What if We Are the Normal Ones?

Nearly all of the blogs, forum posts and articles I read about other people’s journeys away from drinking and through sobriety involve some sort of revelation that they simply couldn’t drink like normal people can. At some point or another, these people realize that there is something wrong with them – they’re the only ones who are taking extra shots at the party, or they’re the only one of their friends who wants to keep drinking after bar close. They feel like they’re the only person they know who is withering away beneath the weight of horrible hangovers, all-day recovery sessions, and binge-drinking happy hours in the same 24-hour period.

Soon enough, they realize that they’re breaking all the rules they set for themselves to keep from crossing the invisible “alcoholic” line: only one glass of wine/beer on week nights, no drinking before 6pm (unless it’s the weekend or you’re on vacation, then you can start by 4:00 [or 2:00 if it’s a holiday]), beer only (no hard liquor), wine only (no beer, too many carbs), only drinking when around others, etc., etc.

Many of them begin to rationalize, or downplay the seriousness of their drinking problem.

“I’m not an alcoholic, I just drink too much on the weekends.” Or “I’m not an alcoholic, I’ve never gotten in trouble or lost my job.” “I’m functional, haha.” “I’m not an alcoholic; that could never happen to me. I’m too careful.”

Finally, they’d get to a point where they realized that something had to change. Maybe they could start with moderation, so they could still enjoy imbibing, but only like normal people do. Or maybe they’d take one week of sobriety a month, or refuse to drink during the work week, or promise to cut back to only one (okay, maybe two) drinks a day, or do detox sessions to cleanse their livers and kidneys, or start drinking light beer/SkinnyGirl instead of craft beer and regular martinis, or, or, or…

I know these things because I was absolutely one of those people.

If I drink, I’m one of those people who isn’t “normal.” I’m a girl who can’t help herself when she drinks. Who can’t stop at one, or follow her own rules. I can’t “just enjoy” the taste, because honestly, if I were drinking wine without the alcohol in it, I think it’d taste pretty shitty, like grape juice that’s been on the counter for too long. I wouldn’t see the point. When I drink, I want the feeling riiiiight before I get drunk – that warm, toasty, tispy feeling. But I always take it too far. Every time. Because that toasty feeling never lasts long enough. And honestly, I never stop when I reach that point, anyway – I just keep going.

I’m not “normal.”

Just like all these other people blogging on here, and on Reddit, and writing articles for the HuffPo. All of these other people who apparently aren’t normal: the hundreds and thousands of people who go to addiction counseling and in/out-patient treatment facilities every single week, who lose homes and marriages and jobs, who develop mental illness or worsen the mental illness they already have, who wonder silently to themselves if they have a problem, and why they can’t drink like everyone else can.

I’m just like all of the people who blog on here and other platforms, who talk about their personal descent into abnormal drinking, and who talk about feeling like they were the only ones out of control. Fast, slow, dangerous, innocuous – all of us here seem to have developed an abnormal (abusive) relationship with alcohol. We just don’t get why we couldn’t be like everyone else who can be normal with a drink in their hand.

And I’ve been thinking… what if we actually ARE the normal ones here?

Bear with me. I know that it’s hard to call the person who loses a job, neglects his/her children, or gets arrested for drunk driving a “normal” person who can function with alcohol in his/her life. But…that’s not really what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is this: What if all of us who have developed some sort of alcohol problem are actually the rule, rather than the exception?

What if the majority of people who drink – whether they look/act like it or not – really do have some a problem, and they’re just as good at hiding it as most of us were (at least for a while)?

It just takes everyone a different amount of time to get to the point of no return – and true, some people never reach that point at all. But more and more, I’m starting to believe that the people who drink and never reach a point of developing internal or external problems may very well be the outliers in this whole alcohol problem equation.

I say this because when it comes down to it, alcohol is an addictive drug that creates a need for itself. Just like meth, cocaine, and opioids, alcohol dangerous for nearly everyone who consumes it. Hell, the CDC has it listed as a known carcinogen. The acute and long-term affects are well-documented and understood – they’re reiterated often in pop culture and society as just part of the deal. Alcoholism has many forms, and it’s incredibly damaging for everyone involved. The pace at which we reach that problem point is what’s different; not whether we can handle the drug at all.

I’m sure someone else has come to this conclusion at some point, but it’s been on my mind because I keep reading and hearing from all of these amazing, wonderful, reflective, strong people that we’re the ones with the problem. We’re the ones who have to explain ourselves when we admit that our bodies and minds cannot handle this toxic, poisonous, dangerous substance that ‘everyone else’ apparently can. Because our bodies respond int he way that is NORMAL to this poison: by trying as hard as they can to stay alive, by giving us signs that this isn’t good, and by adapting as best they can when we become addicted?

Really?

I call bullshit.

We’re not abnormal, weak-willed or broken. We’re awesome, all of us – and we’re as normal as they come.

5 thoughts on “What if We Are the Normal Ones?

  1. soberisland says:

    I’ve wondered the same thing too. And about a month ago I was convinced everyone is pretty much an alcoholic. I went to a concert the other night with a friend who is a psyche nurse and we were discussing addiction and some of her patients who had become addicted to pills after accidents and surgeries and how the doctors kept prescribing even after it was apparent that

    Like

  2. soberisland says:

    (Oops it sent on accident- anyhoo) they were developing a tolerance and a dependence. Concerts are a place I used to drink a lot but in this short time of sobriety, I do just fine and actually have a better time sober. My friend and I were talking about the reasons I quit drinking and I basically told her after a few drinks I can’t find the off switch. And she said that she hates the feeling of being out of control worse than feeling the buzz and she never gets drunk when she doesn’t feel a 100% safe. So she hasn’t been drunk in years. As the night wore on- she had a few drinks and got a little looser but the people around us were getting drunk. Especially the younger ones, like they were taunting each other to drink and drink more. So, I sat there wondering who was the normal one, my friend who fears being out of control or the people drinking to excess “to have a good time.” If it’s my friend then we’re all screwed because I just don’t have that kinda fear inside of me to stop me from doing stuff. I usually think about it after the fact and I think that goes for most things in society or else no one would cheat or lie or shoot people or take pain pills their doctor prescribed them.

    Like

  3. laura says:

    This is so interesting to me. I just wrote about being “not normal” tonight. Not normal, or being abnormal when it comes to alcohol is a 12 step idea, but what if we are the normal ones? What if we are the normies because we are choosing not to numb or fake a good time with chemicals? My biggest fear is that people think I’m lame or boring because I don’t drink anymore. I’m trying to tell myself that I still have the power to be fun and lovely, with or without booze.

    Like

    • okayishness blog says:

      I’m believing more and more that the inability to handle drinking – at least over the course of months & years of continued exposure – is the “normal” response, whereas those magical unicorn people who can moderate until the day they die are the abnormal ones. Lucky, perhaps, but definitely abnormal.

      And hey, I think it’s absolutely possible to be fun, lovely & awesome without booze. It just takes a while to recognize that in ourselves, especially since we’ve been conditioned to believe otherwise for so long! If you haven’t yet, I’d recommend checking out the book This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. It completely changed how I look at alcohol and drinking culture, for the better. Perhaps you might find it helpful, as well!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s