Day ???? – Is This my New Reality?

It’s been a rough day. I’ve had to do a lot of thinking after an unplanned trip to Urgent Care with what has turned into a very painful kidney infection. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve brought it on myself again by drinking again a bit over the last two months. Now I’m now trying to answer the question….

Am I actually an alcoholic?

Why do I ask this? Well, at least according to the PA at Urgent Care, I am an alcoholic because I have been ignoring the pain in my kidney and continuing to drink (albeit minimally) in spite of it. It doesn’t matter that I quit for three solid months or that even in drinking recently, I’ve cut way, way back from what I used to drink – which wasn’t really that much especially over the last few years. I guess because even just one drink seems to hurt me that I shouldn’t drink at all. But I have ignored this fact – again and again and again for years and years – only stopping here and there when it would start to bother me again. In fact, my kidney pain is a big part of what prompted this one year “experiment” to begin within. Evidently that is a problem, at least to the PA.

The impact of the blunt statement by the PA hurt me a lot worse than when he tapped the area around my already painful, inflamed kidney to check for an infection. After recommending that I go to a nephrologist to see if there is a deeper kidney issue, he also strongly suggested I seek treatment and counseling at Fellowship Hall, a local rehab center. Wow.

So I’ve spent part of the evening taking a variety of online self tests about alcohol addiction. I am not liking the results. Though they’ve all had a different angle and set of questions, they all say that I have a problem with alcohol and need to seek treatment. (Note, I answered them as my drinking self to give an accurate picture of what I am like when I am drinking.)

However, this outcome still galls me because I haven’t had anything to drink in a week (well 6 days if you count the one ounce of wine I had last Sunday, less if you count the literal sip I had of Dave’s beer one night and tiny taste of his martini another. Hmm that all sounds bad). But a week ago I had two glasses of wine and had gone nine days before that. And let’s not forget the three months of not drinking from March to June. All in all, I’ve actually been feeling mentally fine about myself – drinking or not drinking – until today. But now I am starting to wonder if all this time I have actually been in denial about the truth. 

I’ve felt virtually speechless all day. Have I been going through the stages of grief for the potentially pending death of my drinking life since this all started in March? Or simply unwilling to admit that I do in fact have a problem? Is that part of the grief and if so what stage is next? 

I am torn between wanting to fall apart and acting like absolutely nothing has changed. But it has changed – and that is that someone else…a medical professional…thinks I am an alcoholic. 

Seeing those words on this page are stunning. Someone thinks I am an alcoholic...not one of my friends, not someone who has seen me with a big, delicious buzz but a medical professional who knows nothing about me other than what I told him. And he thinks I am an alcoholic.

I don’t know how to share this with anyone – not my friends, not my husband, not even the people who read this blog – although I will eventually because my whole purpose in life is to help others succeed and/or heal. But at the moment I don’t quite know how to deal with the fact that in spite of all my self-exploration, evaluation and ongoing “self-healing” that I may have overlooked the reality that I am an alcoholic. And the fact is, it probably took a stranger to tell me because no one else in my world can tell me the truth (or their version of it) without thinking about how it will affect them and our relationship – or perhaps most importantly – THEIR relationship with alcohol. No one wants to consider that too closely.

I’m not sure what I know for sure other than in this breath everything will be OK. That and it is time to go to sleep – or at least to try.  Please sending loving, restful thoughts and hope that I can get to sleep without a problem.

*****

In case this post makes you want more info about the stages of grief, click here for a helpful article I found tonight.

Or this about “Dry Drunk Syndrome” 

And this about Grief about Quitting Drinking

You can look under Resources and Articles tab to find links to some of the various assessments I took as well.

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Day 13 – A Small Explanation

When people say they’ve quit drinking, the natural assumptions tend to trend to one of two things:

1) They are an alcoholic

2) They got religion

As I’m reading some of the comments I’ve gotten on Facebook since I went public with my decision, I realize that I probably need to clarify. Or maybe I am just paranoid and I don’t want people to think poorly of me. Regardless, here is the deal…

I am not an alcoholic. I am simply a person who enjoys drinking but have recently – maybe for the last four months or so – been over-indulging a bit more than I would like. I can’t remember the last time I got officially drunk. (OK…that’s not true. I remember way more of it than I can share here. It was New Year’s Eve 2012 and it was A LOT of fun. If you were with me in the wee hours of 1/1/2013 no doubt you can attest to this:-)

Anyway…

On the whole I am a very responsible drinker – a sipper, not a chugger – and know my limits. I generally drink one to two glasses of red wine in the evening and sometimes have a raspberry martini or two instead of wine. When I am feeling under the weather or feel a cold coming on, I switch to bourbon and ginger. I don’t drink much of anything else. I gave up beer for all practical purposes several years ago along with white wine. I don’t do shots or champagne except on very special occasions. And I am often the designated driver when my husband and I go out.

In the past I have given up alcohol for Lent (that’s 46 days for those of you who are not familiar) several times and it has never been too much of a struggle once I got past the first two weeks. The first time I quit drinking for an extended period of time was after a particularly bad breakup with a particularly bad boyfriend and the realization that our entire relationship as well as most of the fights we had were extremely affected by our mutual alcohol consumption. I was not even thirty then and worried that I might be an alcoholic. So I quit drinking for 2 months and tearfully asked a friend to remove all the alcohol from my house in case I had a weak moment.

These times of abstaining from drinking as well as my own diminished use of alcohol in general proved to me long ago that I am not an alcoholic.  In fact, since I got married and have observed up close the effects of long-term alcohol abuse on some of my husband’s older family members – and a few of my older friends –  I’ve become even more watchful of my usage as well as Dave’s.

What is going on here and now is my desire to a) give my oh-so-sensitive kidneys a break b) give myself the space to really see and feel what is going on in my head, heart and life and c) to challenge myself in a way that is different, revealing, “challenging” and perhaps inspiring to myself and others.

Chances are that I will drink again at some point – perhaps when I toast my Aunt Alex and Uncle Bill on their 50th wedding anniversary to help them celebrate in April. Maybe it will be one year from the day I decided to take a break – March 12, 2014. Or maybe it will just be at the moment when I decide that I have nothing left to prove to me or anyone. Who knows?! The important thing is not to worry so much about reaching the destination but instead to enjoy the journey getting there:-)