Contrary to popular belief, people do not go from being non-alcoholic to alcoholic overnight.
It is a spectrum disorder. For some, the change happens rapidly; for most others it takes years to develop.
The deceptive part of this condition is that while you are actively drinking, it is difficult to become aware of these subtle changes as they occur. It’s akin to gaining four pounds a year at a time, and after 10 years you’re like, “Holy crap! How did I gain 40 pounds?”
There are two things that started to happen to me: changes in the way that alcohol was being processed in my body, and the resulting behavior attached to those changes.
This transition had probably been occurring the whole time that I was drinking (25 years or so), but didn’t start obviously effecting my life until about three years before I quit.
I started to obsess over alcohol.
I would start thinking about drinking at about 2 p.m., toward the end. I’m in sales, so I drive around in my car all day, and I would start thinking about what I wanted to have to drink that night. I’d look on my dash, and it would read 1:58 p.m. Ugh! Three more hours! You’re working! Stop thinking about drinking! I would thump myself.
The obsession and anxiety would grow until I had a drink. That was the only way I could relieve it. Sometimes, I would get home and wouldn’t even have my coat off before pouring myself a glass of wine. The first huge sip would be instant mental relief from the stronghold of those incessant thoughts all afternoon.
I started to crave alcohol.
Once I drank one or two drinks, I’d crave more. Not all the time, though, so that was tricky too. Sometimes I could have one or two and I would be fine; in my case, most of the time. But other times? Holy moly! Get out of the way, the train has left the station!
My “off switch” would break and I literally couldn’t drink enough to satisfy the urge; I would end up in a mess. Problem was, I had no idea when my off switch would decide to break.
Similar to someone who loses control after eating a couple of bites of chocolate cake and ends up eating the whole thing, I could lose control of drinking and drink the entire bottle of wine or more.
Those mornings that I would wake up on a random Wednesday morning and as myself what the hell had happened, I would completely lose control over what I had intended to do—have “a” glass of wine. That voice that says, “F*ck it; You’ve already had three. Let’s just throw down.”
Yep. That would be me craving alcohol. Me, alone on my couch, listening to music, drinking wine at midnight on a Tuesday night. This was not normal, healthy behavior.
Now, take those two behaviors; most everyone I know who drinks experiences one of these behaviors every now and then.
But for me, they came together and started going hand in hand. My alcoholic “experience” started occurring more and more frequently.
I now know that this was the alcohol digging in. This was the addiction taking over. The mental obsession plus the phenomenon of craving alcohol day after day was the beginning of the cycle.
Drinking became unpredictable for me, and that scared me to my core. There is zero doubt in my mind that if I had not stopped drinking when I did, this experience would have continued to get worse. I had to respect the fact that alcoholism is, in fact, progressive. I stopped drinking while I still had some control.
It is not my fault that this happened to my body after years of drinking an addictive drug. I did not choose for this to develop. There is nothing wrong with being alcoholic. Without being alcoholic, I never would have discovered how happy and healthy I could be in my sobriety.
I had no idea how sick I was until I quit drinking. I can see it so clearly now.
Hindsight really is 20/20.