Asking myself the right questions helped me make a change

DK | July 2019 | 7 minutes

In this blog, DK discusses his fear of the labels associated with heavy drinking, and how he managed to make a change after he stopped asking 'do I drink too much?'

Questioning the amount of alcohol you drink, how frequently you drink it, and your reasons for drinking can be a daunting task. Often we do these self-assessments after we suffer negative consequences from our drinking, like not remembering everything from the night before, making questionable decisions, or feeling physically unwell the day after.

If you have ever thought, ‘Do I drink too much?’ like I did, you probably thought of drinking in terms of a range or spectrum. For me, my drinking spectrum had casual drinking on one end, then some large middle area, and then ‘problem drinking’ on the far end. That far end of ‘problem drinking’ seemed like a very distant and miserable place – it looked like an island very far from my current state, populated with the likes of loss of job, divorce, jail, and other awful consequences that I didn’t feel I was anywhere near. So I (naturally) viewed myself and my own drinking habits as far away from it as possible.

"I was rationalising my alcohol consumption because I was terrified of the labels associated with problem drinking..."

What I failed to consider was that the drinking spectrum I used for myself did not correspond with reality. I was rationalising my alcohol consumption because I was terrified of the labels associated with problem drinking: an alcoholic, addict. As a result of this, I made sure the answer to ‘Do I drink too much?’ placed me anywhere but the area of problem drinking.

I was actually asking myself the wrong question completely, because I was fearful of an undesirable outcome. If I fell into an area of drinking associated with those labels I didn’t want to see myself as, then what? Would I have to do something? I considered myself to be somewhat normal with my alcohol consumption - I certainly didn’t want to make any life changes based on falling into a category I didn’t like or understand. There was one question, however, that I could not dispute the answer to: was I doing anything on a regular basis that was screwing up my life? The answer to this question was yes: drinking alcohol.

My drinking had turned from a fun social activity to something of an emotional crutch for me somewhere along the line. My personal relationships were suffering, my work performance was lower, my physical health was declining, and my finances were strained from purchasing alcohol. I decided to write these negative consequences down on paper, and I noticed that my relationship with alcohol was very unbalanced. My personal suffering and consequences were greatly outweighing my perceived ‘fun’ and benefits of consuming alcohol.

It became clear to me that regardless of labels, taking steps to address my drinking seemed like a reasonable place to start improving my life.

"Was I doing anything on a regular basis that was screwing up my life? The answer to this question was yes: drinking alcohol."

This realization didn’t feel like a traditional ‘rock bottom moment’ that some speak of. Rather, the negative consequences of my drinking had just become unacceptable to me and based on that fact I made a decision to take action to change my daily life - to live a balanced life that didn’t revolve around drinking. I decided I wanted to try sobriety for 90 days, and find a therapist to examine the personal reasons for my excessive drinking. Being honest with myself and not caring about labels allowed me to schedule a visit to the doctor for the first time in a very long time, and to tell them how much I was actually drinking and the changes I wanted to make. I was shocked when I wasn’t shamed for my over-indulgence but rather praised for wanting to make changes for a healthier me. I found support groups, surrounded myself with sober people and opened myself up to new ideas. I found that committing to 90 days gave me a workable goal that didn’t terrify me, yet sufficiently motivated me to strive towards it.

I viewed my drinking as acceptable when the negative consequences in my life suggested a different story. Being honest with myself was a challenge, but in the end it motivated me to take action to change my relationship with alcohol and improve my life. I learned the most important conversation you will ever have is the one you have with yourself each and every single day. Make it an honest one, and stay strong.