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Escaping the Constant Embarrassment of Addiction
Life doesn't have to be so endlessly mortifying.
Embarrassed to Drink
Back before I got sober, I used to be incredibly embarrassed by how much I drank. Even though I often denied to myself that I had a drinking problem, I knew that it wasn’t normal to be getting drunk every single day.
I went to great lengths trying to hide the amount that I drank. When I lived with roommates, I would make sure to have some of my drinks when they weren’t around and to get refills when they weren’t looking. I’d bury my empties deep in the trash so that they wouldn’t see how many were piling up.
Even when I lived alone, I was worried about what the neighbors would think. I remember letting one of my apartments fill with empty cans of bud light because I was embarrassed to take them out to the recycling bin across the parking lot.
Those cans covered my coffee table, my kitchen counters, and a little waist-high wall that ran through the apartment. Then, across the floor, there were countless garbage bags, also filled with empty cans.
The whole place stank of beer and cigarettes. The only time I’d ever clean it was when a friend came over, but my addiction had me so isolated that this only happened once every month or so.
When it came time to get rid of the cans, I’d sneak them out in the middle of the night as if I was a thief. I remember walking back and forth across the parking lot, lugging half a dozen bags of empty cans at a time, looking over my shoulder to make sure nobody noticed me.
I even tried to hide my drinking from the cashiers who were selling me the stuff. I’ve written about this in a previous edition of this newsletter, so I won’t recap the whole thing, but the gist of it is that I used to rotate between stores so that cashiers wouldn’t realize how much alcohol I was buying. Sometimes, I’d even peek through the windows just to make sure it wasn’t someone I had bought booze from recently. (For more details, check out: “Does This Drinking Story Sound Familiar?”)
Other Embarrassing Habits
The shame I felt over my drinking habit was already overwhelming, but it got even worse because it led to all kinds of secondary embarrassment.
To put that another way, my alcoholism led to all kinds of cringe-worthy behavior, beyond the drinking itself.
For example, when I was a drunk, I used to get into arguments with people constantly about the stupidest little things. I remember once getting in a fight with someone because we both liked Hank Williams III. How on Earth was I able to start a fight with someone over having the same taste in music?
I’d also forget about things all the time. Conversations, people, and entire nights are forever lost to my memory. I’d sometimes meet someone, introduce myself, and find out we had already met—maybe even a few times.
Sometimes these embarrassing habits overlapped. I once told a roommate I’d buy some furniture off of him, then forgot about it the next day, and got in a big argument with him because I said there was no way that I’d buy it. I truly believed he had gone crazy until my then-girlfriend told me he was right.
Parties were especially embarrassing for me. I had a habit of getting over-the-top arrogant and loudly bragging about whatever petty accomplishment I could come up with. I also had the bad habits of throwing up in public and passing out on friends’ couches.
I’d wake up the next morning completely mortified. I’m not even sure what was worse—when I remembered the night clearly or when it was a total blur.
It sometimes felt like my life was one embarrassment after another. Any individual piece of this might not have been so bad on its own, but the cumulative weight of it was hard to bear.
All of the shame and embarrassment started to wear on me. It’s exhausting to live like that. It translated into the way that I carried myself and moved around the world. I tried to make myself small and stay out of sight.
Over the years of my addiction, I became increasingly isolated and lonely. The embarrassment wasn’t the only reason, but it was a real factor. It was easier to just get drunk alone in my apartment than to worry about making an idiot of myself in public.
It’s tough to wake up every morning filled with shame and regret over what you did the night before.
An Escape From the Embarrassment
How did I ever escape from all of the embarrassment surrounding my alcoholism? The answer is simple: I got sober.
When I first quit drinking, I was just as ashamed of my sobriety as I had been of my addiction. To me, sobriety and addiction were just two sides of the same coin.
However, as I remained sober, I got a lot more comfortable with it. I started opening up to people about what I had been through, and the shame began to disappear.
It helps that the recovery community is incredibly supportive. It was great to meet other people who had been through the same things and realize that I wasn’t nearly as alone as I used to believe.
With each year that has passed, it’s become easier for me to let go of all that embarrassment that I used to feel. It’s turned into a distant memory, replaced by the pride that I feel for having turned my life around.
Of course, it would have been nice if I had never made such an idiot of myself in public night after night, but it’s easy enough for me to move on from that now. I know that I’ve become a better person and that I don’t act like such a jerk these days. I’m still far from perfect, but I’m certainly not waking up each morning wondering what I did wrong the night before.
One of the best words I’ve ever found to describe sobriety is “relief.” Getting sober has been a relief in more ways than I can count. It feels so great to no longer drag around the heavy weight of my embarrassment. It’s freeing.
If you’re feeling weighed down by the constant embarrassment of drinking, I truly believe you owe it to yourself to give sobriety a try.
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