The Curious Case of…. alcoholism

Hello, my name is Paul, and I’m a high-functioning alcoholic.

For the last ten years or so, I’ve been an alcoholic. A maintenance drinker – with no nasty behavior, abuse, day-drinking, DUIs, or things like that – just drinking too much in the evening and falling asleep. Every single day. The first drink turned into all evening, and then a hangover the next morning. Every single day. The pandemic seemed to rationalize daily drinking and for me, allowed me to get worse and worse, drinking more and more.

On Friday, February 24th I decided enough was enough and resolved to taper off, try going to AA, and quit. It took me four hours of driving on Sunday 2/26 to work up the courage to go to my first AA meeting. But I’m very glad I did.

Today, I’ve been sober for 24 days; the first time since 2014.

Three weeks sober, and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. Why am I sharing? I find it incredibly cathartic. I know some of you are likely interested, and some of you may be struggling. I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed admitting it. I have an incurable disease that I’m fighting.

Alcoholism is everywhere. A lot of people suffer in silence and are scared to take the first step: admitting to themselves that they have a problem and seeking help.

I’ve been very lucky. No withdrawal symptoms and no cravings. Lost a bunch of weight so far and BP stats are down nicely. My “trigger” used to be ‘it’s five o’clock!’, and then a few years ago during the pandemic that became ‘it’s four o’clock!’ Some weekends at Camp Savage it was “it’s the weekend, three o’clock is fine!” You see the progression. Alcoholism creeps and creeps and gets worse over time.

I’ve had a hangover basically every day for ten years, which is a bit crippling. I was still functioning and could work on my laptop, but doing physical stuff: hobbies, walks, hikes, hot-tub, gardening couldn’t happen too early. I often said, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ but tomorrow never came. And the hangover goes away when drinking starts. The hangover also meant no (or rarely any) food until the evening. And two shots of Nespresso was it; any more than that and I’d get jittery.

I didn’t want to do anything in the evenings and needed to be home by trigger time so I could pour a drink. I didn’t read much because after a couple of hours of drinking I found I wasn’t taking in what I was reading. Evenings the last few years were drinking, reading and Lego for an hour or two, make soup (easy, time for a bottle of wine while it slowly heated up), TV for the rest of the night. Eat my soup, then fall asleep through whatever we were watching, wake up later and continue watching and drinking.

You could call me a chronic lapser. Every morning I’d wake up feeling like shit and swear that I’d start to cut down. Unless, of course, there was someone coming over in a few days or a week, or a holiday coming up, or special occasion, because then the rationale was there’s no point cutting down now because we’ll be partying on day X. I’ll do it after day X. So every time I decided to cut back, I failed.

The problem for alcoholics is the first drink. Once you’ve had the first drink, there’s no control. The trick is not having the first drink. Every day.

So back to being sober for three weeks…

When I wake up, I can get out of bed immediately. Sleep is so much sounder and restful. Not having a hangover is the best feeling. Four shots of coffee doesn’t produce jitters. I crave breakfast. Usually ham steak and scrambled eggs with cheese, mushrooms, chives. I get stuff done during the day. A lot of stuff. Big lists of things to do each day get ticked off.

I’m a *lot* calmer. I used to be wound very tightly. I’m still untightening, but I already notice it big time. Maybe I don’t actually have mysophonia, and was just a wound up, super-irritable, hungover guy who sometimes snapped and went off on people.

I’ve cooked something different every day over the last few weeks. And I love it! There are so many restaurants we’re going to try, without my lame-ass BS excuse of ‘Covid still…’ I’m blasting through books because there’s no gradual drop in cognition over the evening. I haven’t turned the TV on for a month.

I now have some dilemmas. I want to start several hundred books. I want to make hundreds of recipes from all the great cookbooks I’ve bought over the last ten years and not used. I want to bake lots. I want to pick up a bunch of hobbies that have lapsed for years. These are good problems to have.

I wish I’d done what Kimberly and our doctor have been suggesting to me for ten years – try AA. But stubborn, super-smart, type-A me thought I could handle it and control it and solve it myself. I was wrong. I was just slowly sliding deeper and deeper. Luckily the switch in my head went off on 2/24, and then my stubbornness took over to sort things out.

Nobody really understands how an alcoholic thinks about and struggles with alcohol like other alcoholics, and that’s one of the great things about AA: empathy, not just sympathy; zero judgment; nothing but support. Alcoholism and the insidious notion of wanting to have a drink never goes away, so I can always ping someone in AA if needed.

If you’re suffering and need to vent or want some advice or encouragement, drop me an email. You are not alone and it’s never too late to want to change.

Hello, my name is Paul, and I’m a grateful, recovering alcoholic.

Thanks for reading.

PS An interesting little story: at PASS last November, someone stopped me in the corridor and asked whether the title of my blog (“In recovery…”) was anything to do with alcoholism. I said it wasn’t, as it’s not – it’s a word play on databases crash recovering after a shutdown/failover. However, now, I can add that as one of the meanings behind it.

147 thoughts on “The Curious Case of…. alcoholism

  1. Congratulations Paul! I know to some people three weeks may not seem like a lot, but it really is. It’s that important step between “I’m going to do this .. tomorrow” and “I’m doing it!” I couldn’t be happier for you. I know you have a great support system and a ton of people willing to help with whatever you need but please add me to that list.

  2. Hi Paul! Once again, you put your true self out there to help others based on what you are experiencing in life. Books, travel, heavy equipment, and now everyday struggles with alcoholism. Your post embodies all 12 principles of AA and I think that bodes well for you and your daily success. Sending good vibes in your ongoing journey.

  3. This is gold. Stay strong, Mr Randal, and we’re looking forward to hearing more thoughts from your journey!

  4. Paul, you continue to help everyone even in extremely difficult situations like the one you shared with us.
    I can only say thank you very much for showing us your struggle and congratulations on your recovery!!!
    You can be sure that this is just the beginning of your amazing journey and you will always be this sensational person and reference for all of us who had the opportunity to absorb your knowledge one day.
    My sincere congratulations and you are awesome!!!

  5. Dear Paul, I wish I could put in words to say how much I love your honesty. My respect for you went up even higher with this. You are a good human I am proud to be friends with. Please my friend, consider me as among those you trust if you ever want to share or talk, just about anything.

    Kindest Regards and Fellow Bibliophile,


  6. Congratulations on your continuing recovery, Paul. I applaud your openness and honesty, and your willingness to extend a helping hand.

    Walk the walk.

    One day at a time.

  7. Wow, Paul! Well done for taking that first step and thanks for sharing. One day at a time. Know that many people are right behind you. Maybe I ought to reconsider my nightly ‘little nightcap’ before it gets out of hand.

  8. There is a fundamental trick I’ve been using since I know myself: First think about the problem and its roots, talk to yourself about it in your mind silently for a while, then speak it loud, open your thought to a close friend, then to anyone and let it go! This has always been helpful to me so far and I see that you are speaking it out, loud! That’s a great achievement. I wish you a smooth recovery, happy and a long life with your loved ones.

  9. Posting this must have been really difficult. I hope it helps to see how many people you have cheering you on.

  10. Paul,

    It takes a big person to admit our failings to the World. This is a very big first step. Good luck in your recovery.

  11. Hey Paul

    Signs of real courage and growth. One can only wonder what struggles you faced in taking these steps, and in deciding to share this deeply personal topic with the world (not forgetting your last 10 years).

    Keep being kind to yourself.

  12. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! You’re an inspiration, and you have a following. The impact you’re achieving will surely not be limited to your own life. One can only imagine how great the benefit of your candor is for others. You’re action, kindness and sharing is changing lives.. Well done, Paul!

  13. Congratulations, Paul.
    Thank you for having the courage, caring , & compassion to share this with others for the chance it might help someone else overcome addiction.

    May you enjoy the courage, power, and reward of just for today every day for the rest of your life.

  14. It takes strength to realize you need help. It takes strength to go get help. Even more strength to talk about this. Every day you are getting stronger when you say not today. I hope that this inspires others to take steps to enjoy the beautiful opportunities being sober offers. Thank you for sharing.

  15. I think it’s so great that you shared this, Paul! I’m sure lots of people can relate to your situation. Good job making such an important change for your health!

  16. I bet Kimberly loves seeing you with clear eyes again too! It is crazy just how prevalent alcohol is in modern society, TV, movies; everywhere. Hats off to you sir, well done! My mom has been in AA for almost 50 years. Heh, she tells people she’s been sober longer than many of them have been alive!

  17. Hi Paul.

    I was reading through your newsletter and thought “Wow, somebody’s been reading a lot”. Then I came to “The Curious Case of” section and started reading. I read the paragraph three time before I clicked on the link, thinking “This newsletter has been hacked. This must be a fake link”. And then I read your blog…

    Thank you for being so openly honest. It takes some balls to come out and tell the whole world that you have an issue. Congratulations on wanting to find your way out of the maze. I wish you all the best on your journey.

    Best regards,


  18. Congratulations, Paul. Thank you for having the courage to share your experience and how this change has made life better for you. I hope it gives others the courage to make the same decision. I look forward to your updates on the different things you try cooking.

    Drew Flint

  19. Congratulations. Me too.

    During my late 40’s and into my 50’s I drank more wine, more often. It was expensive (UK + Tax) when I was a kid, once we joined the EU that changed!

    It was just habit. If I went to an evening do at the kids school – a play or a concert – there was a glass of wine served in the interval. The wine wasn’t terrible, but it was a private school, no parent there would have bought that wine! The point of this story is that every father there was hell bent on getting through 2 glasses in the interval, and no one was saying “its not worth drinking” or “I don’t need it”. Just social habit.

    So drinking crept up on me over the years. Most, and then all, of a bottle of wine, most nights. I knew I needed to do something about it; I bought a book (about alcoholism in general) to have “more data” to assist me. That was helpful in terms of things like “What will people say”, “How to cope when someone offers you a drink” (actually no one did that, they were amazingly supportive – probably jealous!)

    But the most important thing I read: “If you want to cut down” (which is what I thought I was wanting to do) “you need to give up for a prolonged period” – fair enough. “And most people who do that never start again” – well that’s got to be absolutely rubbish, right?!

    Actually that’s me. I didn’t drink anything alcoholic for probably 8 years. Now I drink a glass of wine if someone is serving something special, but I don’t have the need for more than one, and I’ll skip it if it isn’t something exceptional :) – I enjoy the taste rather than trying to chuck it down my throat.

    I have a beer when we are skiing. Just the one small bottle, and only at one meal a day. I’m not consciously avoiding drinking more, I’ve just reprogrammed the habit I used to have (more is better) with a new habit – boringly let’s call that “responsible drinking”

    Before: I was waking during the night / fitful sleep. I put it down to my age, my parents had said they didn’t sleep well in their 50’s and 60’s. Well, I haven’t had a broken nights sleep since I stopped drinking (well, a couple of months after) – just like that adverts tell you! I’m in my mid 60’s now and sleep like a baby.

    I don’t know if you consider yourself truly an alcoholic, because as I understand that even a single drink has a chemical reaction and leads to an instant relapse, or if you are a “need to cut back” drinker like me. If you are like me then I recommend the “prolonged period (years) of no drinking” and I reckon highly likely that “you will, then, never feel the need to drink again”.

    I had no ill effects, other than the first few weeks when my hand was on autopilot at 6PM, wanting to reach out for a glass! Once that passed I had no problem.

    I recommend finding a non-alcoholic drink that you like. I went with alcohol-free beer, but that wasn’t a great choice – people I visited would kindly get it in for me … but 4 or 5 of those, of an evening, was chemical discomfort! So find something you like, and can drink plenty of if you want to. Take it with you if friends aren’t likely to be stocking it. Now my preferred drink is plain tap water.

    Good luck – way WAY better times are ahead, now you’ve taken the plunge.

    Thanks for your Christmas Books List (I did notice its absence – but knew not the reason of course – look forward to seeing one at the end of this year)

  20. Congratulations Paul!
    Thanks for sharing this story. You were very lucky. You are still in a relationship with Kimberly and in most cases alcoholics lose their relationship. Thank her for her love and patience.
    You write recovering alcoholic, every alcoholic will be an alcoholic for the rest of his/her life. You just stopped drinking.
    In most cases it is easier to stop drinking alcohol instead of drinking 1-2 glasses every day (a few days a week).
    If not drinking goes wrong once, it is allowed to stop drinking several times in life.

    Every week you will be more proud of the result of not drinking and health will improve a lot.
    Life is short and fickle, so enjoy life and do everything you need to do with Kimberly.
    And thank you for all your knowledge you shared with us.
    Sincerely, Jelle Belgraver

  21. Keeping you in my thoughts, Paul. Thanks for being open and for airing your dirty laundry. As you probably saw with your notes in depression, I think this candor about alcohol will help a lot of people. It takes a lot of courage to be you. Bravo, and keep up the good work!

  22. HI Paul

    I been a long time follower of your SQL blog and you been my mentor for over 20 years in my SQL Server Journey. I met you and Kimberly on your SQL 2008 book tour and workshops in Melbourne and still have the signed copy of the 2008 SQL Book.

    I admire you courage to openly share your challenges and wish you the strength in your journey. Keep at it mate ! Hope to see you in Melbourne sometime soon


  23. When you mentioned that bubbly feeling of “Ahh, I wanna do this… and this… and THIS is fun!” there was this happy tear in my eye. Love that direct tone and integrity. Way to go, man… way to go. What great work! And thanks.

  24. Hi Paul,

    I have someone very dear to me that was in a very similar position. It can have a massive impact of all the people around.

    I sincerely wish you the very best in your tackling of this illness. One day at a time.

    And, thank you for telling other people about it.


  25. While I’m sorry to hear that you’re battling alcoholism, I’m so happy to hear that you’ve taken charge of the situation and are fighting it head on. It’s sounds like you’re off to a great start with your recovery program and I just know that it will have a really positive impact on your personal health and quality of life for years to come. Keep fighting the good fight, my brother and NEVER give up!

  26. Congratulations, Paul. For finding the strength and inner will to recognize your illness and strive for your own recovery, and for having the brass to share it publicly as you have. You are right. Alcoholism is everywhere, and it is debilitating. Your choice to share your fight will help others, Paul. Guaranteed. Your strength is inspirational, and will ultimately give you personal liberation and true freedom. Stay strong and keep at it. Kudos.

  27. Paul, it’s no surprise to me that your post reads like so many awesome posts of yours I’ve read over the many years that helped me develop as a SQL DBA: Focused. Frank. Honest. Driven with an overwhelming sense of engagement, knowledge, and self-imposed goal to help others.

    I think you are fortunate, in ways. There’s a huge community of people who support what you do, and it sounds like Kimberly has been smart, supportive, and patient. (They say that alcoholism and other afflictions have many victims, the individual person and those around them.) I wish you both the very best.

  28. I appreciate you sharing, Paul. It’s amazing how much we’ll rationalize a behavior that’s hurting us in some way. I know that many of us struggle with other similar issues but publicly talking about it is always hard because of the shame involved. Truth is – we _aren’t_ strong enough to handle these sorts of things on our own and we all need support.

  29. Congratulations on your movement into recovery. My dad struggled just as you did until I was around middle school age. His recovery meant a lot to me and helped to heal the damages of the past. I pray for your continued recovery and for the joy that your family can feel from seeing you overcome this beast. I also really thank you for sharing this as many in our industry struggle with this problem.

  30. Hot damn how rad for you! I have a close friend who has been in a similar boat for a long time who has been battling coming out into the open with it fully. Knowing that ALL of us struggle….is invaluable. Your story is so important for every reason – Thank you for sharing it!

  31. Congratulations Paul! I know many people who have lived with alcoholosim, and I am so happy to hear you you are taking the necessary steps for you and your loved ones. I’m sure there are many people out there who need to see this, so thank you for normalizing this discussion!

  32. Congratulations on making these huge steps on to the road to recovery and thank you for sharing with us! I’m so glad that you are already seeing benefits to sober life. Best wishes for your (and Kimberley’s) ongoing journey.

  33. Thanks for sharing this kind of stuff, and I wish you well, and really don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s really one day at a time, and if that doesn’t work it’s one hour at a time, and most importantly, if it can make you laugh when it gets harder, lookup John Ritter and the movie Skin Deep with his psychologist when he says “I can cure you but first…” :)

  34. Paul, congratulations on this step.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Sending you all the strength and positive energy to get down this path.
    Keeping you in my daily thoughts.

  35. Hi Paul, since my early days in SQL Server area (about 30 years ago) you were one of the most prominent authorities for me. Your books, sessions and recommendations… Then Azure arrived and SQL moved to the background, and we, so to say parted. But I’m so glad that I still subscribed to Brent Ozar Weekly Links from where I got the link to your blog post. I’m terribly sorry to know about your problem and immensely happy to know that you managed to be “in recovery” now. Stay strong. My best wishes to you.

  36. Paul, you have been an inspiration to me for decades. I am so glad you are discovering how to feel better and help even more people in all the communities you participate in. While alcohol has never been my particular demon, I have my share of self-destructive behaviors. Good job on finally pointing that stubbornness at fixing the problem instead of avoiding it. Much love to you and Kimberly for everything you have shared with us over the years.

  37. Good luck Paul! I envy the energy and productivity you are recovering. I hope to do the same someday soon with my own demons.

  38. Thank you for sharing so openly about functional alcoholism and its impacts on your life; it is great to read that you have had such a quick life change with that single decision. I wish you all the best “in recovery…”

  39. Congratulations on taking a difficult path. I had an extended family member make the same difficult choice to say NO. The Irish & Scottish say sláinte or sláinte mhaith as a toast to ones health. Toasting doe not require alcoholic beverages and to you good sir I say sláinte mhaith. I hope you are able to stay the course.


  40. You have been mentoring and providing your hard-earned wisdom for years! Thank you for expanding your impact with your honesty and willingness to empathize and support others suffering in silence or unaware of the road they follow.
    The strength of your and Kimberly’s relationship is an inspiration to always be empathetic to those around you and especially supportive of the ones you love. Thank you for the willingness to put it all out there for others to learn! You are an inspiration!

  41. Congratulations Paul! And thank you for sharing your story with the community. Sending good vibes your way.

  42. You are not alone. And now, thanks to you, others know that neither are they. Thanks for uplifting others along the way on your journey! Sending you much love and respect.

  43. This is such a brave and honest piece – it’s truly inspirational. I hope anyone else reading it will feel they can also seek help and support. Very best wishes.

  44. As someone who has experienced the effects of alcoholism through the vector of family, I applaud you for being brave and honest with your struggle and your courage to find help and support. I wish you nothing but the best in your journey.

  45. Hi Paul, I’m really impressed with your bravery in going public with this – I’m sure many of us can relate. I wish you all the very best for your future.

  46. Congratulations Paul! I too realised I had an issue with alcohol a few years ago, and have now been sober for over 4 years. I wish you luck in your continued recovery

  47. Now you can get to real problem
    Run DBCC CheckDB on your heart

    The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor is the ear filled with hearing. Ecc 1:8

  48. Thank you for sharing. I came to my senses 3 years ago and got help, It takes guts! Keep fighting, one day at a time.

  49. I have a picture on our wall from your parents and sometimes I look at it wondering how you all are doing. Glad to hear you’re doing better, and it was good to hear that there are other people as messy as I am. Thanks for sharing, and I wish you the best.

  50. I always knew you are a great person, Paul. The Rock, like Brent said (this is also the first word came to my mind after reading this your post). So glad to hear you are doing better! I wish your “In Recovery” will be going good in all senses :)

  51. this is great news Paul, keep it up!
    My son is currently going through this
    It’s way more common than people think

  52. Congratulations! You probably never realized how alcoholism affected your children, A LOT! My mom and stepdad were alcoholics all my young life. My mom died from alcoholism. It affected me, greatly. I thank you for your children that you had the strength to go to AA. Please stay strong and firm.

  53. It takes a lot of guts to share your story. Thank you.

    Alcoholism is a disease. Most people are not aware of that. It is a complicated disease, but those afflicted by it should be treated with empathy and support like someone diagnosed with cancer or diabetes. The slogan, “please drink responsibly” is the biggest farce.

    You have transformed so many lives for the better. You can reach out to any of us, and we will be there for you. You are a beautiful soul for empowering us to be our best and for shedding light on a topic near and dear to me.

  54. Paul . I will add my congratulations to you for being able to face up to this very difficult problem and to share it with your community. I am also encouraged and gladdened by the amount of support you have received on this issue from your peers.

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