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Alcoholic Analogy: Pickles and Cucumbers
This was written in 2015. It was one of the first posts that I shared in the process of blogging my way sober. I was about 6 weeks alcohol-free and found the “cucumber to pickle” alcoholic analogy really helpful in understanding why I could not drink moderately … ever again.
I’m reading Caroline Knapp’s book Drinking -A love story, and the thoughts below really clicked for me today.
“… Most alcoholics (not all) sooner or later have to grapple with the idea that they have a disease. Some people drink in wildly alcoholic the first time they ever taste the stuff….But those of us who’ve experienced more gradual and insidious descents into alcoholism have to turn the disease concept over and over in our minds, to learn over long periods of time to believe and accept it….until I got sober, alcoholism seemed more to me like a moral issue than a physical one. This is one of our culture’s most basic assumptions about the disease, and one of its most destructive: we figure that drinking too much is a sign of weakness and lack of self-restraint; that it’s bad; that it can be overcome by will…..
When I finally went to rehab, I was astonished to hear lectures about alcoholism that suggested my drinking really did have physiological roots. Your brain’s ability to manufacture the stuff you need to feel good is compromised when you drink a lot routinely. If you abstain, it’ll get it’s balance back….those neurological reward circuits have extremely long and powerful memories, and once the simple message-alcohol equals pleasure- gets imprinted into the drinker’s brain, it may stay there indefinitely, perhaps a lifetime
Environmental cues -the sight of a wine glass, the smell of gin, a walk past a favorite bar- can trigger a wish to drink in a heart beat.
Once you’ve crossed that line into alcoholism there appears to be no safe way to drink again, no way to return to normal, social, controlled drinking.
A lot of alcoholics use the cucumber-to-pickle analogy to describe that phenomenon: a true alcoholic is someone who’s turned from a cucumber to a pickle; you can try to stop a cucumber from turning into a pickle, but there’s no way you can turn a pickle back into a cucumber.”
I stopped using the word alcoholic to describe myself in my third month sober. The stigma that the word carries is a heavy weight that does not fit the joy and empowerment that I’ve found in sobriety.
I know that I am a pickle. It did happen gradually over many years but when I found that I no longer had control over how much or how often I drank, when every day revolved around thinking about drinking, regretting drinking, and planning, hoping and wishing to stop, I knew that it was time to put down the bottle.
If you asked anyone whether or not they should encourage an alcoholic to drink they would say “Of Course Not!” but I guarantee you that even though I know that I’m a pickle and friends have told me in the past that I should be careful not to become a pickle…those same friends will be very uncomfortable with me not drinking in the future because they just don’t get it.
But we get it
I don’t call myself an alcoholic or think of alcoholism as a disease. I am sober. I am Free! As long as I don’t drink. It’s just that simple for me.
It is now 2022 and I am nearing 8 years sober even though I stopped calling myself an alcoholic a long time ago. I’ve gone through a lot of different stages with my own thinking about using the word alcoholic to describe myself. I’ve found quite frankly that the trickiest issue is how to tell people I’m not drinking without using that word. This was my one-year sober celebration post from 2016 and it speaks to that Coming Out Sober well as does this from a few years later How Do You Stay Sober When Your Friends Encourage You to Drink?
What about that word- alcoholic?
We often question the word alcoholic and everything that goes with that label in our Boom Rethink the Drink Community. Most of the members of our online community don’t call themselves alcoholics. We say that we are alcohol-free, sober, or even “retired from a long and illustrious drinking career”.
Here are a few examples of how we evolve in our conversation surrounding the lable alcohol. Read More Here : Don’t Label Me Alcoholic Because I Choose Not to Drink – Questioning Labels – Alcoholic – How do You Tell your Partner You’re an Alcoholic? Without Using that Word
If you’re “sober curious” …
If you are drinking too much too often and want to stop or take a break…
We are an independent, anonymous and private community who share resources, support and talk it through every day. It helps to have a community behind you in a world where alcohol is the only addictive drug that people will question you for NOT using
Talk to Us.
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Are you an alcoholic? Or is alcohol the issue?
Look beneath the label
of sophistication and class
Look at what’s really in your fancy glass
Poison, cancer, ill health
A bad head at the very least
Does it still seem like a good idea
A nightly relief?
Or are we potentially
Racking up tokens for a coffin my dear?
What is your worst fear?
What’s the betting alcohol could make it come near?
The label on the bottle is a facade
And while the actual truth of it is hard
You can’t un-know what you finally see
All the lies have nowhere to hide
And I think that can set you free
The veil has dropped
It longer can conceal
It’s not just harmless fizz
This is real
It’s a lethal biz