One of the Best Compliments I Will Ever Receive From Another Alcoholic.

Hello Hello!

Not much has changed over the past couple of days (other than anticipating my upcoming court date, Lord help me) except that I am 106 days sober. Hot damn. I can’t believe that I’m in the triple digits! Sobriety is the best gift that I have ever given myself.  It’s not about the amount of days/months I have of being sober – it’s about learning  about sobriety and using the tools that I have learned in the 12 steps and incorporating them in my everyday life.

I was working with my sponsor the other day on steps 4 and 5 (I’ve been in-between sponsors, that’s a WHOLE different story).  I wrote out my resentments, and what I think my character defects are.  I’m not going to share what/who they are, because that’s something that I should keep between my sponsor and I.  Some things are best left unsaid! ūüôā

My sponsor told mthey say youe that she “couldn’t imagine getting sober at my age.”  Yes, I’ve heard it time and time again, and I have touched on it in previous blog posts.  I’m young.  I’m 23 (I’ll be 24 July 5th!) and I have decided to live a sober lifestyle.  Everyone around me – including those inside of the rooms of AA and out- has expressed how “hard” it must be for me (it’s hard for everyone, isn’t it?).  I don’t think age has anything to do with choosing to be sober- I consider myself one of the lucky ones.  I am choosing to not go through years of misery, and it frightens me to think about the person I may have become if I continued to drink the way that I did.

My sponsor continued to say that she sees the dedication that I have in sobriety. That is one of the best compliments that I have ever received.  I often wondered if people thought I was there for shits and giggles.  She continued to say that sees the difference between other individuals my age who are on their phone for the duration of a meeting, and me- the one who is soaking up all of the wisdom everyone in the room has to offer.  She sees that I really want sobriety, and that I am willing to go any lengths to achieve it. She said that she sees how much I have transformed since I first walked into the rooms of AA.  From embarrassed, shy, and closed-off to bubbly, outgoing, and confident.

And she’s exactly right.  I am incredibly dedicated to sobriety.  Even if it means that I have to skip out on a social gathering because it may trigger relapse.  It means that I am willing to let go of my old “friends” that enabled my alcohothis is how I amlism.  It means that I have to make amends to the people that I’ve hurt, write out my character defects, and give my life to the care of my Higher Power as I understand Him.  It means that I’m willing to pick up the phone to talk to another alcoholic when I’m having the urge to drink (easier said than done! Trust me). I’m dedicated to growing in the fellowship of AA, helping another alcoholic, and to become the best version of myself. I’m dedicated to being (and working) an honest program, even when I’m doing something wrong. I’m dedicated to staying sober for another 24 hours.

Many of my friends who aren’t in the program are congratulating me, telling me how inspiring I am, and telling me how “easy” I make sobriety look. Let’s get one thing straightalcoholism– sobriety is hard work!! Believe you me, sobriety is an every day battle. If sobriety was easy, everyone would do it. If sobriety was easy, relapses wouldn’t occur as often as they do. I have been through hell and back, and finally, for the first time in my life, I’m comfortable.  I’m happy.  I’m done with the absolute insanity that alcohol created. Alcohol created a person that was depressed, impulsive, and irresponsible.  Alcohol made me feel like I was a prisoner.  I am willing to put the work in so that I can be happy, joyous, and free.  And that has made all the difference.

 

‚ÄúI have found that the process of discovering who I really am begins with knowing who I really don’t want to be.‚ÄĚ

I Have to Re-Visit My Rock Bottom Next Week, And I am Terrified.

Hello, All!

I’m 101 days sober today and I am so grateful.  My life has changed in so many positive ways!  Because of sobriety, Alcoholics Anonymous, and outside help (pharmacological assistance and counseling), I am a completely different person.  And this person is who I was always meant to be.  I could have been this person years ago, and I know that.  All of the chaos that alcohol caused could have been avoided, but I wasn’t ready to change. The disturbing truth is that I thought alcohol made me a person that everybody wanted to be around, the “life of the party”, the spontaneous rebel, the people pleaser; but BOY did it do the complete opposite.  That person was a monster, and that person terrifies me to my very core. The actions I did when I was drinking terrifies me even more.

There was one specific night of impulsiveness that haunts me to this day.  It probably will for years to come. That night was the night I knew that I had a problem.  Two weeks later I decided that I was powerless over alcohol, my life had become unmanageable, and I needed help.  Unfortunately, that night landed me into some trouble and now I have to face the music of what happened that night.  I went for 5 months without hearing anything from the court system, but today I got that dreaded letter in the mail stating that I have to go to court next week.  I have been in tears on and off all day.  If I wan’t intoxicated that night, none of this would be happening.

I am absolutely petrified, and that’s putting it lightly.  My remorse for that day is astronomical. My mind is autombible verseatically going to the “what if’s” and the absolute worst, which does nothing but cause my anxiety to spiral out of control. But, the fear of the unknown is absolutely killing me. I am going to have to hear what I did that night, what charges I’m faced with, etc. I just know I’m going to lose it.  I cry even thinking about it. I cry thinking about that night, the person I was, and how alcohol had such a powerful (And completely negative) effect on me. Looking back on the person I was while I was in the heat of my drinking almost has a post traumatic stress disorder effect on me. 

But, in spite of all this, I haven’t felt the urge to take a drink.  Not one bit. Alcohol is POISON to me. I have been in constant contact with my sponsor and went to a meeting tonight.  I read “How it Works” from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous when I came home from the meeting and prayed to my higher power to keep me in the palm of His hand during the next week or two.  And I thanked Him for keeping me sober today and for all the blessings that he has given me. My higher power is working in my life in ways that I don’t really understand right now.

I can’t change the past.  What happened, happened.  I knew that this day was coming, but it made me physically sick to read it on legal documentation today. I’ve had nightmares about standing in front of the judge for months. The guilt and shame of who I became when I was in the heat of my alcoholism is still there, and I think about it every day.  I know that will gradually dissipate in time. 

I know that if that night didn’t happen, I probably would not be sober today.  In fact, I know I would not be sober today.  That’s the unfortunate reality for most alcoholics in recovery. I would not be the happy, joyous, and (almost!) free person that I am at this very moment.  Granted I am a ball full of emotions right now, but this too shall pass. If I didn’t hit rock bottom, I would not have lost weight, I would not have confronted the demons that I hid for years, I wouldn’t be back in school to get my second Master’s degree in addiction counseling, I wouldn’t have fund the amazing fellowship of AA, I would not have gone through a 4 week intensive outpatient treatment program (That was INCREDIBLE!), and I defiantly would not be writing this blog to share my experience, strength, and hope with you all. Bottom line is- I hit rock bottom and I quit digging. I’m done

My life today is pretty amazing.  But, looking back on THE ABSOLUTE worst day of my life is rearing its ugly head.  I know when all is said and done, a relief will be taken off of my shoulders.  I can finally start to let go of the past and use that experience as a life-long learning lesson to never become that person again, and to help/inspire the next alcoholic.

I’m not sure how to end this post, because I’m feeling the same as when I started writing it. A ball full fo anxiety, guilt, remorse, and shame. But, if you would, please send positive vibes and prayers my way this week and next upcoming week.  I ask that you pray for strength, peace of mind, serenity, and the courage to change the things I can.  I’ll get through this without the crutch of alcohol.  I will be a better person because of this. My higher power has removed the obsession of alcohol, which I never thought could be possible. I’m casting all of my anxieties on Him, because I know He cares for me.st francis



What Scares Me the Most About Being in Recovery.

Hi, Friends!

Sorry I have been kind of out of the loop for awhile- I have been crammed with school work, and I just accepted a new job!  Finally, a sense of independence returns! ūüôā I am 97 days sober and life has been great.  Of course some days are bbe happyetter than others, but sobriety has opened my eyes to a completely new way of life- and this life is fantastic.  And, I have a boyfriend! I KNOW, I KNOW.  I know the “old timer” rule is to not date for the first year of sobriety; but this just kind of happened- and its the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in.  We all know how much time and energy that is needed in order to make a relationship successful, but for the first time in my life, it’s easy. And, we have similar goals and similar brains, if you catch my drift.  My sobriety has let me heal from past relationship experiences and has allowed me to let (and trust!) new people in my life.

I was talking to my grandfather, (who has over 30+ years of sobriety!) and I was expressing how thankful I am to be sober and all the benefits that I amwhat could possibly go wrong? reaming from it. My Grandpa expressed his how much he loved me, and how glad he was “to have his Sara back.” He then asked me what I was most scared about being sober.  I was silent for a good 5 seconds because I never really thought about it.  I confused as to why he was even asking me this!  Why in the hell would I want to focus on something like that?  I took another 5 seconds to think about it, and I replied “relapse.” What if I did relapse? The following scenario would probably happen.  I would have one drink and be off to the races.  Immediately, my brain chemicals would alter and I would become a different person.  “One drink” leads to 6, and 6 leads to daily drinking.  I would begin to isolate, I would begin to put alcohol before all other responsibilities, I would drop out of school and quit my job, I would hurt others around me, I would stop going to meetings and no longer participate in therapy, I would begin to lie and manipulate everyone around me… the list could go on and on. At that moment, my palms started to sweat. My heart started to race. My knee started to bounce up and down.  The thought of relapse made me physically sick.

The old me would have hung up the phone (with a few choice words!), gone to the store with a “F*** You!” attitude, and got a liquor bottle to cure my symptoms of anxiety and “fear of the future”, so to speak.  It would be so easy! One swig and all of my problems would be temporarily gone.

After I hung up, I processed the conversation that I had with my Grandpa.  I really, truly am terrified to relapse. I’m even more scared of the woman I become when I drink. One of my character flaws is that I am extremely naive and easily influenced.  If I’m at a social gathering with friends that are drinking and didn’t have a sober support with me to keep me accountable, it wouldn’t take much for me to say “Oh, it’s just one drink, its not a big deal. Nobody will know.”

I know that if I relapse, I may not have another recovery in me.  My disease spiraled out of control so quickly. That’s terrifying in and of itself to think about.  Within the course of a year, I was drinking obscene amounts of alcohol on a daily basis and hurting the people around me.  If I relapse, I may not live to tell the tale.  I then got angry and called my grandpa back.  I said, “hey, ya old fart! Why did you ask me that? Now you got me over-analyzing things that aren’t even happening!”  He replied: “I timed how long it would take for you to call be back in a tiffy. Relax.”  Of course I responded with an (annoyed) huff and a puff and replied, “alright, go on.”

He told me that it is important to recognize our fears and to confront them so that we ALWAYS have a “plan B” when life happens and alcohol may seem like the only cure; the fast cure.  Whether that be at a social gathering, celebrating an achievement, grieving a loss, sitting at home alone, or when a strong craving hits.

Another one of my character flaws is that I tend to hia goal without a plande all negative/scary emotions until crisis occurs (and then I keep digging, like every stubborn alcoholic!). And that’s just it- until crisis occurs. This unsuccessful way of coping has been a repeated pattern in my life ever since I can remember.   The point of my wise old Grandpa asking me this question was to come up with a plan to avoid crisis.   I was annoyed at the time, because I didn’t understand what he was trying to do.  Now, I have a couple of “plan B’s” that will ensure success in situations where relapse is possible.

I am happy, joyous, and free from alcohol. I am not alone. I am free from the chaos and the destruction that it causes. I am free from temporary solutions that lead to negative consequences. Of course some days are harder than others, but if sobriety was easy, everyone would do it.

One Day At a Time, fellow bloggers.  It’s a great day to be sober.

and one day she discovered

I’ve Been Sober For Awhile Now, Do I Really Have a Problem?

 

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Over the past couple of days, I have been kind of craving alcohol. It didn’t last long, but it happened. I know that it’s totally normal to have these feelings from time to time, but a couple of thoughts that crossed my mind were: “can I ever drink socially again?”  “I’m so young, how am I supposed to live a sober lifestyle forever?!” “If I just have one, that can’t be bad… right?” and lastly, “I’ve been sober for a while, do I really have a problem?”

I had to pump the brakes REAL quick.  The unfortunate truth is that I will not be able to socially drink again.  A recent study showed that when an alcoholic has even a sip of an alcoholic beverage, it triggers chemicals in the brain that mimic a reaction to when an individual shoots up heroin.   And then I thought, how many times have I thought that I could have “just one?”

The answer to that question is a big, fat, NO. I can’t remember a single time that I could have one alcoholic beverage and be done.  Social drinkers can be one and done and go on with their lives.  Alcoholics can’t. Sure, I could have one or two drinks at a social event, but I would leave early so that I could get more. I have to remind myself that this is a chemical imbalance and I need to treat it like any other disease.  For example, I have had sobriety 3hypothyroidism since I was in the 4th grade.  I have to take Synthroid every single morning so that I get a thyroid hormone in my system that my body is not making on its own.  If I don’t take that medication, I will gain water weight, lose my hair, feel exhausted 24/7.. the list goes on and on.  If I abstain from taking my Synthroid for a long period of time, I could develop thyroid cancer.  Same analogy goes for alcohol. If I have “just one” drink, one drink becomes 6, and before you know it, my life is spiraling out of control.  If I drank like I used to, I would slowly die- just like if I did not take my thyroid hormone.

And the answer to “if I really have a problem” is a big, fat, YES.  I will be completely open about this- when I drink to excess, my world slowly falls apart. Emotionally, physically, and I hurt others around me.  I turn into a person and do things that I would never do when I’m sober.

Then, the anxiety of “never drinking again” came to mind. I’m pretty young for deciding to be sober and I (hopefully!) have many years ahead of me. I’m 23 years old and the majority of people in their mid 20’s are still going out to the bars and drinking on the weekends.  I mesobriety 4an, you just don’t see many 23 year old’s who abstain from alcohol completely.  More often than not, I am the youngest person in the room when I go to my AA meetings.  But, when I have this “stinkin’ thinkin'”, my automatic reaction is to call my sponsor, spend time with my sober supports, read AA literature, or distract myself with doing something fun, or bless your eyes with a blog post ( You’re welcome! ūüėČ ).  If anything, getting sober at a young age is literally a lifesaver.

I guess the moral of this post is that it’s normal to miss the aspects of alcohol that were once pleasureable– that rush of euphoria, the feeling of relaxation, the feeling of numbness of all negative emotions…  With the help of outside support and Alcoholics Anonymous, I have learned the tools to not only let these emotions come in, but to also always have a “plan B.” Instead of slowly dying by the bottle, I am rebuilding myself with the gift of sobriety. As beautiful, talented, gorgeous Leonardo DiCaprio said in Titanic, “Life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it.”  As always, One Day at A Time.

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5 Reasons Why I’m Happy To Be Sober

Hey, friends! ¬†Sorry I haven’t posted much this past week, I just started graduate school to get my second masters degree in addiction counseling, so I’m trying to get into a “routine” so to speak. ¬†But, even though things have been a little stressful, I have not picked up a single drink. 76 days sober today! Hard to believe my 90 days is coming up! ¬† My last post was a bit depressing, I examined 5 reasons why I got sober. ¬†Let’s face it, many alcoholics don’t feel too great about themselves when they make the brave choice to get sober.¬†So, I’ve had over two months of sobriety and I wanted to share 5 reasons why I’m happy to be sober!

1.) I Haven’t Felt This “Clear Minded” For Years!

When I was active in my drinking, I was extremely depressed. ¬†When I walked into my first AA meeting, I was in a bit of an alcoholic “fog”, and it took me about two weeks to get out of it. Once I sobered up and let my brain heal from all the toxicity, I felt a sense of hope and peace. ¬†I can confidently say that I have never been this happy in my entire life. ¬†My family and friends say that I’m pleasant to be around, and I don’t seem so withdrawn. ¬†When I was depressed and drinking, I didn’t want to leave my apartment. ¬†Now, I am out of the house all the time! ¬†Just last weekend, I went to the Toledo Zoo, the musical Chicago (my favorite musical!), putt putting, and the batting cages. ¬†I want to participate in activities that don’t involve alcohol- and by God they’re fun! I am finally enjoying life again.

2.) My Physical Health Has Dramatically Improved.

As I said in my past post, my physical health was deteriorating. ¬†Since I decided to get sober, I have lost 27 lbs., and my cholesterol dropped a whopping 100 points. ¬†I am able to do strenuous activity without gasping for breath, and I’m not nursing hangovers every morning. ¬†My hands no longer shake from alcohol withdrawal. ¬†I no longer wake up with bruises from falling around all over the bar- I may or may not get bruises from being clumsy, but that’s beside the point! ¬†My body just “feels” healthy- and that’s something that feels amazing! ¬†Amazing how alcohol improves your body, mind, and spirit in so many ways!

3.) I Am More Honest Than I Have Ever Been in My Life.

Many alcoholics have the talent of being great liars and can manipulate almost any situation so that they can get their way. ¬†Now that I’m sober, I don’t have to hide anything- and that is one of the most freeing feelings ever! ¬†I don’t have to hide liquor bottles, I don’t have to hide my emotions, I don’t have to lie about what I’m doing or who I’m hanging out with. ¬†When I was in the heat of my addiction, the majority of my day was spent lying to my parents- and I was completely okay with it. Because alcohol came first in all of my affairs. ¬†Nobody else’s feelings mattered except for my own. ¬†Alcohol was my friend! ¬†Now that I’m “free”, I can tell the truth and not feel ashamed about what I’m doing.

4.) I Have Gained Some Amazing Friendships- True Friendships.

I have touched on this topic in a previous post, but I think it is so important to reiterate the friendships that I have gained in my 76 days of sobriety. ¬†When I was drinking, my friends were the ones who bought me alcohol or took me to the bar when I was having a bad day. ¬†I quickly learned that those individuals were not my friends, they were enablers. ¬†Now that I am in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have gained true friendship. ¬†The people in the rooms of AA are some of the kindest, big-hearted people I know. I know AA isn’t for everybody, but it has certainly helped me!

5.) I Have Found My Passion.

When I was a practicing social worker, I thought that I could do my job efficiently because of everything that I have learned in school (5 years of it!).  That was true to some extent, but it was somewhat hard for me to relate to my clients.  Now that I have personal experience with alcoholism, no book can teach me how it truly feels to have an alcoholic brain. I had to experience and learn from it firsthand. I am no better than anyone else.  Alcoholics Anonymous has taught me to be humble, which is something that I will always be grateful for.  Because of my experience with alcoholism, it has driven me to write this blog and to go back to school for addiction counseling.

it gets better

5 Reasons Why I Got Sober.

69 days sober, y’all!

I had to hit rock bottom before I made the decision to live a sober lifestyle.  Now that I’m sober and have a clear head for the first time in years, I reflected on the reasons why I became sober.  My life has certainly changed in so many positive ways since February 11th, 2017!

1.) My life was becoming completely unmanageable.  

Alcohol was taking over my life.  I was spending money so irresponsibly that I would be late for multiple bills because I needed alcohol.  My cable was even shut off at one point.  I was putting myself in risky situations that could cause physical harm to myself or others.   I was isolating myself and was ripping apart a relationship with my parents (who are my #1 supporters).

2.) My physical health was quickly deteriorating.

When I was in the heat of my drinking, I was eating junk food almost every day.  My body craved it.  I wasn’t drinking nearly as much water as I should have, and it was rare for a fruit or vegetable  to cross my mouth.  Exercise was a foreign concept for me.  As a result of these poor nutritional habits, My cholesterol was over 300, and my blood pressure was in the “pre-hypertensive” phase.

3.) My happiness had disappeared. 

When I was drinking, I numbed all feelings. Period.  I did not want to feel anything.  Even if I did feel happy for a split second, I felt so low about myself that I thought I didn’t deserve happiness because of my behavior.  I felt so guilty and shameful for the way that I was acting that I though drinking was the only way to get rid of those emotions.  In reality, drinking made it 10000000x’s worse.  As I have said before in a previous post, clinical evidence has shown that alcohol is a depressant.  And that’s exactly what it did for me.  I felt almost euphoric when I first started drinking for the day, but that euphoria went downhill very quickly as the day progressed.  More often than not, my evening would end in tears and/or tearful drunk calls.

4.) I lost interest in things that I once loved. 

I have been classically trained to sing opera and musical theatre for over 10+ years.  When I was active in my addiction, I did not want anything to do with singing or performing.  I sang for a couple of my cousin’s weddings, but I only did it because alcohol was involved and it would make my family happy.  I basically never wanted to leave my apartment except to buy alcohol.  Watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians and drinking rum and Coke was my definition of what I was interested in. When I first started my job as a social worker, I loved it! But then alcohol became the #1 priority in my life and my job performance was slipping. And everyone around me noticed.

5.) More often than not, I was isolating myself from social activities that did not involve alcohol.

It wasn’t worth going to any social event if alcohol wasn’t involved.  An activity like that wouldn’t be fun for me.  Even if I was forced to go, I would drink beforehand so that I could be social and not “lash out” at my parents or people around me.  If I wasn’t at least slightly intoxicated, everyone around me was the most annoying person on the planet.  I would get upset at the littlest things, for example: If my mom was breathing loudly, I would snap at her. If I was asked to help out, I would whine and bitch.

 

As always, One Day At a Time my friends. ūüôā

it gets better

 

Stay tuned: 5 reasons why I’m happy to be sober will be my next post. ūüôā

Read This if You Think Alcoholism is a Choice.

Hey, friends! ¬†Happy Easter! I hope you all are spending time with your families and enjoying beautiful weather, wherever you are! ¬†For those of you who read my post about me dreading going to my first family function since I started telling people that I am living a sober lifestyle, it went SO much better than expected. ¬†My cousins even asked me to go see Beauty and The Beast four wheelerwith them on Thursday. ¬†They haven’t asked me to do something with them in years.¬† Being around the alcohol was slightly annoying, but I let out the stress on the four-wheeler! ¬†And yes, I stayed sober and did not pick up a single drink!

So, I guess its time to put my two degrees to work. ¬†Some people think that alcoholism is not a disease, but I beg to differ. ¬†Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I ask that if you choose to comment, that you keep it respectful! ūüôā

When I was in school to get my Master’s degree in social work, I had to take a semester-long class about learning the different types of mental illnesses. ¬†At the Master’s degree level, I am licensed to diagnose people with a mental illness (For example: depression, alcoholism, post traumatic stress disorder). The book that I was given is the universal textbook that all mental health providers use: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Fifth Edition. ¬†Popularly known as the DSM-5.

In the DSM-5, there are 7 whole pages dedicated to Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders. Specifically, the manual elaborates on Alcohol Use Disorder, Alcohol IntDSM-5oxication, Alcohol Withdrawal, Other Alcohol-Induced Disorders, and Unspecified Alcohol-Related Disorder. According to the text, In the United States, the 12-month prevalence of Alcohol Use disorder is estimated to be 4.6% among 12-to 17-year-olds and 8.5% among¬†adults ages 18 years and older in the United States. ¬†Rates of the disorder are greater among men (16.2%) than among adult women (4.9%). I’m going to focus on Alcohol Use Disorder- how it’s diagnosed, what the symptoms are, and how the severity of the disorder is determined.

In order to meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder, you must meet two of the following:

1.) Alcohol is taken in larger amounts over a longer period that was intended
2.) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
3.) A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects.
4.) Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.
5.) Recurrent alcohol use resulting a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
6.) Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
7.) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
8.) Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
9.) Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
10.) Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
  • A need or markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect
  • A markedly diminished effect with continued use to the same amount of alcohol.
11.) Withdrawl, as manifested by either of the following.
  • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol.
  • Alcohol (or a closely related substance, such as a benzodiazepine) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

If an individual meets the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder, it can be specified as:

Mild: Presence of 2-3 symptoms.
Moderate: Presence of 4-5 symptoms.
Severe- Presence of 6 or more symptoms.

Depression isn’t a choice, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t a choice, and alcoholism is not a choice.

Alcoholism as a Disease

Toward the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, addicts/alcoholics were often looked upon as morally corrupt and even labeled as being a bad person or a terrible sinner. This type of thinking led many doctors and mental health professionals to fight to change ordinary. ¬†They wanted to try and help addicts instead of punish them. The founding of AA ‚Äď Alcoholics Anonymous ‚Äď in the 1930’s and the publication of noted psychiatrist and Director of the Center of Alcohol Studies at Yale Medical School E. M. Jellinek‚Äôs famous book defining the concept of alcoholism as a medical disease facilitated moving alcoholism into a different light.

Jellinek is often called the father of the disease theory or model of alcoholism. His theory listed alcoholism as having stages that drinkers progressively passed through. These stages are:

  • Pre-alcoholic phase, which includes social drinking when drinkers often start to develop a tolerance for alcohol and drink to relieve stress or feel better
  • Prodromal phase, also considered the early-alcoholic stage where blackouts begin to occur, the drinker begins to drink alone and in secret, and thinks about alcohol frequently while their alcohol tolerance continues to grow
  • Crucial phase characterized by a spiral of out-of-control drinking at inappropriate times and problems with daily life and relationships as well as physical changes to the brain and body
  • Chronic phase which includes daily drinking, drinking as the main focus of life, health problems cropping up, cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and physical and mental long-term alcohol abuse issues.

Alcohol works largely as a depressant on the central nervous system and due to the relatively small size of alcohol molecules, it can affect many parts of the brain and body simultaneously.

Alcohol changes brain chemistry, initially increasing neurotransmitters that drive the brain’s pleasure centers, but over time and with chronic abuse, depleting them. As the tolerance to alcohol increases, the abuser must take in more in order to feel the effects, which further damages both the body and brain.
Disease Model

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence likens alcohol dependence ‚Äď alcoholism ‚Äď to a medical illness through the disease model. The disease model of alcoholism depends on it being a physical addiction that cannot be controlled, distinguishable by specific symptoms and requiring specialized medical treatment. Cycles of physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms, including shaking, sweating, nausea and dizziness, are part of the reason alcoholism has been classified as a phHow alcohol attacks the brainysical disease. As alcoholism is an addiction, it is considered a disease of the brain. The brain has been physically altered by extended exposure to alcohol, causing it to function differently and therefore creating addictive behavior.
This disease model may not take into account the reasons some people become addicted and others d
o not. Cultural and environmental factors need to be considered, as do traumatic events. Compounding on this disease model, the theory of addiction being genetic or hereditary was born. This theory states that addicts may have certain predispositions to addiction, or genes that may help determine whether or not a person becomes an alcoholic. Many believe that it is a combination of genes and environmental stimuli that actually lead to addiction. Still, others argue that addiction is a psychological symptom and not necessarily a physical disease.

Personal Reflection

When I met both of my biological parents, I found out that my biological father and his father both suffer from alcoholism. ¬†Unfortunately, that gene was passed on to me. ¬†I was raised in a very stable household, neither of my parents drank to excess- but I still wound up being an alcoholic. ¬†For those of you who think that alcoholism is a choice, I would encourage you to read what I have to say next. ¬†Sure, my first drink ever was my choice, but the literal insanity that alcohol did to me is certainly not my choice. ¬†I did not choose to worry my parents half to death, I didn’t choose to constantly crave alcohol during the work day, I didn’t choose to shake in the mornings, I didn’t choose to have an addiction– alcohol messed up the chemicals in my brain.

When I was in the heat of my alcoholism, nobody could stop me from drinking. ¬†Whatever you had to say about my alcoholism went in one ear and out the other, and probably a lot of less-than-nice words out of my mouth. I didn’t even know who I was at the time. Sober Sara is hell of a lot different than intoxicated Sara, thats for sure. ¬†I had to hit rock bottom before I realized that I had to make some major lifestyle changes.

When I look back on it, I’m actually glad that I hit rock bottom at such a young age, because if I kept going on the path that I was on, it could have been so much worse. Unfortunately, some alcoholics/addicts never truly hit rock bottom and addiction takes over their lives (either leading them to an early grave, various medical issues, suicidal ideations, homeless, etc.) I’m very humbled and lucky to be sober today and to have broken the insanity. They say in AA that “the first drink gets you drunk”, and thats totally, completely, 100% correct. Because if I pick up that drink, I lose absolute control over myself- and I can’t help it. It was not my choice to spiral out of control, but it is my choice to live a sober lifestyle.

 

one day at a time

 

 

Sources: Diagnostic and Statical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition
http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/alcohol-addiction/disease-theory-alcoholism/