At the core of my drinking problem existed one single, troubling fact: I hated myself. I constantly analyzed myself and found myself lacking. I never felt accepted or included, even when the evidence pointed to the contrary. I was anxious and depressed. Desperate to be somewhere else, to be someone else.
If this seems sad to me now (and it does), in high school I viewed it as downright tragic. I craved attention, but I was sketchy and uncomfortable once I got it. I sabotaged every relationship I had—I was either self-centered and thoughtless or clingy and needy. If I didn’t manage to screw something up with my insecurity and striving for acceptance, my subconscious would destroy it for me with panic attacks and anxiety so bad that it made me puke. I was a victim of myself. Which made me hate myself even more.
I pulled a geographic when I went to college—and it helped tremendously. I liked college me. I heard myself laugh unselfconsciously for the first time, and it startled me. But I warmed to happiness and commenced living a real life, with real feelings and a shocking lack of despair. If I had gone to therapy at this point, I probably could have skipped the whole alcoholic, downward spiral bit. If I had dealt with all the baggage, instead of just cramming it in an ill-fitting closet and hoping for the best, I may have been okay. But instead, I used my college girlfriend as my therapist, my anti-depressant, my religion. And when I chased her away with shitty decisions and cruel behavior, shit got real. I started remembering that I believed myself unworthy and unloveable. This time, I chased those demons with booze. And, surprisingly (probably only to me), they multiplied like Gremlins in water. Down I went, slowly at first and then in a tailspin lasting for 2 or 3 years, depending on who you ask and what they remember. I remember everything and nothing. I drank to quiet my roiling discontent, my abject fear. I drank to escape myself.
My story doesn’t come with a crystal clear salvation moment. Somewhere in the mess I had made of my life, I decided I wanted to live. A good start. By the time I made my way to my first AA meeting 6 years later, I knew I wanted more than survival—I wanted a life. I did a lot of work, with the 12-steps and with a good therapist, to move past my self-hatred into acceptance. Acceptance of me, of the world around me, of life. I excavated all the pain I had clung to for years, and I let it go (most of it, anyway).
Sometimes people ask me if it’s hard not to drink. No. The rampant alcohol abuse was just a symptom of my sick and desperate thinking. It became my signature, my fuck you to a world I thought brought me pain. Recovery revealed my part in creating my own pain, my jockeying to view myself as a victim. Recovery brought me face to face with myself—and this time I met myself with acceptance and forgiveness.