I Am An Alcoholic And I Am Not Ashamed To Say It

this is a horizontal drawing of Becca the unashamed alcoholic

The Unashamed Alcoholic

I Am An Alcoholic

Becca is an alcoholic. She didn’t always say this with such confidence. Being an alcoholic was filled with shame and regret until recently. You can find more from Becca here at The Unashamed Alcoholic.

Becca also wrote in our Mental Health Advocate Roundup for their top 3 goals for the year.

My name is Becca, and I am an alcoholic. Is that strange to read? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? What are you picturing right now? Do you imagine me down on my luck, desperate for a drink?

You are probably picturing a caricature of what you’ve seen in movies. Our culture has painted alcoholics as untrustworthy, jobless, homeless, weak people. Well, I am none of that. I am an almost-40-year-old mother of two, soon to be divorced (it’s a good thing!), public servant. I never drank in the morning, got a DUI or went to rehab.

Because of the stereotypes and the stigma around alcoholism, I too, for a very long time, thought I COULDN’T be an alcoholic.

I would categorize my early drinking as “typical” (though I don’t like using that term because, actually, drinking doesn’t NEED to be part of your life, we just have ensured that it is. But I digress). I began drinking in my teens. I spent weekends hitting the bars, and my drinking was on par with my friends. Though I noticed I was certainly more sexually active than most friends, as any “successful” weekend drinking needed to include sleeping with a stranger. Just one of many, many bad decisions I would make during my drinking.

As I went off to university and then later began working in Ottawa, my drinking changed as I was able to drink any time I wanted. What freedom! So I would come home from work and have a beer…or two or three. My roommates weren’t doing this but I thought, that’s silly, why WOULDN’T you?

As I went through my 20s, my drinking was steady, wild weekends that lasted Thursday through Sunday. I met the guy who would become my husband (now ex) and we got along grandly because we both drank heavily. As I neared 30, I noticed something: I couldn’t NOT drink. Was everyone else experiencing this or was it just me? I started to try to moderate my drinking. “Try” being the operative word. I couldn’t do it. I began getting more concerned. But no one in my life ever approached me with a concern about my drinking.

I hadn’t lost my job. I wasn’t on the street. Did I really have a problem?

When I had my kids in my 30s suddenly there was something else competing for my attention, other than alcohol. That was when I really noticed that all I did was think about drinking. I realized I was SO unbelievably sick of thinking about my next drink. Not to mention, ashamed of my behaviour over the years of being a selfish addict which had cost me a number of close relationships. I needed help. I needed to stop drinking.

After many tries, I stopped drinking July 18, 2017. My birthday. I haven’t had a drink since and, contrary to popular opinion of alcoholics, I don’t WANT to. So, back to me thinking I “couldn’t” be an alcoholic- it seemed like such a dirty word. That doesn’t describe me. Or does it? A few months into sobriety, I started going to AA and saw my story again and again. I realized I wasn’t alone in suffering or In feeling consumed by alcohol.

I quickly realized I was in fact, an alcoholic. And so began my recovery. In secret, for the most part, save for a few close family and friends, no one knew I was in AA. Once I was comfortable socially, I would say I didn’t drink, sometimes I even uttered the word “sober” but even that can have negative connotations because it is assumed that you drink alcohol unless you specify otherwise.

How wild is that? But it goes to show how much alcohol is absolutely ingrained in our society. We incorporate it into everything: baby showers, weddings, funerals, birthdays, Monday, the unwinding at the end of a tough work day, how to get through a breakup or a day of parenting. The reasons to drink are readily available. So I tended not to say “no thanks, I’m an alcoholic” when passing on a drink offered because of the judgement, the shame, the stigma. The word “alcoholic” itself is riddled with undertones of disgrace and assumptions of weakness and failure.

The idea that you are less than because you cannot control yourself like “normal” people.

I started to question why I had to keep my good news quiet, simply because of the way society sees the word “alcoholic”. Why did I have to hide something that took courage and commitment to acknowledge and work through. Why did I feel shame for something that wasn’t my fault and that had ultimately helped make me a better person?

I wanted to be able to speak about it. I decided I wanted to change the way people see alcoholism and alcoholics. To dispel the stereotypes and stigma. I wanted to show people that you can be an alcoholic AND be a happy, successful, fun person. It isn’t all doom and gloom, nor a constant struggle of craving alcohol. The opposite, in fact.

I wouldn’t trade a thing for booze. I love my life now and that is completely due to being sober.

I decided to share my story in September 2020. I shared a post online and then did an interview for CBC Ottawa Morning and with that, something inside me clicked and I thought: I have to keep talking.

After some thought, I launched The Unashamed Alcoholic podcast. I wanted a way to keep talking about alcoholism, addiction and sobriety, but make it not just about my story. I wanted to share other people’s stories, specifically people who have platforms and are open about their sobriety. The idea: talk openly and honestly with people and spread the message that sobriety isn’t that uncommon, that addiction can affect anyone, and hopefully to de-stigmatize the subject along the way. I want other people in my shoes to feel like it is okay to speak openly about this and I want people who don’t suffer from addiction to have a better, more educated understanding of what it can look like.

Since I started the podcast, I have since spoken with some amazing people: Elizabeth Vargas, Debra DiGiovanni, Captain Sandy Yawn, and Theo Fleury to name a few. What strikes me every time I speak with someone new is how our lives are so different, yet there is always some way I feel connected to their story. After years of feeling alone, I have learned that I truly am not.

Speaking out showed me that not only can I talk openly about something that is traditionally stigmatized, but I can take pride in it. I now own my story. I have lifted this weight of secrecy I have walked around with for years and not just since getting sober- for the years I was questioning my drinking without talking to anyone about it. Our society does everything in its power to incorporate and celebrate alcohol consumption but almost nothing is mentioned about how it is ok to not to drink, that it is okay if you are worried about your drinking and that it’s ok to ask for help.

So I am saying all that today. it’s ok. I am Becca, I am an alcoholic and I am better than ok- I am finally myself.

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