This post was originally published on February 19, 2015.
My three closest companions in active addiction were Alcohol, Justification and Rationalization. With them, I could do anything and be okay with it. Non-alcoholics don’t need to justify or rationalize their drinking, so the fact that I was constantly using them to continue drinking should have been a clue that I had a problem. Unfortunately, my brain was so far from reality that I didn’t see anything as a clue to the problem. My addiction was stronger than any logic or reason. As my life spiraled more and more out of control, I would use any coping mechanism to try and make sense of why I was drinking—and why I couldn’t stop even when I wanted to. I had exhausted every excuse imaginable as to why I was drinking like I was. I would tell myself that I wasn’t hurting anyone else, which was a lie. I thought, “If you had my life, you would drink too” when in fact, my life was in shambles because of my drinking, not the other way around. My blood alcohol level was .24 when I got arrested for a DUI. I brushed it off as no big deal because let’s face it: everyone gets DUIs. Right? Wrong. But not all my excuses were dreadful ones. Oh, no…not at all. I drank when things were going well, too. I didn’t discriminate. Any reason I could give to drink, I would.
I wanted so desperately to be “normal” and have the ability to control my drinking if and when I wanted to, but I didn’t. There are so many vicious cycles that come along with addiction. Drinking to forget what I did the night before while I was drinking was one of them, a cycle that continued for years for me.
I had tons of consequences piling up because of my drinking. When my self-imposed train wreck of a life was spiraling out of control, I could rationalize or justify anything to lessen the fears and anxieties I had created. I eventually started doing most of my drinking at home alone because then I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone but me, and I was pretty good at believing my own bullshit by then. Or maybe I just didn’t even care. It’s all a little foggy. What I do know is that it didn’t take long to hit bottom soon after I stopped trying to explain my drinking to others. I had reached a new level of hopelessness when I stopped making excuses for my drinking.
Justification and rationalization were great “friends’” that allowed me to drink like I wanted to, but they were also great for letting me accept my character flaws as part of who I was at my core. I wasn’t born a bitch. I became a bitch. I wasn’t born a control freak, but I sure as hell used that as an excuse for a lot of my behavior, as well as a great reason to drink like I did. I made life so much more difficult for myself than it needed to be. I took on problems that, quite honestly, were none of my business. I accepted these defects in character as who I was so I wouldn’t have to change.
Being a control freak, I should have realized I had control over my own happiness. Problem was, I wasn’t trying to control anything I actually had control over, which gave me a reason to drink more—another vicious cycle I couldn’t seem to rise above. I could justify and rationalize the hell out of anything I wanted to hold onto so I wouldn’t have to change. That seemed to be the easier, softer way for me. But there was nothing easy or soft about it. I just didn’t want to change. Change is difficult, but what I realize now is that being a bitch is even more miserable. Being a control freak is exhausting. Using alcohol as my solution to life is insanity. Accepting all the shitty parts of my character kept me in a really dreadful place.
Change may be uncomfortable, but it’s a small price to pay for things like contentment, peace of mind and happiness. It’s hard to have any of those when you are at constant battle for control with things you have absolutely no control of. But try telling that to an alcoholic knee deep in addiction, delusion and self-pity.
I was recently cleaning out my closet and stumbled across some t-shirts that my sister had given me a few years back. One read, “Some say tomato. I say fuck you.” The other was a shirt with a cup of coffee on it that read, “How about a big cup of shut the fuck up.” I clearly can’t part with such gems, so I folded them neatly and stowed them away in my nightshirt drawer.
Those two statements are so far from who I am today, but completely encompassed my attitude just a few years ago. My sister is my best friend. She knows me better than anyone. So the fact that she gave me these shirts is pretty telling. Friends who know the sober version of myself would never pin that shirt to me. Why? Because I am not the same person I was when I was drinking, and it all started with my decision to get sober.
I had no idea that getting sober would allow me the opportunity to not be a bitch or a control freak, but it has. I came into the rooms of recovery to clean up. I had no idea of all the positive changes that seem to be common side effects of recovery. Who knew it was possible to be pleasant and happy?