Am I an alcoholic?

This week’s guest blog is from Hannah Rodger, a sales director in the recruitment industry – one of many high-pressure industries where there is social pressure to drink. She shares some insights into her journey of 18 months of sobriety and the questions she gets asks, and asks herself. 

Am I an alcoholic?

I had a thought provoking conversation with a recruitment industry leader I have a huge amount of respect for this week. He asked me how my sobriety was going and told me he has had a 6 week break from booze, as he does every year…

‘But are you an alcoholic? Would you describe yourself as an alcoholic?’

Why is that the question everyone asks? It doesn’t offend me, I’m happy and proud to say I choose to live without drinking a highly addictive poison that is dressed up in prettily labelled bottles and sold to us as ‘happy juice’. I never knew whether I would just have 1 and go home or have 10 and share too much with people I don’t know. I became addicted to an addictive substance. Slowly, over a long number of years. Then I stopped. 

“I would say that in my recruitment career, I believe that any one time, 10% of my staff are problem drinkers, although I see it less in millennials.’

I thought, and those are just the ones you know about. The ones who show visible signs of wear and tear. There will be others struggling in silence, maybe not even seeing themselves as having a problem with alcohol. High functioning, flying under the radar but full of anxiety, self-confidence issues and almost certainly letting themselves down in at least one area of their lives. They probably don’t relate their evening glass of Shiraz with the overwhelm they feel getting into the office the next day. Or the weekly blowout with their lack of ability to deal with feedback the next Tuesday. They don’t have a ‘problem’.

So who is an alcoholic?

What about the ones who don’t drink all week but go home and get smashed at the weekend, and turn up to work on Monday ready to do it all again. Are they alcoholics?

Or the ones who hardly ever drink, but when they do they go hard and everyone has a good laugh at what they did on the team night out. Are they alcoholics?

Or the CEO who incentivises his team with a boozy trip away, but then reprimands or fires one of them for drinking too much and getting into trouble on said trip. Is he an alcoholic?

The word alcoholic has connotations that we don’t like in the recruitment industry – we demonise it. It feels dirty and shameful. It’s not so much that it evokes images of someone who doesn’t have it together; the homeless man asleep in his own urine, the woman who’s mumbling to herself in the supermarket with a basket full of biscuits – although it most certainly does that. In recruitment, I’ve heard a lot of us joke that we are high functioning alcoholics and that’s ok. We need the booze to cope with our stressful jobs right?! It’s almost like we don’t want to say the word because we might have to take a look at our own habits and change something. If a candidate told you they were an alcoholic you wouldn’t put them forward for roles, I guarantee it, however smartly they dressed or how well they presented.

In context of my conversation with this leader, we expressed a mutual understanding that mental health needs to be talked about more and the link between alcohol and mental health is undeniable. I hope to continue this discussion to open up the dialogue to more people. Only by speaking up will we make a difference, and I know this leader does a lot to promote wellbeing in the workplace, and his own annual sobriety stints are to be commended.

 But let’s unpack what you think you mean by that term. Here are some responses I can think of.

Am I an alcoholic?

Yes absolutely, if you want to call me that. And yet…

I have suffered from alcoholism; a disease where I, a mere human with a brain that likes patterns and routine, have become addicted to a highly addictive, highly poisonous liquid that is readily available and encouraged by everyone from government to celebrities to sports personalities as well as our partners, friends and colleagues as a mechanism we need to relax and have a good time. Bad day? You need a wine. Great day? Celebrate with a wine. Party? Champagne!

Am I an alcoholic?

No and I don’t believe anyone is an alcoholic. Telling people to drink in moderation is like telling people to only eat one Pringle in the pack. I don’t know when I have my first drink whether I’m going to be able to just have that one or whether I’ll end up having 10, so I choose not to have any. I used alcohol to mask my insecurities so people would think I was cool and clever and more important than I believed myself to be. Then I stopped doing that. 

Am I an alcoholic?

Yes and I have started to choose me over the bottle. I’m facing up to my demons and facing them head on. I’m dealing with my emotional baggage and learning to be a better partner, friend and colleague. I’m showing up 100% and I’m not numbing out at the first sign of something difficult.

Am I an alcoholic?

Yes but it was never a decision I made to become one. It started with drinking at parties at college and university, progressed to sophisticated wine bars and champagne to celebrate deals at work and before I knew it, a bottle a night was the norm with more at weekends and on special occasions. I say before I knew it, it was a good 15 years in the making. 

Am I an alcoholic?

Does it make you feel more justified in your own drinking if I tell you I stopped because I had a problematic relationship with alcohol?

Am I an alcoholic?

No I’m a sober warrior. A trailblazer. A punk in a world full of mods. I like to be different. 

Am I an alcoholic?

Yes and proudly so. Since identifying alcohol was not serving me, and in fact making my life increasingly chaotic, I stopped drinking it. Since then I have achieved more in the last 18 months for my personal development than I ever believed I could have done. I’ve saved over $15,000 and I’ve never been fitter and stronger. 

Am I an alcoholic?

Yes and it feels great. I choose every day to back myself and to live in the real, raw world. I wake up fresh and hangover free every day and skip to my Pilates studio. I am ready to face everything life has to throw at me. I’ve never felt more alive.

Am I an alcoholic?

No are you?

Am I an alcoholic?

Why does it matter to you?

Am I an alcoholic?

No I’m an empath who couldn’t cope with all the horror I’d put myself through so I numbed out in a socially acceptable way. I didn’t know it wasn’t going to end up with me drinking 3 bottles of red wine and clutching the toilet bowl on a regular basis.

Am I an alcoholic?

No I just woke up to the fact that alcohol is used to keep us quietly numb so we don’t complain about the fact the government doesn’t give a shit about the important things like climate change, our health, or children’s future. I woke up to the lie that we need alcohol to cope with our lives. I woke up to the poor choices I’d made and I started making different ones. I woke up and I started growing again.

Am I an alcoholic?

I’m a sales director, a colleague, a friend, a loving wife, a step-mother, a daughter, a sister. I’m a Pilates nut, a natural health educator, a writer and a diy-er. I’m a gluten egg and dairy free menu, I’m a conscious consumer and I’m a student of yoga. I’m impatient and often impulsive. I’m kind and I’m caring. I’m sometimes funny, I’m often irritated. I’m a one-time Tough Mudder, I’m a wannabe cyclist and I’m an Arcade Fire fan. This is a small list of adjectives to describe me. Am I an alcoholic? If you want to call me an alcoholic then yes I’m an alcoholic, but I rather see myself as someone who has broken free from that hamster wheel and is choosing to live life in full colour. I’m doing something most are too afraid to and that makes me feel pretty special.

It’s important to know this; I didn’t have to stop drinking, I chose to. I’m sure I could have hidden my pain long enough to drink for another decade or even a whole lifetime, but I chose to stop. We all have choice, and that makes us extremely privileged. We are fortunate enough that everything in our comfortable middle class lives is a choice and I am grateful to my addiction for allowing me to choose life every day. 

I’m always open to dialogue about this as it’s so important and I am thankful for being able to talk so openly, as reading blogs such as this helped me so much when I was on the early stages of my journey to an alcohol free life. Please reach out if you are concerned about your drinking, I’d love to be your cheerleader.

 

I would really appreciate you reaching out. thank you!

All I can say is thank you!

Thank you that was so inspiring an honest ,I’m at the beginning of my sober journey just 10 days in and im finding it hard o put it mildly I would so appreciate any advice to help me ,I was on the same path with wine a bottle a night and more on the weekends I’m now 50 so I’ve been drinking for as long as I can recall I want more than any thing to quit for good .

Alcoholics have lost all control over their drinking. Sometimes it is fine and “normal”-seeming, Other times we drink way more than we planned. It is very unpredictable and leads to many losses and embarrassments in one’s life. Chiefly, the loss of self or self-respect. If you think you have a problem, you probably do. Try not drinking anything for 30 days (and nights). Is it difficult to do?

Thanks great article.

It’s probably the most annoying question, are you an alcoholic. Sometimes I feel angry and want to fire back with are you a sugar-holic?

Hi Hannah! I would love for you to be my cheerleader! I’m am 56 days alcohol free today. Since my 30s I have only had 5 years alcohol free. I’m 67 years old and it’s time for me to be present every day. Loved your blog!

Ugh. Excellent blog. Sigh. I’m so confused, lol.

Thank you so much Hannah, this is an amazing Blog. I’m not that up to speed with Blogging as I,m an older member of the community (63) I’ve been struggling with alcohol for many years. I’m an office administrator in the medical industry and I’ve always been very good at my job and at masking the addiction. As you said, I was a high achieving alcoholic and I didn’t care. As long as I could get up and do my job, why shouldn’t I enjoy the rest of my life right? I didn’t start drinking alcohol until my late 30’s after my two children were grown up. I had a very tragic alcoholic auntie that died at 56 from alcohol related illness and it made me scared of drinking and I was a single mum so I had to be responsible. I think that saved me from a more tragic path. I’ve always tried to take regular breaks from drinking but this last year it’s getting harder and harder. Such a sneaky substance when it takes hold. But it is my choice and I choose me over the demon drink. Choosing to stop after so long is an exhilarating feeling but it’s also scary. It’s a lonely path because it’s different for everyone and reading your blog gives me the strength to take control and be responsible for my life. Thank you again Hannah.

A lot of what you say resonates

Damn it! My 3 months were up at the end of the month. After reading this I will push on. It was all good but the ‘Punk’ bit got me.

Well said- thank you! It has taken me a few attempts plus a couple of grumbling health issues which wouldn’t go away before I’ve been able to loosen my habit. I feel heaps better but those occasions when I have wine in particular it is hard to stop at one. Fortunately the hangover the next day feels worse than when we’d drink each night to’ unwind ‘ or celebrate. It’s a good disincentive

Loved your story , a lot of the content resonates with me. working in the hectic world of finance , regular excessive alcohol consumption is the norm. I once started a job during a period I was trying to abstain and the management looked at my like I had 2 heads because I made it clear I didn’t drink. That didn’t last long and before I knew it I was at lunches that turned into dinners , that turned into huge nights. I enjoy the added benefit of being a gambling addict when intoxicated. Those two combinations have very nearly cost me my life many times over the last 2 decades. I have survived , I am still an alcoholic and degenerate gambler when drunk , but I am trying really hard to break the cycle . My wife is magnificent , my children are my life support ( would never leave them fatherless) it’s a battle , but I just need to keep having the conversation with myself . Well done to you such a magnificent achievement !!

Wow, your story has touched something in me, made me realise that yes, I do have an “issue” and am just starting to address it, I still can’t say those 4 words, I am …… maybe because my father was an alcoholic, I believe that if I admit to it I have failed in keeping those demons at bay

Excellent read and really good way to frame the subject matter. “Am i an Alcoholic”? Yep thats why I’m a part of HSM and as stated I am, we all are so much more than just the definition of Alcoholic or problem drinker. Top job very insightful

Amazing post! Thanks for sharing!! I have been toying with going Alcohol free for a while, but there is always something where I think, after this party and now at the end of next week I am heading to the South of France, so was planning to start a 100 days off when I get back… but I guess there will always be something going on!

Great post.

This is exactly what I needed to read. I’m 147 days alcohol free and was in need of some inspiration. Thank you.

Amazing way of describing the life of a problem drinker or alcoholic. Thanks for your insight, I am on the same journey as the author. My life has never been better. Nearly 2 yrs since my last drink.

Lovely article I identify with all of it especially the empath part – using alcohol to block out the noise of others. I now try with meditation focus and paying attention to others energy and thoughts – being calm helps. Being hungover doesn’t as it exposes me.

thank you for the great read – here’s to shining a light onto sobriety for the benefit of others still trapped in the dark! xxx

Your inner strength is something very powerful and it serves you well in so many ways Hannah, not just for you but for everyone who knows you and anyone who has read your blog. I’m well on my way to staying AF and reading your blog makes me realise I’m in great company. I thank you and wish you all the best for a fulfilling and happy life.

Wow, so much is familiar. I am new to HSM & set the goal of only drinking to celebrate, and limiting it to 2 glasses of wine /week. Great start, but have fallen Back into same same drinking 2-3 glasses last two nights. Notice I don’t sleep well & feel listless in daytime. So your blog has inspired me to get back to my new way of being, thank you.

Great article. I was only thinking about the term alcoholic this morning and the images it conjures up and what other term I could use to add to my many self descriptions.

I guess you could say my struggle is with coming to terms with the societal label ‘alcoholic. What is that ? I drink daily. Have done for years. Not excessively but just love the taste especially wine. The slight ‘ buzz’ ‘ , relaxed feeling I experience after 1 or 2. is nice. I am nearly 60 ,work , in good health , have an active social life and love travelling. I also love drinking. There are measures of societal norms that put people in a box and I think that applies to drinking alcohol. The decision to drink or not to drink is purely personal, for a multitude of reasons, and I don’t agree that a personal choice should be a stigmatized label. Am I an alcoholic ? Well I will leave that up to your judgement

Great article. I have never been a good drinker. Every embarrassing thing that has happened to me was under the influence of alcohol. Add depression and psychotic medications to the mix and I was a disaster waiting to happen every weekend. I ended up in Emergency a few times. I had to really be honest with myself and admit I had a problem and was sabotaging my well being. I haven’t had a drink in a couple of years and haven’t been embarrassed since!

I am keeping this post to reread .inspiring and empowering

Fantastic! A very though provoking article. I too work in a high stress role and have used that old chestnut to continue to drink more and more. Now at 54 I have a second failed marriage diabetes liver scarring along with other physical and mental issues. If anyone feels they are being affected by alcohol please get help before it’s too late. When your adult children plead with you to live long enough to see their children and functioning at work is almost impossible something has to change

Thank-you Hannah for an inspiring and inspirational post. I can completely identify with what you say, and reading the “Am I an alcoholic” responses provides so much food for thought. Like some here, I am right at the start of my journey (20 days now, it’s not a lot but I can’t remember the last time that I did that). The wonderful thing for me is that I am not missing the poison in any way. I’m off the hamster wheel and living life in colour (to paraphrase your words). Thanks again.

Great words, Im im my fifties and still kidding myself that drinking is not a problem when it so obviouly is

Thank you

Thank you Hannah!! I was meant to read this today. I need to start my journey, but I am afraid of failing. I want to be me again, but I don’t even remember the real me.

Hi Lisa, the reason I wrote the article was to change the narrative around the labelling. It’s not for any of us to judge, and I am grateful for HSM for opening up the discussion.

To all of you who are on a journey to a sober you, you have got this and I root for you. Keep going, it’s a brave thing to do but can promise you the rewards are greater with every day and week that goes by. We are the luckiest.

What a wonderful blog … thank you for your insights and for sharing. You are so right in saying how normalised alcohol is and how we are made to feel different if we chose sobriety.

I love reading everyone’s experience with alcohol. I struggled for over ten years and finally gave up 18 months ago. All I can say is it is the best thing I have ever done . I went into a private hospital and was at what I thought was my weakest moment in my life . I walked through those door of my own free will and felt like I was a total loser . I now realise that was my strongest moment . All I want to do is help people to help themselves. To see how amazing life is without alcohol . Good luck on your journey wherever you are at . Giving up is the best decision you will ever make . It is a choice . Choose you xxx

Brilliant blog post – “a highly addictive poison that is dressed up in prettily labelled bottles and sold to us as ‘happy juice”. Brilliant, I will stick that on my fridge door. I’m 10 days AF & I’m looking forward to my first 100 days!

I went on a 48 hour water cleanse to clear my system of alchohol carvings and mow I’m in my 4th week of abstinence. Funny thought i was in the clear…but yesterday I just wanted to drink…badly… I didn’t. But Ive discovered that boredom lack of passion and the ho hum day to day working causes a restlessness within me. My trainer says I need to fond something that I’m passionate about. Ive tried many things. Nothing sticks. Writing,photography,reading …. Im a powerflifter and a yoga teacher trainer…still I’m looking for my true passion. When drinking I seem to be happiest even sex seemed to be more fulfilling….now in this 4 week state. I feel healthier physically, but mentally I’m still unfulfilled…Thanks for your blog at least I dont feel like I’m in this daily struggle all alone

Thanks Hannah, this is such a great article! I want to memorise these answers and reel them off when asked why I’m not drinking!

About to start Dry July as a way to get started on the journey. Thanks for the note about empathy – I carry a lot of other peoples problems in my work and its a way to shut down at the end of the day. Will have to meditate or exercise more instead.

+
Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured posts