well as my crutch. But, in reality, alcohol was not my friend, and it was not looking out for me. Some say alcohol gives you wings and then takes away the sky.
2. The Lying, Pretending, and the Exhaustion
With alcoholism, there was no rest ever. The exhaustion of constantly obsessing about alcohol, planning the next drink, not getting caught, changing groups of friends so no one would know how much I was drinking; where my next drink comes from, what can I get away with? Chaos.
On top of that, if, like me, you were a functioning alcoholic, able to hold a job down while acting out, you’ll know that making it through a single day was a miserable groundhog day experience.
3. Hiding in Plain Sight
I don’t miss hiding from my family, friends, and even myself.
I didn’t drink for the social element – I wasn’t having fun with friends; I drank for effect. So instead, I was drinking at work, in the car – anywhere away from prying eyes.
Hiding my addiction turned into a full-time job. Pitifully, in the mornings, I would buy some extra strong mints to cover my vodka-smelling breath and use eye drops for red eyes. Anything to tell me that no one knew I wasn’t doing very well and could not stop drinking.
Do I think it works now? No, but no one said.
3. Not Being Able to Remember
I was drinking for oblivion. I did not want to wake up in the mornings. I prayed to God to just take me.
I thought everyone had blackouts. Every morning’s first few frantic seconds were spent trawling through the night before; what did I say, what did I do, who did I call, was I rude out of control, the four horsemen of Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, and Despair were on me.
I couldn’t tell you a memory from my six-year-old’s birthday party, not because I was so drunk, but because I was so drunk that I didn’t know what month it was, let alone what day.
I’ve lost a lot of my life by blocking things out with alcohol – I’ve missed out on significant milestones and big family moments that I’ll never be able to get back or remember.
4. The Self-Hate Cycle
If you’ve never been dependent on anything, you won’t understand the vicious cycle of self-hate and punishment. The critical inner voice becomes tyrannical. I hated myself and what I had become.
I would drink and drink because I hated myself, my life, and my job (and sometimes even my wife and family for getting in the way of my drinking).
Then I would do more awful things, hate myself all over again, and drink more to try and push away the embarrassment, anger, resentment, and shame of it all.
5. The Black Hole (Depression)
Addiction became a black hole sucking up and destroying everything, including me. It is the utter despair of promising myself I would not drink today and then being drunk before noon. I would promise my wife, my boss even my children that today would be different, and I would let them all down. There are many, many dark days when I was too cowardly to take my own life.
As you’d expect with addiction, my mental health continued to plummet, with the lack of sleep and exhaustion, not helping matters. I was constantly on edge. I was either miserable or very excited, with nothing in between.
I was utterly lost and helpless; emotions were no longer emotions. I was just numb and practically dead.
6. How Horrible I Became
Later, through rehab, I learned that my addiction was centred around self-esteem issues; I didn’t like who I was, so I got drunk to escape that and become someone else.
However, as it turns out, the drunk me was even worse. I was miserable, moody/grumpy, unmanageable, and sometimes shamefully aggressive.
When I went to rehab, they told me that I was not a bad person trying to be good, but an unwell person, trying to get and stay better.
It was refreshing to be in a room with several other people going through the same thing as you – and trust me, after years of an inner voice telling you that you’re alone and worthless, this was such a relief.
7. Hurting Those I Loved the Most
Constant lying to everyone you know and care about is awful, but as a dependent individual, I had other priorities.
While I hated myself, I also hated the shit I put my family and friends through, and honestly, today, it still hurts.
I’ve lost so many friends and family acquaintances because I put my drinking first; I never cared to stay in contact or respond to phone calls or messages.
I know that it will take time for the shame and self-loathing to disappear. Still, I feel better every day, and my family, through therapy, has offered me understanding and forgiveness, which I am incredibly grateful for.
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8. The Physical Torture
You can do your best to ignore it, even be in denial about it, but wetting the bed, bleeding from every orifice, and turning yellow from jaundice made me very unwell.
I remember a doctor prodding my liver after a seizure and gasping at how hard it felt. My liver count was off the scale. But there was no way he could tell me there was anything wrong, my liver was fine, and the argument was dropped.
I was four stone underweight when I lost my job.
9. How I Was Looked At
My alcohol addiction made me unrecognisable to those who knew me. I was a mess, and I knew it. I just could not control my drinking. It was everything. I avoided mirrors. I stopped washing or shaving after I was made redundant.
My wife would just cry, never saying a word, never pushing me further over the edge. But in my head, I knew that she thought she had married a loser.
One of my three children, the eldest, looked at me with disgust – in a house where the father was constantly drunk, she was never protected, never hidden from the truth of what her father was; an out-of-control alcoholic.
10. The Fear
I don’t miss the fear of alcohol being taken away from me or the fact I could lose my house, my wife, and my kids. Or the fear of everyone finding out, being fired from my job, or being an outcast from my family. I lived in constant dread that something terrible would happen and I would die or go to prison. The panic was always a short breath away.
My Life Now
I attended Smarmore Castle rehab clinic in 2012. Since staying over six weeks (10 days in detox) and completing their ATP programme, I have been sober for over. I am a proud member of Alcoholics Anonymous and currently sponsor other alcoholics in Dublin. My wife and I are now in a much better place. Although my daughters have now left home, my relationship with them has never been better.
This article is adapted from a patient story and is published with permission. Some details have been changed to protect the anonymity of the original author.
Smarmore Castle has helped thousands of people attain sobriety from alcoholism. If, like them, you are struggling, get in touch with us today for help overcoming an addiction to alcohol.