I’m a big horror movie fan. The beginning of October marks the start of the three-month holiday season for me. Up first…as many scary movies as my eyeballs can consume in 31 days. I like some of the slasher movies, most of the psychological thrillers, and the best of the classics. One thing I have no time for, however, is a movie centered around the old and tired plot of someone who turns into a despicable creature and does unspeakable things that he can’t later remember. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, An American Werewolf in London, and any movie featuring the Incredible Hulk don’t do anything for me. The concept is boring because I’ve lived that plot. I’ve transformed into a monster who could do or say things I wouldn’t dream of in the light of the next day. Add a little toxic elixir, and the results were unpredictably terrifying. I don’t need to watch a movie to see the diabolical transformation. Been there, done that.
You see, I was an alcoholic.
Looking back on my time as a drinker, now almost six years clear of the compulsion to poison my brain and body, I am shocked by the cognitive dissonance I suffered. Now, if anyone insulted my wife the way I used to scream at her when I was a drinker, I would be livid. I used to fight over the car keys when I was almost too drunk to stand. I used to go from jolly and laughing to angry and irrational in an unanticipatable split second. I could be passed out one moment, then be groping and demanding sex the next.
The further I get from my alcoholic behavior, the more unconscionable my past tolerance for my alcoholic transgressions becomes. I carefully locked the doors at night to protect my family from the dangers beyond our brick walls. The locks weren’t very effective, however, because the evil was already on the inside. And I let the situation deteriorate for over two decades. I can’t believe what I was willing to accept just in the interest of keeping alcohol in my life.
That’s the point, really. The longer I go without a drink, the less likely I am to ever consider bringing alcohol back into my life. That’s good in an exponential number of ways. But something else happens, the further I get from the scene of the crime. The fact that I ever behaved in such a cruel and inconsiderate way becomes increasingly baffling.
And that makes me worry for the people who are following in my alcoholic footsteps. If they are still drinking, or are in early sobriety, are they too close to see?
“I said I’m sorry,” I barked defensively too many times to count. I apologized, so I was ready to wipe the slate clean and move on. I didn’t want to consider my intoxicated behavior in the grand scheme of what is or is not acceptable in polite society or in a romantic partnership.
If I thought about what I said and did – really thought hard about my behavior – I wonder if I would have been able to choose the path of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.
In early sobriety, I was quick to chastise my wife for bringing up the past. “When are you ever going to let that go? I quit drinking. Isn’t that enough?” The answer that I never received – the answer I should have been screaming emphatically in my own face – was, “NO!” I should not have been allowed to have repeated temporary psychotic meltdowns, then wake up the next day demanding forgiveness and a deep embrace. It is not supposed to work that way.
But it does. For as long as we let it.
For years, I looked for signs that I was an alcoholic. I looked for legal issues and poor work performance and financial collapse. I had to push piles of volatile shrapnel out of the way to see that all of my outward appearances were intact.
If you can relate, stop taking internet surveys to determine if you are or are not an alcoholic, and ask yourself this one question:
When are you going to stop tolerating behavior from yourself that you would never tolerate from an outsider?
If your answer is something like, “I’ll do better next time,” or, “I’m going to put rules around my drinking to keep it under control,” or, “My wife is a nag and manipulates me into my bad behavior,” you are not alone. That’s the kind of shit we all think and say to keep the denial alive and the booze flowing.
Aren’t you ready to stop watching your own same old and tired horror movie plot? Wanna stop turning into a monster? Stop drinking the evil potion.
If you are ready to stop behaving like a monster, and you could use some support, please consider our SHOUT Sobriety program for high-functioning alcoholics in early sobriety.