It started out innocently enough: you met your friends for a drink after work in the neighborhood pub whose food you all really like. A fantastic time was had by all, so you made plans to meet up again in a few days. Then you started going there regularly for trivia night and then for karaoke night. And before you knew it you were starting to spend most evenings there whether or not your friends could join you.
It wouldn’t have been so bad–everybody needs a familiar haunt or two–but it seemed like over time your tab got more and more expensive. You didn’t remember eating all that much–just your usual orders. Did they raise the prices? Nope. When you take a closer look, you see that you were billed for a few different (or more than a few) drinks instead of the single beer you remember ordering. You start to call the bartender over but then notice the empty glasses sitting nearby. Huh. You don’t remember drinking that much but when you look at your phone you realize that you’ve been at the pub longer than you intended. Oh well, maybe they make the drinks stronger here than you remember. They did just hire a new bartender…
Then one night you decide to have a beer at home before heading out to meet your pals. One of your friends is bringing her new boyfriend and one of his pals for a quasi-blind double date and you’re nervous so you think “one beer, just to take the edge off.” That evening you drink your blind date under the table even though, according to the “alcohol rehab for women” brochure discreetly slipped into your bag by your friend, women don’t need to drink as much alcohol as men to feel the same effects.
Then you discover that your favorite show has been added to Netflix so you start skipping the bar, opting to buy a case of beer to keep in the fridge while you binge watch. Without meaning to, you go through most of the case in a single evening…even though you go to bed at the same time you usually do. And forget about the recent Brexit decision. The day those election results rolled in is nothing but a dark spot in your memory…as is the last time you spent time with your family…or had enough in your bank account to do anything but pay rent and buy beer.
It seems cliche, but this is how addiction happens. It isn’t like those afterschool specials we all watched as kids. A single drink rarely turns into a full blown dependency or addiction. Instead, it happens little by little until one day you realize that you need to drink now. It’s not just something you can take or leave. You must take it or you don’t feel normal.
But you’re not an alcoholic. That’s for trailer park single Moms who become grandmothers at 26 and for frat guys, right? No. And stop being so judgmental.
The truth is that alcoholism can happen to anyone regardless of age, status, income, etc. And, with the exception of having been abused, how the dependency or addiction happened isn’t what is most important right now. What’s most important right now is that you get the help you need.
There is no shame in admitting that you have a problem. In fact, admitting that you have a problem and seeking help for that problem is one of the bravest things you will ever do. And make no mistake: getting sober is going to be hard work, but it will be worth it.
Before you go full Sandra Bullock in 28 Days, it is important that you choose a path to recovery that fits both your needs and your personality. For example, if you don’t trust yourself to not fall off the wagon early on and you have good insurance, an in-patient rehabilitation program might be your best option. If you have a hectic work schedule (congrats for not drinking yourself out of a job, btw) you might find a regular AA meeting better suits your style.
And, of course, you’ll have to rebuild your social life and familial connections which will take work. Some recently sober people choose to form new social circles because they don’t feel like their former social life will help them stay sober.
Finally, therapy is a must. This is where that whole “how did this happen” thing comes into play. Work with a professional therapist to make sure that your addiction doesn’t come back to life.
It is hard work but the work will be worth it. We promise.