Top bottom alcoholic

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,



  1. Beautiful, Lily. I am in awe of your courage and honesty. There is nothing you have written here that I can’t relate to 100 percent. Thank you for giving the rest of us an example of how to “own” our stories as well. πŸ’•


    • Thank you. This process is teaching me every day. Right now i see myself so clearly as having been lonely anxious and isolated. Now I am single – but so much less lonely anxious or isolated because I can reach out and I am living authentically . This is what I was looking for that day in March 2016 when I quit . I had no idea of how I would get here – or what it would look like when I did … but this is what I wanted / needed ❀️🌷xxx


  2. THANK YOU. I applaud this because there is this conscious or sometimes unconscious hierarchy of drunkenness or alcoholism with the famed “functioning alcoholic” at the top of the sad food chain. And like you said, “drunk” is the key word. My reaction has always been “functioning compared to what?” It’s a slippery slope, and it always points downwards. The other thing we talk about in recovery is “YET” – I haven’t been arrested. YET. I haven’t gotten into a fight. YET. I haven’t lost my family or home. YET. YET = You’re Eligible Too. (I normally hate acronyms in recovery, but this one is appropriate). I was hitting pretty low, and I really wasn’t too far from being homeless. It would have taken me a little bit more time, but in my haze, I didn’t see it as too bad a proposition, as long as I could keep drinking. Someone who gets ripped on expensive champagne in their penthouse may never see themselves going down that path, but it’s a well worn path.

    Anyways, this is great, and I hope your client gets the help they need. We all needed help.

    Liked by 2 people

    • YET exactly. Not yet. But it could happen and would happen if you can’t quit. Some find this answer earlier in the journey, and sadly some never do- but we are all the same. No off switch ….


  3. Yup. A high bottom drunk is still pretty low functioning as a person. Sad, but true.
    I rationalized a lot of my own behaviour, but I now see it was pure denial.

    I am so much better a human now than ever.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I meant it for myself. Looking back I can remember feeling like I was doing everything..a perfect employee, mom, friend ….and I was wrong. I feel deep sympathy for that me. I was so scared and lost.

        Perhaps it also reminds me how much better sober is.

        Don’t take it as a criticism. Take it as a recognition of how amazing we are now!

        Liked by 1 person

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