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.