Why I’m So Thankful for My “Drinking Problem.”

With the holiday season in full swing I have spent a lot of time around people. Most of the people I’ve spent time with believe that I am recovering from “a drinking problem.” As a culture, we have a very dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. We categorize people into two narrow groups-those who can drink and handle it and those poor souls who cannot.

I have never once called myself an alcoholic or stated that I am in “recovery.” I don’t use those words for lots of reasons, but mostly because they were the very words that held me back for a long time. You see, I was part of the problem because I believed that there were only those two groups. I assumed that since I hadn’t gotten to the point when I found myself in a gutter clinging to life- I could just keep on drinking.

Regardless, most people still think of me as being an alcoholic. I mean why else would you quit drinking and write about being blacked out on the internet?

Currently I’m on vacation and I’ve been reflecting a lot on this past year. I feel very lucky. It’s clear today that I I don’t have a story about an alcoholic who recovered. Instead I have a story of transformation, change, and hope. I was recently having a talk with a friend who is going through a divorce. I related to her circumstances. We both broke up with our true loves and had to learn to live without that thing we thought we would have in our lives forever. The discomfort finally became harder than the complacency.

Drinking, scrolling, judging, avoiding responsibility, lying, cheating, stealing, procrastinating, displacing anger and resentment, and the list goes on are all forms of numbing. Obviously, some are more dangerous than others. But, the true cost is going throughout life as though you have all the time in the world to change.

Some of us will live an entire life hating ourselves for not getting that degree but never going for it. Some of us may never change our eating habits because we will continue to replay the tape that we will be deprived. Some of us will never leave that crappy relationship because that type of work feels too hard. And some of us will never tell the truth of who we really are because we fear what people think.

When I stopped drinking I stopped being one of those people. Period. Instead I made a very personal and unexplainable decision to become exactly who I was meant to be. A change-maker, a writer, a leader, a person filled with joy and acceptance, incredibly flawed, horribly anxious, filled with fear, and vulnerable enough to give this life my best shot. And this is something hard to explain in a casual conversation with a drunk person at holiday parties.

I am so incredibly thankful that having a slight hangover (and even a terrible hangover at times) was enough for me to say to myself How is this serving me? I feel blessed to have had the discomfort that forced me to ask the hard questions. I feel lucky that the chemicals didn’t yet ruin my ability to see the problem.

That didn’t make the change any easier. I still had to do the work. I still had to fight off the residual effects that alcohol left me. I still had to push past the three thousand times a day when I wanted to give up and just drink to take the edge off, or because everyone else was, or because it would have made things easier, or more fun, or less uncomfortable, and finally because I just didn’t want to have to be the odd one out.

Holly Whitaker writes “It’s not a privilege to drink. It is not a benefit, not a lucky thing, not a talent. It is a privilege to discover you cannot drink, cannot tolerate poison, cannot do that to your body or your mind or your spirit without consequence.”

I feel very privileged that I woke up to my life. By not drinking alcohol I have learned a new way of living. I have read books that I would have never read. I’vemade friends that I wouldn’t have known existed. I’ve learned skills that I once thought impossible. I feel like I am alive and I will never ever again want to try to dim this all away.

My thing was alcohol. What’s your thing?

Originally published at https://www.spaliveaf.com on December 31, 2019.

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Samantha Perkins

Samantha Perkins

Author of Alive AF-One Anxious Mom’s Journey to Becoming Alcohol Free. Founder of Alive AF blog. www.spaliveaf.com