For years I fought my disease. I played games with myself. I would calculate exactly how many drinks I could have before I needed to cut myself off, before I let myself get to the point of no return. On nights I did end up blacking out, I would think back to what I drank: OK vodka. No more vodka, just whiskey tonight. And so on.
In college, I would drink myself silly on weeknights and as long as I got my butt out of bed for that morning class, I would call it a win. It didn’t matter that I reeked of alcohol and didn’t remember a thing that was said. There were times in those moments of darkness when I would ask myself, “Is this normal?” Looking back with 2.5 years of sobriety under my belt, I remember frequently asking myself questions about my addiction; questions that non-alcoholic people do not ask themselves. I didn’t know it then, but I think that’s one thing that those of us who suffer from addictions constantly do when we are actively drinking and using—we’re constantly wondering if we have a problem. One thing I know for sure, these are 10 questions non-alcoholic people do not ask themselves.
1. Blacking out is normal, right?
Although I can’t pinpoint my first blackout, it became a normal part of my drinking early on. If I didn’t fully black out, there would be, at the very least, several spotty hours of no memory recall from a night out. I thought that was just part of the territory of drinking. I had friends who blacked out every once in awhile, but deep down I always knew the rate at which I blacked out was not normal. I constantly asked myself: Blacking out is normal, right? Wrong.
2. If I can go a week without drinking, do I have a drinking problem?
For years I asked myself this question. I was never the person who had to drink all day every day in order to survive. I could go a week without drinking, maybe two. There were time periods when I only drank on the weekends, and there were other time periods where I drank every single day for four months straight. But I still asked myself, if I can go a week without drinking, do I really have a drinking problem?
3. I’ve never gotten a DUI, so I’m not an alcoholic, right?
I narrowly escaped a DUI when I was in college and I knew if I had gotten one, it would have been the end of me. In my mind, a DUI was the telltale sign that you had an alcohol problem. Escaping that DUI kept me drinking for several more years. I constantly justified by drinking by saying: I’ve never gotten a DUI, so I’m not an alcoholic, right?
4. Do non-drinkers have this many sexual partners?
There is no question in my mind that I would not have the number of sexual partners and failed romantic relationships today, if it weren’t for my destructive drinking. There are many sexual experiences that I barely remember due to blackouts, and others I know I never would have participated in, had I not been intoxicated. Those memories haunt me often. During dark hours of hangovers and regret, I often asked myself: Do non-drinkers have this many sexual partners?
5. If I don’t drink in the morning, I don’t have a problem with alcohol, right?
I was never a morning drinker. I never felt physically addicted to alcohol, although there may have been a time when I was. Morning drinking was another one of those signs; those signs that scream “Alcoholic!” So, I avoided it like the plague. I clung to the fact that I didn’t drink in the morning. I truly thought: if I didn’t drink in the morning, I didn’t have a problem with alcohol, right?
6. If I didn’t drink so much in college, would I have gotten a better GPA?
My drinking really skyrocketed in college. And maybe this is a question that non-alcoholics might look back on their college career and ask. The binge drinking culture at universities across the U.S. is completely off-the-charts scary. I know I’m not the only one whose GPA suffered because of drinking. However, I do know a lot of people I partied with, who stayed in and studied, and were able to make Dean’s List and graduate “cum laude.” I probably could have gotten there, if I hadn’t planned all my classes around drinking and parties. Looking back, I know that my drinking absolutely affected my GPA and that is something the majority of non-alcoholics do not have to deal with.
7. A liquid meal will make me feel better and keep me skinnier, that’s normal right?
During the year I quit drinking I was the skinniest I had been since high school. It was not uncommon for me to eat one meal a day. I purposely skipped meals because I was too busy drinking and partying to care about food. In my mind this was a win. A liquid meal would make me feel better and keep me skinny, that’s completely normal, right? No. Normal people do not think this way.
8. Will I drink like this when I’m 30?
I’m 30 now and I’m sober, but I can’t tell you how many times I thought about my future and wondered if I would make it there. I never attempted suicide. I never had active suicidal thoughts, but I did drink as much as I could on many nights in hopes that I wouldn’t wake up the next day. It didn’t matter where I moved to or who I became friends with. I always ended up falling into a pattern of going out and drinking too much.
9. Why can’t I just have one or two drinks?
It took me a long time to admit that I couldn’t just have one or two drinks. I tried. I tried hard for many years. Each time I would eventually fail and subsequently beat myself up about it. I would actually call myself a failure and not understand why I couldn’t complete these easy goals I would set for myself. I constantly asked myself: why can’t I have one or two drinks?
10. What’s wrong with me?
This is perhaps the most common question asked by alcoholics, and not by non-alcoholics. I cannot tell you how many times I asked myself this question. I was convinced something was wrong with me. I thought I was a bad person with a moral failing who was just incapable of getting it together. The day I quit drinking I remember specifically crying into the phone asking my mom, “What is wrong with me?” Her answer was, “Nothing is wrong with you, Kel. You’re an alcoholic.”
I know now that all of these questions were signs of my thriving addiction, but at the time I didn’t want to hear that. I thought I had a problem I could solve on my own and that fact kept me sick for a long time. If you’re asking yourself some of these questions, alcohol might be the reason for your pain, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed. It means that you can reach out for help and get well.
Kelly Fitzgerald is a sober writer based in Southwest Florida whose work has been published on the Huffington Post among other sites. She is best known for her personal blog, The Adventures of The Sober Señorita, where she writes about life as a former party girl living in recovery.