Terry R. Grier
Sunday 11:55 am
I grew up in south Louisiana.
It was a blessing and a curse. The culture there is unlike any other place in the world.
Laissez faire is the feeling of the day and night.
Allow to do is the literal meaning, but generally it means accepting an attitude of letting things take their own course (i.e. Let the people do as they choose.)
It is a pleasure-seeking culture.
The Good Times
However, the consequence of this culture is that it revolves around alcohol. EVERY event has alcohol.
Baby is born. Let’s celebrate (with alcohol)
Grandfather has died. Let’s celebrate his life (with alcohol)
From birth to death and every time in between: ALCOHOL.
The legal drinking age was still 18 when I turned 18. Louisiana was the last state in the union to change the age to 21. I had my first beer at 15. It was as easy as driving to the wrong side of town and with a $20 bill. Put a six pack and the $20 bill on the counter and leave the change behind. No questions asked.
I considered myself a social drinker. The problem was I was very social. I enjoyed drinking. It was fun. I felt accepted. People enjoyed being around me. I projected that laissez faire attitude.
When I turned 45 I was married. I had a professional job. I had friends and a home.
But I was also carrying around an extra 75 pounds and a sinking feeling that life was passing me by.
I had dreams but I spent too much time at happy hour talking about my “someday” with little follow up.
I tried a lot of different self-help models, but nothing really stuck.
One day a thought came to me. A thought so strong I could not ignore it, so I wrote it down.
“Do I drink too much?"
As I wrote more thoughts appeared.
“Maybe I would be more successful if I drank less?
“Maybe I could lose this extra weight that I am gaining?
“Maybe my marriage would be better?”
I sat for a couple of minutes and reread what I wrote.
I knew there was truth in these words, but they scared the hell out of me.
I googled “Am I an alcoholic?”
I found an online quiz and answered the questions. The internet diagnosed me as a “normal drinker”. I was okay.
Whew, no need to change.
But as time when on and I continued to drink, things got worse.
I found myself being intolerant with my wife and friends. I would wake up with a nagging feeling I needed to apologize for something I said the night before but could not remember to whom I should apologize.
On a Sunday morning after an evening with friends and plenty of wine, I decided enough was enough. I felt the need to prove something to myself. I need to take a break from drinking. I needed to see for myself if I could go a week without drinking.
So, I decided to do a self-experiment. I was not going to drink for one week. I was excited.
I felt horrible. I wanted to hide. I ignored it. And I was grateful that I did not make a big declaration to anyone.
The lesson that I missed was that I had started. I tried. I was brave enough to take action. My feet were on the path.
If you drink too much or have a problem with alcohol, the culturally accepted course of action is alcoholics anonymous (AA).
The idea of saying I was an alcoholic and accepting that label kept me from doing anything. It paralyzed me. I pushed down the feelings I had around alcohol to deal with another day.
But those feelings would come back time and time again, each with a stronger sense of urgency.
I still did not want to deal with them, and I felt a split within my mind. I spent more and more time thinking about my drinking and what I should do with no resolution or direction as to what to do.
I wanted to drink. But I also wanted to not drink. Above all else, I really wanted to stop thinking so much about my drinking.
I felt fucked up. What was wrong with me? I felt alone in this.
I knew a guy at my local gym who was an AA person. I opened up a little about what I was struggling with, and he invited me to an AA open house of sorts - basically a meeting for “newbies.”
I went. The people were kind. But if you have watched the portrayal of addiction on any movie or TV show then you know how the meeting went.
Accept the label alcoholic.
Admit I was powerless over alcohol.
Work the 12 Steps.
I resisted applying the label “alcoholic” to myself. Accepting the label and AA’s view of addiction meant that I was submitting not to a higher power but to their view of addiction. I would be submitting to what others think is best for me.
The “My name is Terry, and I am an alcoholic” label, once self-applied is something you have to wear for the rest of your life like Hester Prynne and her big red “A”. (Yes, her A meant something else, but a label is a label.)
Not for me.
Some would say that I was in denial and that my ego was in the way of my recovery. They would say I was lying to myself and the fact I was rejecting AA meant that I needed it more than ever.
I walked out of that meeting knowing two things.
AA was not my path
I would beat alcohol.
My resolve to continue my journey was strong and I found the next piece to the puzzle by doing something that most people overlook…
PS. I wrote 5 emails like this to help you. It is part of my Self-Driven Sobriety Series.
You can get the rest for free terrygrier.com/email-cou…