At one point in time – during my early 20s (I may have been roughly 23 at the time) – I convinced myself that if I could keep it to three glasses of craft beer, I wasn’t an alcoholic. I would order the first glass confidently, knowing that once it was empty I would still have two more ahead of me. I think I knew deep down in the pit of my gut that I was heavily addicted to alcohol, but my brain is a rationalizing and justifying lunatic, and it truly believed that three glasses would prove an ability to control my drinking. So I’d polish off the first glass no problem, and head straight back to the bar for number two. When I neared the bottom of the second glass, the anxiety started settling in. “One more glass to go,” I would think to myself. “Really have to make this one last.” Of course, my drinking patterns were somewhat alcoholic, and I couldn’t logically keep a full glass of beer in my hand for more than 5 minutes. Once the second glass was empty I would really start to panic. “One more glass,” I would think. “How am I supposed to make this last for four more hours? Who made these rules anyways? Why am I restricting myself? Life is short, I should be enjoying my youth.”
Am I Addicted to Alcohol?
The alcoholic mind is a truly dangerous and crazy thing. The third glass of beer would always, inevitably, bring on a tidal wave of irrational and desperate reasoning. With myself, mind you.
“Listen here, you’re 23 years old, if you want to drink another beer you can drink another beer.”
“Okay, so you like to drink. So what? Plenty of successful people LIKE to drink. Does that mean you’re an alcoholic? No. It means you like to drink. For Christ’s sake, you enjoy a nice beer or five or twelve on occasion. What, does that mean you should go to alcohol rehab for 90 days and sit in group therapy with a bunch of real, low-bottom drunks? No! Go order another beer. It’s okay. It’s okay. I promise it’s okay.”
“You don’t need it.”
“I know I don’t need it, I don’t. But I want it, okay?”
“Get the beer.”
“No, you’re fine. Just drink soda. You can get good and drunk tomorrow.”
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And on and on and on until the next day rolled around, and then the same. Being at constant battle with your own crippled brain is an exhausting thing to do. But hey, on the bright side – I could keep it at three glasses if I really, really tried. At least for a week. So surely I wasn’t an alcoholic, right? Come to find out, my alcoholism was no great respecter of boundaries. I could white knuckle for brief stints, but sooner or later I would cave and take 8 or 9 Fireball shots in rapid succession, followed by a bottle or two of gas station wine and as many beers as I could squeeze out of unsuspecting male strangers.
What I learned once I got to alcohol rehab was that it wasn’t necessarily how much I drank that made me an alcoholic, but how much I thought about drinking. I obsessed; I truly did. Alcoholism is a disease of obsessions and compulsions. I drank compulsively after awhile – I had lost all control over the quantity I consumed once I picked up the first drink. It became utterly undeniable. If you are struggling to determine whether or not you are indeed addicted to alcohol, try limiting yourself to three glasses of craft beer. If you can do it, cool. Now pay attention to how much headspace the thought of ‘just one more’ takes up. How does your brain react to this unnatural cut off? Take notes. And remember, alcoholism is a progressive disease. As time goes on you will begin to lose more and more, and your ability to control your intake will continue to rapidly dwindle. Get help while you can.
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