I tried to get sober for two years before I achieved long term sobriety. When I was first trying to quit, I went to Alcoholic Anonymous. In order to participate in the meetings you have to introduce yourself by saying, “Hi my name is Christina and I’m an alcoholic.”
Labeling myself as an alcoholic didn’t bother me at first. I was so desperate I was willing to do whatever it took. I continued to identify this way until recently. At 644 days sober this label doesn’t seem to fit anymore.
Two years ago, when I first started using it, I felt relieved. I finally had a term that explained why I can’t drink like other people. It explained why I can’t just have one drink. I had found a community of people who understood me and didn’t judge my past.
As time went on, I started to feel more uncomfortable calling myself an alcoholic. But, I brushed off the feeling, I didn’t listen to myself. I had learned in the rooms of AA that if I didn’t remind myself daily of this affliction, I was at risk of drinking again.
Once I got still and paid attention to what I was feeling, I realized that labeling myself an alcoholic left me feeling guilty, like a victim, and that this was a life sentence I was stuck with.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that alcohol is an addictive substance and some people are more prone to struggling with it than others. For the longest time I felt that it was my fault that I couldn’t drink. I felt that it was a moral failing of mine.
Being an alcoholic became an unhealthy identity for me. I started living in fear of relapse. I believed that I’d never be able to live a “normal” life again. I couldn’t go to parties, restaurants, or be around people that were drinking. My life felt like a prison sentence.
I have a diagnosis of bipolar 2 and generalized anxiety disorder. I don’t walk around saying that I’m a bipolar or anxious person. Those are just two mental health conditions that I’m living with and managing. I feel the same way about my struggle with alcohol.
Labeling myself an alcoholic doesn’t serve me anymore, so I’ve stopped using the term. I love this quote by Holly Whitaker, “When we hold tight to an idea of, “I’m just this way,” we settle for being this way. “Hi, I’m Holly and I’m an alcoholic,” ensures that I will remain in the mind space of something I don’t even do anymore.”
I’ve quit drinking for good, that’s not who I am anymore. Identifying as an alcoholic is a negative, limiting term for me, so I’m dropping it. I am SO much more than that.