This is something I have been musing on pretty frequently since my friend posted this
When I stopped drinking I still had a job, a partner a home, an income, my professional position, my health and my friends. I was not an abusive or angry drunk, and had never been in trouble for drinking. I never drank at work, I never knowingly drove over the limit, I never missed work because I was hungover.
But, I drank in excess of 70 units a week. I was not 'there' emotionally for my children, i avoided the unpleasant situation in my home by drinking, I was regularly hung over and struggled to do what was expected of me.
I felt anxious all the time that one little error could bring the whole thing tumbling down. i was terrified that one morning i would have a small car bump, be breathalyzed and be over the limit. i would be disqualified from driving, my regulatory body would suspend me, i would lose my job and income and the house…
I felt anxious that I was not a good mother because I was not parenting my children as I should, not only settling a terrible example by drinking every night – but by allowing my ExP to be unkind to them. My kids regularly saw that I was drunk, I put my self in vulnerable situations countless time – the last time, being very rink at Kings Cross station ( for those not in London its not a nice part of town) with no idea what train to get home. I put myself at risk by falling over, by some extraordinary good fortune I never seriously inured myself.
I cried a lot. I cried when I was drunk because it released the pent up anger and desperation inside me. One Christmas I cried all over my lovely sister in law, who tried to ask me what was wrong. I had no answer, just kept crying. Drunk crying. Desperately unhappy crying, to someone I love, who I know would have supported me, but I was unable to confide in.
Lonliness actually permeating every aspect of my life, all my relationships, because I could not be honest. Alone, with my anxiousness, my worry about drinking, about my children, about my shitty deteriorating relationship. Just alone. And wine as my only solution.
Is this a "top bottom" drunk ?
Last week I saw a patient I know well. I am conscious that although i write under a pseudonym, I must not break confidentiality, so I will change some details and be brief to make my point. My patient (gender unspecified) has multiple addictions. They are younger than I and have been intermittently very engaged with trying to control / stop their habits over the time. Have known them. I have supported as best I can and directed them to fellowship organisations which that have engaged with, again intermittently. About 4 weeks ago my patient hit " rock bottom". The addictions had spiralled out of control, leading to exactly the consequences I had feared might happen to me. Nit for the first time, we had a blunt conversation – the patient sees that I too am an addict , and knew this instinctively because of the way I spoke to them. They are now, I believe in a highly recommended residential rehab unit, which I sincerely hope will provide a good chance of sustained sobriety.
I cannot help but draw parallels. This was a "low bottom drunk" – though it could have been worse. I was one little step away from the same. Not better, not less of an addict, not wiser, not anything, just an addict who grabbed the chance – by luck- sooner.
I used to talk to fellow addicts ( via then internet) about the "train" of addiction. How we are all on the same journey. The terminus is death, on the way are stations "debt" ; broken relationships; lost career; fractured friendships; shame; injury etc …. but you can get off the train at any time – it's a choice; but if you do not- ultimately you will die.
I, with my professional job, my secure home, am no Better ( and no worse) than my patient, or he other patient I care for with end stage liver disease secondary to alcohol abuse. If I get back on that train, I will go there too. I'm just lucky I was able to get off earlier.
I am no less an alcoholic because I did not. Overtly show signs of such. Because no one "knew", I was an alcoholic from the day I was born and certainly from my first encounter with alcohol aged 14 or so ( disgraced myself at a Church Harvest supper by being drunk) I have been LUCKY, though I also live with the shame of many many things I did whilst drunk.
"Top bottom drunk" – the key word is drunk … and that's it …. and I must never forget it,