You Relapse Because You are an Alcoholic So Stop Being an Alcoholic

I’ve met plenty of people who have managed to move from being an alcoholic to being a “recovering alcoholic”. These individuals have found something that works for them, and they can inspire other people to do the same. I’m not directing this post at those folks who have made a good life as a recovering alcoholic, but at those people who keep on relapsing because they believe they are an alcoholic. I was once one of these people .

Why I Gave Up Being an Alcoholic

This idea of being a “recovering alcoholic” did not work for me. It meant that during those times when I did manage to stay sober, it felt like I was hanging on for dear life. I embraced the story that alcoholism is an incurable disease with gusto because it gave me a free pass to keep on messing up in life. It meant that I could turn around to loved ones, usually after I relapsed, and tell them, “of course, I’m drinking again I’m an alcoholic – duh” without the slightest sense of shame. It meant that whether I was drinking or not drinking my life revolved around alcohol.

I managed to quit alcohol for 2 years during my twenties with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have some great memories from that time, and I met some wonderful people. I still have a great deal of respect for that program, but I also know that being a “recovering alcoholic” does not work for me. I tried to buy into the idea that all I could hope for was a daily reprieve, but this kept the door open for alcohol, and it meant that I never felt truly free. I felt grateful to be sober, but there was also this uneasiness that comes from holding beliefs that just weren’t right for me. The truth about the “I’m an alcoholic ”story is that it can be used just as easily to justify being a drunk as it can to help people recover from this life.

If Defeating Alcoholism is Proving Too Hard, Just Stop Being a Drunk

I found that being a recovering alcoholic involved way too much hard work. I eventually discovered a solution that worked perfectly for me – I stopped being a drunk. This meant that walking away from addiction became easy, and I’ve never looked back. I went from struggling for two decades with alcoholism to it just being something that I don’t do anymore. I no more believe that I have a daily reprieve from alcoholism, than I believe that I have a daily reprieve from sticking my hand in the fire. I gave up being an alcoholic and everything that went with it – my life has become so much better as a result.

I still sometimes suggest to people that they give groups like Alcoholics Anonymous a try – it might just be the thing that works for them. It is obvious to me though, that being a “recovering alcoholic” is not something that works for everyone. I’m directing this post to those folks who are going through what I went through. I’m suggesting that those individuals who keep relapsing because they are an alcoholic should try not being an alcoholic. They may be amazed at how successful this approach can be for them.

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8 thoughts on “You Relapse Because You are an Alcoholic So Stop Being an Alcoholic

  1. Hi Paul,
    I am totally sharing your thoughts. I have tried AA few times (when I was younger), but it is not for me. I would like to think that I am so much more than (just) an ‘alcoholic’. I think we all are so much more, even if we can not control our drinking. I am aiming to find my freedom, and I am slowly getting there. I do not want to live in prison of addiction for the rest of my life. I hope that soon I will manage to do what you did, to walk away from my addiction.

    Recently I have been thinking a lot this pattern of relapse, excuses and guiltiness. Yes, there is guiltiness when I drink, but behind it there is this idea of ‘helplessness’, as you described. ‘Of course I was drinking again because I can not do anything about it’. I am starting to feel very bored with this, and I hope that I could feel some HEALTHY guiltiness. To see my own part in my drinking. I don’t want to be a victim anymore (alcohol, escaping, etc.). I just would like to walk away from my addiction.
    Thank you for your great writings on this subject, please keep on writing!!

    1. Thank Katriina, I can understand what you mean about being “more than an alcoholic”. This is something that used to bother me when I used AA. I remember talking to my non-AA friends as if everything important about me could be fit inside that discription. It was crazy – I didn’t have problems like other people because I had special alcoholic problems.

      I think that we can make recovery from addiction way too complicated. In order for me to stop being a drunk, I just had to remove alcohol as an option in my life.

  2. Hi Paul,

    I love the simplicity of just removing alcohol from one’s life, and of course the operative work is “remove”. However, I see two problems. 1. Those who don’t see themselves as an alcoholic, but can’t handle how far alcohol takes them. 2. The problem is they can’t “remove” alcohol from their life for whatever reason, and thus the deadly cycle begins.

    I know I have no business commenting because I have never experienced this, but some people very close to me struggle with this problem and I’m helpless to help.
    angelina recently posted..In Search of a Bowl of Sunshine

    1. Hi Angelina, you have every business to comment on this topic, as it is something that impacts your life. I felt hopeless for many years. For much of this time I was too caught up in my own bullshit for anyone to be able to help me. I liked being an alcoholic because it gave me an excuse to continue what I was doing.

      It is very hard to help someone who doesn’t believe they have a problem. Until they can fully realise that quitting alcohol will be much better for them than continuing with alcohol, it will be a real struggle for them to quit. Even people who do not have a physical addiction can really struggle to change, so an alcoholic needs a particularly good motivation. It can be very difficult to convince someone trapped in addiction that their life will get better because their self-esteem will have received a hammering. One way to encourage people like this is for them to meet people who are already happily sober – books and videos might also help.

      I once believed that I was incapable of removing alcohol from my life. One time after being told my liver was damaged, I went straight to the pub. By the end I had almost given up. It was only by realising that I did have a choice that I was able to change.

      Angelina, this must be a pretty intolerable situation for your family. I wish I knew something that you could tell her that would make her stop. She needs to want to quit.

      Paul

      Update Hi Angelina, I wasn’t very satisfied with my response here. I made this video reply that is closer to what I want to say http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8rfTs9n0QY

  3. This is a fantastic article and is just what i needed to read, I’ve been relapsing in AA for over 10 years, and even though i always end up extremely sick, bewildered and confused each time, I am saying to myself ‘ahh sure its not surprising really, because after all I am an alcoholic’ as if that explains my crazy behaviour, and i just try and start all over again, ‘this time it will be different, i’ll be able to stay sober forever this time’ and i go back to my AA meetings with renewed vigour and enthusiasm, but nothing is changing and i have been going round in circles wondering each time ‘what am i missing?’, ive tried to start the 12 steps but couldnt stay sober for long enough to get much into or out of them. And like you, even though I have great respect & for AA & the wonderful people there, i wonder is there some other approach i could try that might suit me more. Ive learned an immense amount from AA, and will be forever grateful, whether i keep going to meetings or not, but I would like to take the spirit from your article above and just walk away from the whole madness, the delusion that i will never be ‘normal’ doesnt appeal to me either, and just put it all down to wild youthfulness, and just try and say its time to try something different now in my life. But yeah, i find the label of being alcoholic makes it so acceptable to myself to allow me to relapse over and over and over again, it just doesnt seem to work for me, and as Katriina says, i am much much more than an alcoholic, and as she also says ‘please keep on writing!’ thanks Paul 🙂

    1. Hi Shane, I always felt like I was fighting alcohol – even when I wasn’t drinking. In the end I just couldn’t fight anymore. Your post reminds me of just how disappointing it felt to keep on losing that fight. It never occurred to me that I should just stop fighting 🙂 I also have a great deal of respect for AA, but I just don’t want to be an alcoholic anymore – even a recovering one. That shit just isn’t part of my life anymore. I don’t know what’s right for you, but I just hope you can walk completely away from alcohol because it sounds like you are already fed up thinking about it – just like I was.

  4. Hi Paul,

    I’m a first time poster, but I’m not an alcoholic, I’m currently struggling with porn addiction, I keep on relapsing when I say that I will quit, and develop a plan after I relapse. How did you deal with the withdrawal symptoms and the cravings that occur from time to time when you had that mindset of ‘quitting being an alcoholic’ out of interest?

    1. Hi Tom, I think cravings and withdrawal symptoms are only a problem when we believe there is the option to not have them. It’s like having the flu, we just get on with things as best we can because there is no other option. The thing that makes withdrawals so difficult is not usually that the symptoms are so severe but that we know how easy it would be to escape them. When I stopped being an alcoholic, I removed the relapse option from my life. I didn’t struggle with withdrawals or cravings because I now knew there was no choice involved.

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