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March 6, 2019

Self Medicating – Not an Alcoholic.

I am building an online sobriety class. I would like to reach more people and offer a more customized and flexible schedule to my coaching program.

 

In preparation for building my course I am identifying my ideal client. I sent out a survey to explore this. The results of survey coming in are very contradictory. This might be because I am not a scientific researcher and my questions might suck. The participants are people in my network and not necessarily a random selection.

 

Yet, the themes I am seeing make sense to me.

 

Most people are not self identifying as having a problem with drinking, yet those same people would like help with the consequences from drinking.

 

On one hand the participants report not thinking about their drinking and therefore not seeing it as a problem. On the other hand these same participants admit to often drinking more than they are comfortable with, experiencing hangovers, and struggling with saying no to drinking. Most of the participants would like help, but noone wants anyone to know about it.

 

This makes so much sense to me. Most people (myself included) do not want to be labeled an alcoholic (or drinker, drunk, addict. etc). Quite frankly many also don’t want to be labeled sober (or recovered, clean, etc) either.

 

A study from an the CDC (a source more credible than me) reported 9/10 people who struggle with alcohol are not addicted. How do we categorize this population?  These are the people that I would like to serve. This demographic included me before I got sober one year ago. Gray area drinkers, or sober curious are terms that have been used with some controversy.  

 

How do I reach these people? Is there a label that fits?  

 

When I was finally ready to admit I had a problem with drinking, I used the term self medicating. This term felt safer to me than anything else, when I self reported to a health professional. Self medicating was also the truth. I was drinking to try to help myself, not hurt myself. Everyone I know in this category is attempting the same.

 

I was drinking to lessen my anxiety.

 

I was drinking down my grief, when others were sick of hearing about it and I still wasn’t “over” it. I didn’t want to inconvenience my inner circle with my continued sob story.

 

I was drinking quietly and alone instead of getting mad or having an outburst.

 

Drinking became a helpful habit of my everyday life to blur the edges of my perfectionism.

 

I was drinking to help myself so I wouldn’t burden others.

 

I was drinking as an emotional pain reliever. Wine was medicine. I drank to cure the symptoms of sadness, loneliness, insecurity and boredom.

 

I know I am not alone in this. Drinking was the solution before it became the problem. There was a period of time where wine was an effective solution. That is why I felt so betrayed when it turned on me.

 

Alcohol issues are progressive. You have don’t have your first drink and (BAM! POW!) like a game of chutes and ladders, land on the drinking spectrum… as an alcoholic. And you are not either an alcoholic or free from consequences of drinking. Everyone that drinks alcohol is affected by ingesting ethanol. As a society we don’t see this as a problem. It isn’t until a person’s life is in shambles, that we turn our noses up, because they are the type of person (alcoholic?) that can’t handle the poison. Once the alcoholic is out of control, then we treat addiction. Shame, shame, shame!

 

I would like to serve the 90% of us before we reach that point. It is preventable. Questioning your drinking habits is a healthy choice and something to be celebrated, not something to be shamed. Alcohol is the only drug that we label the user when they quit. That is bullshit. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk!

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Heather Lowe  |  Contribution: 3,770