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Does This Drinking Story Sound Familiar?
The remarkable power of discovering I was not alone.
Back when I was still drinking, I had a really strange habit: I tried to never buy more alcohol than what I expected to drink that night.
My reasoning was pretty ridiculous. I had myself perpetually convinced that I was one day away from quitting. I thought that there was no need for more than one day’s worth of alcohol because the next day would be my first day sober.
However, each time the “next day” arrived, I’d find an excuse to keep drinking, which required a new trip to the store to get exactly one more day’s supply of booze.
As a result of this daily purchasing, I became a regular at the nearby grocery store. It got to the point that when I went into the store one day, the cashier had my beer and cigarettes already waiting for me at the counter.
Of course, she meant well, but I absolutely hated this! It mortified me to be drinking so regularly that the cashier not only recognized me but even knew my order by heart.
This should have been my wake-up call to actually quit drinking, but instead, it just taught me that I needed to be more discreet.
From that point on, I started varying when and where I bought my daily beer. I’d go to the grocery store one day, the drug store the next, and a gas station on the third.
I also started to pay attention to each cashier’s schedule so that I wouldn’t run into them too often. My goal was to avoid seeing anyone more than about once a week. Sometimes, when I wasn’t sure who would be working, I’d peek in the window. If it was someone I had seen too recently, I’d move on to the next store.
This convoluted process felt so ridiculous, even in the moment. It’s not as if I was breaking any laws by buying so much alcohol. Why should I care if the cashiers judged me?
But, for whatever reason, I did care. Perhaps it was because I was projecting my own insecurities about my drinking habit onto those around me. Perhaps it’s because I had become so isolated during my drinking years that these brief beer runs were some of my only social interactions. I didn’t want the only person who I had talked to all day to think of me as an alcoholic, even if they were the one selling me the alcohol.
Rotating through the stores was exhausting. I had trouble keeping track of it, and it really added to the stress surrounding my alcoholism.
Worst of all, it just made me feel so weird. I couldn’t quite explain my actions, and that really bothered me. I felt like there was something about me that was just inexplicably different than everyone else. I thought that nobody else in the world could understand the strange thoughts that were running through my head every day.
I was not nearly so alone as I thought.
When I finally got sober, I spent a ton of time listening to other alcoholics and reading their stories. Time and again, I was blown away by how similar their addictions were to mine.
I had just graduated from law school, and there were tons of other alcoholics with very similar life stories. Like me, these were people who had thought of themselves as high-achievers, but at the same time had been getting drunk every night.
I’m also Jewish, and I was surprised to discover so many other Jews who had struggled with alcoholism, especially since the discussion of addiction had long been taboo in our culture.
Seeing these big-picture similarities helped me to realize that I was not alone, but what really hit me hardest were the little overlaps: the similar habits, mannerisms, and thought patterns that other alcoholics had also gone through.
For example, my years of rotating through different grocery and liquor stores had always felt like such an odd quirk, but after I quit drinking, I learned that this is actually incredibly common among alcoholics. I wasn’t the only one going to great lengths to hide my addiction!
I was so filled with relief the first time I heard another alcoholic describe this habit. It made me realize that none of the struggles I had been going through were entirely unique to me. There were others who had dealt with these same problems and found a way past them.
There is incredible comfort in discovering that you are not alone.
Throughout my sobriety, I’ve made it a habit to read tons of stories from other people who have quit drinking. Early on, I used to spend an hour or two a day on Reddit’s “stopdrinking” forum, just pouring through every post I could find.
All addicts are individuals with their own life stories, but when we break those stories down, it’s easy to find a ton of overlap.
Sometimes I’ll read a post and I can’t relate to it at all. Most of the time, our stories line up a little, but not entirely.
Occasionally, however, I’ll read a forum post or an essay and it will be so similar to my own life that I’ll feel like I could have written it myself. Those are the ones that have helped me the most.
My alcoholism was incredibly lonely and isolating. As my drinking habit progressed, solitude became one of my defining characteristics. That, in turn, made everything in my life feel so much harder than it needed to be.
When I thought about getting sober, I was incredibly conflicted. I debated with myself whether I had a drinking problem. I debated with myself whether I could overcome it. Within each day, I’d swing back and forth countless times between a determination to quit drinking and total denial of my addiction.
Once I started listening to other alcoholics and hearing those familiar stories, everything felt so much easier. Their stories showed me that I was not the first person to deal with these problems and that I wouldn’t have to solve every problem I had on my own.
They infused me with hope, proving that sobriety had been possible for people just like me, and therefore would be possible for me too.
I no longer expected that I would need to figure out everything from scratch and forge a brand new path. Sobriety felt so much more achievable when I realized that I could follow in the footsteps of others.
It’s also one of the reasons that now, five and a half years later, I spend so much time sharing my own story. It’s not that there’s anything particularly remarkable or extraordinary about me. In fact, the most powerful parts of my life story are the moments that other alcoholics can see themselves in. It’s these connections that allow all of us addicts in recovery to keep moving forward together.