A New Perspective on Alcohol Use and Abuse

I believe that we need to change the conversation that is our culture’s conversation about alcohol use and abuse. We need to take a fresh look at alcoholism, alcohol use disorder, addiction, and recovery. I think we need a new understanding of what it means to need to stop drinking and how to do it. It is time to start openly asking the questions that matter and looking for new answers that work for more people.

Is it possible to stop drinking and stay sober long-term without working the 12 steps in AA? Is it possible to stay sober without attending meetings regularly for life? What is the difference between alcohol use disorder, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism? If alcohol use disorder is now the accepted term to describe addiction to alcohol, how do you know when you cross the line from gray area drinking to addiction? Can you be a routine drinker without becoming addicted to alcohol? Where is the line between social drinking and dangerous drinking?

These are questions that we discuss often on this Boozemusings blog and that we discuss every hour of every day in our Boom Rethink the Drink community. These public Boozemusings blog posts come from our conversations in a private space where we talk anonymously because, even now, after the term alcohol use disorder was coined to ease the shame people might feel in using the word “alcoholic,” if you have to look someone in the eye who you hope will respect you, and you need to tell them for some reason that you have a problem with alcohol, the shame and stigma, along with misinformation, color the conversation. Real answers to these important questions are rarely reached.

The term alcohol use disorder was coined to override the stigma and shame associated with alcoholism. It’s a more clinical-sounding description. It is less emotionally charged. Yet still, the term alcohol use disorder suggests that alcohol use is normal. If you cannot use alcohol “normally,” you are disordered. Can you imagine the term nicotine use disorder? Can you imagine the term heroin use disorder?

The shame is built into the conversation that we have about this “disease of alcoholism” in our culture. We do not think deeply about what we are talking about. We throw labels at people with little understanding of the reality of what alcohol-use disorder, alcoholism, or alcohol addiction really is. Have you ever considered why alcohol use is such an integral part of our culture if addiction to alcohol is so deadly? As a culture, we enable the addiction that we judge people so harshly for succumbing to. Why? And how? Most importantly, how can we change this?

If these are questions that you’ve considered, if you or a friend or family member are affected by alcoholism, alcohol-use-disorder, or routine alcohol use that you are concerned might be becoming an addiction, please come join this conversation. All of the bold blue titles in this post are links to posts that began in our anonymous, private online community and were moved out here to our public blog to reach you!

There is a conversation that we need to have that is different from the one that we’ve been having if situations like the one that happened last week – Everything is Wrong With a Culture That Shames a Teacher in Primetime – or in 2016 – Tacoma’s ‘drunk teacher’ watched her shame go viral. Then she killed herself -are going to become a thing of the past. We need to evolve as a culture in our understanding of addiction and the role that alcohol plays in our lives. The cultural messaging surrounding drinking distorts reality at both ends and has the effect of trapping people in a deadly cage.

How the trap is built – Part One 

On the one end, you get the normalization and “cute-ification” of habitual drinking and alcohol dependence, and that, while it may seem simply “misguided”, is toxic as hell!

This – Un-Drowning – Rising Up From a Legacy of Alcohol Addiction – is the reality of alcohol dependence as remembered by one of our online community members about her mother. 

This – A Toxic Illusion: How Alcohol is Bringing Us Down  -is how our culture makes it seem normal and adorable to drink daily and to drink a lot!  

This –  Alcohol – The Seductive Beast that Kills – is the reality of habitual drinking, of “high functioning” dependence, of “needing” a drink and of it killing and killing and killing again.

But it’s not the alcohol at fault it’s the “alcoholic” right? 

When I was drinking habitually, somewhere between that benign-sounding “Gray Area Drinking” and what I understood to be full-blown alcoholism, I sure as hell felt that if I ever needed a liver transplant it would be my own fault and I shouldn’t be given a liver over someone who didn’t “intentionally destroy their own health”.

The S H A M E  that I felt – Shame, Alcohol and Sobriety – caused me to H I D E from addressing my behavior and as long as I didn’t address that behavior there was no chance of changing it –  The Seductive Allure of Lying about Addiction – and that put me in a cage.

How the door is locked – Part Two 

Once you are in that cage you are held there by the shame of admitting you have “A  Problem” — Beat the Alcohol Bully

We are bullied by the chemical effects of alcohol on our brains but we are also bullied by each other.

I remember watching an episode of tabloid-style reality television about 4 years before I finally stopped drinking. As I remember it, the story was about a very dysfunctional family, the kind of dysfunctional family that most of us are able to look at and say “Well I’m not THAT bad”. Usually, these stories are presented in such a sensationalized way that it’s easy to say “I’m not that bad” and then we can step back from our own fears about our lives.

The husband was the town drunk who could not stop drinking. His drunkenness was public and humiliating to his wife and son.

The son was angry, resentful, and sad. He had built a room with walls made of his father’s used vodka bottles while his father was in his drinking days, to point out to his father that he WAS an alcoholic and that there WAS a problem.

The father’s alcoholism had become so dangerous to himself and to others that he had been given an ankle bracelet monitor to keep him from being able to buy alcohol anywhere. He was now sober as a result and grateful for it, but terrified that if that ankle bracelet was removed he might relapse.

Throughout the show, as they told the humiliating story of the father’s drunken behavior and inability to stop the son was lovingly holding the father’s hand. He was so grateful that the father no longer drank- even though the father was diminished by alcohol-related dementia – he was now there. Now present. The drunken drama was over.

But the wife …

The wife said at one point in the show that she wished he could drink again because she just didn’t know how to deal with him “present”.

I was horrified by this story but also horrified that I saw too much of my own situation in this family. We were not that bad. Absolutely not that bad.

But we were on our way.

My kids were noticing.

The alcohol was beginning to break down our mental health.

My husband and I were trying to drink away our problems, drinking instead of communicating, drinking each other away.


I wanted something external to fix my problems with alcohol, my alcohol-use disorder, my alcoholism, because I was terrified that I could not do it on my own.

I think that we are trapped in this cage of addiction not only by shame but held there by the illusion that it is all but impossible to stop drinking and stay sober.  

Even when I finally did stop drinking I was terrified of relapse. Really terrified

I had read about relapse in quit lit and I had seen people in the online community I was in relapse. It happened so fast and people often did not grab ahold again after relapse. It terrified me because I knew myself and my energy. I knew that I only had the energy for this last quit left in me. I knew that my love of being drunk was so strong that if I had to fight my way out of my addiction, alcohol-use- disorder, alcoholism, one more time – I would likely not.

So I listened to the people telling me to do the simple things that I never realized would make all the difference! EAT, REST, READ, LISTEN, TREAT YOURSELF IN OTHER WAYS, LEARN, Don’t go near the store after 2pm …. 

This stuff Ten Ways to Overcome My Drinking Problem and this stuff Top Ten Things you can Do to Help Maintain Sobriety and I read like a fiend.

I did not work the 12 steps or attend AA meetings but I made sober my hobby.

I Studied sobriety and I held on for dear life until staying sober long term became pretty easy but even then I have stayed in the conversation and most likely always will to at least some degree.

It’s all about – Singing the Siren to Sleep

You Have the Key – Part Three

What I did not understand ( and this may seem silly) but what I really did not understand – was that the only way to stop drinking was to stop drinking.

It took not drinking. It took doing whatever I needed to not pick up a drink that day. Every single day counted. I knew that if I drank I was giving myself permission to drink and the only person who can give me that permission or take it away was me. No one was coming to save me. No one could make me drink. It was up to me and I did have the power in me to do it. I just had to use that power every single day. The power of staying sober through thick and thin would feed my strength to stay sober through thick and thin.

Each day, one following another, moved me closer to learning that life was not only tolerable alcohol-free but more vibrant.

For most of us, there is a period of a few hours in the afternoon that are dangerous and the battle when we stop drinking is to keep from caving into buying booze during those hours.

How about trying something like this before that ankle bracelet becomes a choice that others make for you? Buy a lock box with a timer – the kind that people use for cell phone detox. Make sure that there is no booze in the house. Make sure that you have good healthy food and alcohol-free drinks around your house. Lock up your car keys and credit cards for the two-hour period or so that you might be tempted to go out and buy a bottle.  

Ahhhhhh but you’re tricky you say? You can order from Amazon online and they’ll deliver it to your door. Step back and think about that for a minute. Are you more interested in fighting for a drink or fighting for your freedom? Because you are strong! The fight you chose is the one that you will win. 

Some of the thoughts in the following blue links are from inside our Boom Rethink the Drink Community. If you are interested in joining this conversation in a proactive way come join us there.

You are strong 

If you think that you may need extra help please do read this Pharmaceutical assistance to Stop Drinking – Librium, Campral, Antabuse, Naltrexone, Baclofen

Here are some thoughts on setting up a Home Rehab if like me you could not afford the inpatient type and thoughts on Intensive Outpatient Programs or IOP Tools to Help you Quit Drinking if you are curious about an alternative to inpatient rehab and AA that might be covered my your insurance.

Please remember! You are strong

You are the only one who can unlock that cage and step out

It IS Possible – Part 4

Alcohol will keep knocking on the door. It will offer all the seductive allure that it did the first time you let it in. It will seem benign. It will seem friendly and offer more dimension to your life. But it is exactly the same alcohol that you fought so hard to get out of your life. Alcohol may be a friend to others but it is a diabolical enemy of mythic proportions to you.  

The only way to protect yourself and the people you love from the toxic effect that you know alcohol has on you is to keep the boundary you’ve put up firmly in place 

Make This the Week That Your Sobriety Takes Off

Focus on the Danger of Drinking Alcohol or Sobriety as a Positive Choice?

I encourage anyone reading this post who has compassion to share this. We are NOT a paid coaching service. We are NOT selling a product. We are community, and community is the cure. Communities of people working for themselves and for each other to Rethink the Drink.

Below are several articles, free resources from our extensive archive, shared by people who have stopped drowning their voices in alcohol and are reaching back to others to help them do the same. People helping people is what we need to beat this beast! Not media companies who profit from selling the drug and then exploiting the shame!

30 Days Sober? Yes You Can !

Books to Help you Stop Drinking and Fuel Your Sober Momentum

6 Documentaries to Help You Rethink Alcohol Use and Abuse

How I Stopped Drinking Without AA

Easing out of the Battle to Stay Sober

Early Sobriety Survival Skills

If you’re “sober curious” …If you are drinking too much too often and want to stop or take a break… Talk to UsWe 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

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