Two things I feel confident to speak from experience on my adult life: break ups and booze. It's funny because it's true. I joke, but not much to be proud about being a self-proclaimed "expert" on either of these. I mean, who would be? Now, one of the most common questions I get since being in recovery is, "Do you ever miss it?" It being referred to as alcohol. So, I often describe it like an ex-boyfriend -- that one guy who's just bad news for you but for some reason is so hard to walk away from.
Of course I miss it sometimes. We spent a lot of time together and made some great memories. It was always there for me. Whether I was sad or happy or bored or lonely, it was there to comfort me and make me feel all better. We started off really happy together. But like most relationships that end, it had a tendency to get ugly. This particular relationship, the one with booze, became destructive, unhealthy and toxic.
When I finally came clean with my parents and admitted that I was an alcoholic and needed help, it was like I telling a boyfriend I was miserable in the relationship and wanted out. As soon as it came out of my mouth, I second guessed myself. I wanted to take it back. But I knew my parents weren't going to let me take it back. I was going to be forced to deal with it -- to take responsibility. I spent the following three days before going to rehab thinking maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I could convince them I wasn't an alcoholic and I would do better, I would change. But all those thoughts were just coming from fear. I didn't want to be an alcoholic. I didn't want to go away for 28 days. I didn't want to have to live without alcohol for the rest of my life. I didn't want to be the bigger person and just walk away from a relationship that was no longer making me happy. I did not want to change because I was scared. I had become comfortable with my misery. I wasn't sure how I would ever be able to live without alcohol, much less be happy or have fun without it.
Breaking up is never simple. You often stick around in a bad relationship for way longer than you should, which is mostly due to fear. You think maybe you can make it work if you make some changes. Maybe you just need a "break" and things will be better after some time apart. All you're doing is kidding yourself, dragging it out, and making it more complicated. I should have broken up with alcohol way before I did and just said, "It's not you, it's me." And like most of my break ups, that was the truth. It wasn't the alcohol's fault. I'm the alcoholic. I made alcohol look bad. I gave it a bad name. Plenty of people have very normal relationships with alcohol. Just not this girl!
Sometimes it's hard to accept a break up. You have to remember why you broke up. You can't romanticize the good times. It doesn't matter how sexy it looks, how good it smells... you have to force yourself to remember the bad times and why it didn't work out. All those annoying things you hate about it. All those horrible ways it makes you feel.
I am 20 months sober, and it's been easy for me to remember how bad my relationship with alcohol was. I can only imagine that the more time passes, the easier it is to forget just how bad it was, just like a bad relationship. They say those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, which is why working with newcomers is so important to my recovery. I don't want to forget for one second just how bad it was.
I don't just treat my relationship with alcohol like a break up -- more like a divorce. And like the book, It's Called a Break Up Because It's Broken says, "Every moment of pain, weakness, and discomfort puts you in a position to choose how you will react and how you will alleviate your condition. Calling him doesn't make it better -- it only pulls you back into the cycle of heartbreak. He is the past. You are the future." And so I have to remember that with alcohol. We broke up for a reason. End of story.
Love and respect yourself enough to walk away and close the door for good on anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.