From “Fuck Off” to “Please Help Me”
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From “Fuck Off” to “Please Help Me”


Back in 2003, I’d sit in my messy Brooklyn apartment, staring into the screen of my oversized desktop computer, sipping white wine, Googling “alcoholism.” I read definitions of it, scoured over messages boards, took “Do You Think You Have a Drinking Problem?” quizzes, and thought, “Yeah, maybe I do…but I don’t know.” Then my Grandpa, who died from alcoholism, came to mind and I thought, “Grandpa Mac was an alcoholic, but he was really bad. He was drunk all of the time, and he was pretty old. I don’t think you can be an alcoholic if you’re young, and besides, I’m only drunk three nights a week.” (The truth is, I was drunk at least five nights a week but when you’re in denial, you lie to yourself and believe it!)

I’d think about my Grandpa a lot. When I was little, my mom would take him to the grocery store to buy him food, then we’d go back to his tiny apartment and visit for a little bit. He was always nice to me and had the biggest smile ever, but there was something very sad about him. When he smiled at me, it was like he was apologizing and asking for approval all at once. I didn’t understand why we had to buy him food and why he lived alone in a tiny, dark apartment. My mom told me was an alcoholic and all I knew was that meant “drunk.” I thought it was weird that he just didn’t stop drinking, but I also didn’t put too much thought into it. I was eight years old.

Years later, as I sat at my computer trying to figure out my drinking, I could not find any similarities between my grandfather and I. It was impossible for me to understand how I, a young 20-something girl, who loved to dance and tell jokes and worked hard to pay rent in NYC could be an alcoholic. THERE WAS NO WAY.

And when I would read definitions like Alcoholism: a medical condition in which someone frequently drinks too much alcohol and becomes unable to live a normal and healthy life. 

I would be able to think my way out of this and justify why I wasn’t an alcoholic in two seconds. “A normal, healthy life? Pfftt, whatever. I’m very unique, talented, and special so my life will never be normal and healthy.” I’d shift from being concerned about my drinking to romanticizing it, thinking I was better than everyone. Insanity.

I kept drinking and forgot that I wanted to stop drinking, but for the next five years I’d try to control it. Which is even worse than just getting hammered every night. The mind fuck of trying to control your drinking is maddening—having to justify why you had more drinks than you wanted to is exhausting and scary. It’s way easier to say, “I’m a drunk!” and then just pound ‘em back ‘til you black out. You gotta lower your expectations of yourself when you’re trying to control your drinking or the self-hatred will become unbearable. Wait, I take that back; self-hatred is a good thing because if it gets painful enough, you might ask for help. So, yes really try your best to control your drinking and see how that works out.

Admitting and knowing that you’re an alcoholic is hard because you have to self-diagnose yourself. You can’t take a blood test and receive results like, “Hi Frank! You tested positive for alcoholism! If you drink alcohol, you will drink a lot of it, and will eventually become so dependent on it that you will put drinking before the people you love, you will have sex with disgusting people, you will spend all your money on alcohol and will be in denial that you have a problem until you feel so much pain you are granted the gift of desperation and finally ask for help. Or, if you choose to keep drinking, you will eventually be institutionalized or die a horrible death. And any of these choices—asking for help, being institutionalized or dying a horrible death—could happen tomorrow or it could happen in 50 years. Good luck!”

What made the difference for me? I just had to get to a point where I knew that I had no fucking control over how much I drank. I stopped rationalizing the times I only had two drinks or the time I did quit for six months. It didn’t fucking matter. I admitted I was an alcoholic. Did I stop drinking after I admitted it? Nope! I drank for about two more years after that! I was at the bottom just dragging along and I wasn’t able to stop until I wanted to stop. There’s a big difference between awareness and willingness. Admitting I had a problem was great but I needed to get to a point where I shifted from “Fuck it, I’m an alcoholic. So what? I drink a lot. Who cares? Fuck off!” to “Holy shit I’m ruining my life. I’m missing out on so much. This is insane. I want to get better. Please help me.”

For me, this shift from “Fuck it” to “I want help” happened overnight. I woke up after a long night of drinking, and knew I was done. I had a moment of clarity. I don’t know why this happened to me, I didn’t plan it or think it would ever happen. Why didn’t this happen to my Grandpa? Or my dad, who also died from this disease? Or the millions of other people who can’t stop drinking or using drugs?  I have no clue why I was given this moment that change my life. Maybe it was because after I finally admitted I had a problem, I’d scream at the sky when I was really hung-over, “Help me, I do not know what to do so please just fucking help me!” so maybe the sky was like, “Okay, I’ll help you.”

The End.

PS The thing that has helped me stay sober is learning that alcoholics are wired differently than non-alcoholics. We are obsessive thinkers who drink to quiet our minds, and once alcohol enters our bodies, we have a physical reaction that causes a craving so strong we have to drink more. We are mentally and bodily different than those weirdos who only drink a couple of drinks. Knowing this brings me clarity on my alcoholism. I hope maybe it helps you too.

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About Author

Amber Tozer is a stand up comic, writer and actor. She loves being sober even when she hates it. Her memoir, Sober Stick Figure, was published in 2016 by Running Press.