“When it comes to alcohol, I was a late bloomer. While my friends were knocking back beer, wine and cocktails in clubs when they were in their early 20s, I was sipping on soft drinks and water. I had my first alcoholic drink when I was about 28, when I started a new job.
It was a stressful environment to work in, and the way my colleagues and I relaxed was to go out for drinks a couple of times a week after work. At first I stuck to mocktails and soft drinks, but one night I decided to try a sweet, alcoholic cocktail, and from that point on I was hooked.
The start of a drinking problem
My first cocktail was delicious – it tasted like a fruity milkshake – but it also gave me a buzz that I’d never experienced before. I ordered two, and by the time I was ready to go home I felt incredibly relaxed and happy. It was an antidote to the long, tiring day I’d had at the office.
Over the next few months I couldn’t resist having that same cocktail whenever my team and I went for Happy Hour. Pretty soon, though, I began ordering other alcoholic drinks, eventually progressing to ‘harder’, stronger ones like whisky on the rocks, Long Island Tea, vodka ‘neat’, and martinis, because the sweet, mild drinks just didn’t do it for me anymore.
I got drunk a few times with my colleagues so I learnt to pace myself. But after a couple of years I had built up a tolerance to alcohol because I found that I could drink more without feeling sick or tipsy. But I also had to drink more in order to feel that buzz.
My drinking didn’t just take place with my co-workers and friends in bars after work. Soon I began buying bottles of wine to drink at home by myself. I also found myself drinking beer at family functions, much to the surprise of my relatives, who commented that they had no idea I drank alcohol.
In addition, my job entailed having lunch or dinner with clients and, more often than not, there was always alcohol present. This made it hard for me to go without.
No one has a clue about my alcohol dependency
I guess I’m what medical experts would call a binge drinker. Since my first drink six years ago, I don’t think I’ve gone more than a few days without drinking something alcoholic. I drink even when I’m sick and on medication.
These days, I find it impossible to get through the day without a drink. And the more stressful my workday is, the greater my need to have something alcoholic after office hours. Lately I’ve even taken to adding a shot of whisky to my morning coffee if I know it’s going to be a bad or difficult day at work, simply because it relaxes me.
Nobody knows how dependent I’ve become on alcohol. Everyone, including my own family, knows that I drink quite a bit, but I don’t think anyone’s aware just how heavy a drinker I am. I once got very drunk at a cousin’s wedding but nobody said anything because I wasn’t the only one who had been drinking a lot.
Fortunately I do hide my problem quite well from my family and bosses. I am not constantly reeking of alcohol, nor do I have a perpetual hangover. Once in a while, though, I’ll throw up, but that only happens when I’ve gone overboard or mixed my drinks.
Recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve been using alcohol to cope with personal issues. After my grandmother passed away several months ago, I was so depressed that I took to drinking about a bottle of wine a day for a few weeks. If I didn’t drink, I found it hard to fall asleep at night.
And when I got into an argument with a friend one afternoon, instead of going somewhere to calm down I headed straight for a bar near my place and drank three gin and tonics in under an hour. Whatever the problem, drinking is now my solution to feeling better, blowing off steam and decompressing. When I’m in social situations, I find that drinking also loosens me up and makes me feel more outgoing.
A habit that’s hard to shake
As I approach my late-30s I’ve seriously been considering quitting alcohol or getting help for my dependency. I fear that the problem may worsen as my job and personal life become more complicated. I just started dating someone whom I feel I might marry. What if we decide to start a family? Will my drinking problem affect my ability to conceive?
My boyfriend knows that I binge drink, but he doesn’t know how often this occurs. He once commented that I drink too much and suggested I cut back, and I promised him that I would at some point. When he and I are together, I try not to have more than a couple of drinks because I don’t want him to judge me further.
A few weekends ago I experienced a blackout from a binge drink session. I’d had a few pretty lethal cocktails and several glasses of wine. When I got home I felt dizzy and collapsed, but not before vomiting my guts out in the bathroom. I guess it didn’t help that I’d drunk on an empty stomach. When I woke up the next morning I couldn’t remember much of what had taken place the night before. That scared me a little.
I’m also concerned about the weight I’ve been putting on. In the last couple of years I’ve gained eight kilos that no amount of exercise seems to be able to shift. I’m convinced that this extra weight is all from the alcohol.
I do admit that I need help because I fear that my dependency will take over my life. At the same time, I can’t imagine a life without alcohol and how I’ll cope if I can’t drink anymore or have to cut back drastically. A part of me wishes that someone would discover the extent of my problem and drag me to a doctor or rehab facility.”