When you’re an active alcoholic, denial can be a powerful thing. We justify our actions and our decisions that we otherwise wouldn’t be making if we were sober. From the outside looking in, I didn’t appear to be the stereotypical alcoholic. I had a job, paid my rent, had relationships and friends, and generally kept it together. Many people even told me when I got sober that there was no way I could have any issues with alcoholism. I’m not surprised they felt that way because there are so many misconceptions about what exactly qualifies as an alcohol addiction. In my experience, I exhibited many red flags that I chose to ignore.
Alcoholism Red Flag 1. Constant blackouts
From the first time I started drinking, blackouts and spotty memories became my norm. This scared me, but I was led to believe it was normal. In college, I thought everyone blacked out, even though my friends found it hard to believe that I didn’t remember anything on a lot of nights. They would ask me in disbelief, “nothing? You don’t remember anything?” Nope. Every time I would go out with the intention not to black out, chances are I would end up blacking out at least part of the night. I know now that blackouts are a sure sign of alcohol misuse and it was a factor in my drinking I denied for a long time.
Alcoholism Red Flag 2. Switching to jobs that made it easier to drink
I was a frequent job-switcher. If an employment situation didn’t suit my party schedule, I quickly changed it and moved onto the next thing. When I lived in Ocean City, Maryland for the summer in 2008, I ended up quitting my job because it required that I get up early in the morning and I knew I would end up getting fired for being late or missing work. When I did make it in, I was hungover and unable to do my job to the best of my ability. I ended up getting a night job that involved giving out free alcohol at different bars and nightclubs. When I lived in Cancun, I got a work-from-home job that allowed me to go out and work from home nursing hangovers almost every day. It wasn’t healthy, yet I didn’t see anything wrong with it at the time.
Alcoholism Red Flag 3. Using cocaine to drink more
Another technique I used to drink more alcohol was taking cocaine. The drug allowed me to avoid blackouts on many occasions and drink more and stay out later. Cocaine wakes you up and makes you feel sober, and I used this to my advantage. While it worked for a while, I also became hooked on the feelings cocaine gave me and wanted more of that in addition to alcohol. It was a lose-lose situation, and I should have been deeply concerned that I was abusing other substances just to help me drink more.
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Alcoholism Red Flag 4. Driving under the influence
I hate admitting this, but it’s the truth. During my drinking years, I did not hesitate to drive under the influence of alcohol. Even if I was so drunk that I was in no way capable of driving, if I felt like I was fine and I had my car with me, I would drive. I put myself and others in danger. I was even pulled over once by the police, and they took my car and made me get a ride home. For some reason, they did not breathalyze me or give me a DUI. Although I panicked and experienced regret for a few days after this incident, it was not the last time I drank and drove. This was a clear sign I had a problem with alcoholism.
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Alcoholism Red Flag 5. I couldn’t have fun sober
I was always the first one to bring up alcohol – at events, dinners, birthday parties, girls’ nights, and et cetera. You name it, and I thought alcohol needed to be present. If drinking wasn’t involved, what was the point? I didn’t see one. It was because I could not have fun without drinking. Most normal drinkers can have fun without drinking or attend events and abstain from drinking once in a while, but I couldn’t do this. In my mind, I needed alcohol to let loose and make it a good time.
Looking back, I can see these were all red flags that showed my alcoholism, but when I was living through it I was blind to them. Consider your situation, do you experience these situations? Are you denying the impact alcohol has on you? It’s a relief when we can finally get honest with ourselves and get sober.