A Bitter Bottom – Call It What You Will

SoberMummy’s new post was unexpectedly provoking for me. Quite shortly after I started this blog I wrote that I was wrestling with the concepts of alcoholic and alcoholism, but I did not really draw any conclusions then and, as my reaction to SM’s friend made clear this morning, I have not yet come to terms. I have been kind of mulling over another post following on from the first one about this, and this morning I was all fired up and ready to go. I realised, though, that I was not responding from a healthy place. 

I do believe that there is a lot of work to be done – for myself and in wider discussion – on this important and extremely complex subject, but one of the things that I have been thinking about today is how important it is to tread with care and kindness around matters of identity. How personal, and sacred, our identities are to us, yet they exist almost by definition in the collective. If I am to claim (or reject) alcoholic as part of my own identity, I necessarily enter a shared a space, about which many other people have deep feelings and beliefs.  

The second reason I realised I was not ready to weigh in here is my very personal and emotional response to the post. I believe that I was insanely lucky to come to sobriety when and how I did. By grace, my drinking has been without obvious or evidently irreparable consequences. No dui’s, no great physical harm to myself and none to my kids, and my marriage has survived despite my neglect and selfishness. Indeed, in these (still) early days of my new life and as I begin to reckon with my past, my husband’s love and steadfastness are gifts whose magnitude and generosity I can hardly bear to contemplate. 

Before I stopped drinking my thinking went along the lines of, “As long as I don’t get to the point of being an actual alcoholic, I won’t have to stop completely. Forever. How awful that must be.” Today I saw clearly how dangerous this is. On some secretsecretsecret level, I have been telling myself that I stopped in time. I stopped before I became an alcoholic. All these weeks of doing all this work of not drinking and I have been holding open a little escape hatch. I’ve been setting myself up to fail. 

What I am sitting with tonight is this. Whether or not I claim this identity, however complex and nuanced it is, it is not one of degree. I was bad enough. I was sad enough. I was sick enough. I was hurting myself and my family enough and enough was too, too much. 

I intended including the story of my “bottom” moment in this post (hence its title) as part of the process of really cementing for myself what my drinking was like and why this fragile sobriety is so precious and utterly essential to the life I want for myself and my family, but I have run out of day and steam. I need to do it, and I think I need to post it here as I don’t seem to have quite got the hang of being totally honest with myself, but it will keep for another day. Today is day 57, and I am so very grateful to be here. 

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15 thoughts on “A Bitter Bottom – Call It What You Will”

      1. I’d rather have commented more than that, but it’s after 3am here and although this must be my insomnia night, I do need to sleep lol. I wanted you to know I’d read it, and that I am rooting for you!

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  1. The most important thing for a path to sobriety is that you know on a visceral level that your brain pathways have been permanently altered and that ‘normal drinking’ is not an option anymore. This is where AA is very useful becasue you admit that you have no control over it and that you can never return to normal drinking. It’s a definite statement and admission and leaves no back doors open to thinking you are taking a ‘break’ and can then try to drink again. I know for myself that this is the case, Lord I’ve done enough drinking research to know this. Still I have trouble with calling it a desease and also getting up in meetings and identifying myself as an alcoholic. The issue lies (for me anyway) in the ‘overidentification’ with a disease model of recovery. The words are anctually just words, it’s the meaning we attach to them that hold the power. Smart recovery resonates more strongly with me. Having said that I firmly believe that where AA is really helful is that it is very clear that that you can never return to normal drinking which is what a lot of ‘problem drinkers’ try to do because they havent made the admission of being an alcoholic.

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  2. The World Health Organisation hasn’t used the term ‘alcoholic’ or ‘alcoholism’ since 1979. Time the rest of the world caught up?!

    (With the usual caveat that you can call yourself whatever you damn well like if it helps you stay sober.) xx

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    1. 🤗 Thanks Prim. I think sometimes words get kind of “used up” – so much weight and energy gets attached to them that they don’t mean what they are supposed to any more. For the time being I am pretty happy to call myself Jade (which is my name!) and sober. Happy Friday to you! xx

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