This was originally published on The Fix.
Before admitting I had a problem with alcohol, I spent a lot of time and energy denying that problem. Through meaningless hookups, nights I didn’t remember and alcohol-inflicted injuries, I was still adamant that alcohol was not the problem. In fact, everything but alcohol was blamed for the experiences I had while drinking.
Now, three years sober and looking back, there were many situations I often found myself in while drinking that other people did not. These experiences should have been a sign that my drinking habits weren’t normal, but I refused to see them as much. The following is a list of situations that may indicate your drinking habits are not healthy.
1. You often don’t remember parts of the night before, or can’t recall the night as a whole. I know when I was drinking, I often brushed this off as normal, even comical in a way. But now if I stop and think about it for a moment, it’s absolutely terrifying that I have moments in my life where I have no idea what happened to me. For all I know, I could have said something awful or had something awful happen to me. One time I went to a party and the person hosting it was incredibly upset with me, yet I had no idea why. I still have no idea why. All I know is it had to do with something I said when I was blackout drunk, and I never found out what that was. That’s bothersome. If not recalling parts of the timeframe when you were drinking doesn’t bother you, I urge you to reconsider. It SHOULD bother you.
2. You engage in meaningless hookups or wake up with a stranger. I don’t often talk about this because it embarrasses me still, but when I was drinking, I sought reassurance and validation through hookups. I saw it happening all around me, so I didn’t think anything of it when I also took part in that college hookup culture. I’m lucky no one ever took advantage of me, at least not that I know of (see number 1 above), but it’s still really unsettling to think I physically engaged with people I barely knew, or knew well and didn’t think of romantically. Today, physical aspects of a relationship are important to me and really, truly mean something. I despise the fact that I wasted time and energy on meaningless hookups when I was drinking. It was yet another repetitive situation that should have clued me into the fact that alcohol and I did not mesh.
3. You often wake up with physical injuries. Most people can spend a night out drinking without falling repeatedly or running into objects around them. But not me. After I spent a night out drinking, I often woke up covered in bruises with no recollection of how I got them. At one point, I ended up in the hospital for stitches. At another point, I woke up with self-inflicted cuts on my arms and no reason for my actions. On top of heavy drinking, I played rugby, so I was often covered in bruises everywhere and just had a general unhealthy appearance. I look at photos now and cringe. When alcohol begins to take a toll on your physical appearance and well-being, it’s time to part ways. I only wish I had come to that conclusion sooner than I did.
4. You do anything it takes to get a drink. Since I got sober before turning 21, I couldn’t always obtain alcohol easily. As such, I had to rely on others and was probably a pain in the ass about it. I stole alcohol from friends occasionally, and paid others to buy alcohol for me. I honestly didn’t care what it took, I just wanted to have alcohol at my disposal. Now I realize that most people don’t have this desperation when it comes to drinking. That feeling of “needing” alcohol was yet another indication that I had a serious problem.
5. You drink in inappropriate situations. For me, this was class. There were days in college when I felt like drinking, so I did. Then I went to class, thinking I was being sneaky and no one would know I had drank beforehand. In retrospect, I’m sure my pre-class actions were obvious. I felt that alcohol made me a better and more interesting person, so I drank. In reality, alcohol made me obnoxious and annoying, but I refused to see that side of myself. I felt good when I drank, so I just assumed it came across that way to others as well.
6. You wake up the morning after a night out and have to make apologies to numerous people. I always dreaded this part of the next morning after drinking. I often said and did things that I didn’t mean when under the influence of alcohol, and as such, had to make amends the following morning. Sometimes I remembered doing what I had done, while other times people had to tell me what had happened. It never got any easier knowing I had hurt people I cared about, yet that realization didn’t keep me from drinking. It should have, though.
7. Your relationships begin to take a toll. Towards the end of my drinking career, I had burned many bridges. Certain friendships had ended, while others were on the brink of falling out. Luckily, sobriety had allowed me to repair many of those relationships. However, I shouldn’t have let it get to that point. The minute my relationships started being negatively affected by alcohol, I should have said “enough” and put down the drinks for good. But in that timeframe, I cared more about getting drunk than I did about the people surrounding me. I regret that immensely, even three years later.
The frustrating truth is that often, when drinking, these situations don’t seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But when they become normal occurrences, I urge you to step back and examine your relationship with alcohol before it’s too late. You, like me, may be better off saying farewell to alcohol for good.