Labelling human beings is not good. Once you have been pigeon holed by society it is extraordinarily difficult to rid yourself of that tag and carve out a new definition of who you are.
In the early weeks of my new teetotal life I came to the conclusion that I was ‘an alcoholic.’ I remember clear as day admitting this terrible truth to myself, something I had been shying away from for years, and finally, crushingly, wearily nodding in quiet acceptance of the fact that I was diseased and would forever be a troubled soul who needed to rebuff all temptation of alcohol in order to avoid the dreaded relapse.
My self-esteem was at an all-time low back then. Labelling myself ‘an alcoholic’ only added fuel to the fire as the word evoked feelings of failure and weakness. I was consumed with a sense of powerlessness but plodded on regardless with my desire to live in sobriety, hoping that eventually I would feel something more than abject misery.
As the weeks turned into months I changed my perspective and I now look back on my drinking years as a couple of decades in which I drank way too much and was most definitely dependant (emotionally and mentally) upon, and probably rather in love with, alcohol. When I stopped drinking I experienced no physical withdrawal symptoms, merely a tough internal battle to rid myself of the mental cravings and urges that I had relented to for so many years and were therefore pretty difficult to overcome. For a fairly long period, maybe a year, I also had to discover who I really was beneath the booze, learn to deal with my emotions like a grown-up instead of pouring anaesthetic liquid down my neck at the slightest sign of trouble, overcome a multitude of regrets and develop interests in activities other than boozing in order to fill my time.
In weaving my way through the jungle of emotional baggage I’d acquired as someone who drinks too much, I slowly became a non-addicted human being, free of dependencies on any mind-altering substances, just a regular person who sees life through the untainted lens of sober vision. I dropped the notion that I was and always would be ‘an alcoholic,’ as the idea that you are suffering from an addiction when you haven’t touched the substance in question for two years and have absolutely no desire to ever do so again just seems plain weird.
I am in no doubt that if I had a drink then I would be back where I started from pretty quickly, but in the same way that someone with a nut allergy would avoid nuts like the plague but never label themselves a ‘nut addict’ for doing so, I cannot conceive of being an ‘alcoholic’ purely on the basis that I know now that alcohol and I do not mix, and will never do so.
If you have recently begun living (or are considering doing so) a healthy alcohol-free life then I would avoid labelling yourself ‘an alcoholic.’ It is a damaging term that is rife with negative connotations and which often sparks off prejudices that are difficult to fight, particularly when you are already at a low ebb. Referring to yourself in that way can also help consolidate the idea that you are powerless to a disease, when in reality you are master or mistress of your own destiny – YOU can decide to stop drinking, and in doing so you will learn to overcome the mental or emotional dependency that you have on alcohol.
In the end, ‘alcoholic’ is just a word so ask yourself the question of what’s more important; an arbitrary collection of letters or having the best possible chance at living happily and free of a dependency on anything, but you?