Alcoholism kills; there is no doubt about that.
There are many ways an alcoholic can die; cirrhosis of the liver, a drunk related accident or some other horrible alcohol related illness.
This is just science.
If you drink enough, for long enough, one of these things will get you.
But that isn’t what really kills alcoholics.
What really kills them is; pride, fear and loneliness.
These things destroy more alcoholics than anything else.
I know, my loneliness and fear almost destroyed me.
Before I got sober, I truly believed I was the only person who had ever been frightened or lonely. It was a shock to discover that many other people, not just alcoholics, felt this way too.
It was also kind of a relief, because then I knew I wasn’t alone.
And that was a big thing for me, because at 27 years of age I was dying of loneliness.
I so desperately wanted to be part of something, to be included, to belong, but everything I did took me further and further away from people.
As an an only child I was good at being on my own. But because of this I yearned to be part of a group. I would look around at large families and groups and envy how they all seemed to fit together, how they communicated without words, their shared history.
I was always outgoing and because I moved around a lot, I learnt to make friends quickly, so on the outside it didn’t look like I was a loner.
But as a child and teenager I always felt like there was a glass screen between me and everyone else. I now know this feeling of separation is a common experience for many alcoholics.
The more apart I felt, the more it hurt and I discovered alcohol was the perfect solution to this.
When drinking I was always part of the crowd, always the life and soul of the party. I loved it, I lived for it. Then came the crushing horror of the next day when I couldn’t remember what I did or said, and with it the feelings of shame and embarrassment. When you feel like that, you don’t want to be around people. So I would isolate make excuses, push people away.
And so begins the aching loneliness of an alcoholic.
I remember one time, I was about 25 and had just broken up with a guy I was dating. Or rather he escaped from the hostage situation I’d put him in.
The prospect of a 3-day weekend opened up in front of me, with nothing to fill it. No one to see, nowhere to go, no plans, nothing.
I woke up on the Saturday morning and went out to get some wine. I never drank that early. I knew I was crossing a line but I didn’t care, the dark specter of loneliness was threatening to crush me and I needed something to keep it at bay. I got drunk that day, lying on the sofa watching ‘Friends’ re-runs and by the time the evening came around I had made the decision I was going to kill myself.
I came to the conclusion that this was the only option I had to stop hurting. So I took an overdose of my prescribed anti-depressants and laid down.
About an hour later I changed my mind and called an ambulance.
Thus I spent a holiday weekend in the Emergency room drinking some black tar stuff and flirting with the drunken young men who came in and out with various bar related injuries. It was almost quiet jolly, lots of people to talk to.
The hospital tried to keep me in over night but I got bored and left. By then it was Sunday and most of the weekend had passed and I felt better. I had just wanted some company.
My loneliness was no ones fault but my own. I had made myself so unattractive to people and pushed everyone away, that my only consistent friend was the booze.
I didn’t take an overdose that day because I was drunk and didn’t know what I was doing.
I took an overdose because I couldn’t bare the loneliness and drink gave me the courage to try.
But like most alcoholics I really didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live.
Life was my problem, not drinking.
My drinking didn’t cause me to be a lonely, frightened, insecure mess. I drank because I was a lonely, frightened, insecure mess.
The first thing I did was to quit drinking, then I started a process to get to know myself better and understand why I felt the way I did. After that I started the journey of filling the gaping hole inside of me with something else other than alcohol.
Things began to change and I wasn’t lonely anymore, I haven’t been lonely for a very long time.
So, if you are lonely too, I want you to know it is possible to change, it is possible to belong to the world again.
Because I did, I know you can too.
You can read more on how fear affects alcoholics here.