I’ve been sober for almost four and a half years. I don’t call myself alcoholic but for lack of a better word I used the term alcoholic in the title of this article. I could say that I have “Alcohol Use Disorder” or AUD, but those labels are both clinical and clumsy. I don’t identify as an addict either. I was addicted to alcohol and I was addicted to nicotine. Both were killing me. Both were dumbing me down, numbing me out, shrouding my world in a grey cloud of dull and hopeless. I could not stop “using” either alcohol or nicotine for many frightened, guilty, frustrated years. Trying to stop, hoping to stop, wishing to stop, feeling resigned, giving up, trying again….that was definitely an addiction.
But I did finally stop drinking and it stuck, and now that I am free I don’t identify as an addict. I’m not an alcoholic. I’m not suffering from AUD or any other disorder for that matter.
I’m simply free.
The interesting thing about the way people view sobriety is that most see it as a limitation or a prison of sorts. Most people consider the ability to drink as much as you want, whenever you want, to be freedom. And because drinking alcohol without consequence is the impossible ideal in our culture, there are scientific discoveries reported often that suggest a possibility that eventually there may be a pill, or a product, to help us drink without getting drunk, or help us get drunk without getting hungover, or help us use the drug without becoming addicted.
The miracle cure. A cure for alcoholism. A product that allows you to freely and safely consume the addictive product and enjoy its effects without becoming addicted. Consumerism at its most vibrant.
I read an article a couple of years ago that predicted one such miracle cure. It suggested that depleted PRDM2 enzyme may cause alcohol addiction and with this discovery, scientists may be close to finding a cure for alcohol dependence. There might be a way to correct this deficiency so that alcoholics can safely drink.
At the time I was 18 months sober and my first reaction was
“Do I want to drink again?”.
If replacement of the PRDM2 enzyme could cure my addiction would I bring the wine and beer and cocktails I once enjoyed so much back into my life?
About 10% of American adults are reported to be alcoholic or alcohol-dependent. I often wonder how that statistic is compiled because I know that I would not be counted in that group. At 18 months sober if I drink again I’ll most likely slide back down the rabbit hole of addiction but that is only a matter of public record because I’ve chosen for it to be.
Somewhere around the age of 45, I lost my off switch. I went from someone who enjoyed drinking and occasionally overindulged, to someone who lived for that first glass of wine at the end of the day. I would not be counted in that 10% because only I knew how alcohol dependant I’d become. I was never really honest with my Dr about how much I was drinking so there was no record.
I never had a DUI or missed work due to a post-binge hangover. I never visited an emergency room after an alcohol-related accident or had any kind of medical evaluation that suggested alcohol abuse. The social worker at my children’s school never questioned the stability of our home environment. But I woke up most mornings thinking never again only to find myself with a big glass of wine in hand by 6 PM. The self-loathing that I felt at the break of day was usually replaced by mid-afternoon with an absolute understanding that I deserved a drink, wanted a drink, needed a drink, and would control how much I drank that night.
I knew that when I drank I was detached from my children and husband and that my hangovers were affecting my work. I knew that although I intended to drink no more than two glasses I often opened a second bottle. No matter how determined I was to break the cycle of regret/ indulgence/ regret, I could never stop drinking for more than a week.
I was addicted but it was a silent addiction and breaking that addiction was hard work.
As one of the lucky ones who was not only able to stop drinking but am now happily sober I realize that the ability to replenish the PRDM2 enzyme could save countless lives. I came very close to the point of no return with my addiction and have the utmost empathy for people who cannot stop.
But the eventual creation of a drug that could replace the deteriorated or missing PRDM2 enzyme could also mean that I get my off switch back.
I could sit in the sun at the beach sharing a jug of sangria with a friend and not worry that the next night I’d be relapsed and hiding my second bottle of wine. I could enjoy a nightly 5oz glass of resveratrol-rich Cabernet at dinner without worrying about wanting more. I could be normal again and get a bit buzzed with the cool kids without dangerously losing control.
But these past almost five sober years I’ve learned that it’s not the sangria but the sun, and the friend, that make for a great afternoon. The heart-healthy resveratrol in that 5oz glass of red wine can easily be replaced with a cup of blueberries in my morning smoothie and surprisingly, even the most complex gourmet meal, is equally enjoyable without the wine.
So for now…
I think I’ll pass on the enzyme replacement.
I love living life fully awake. I own every minute of my day and every feeling is genuine. I love sobriety and am not really sure why it’s so important for us to drink. Unless we want to get drunk.
And that would seem to be a lose of impulse control.
Suggesting a need in us all for a bit of enzyme replacement.
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