crop person pouring alcohol into glass with petals

Interview 3: Alcoholics Aren’t Aliens

Hi guys! The Holidays are over and life is beginning to resume normally – or as normal as it can be considering the pandemic. It kind of feels like this will never end and nothing will be the same. The numbers are scary and so many people we know have caught the highly contagious variant. I really hope you’re all safe…we have to protect each other. While all this is happening, mental health isn’t going anywhere; we have to protect our minds as much as our bodies!

That said, here is the latest interview. I present Chelsea Troy, an incredibly kind person and wonderful friend who I met at the Crisis Centre a few weeks ago. Today we hear her thoughts and insights regarding alcoholism. I think it’s also perfectly timed in the context of the pandemic and further restrictions due to substance abuse being a key way to escape reality.

What do you wish people understood about being an alcoholic?

I wish people knew that cracking jokes, or making sarcastic remarks about my alcoholism do not help in any way shape or form. These remarks only hurt and make me resent them for truly not understanding what I am going through. For example: I was sent to the Douglas hospital for a near overdose recovery and there was a girl with other (far more severe) mental issues rolling around on the floor about 75% of every day. When I was released and was telling my parents about my time in there and about this girl, they responded with “well that’s what you do when you’re drunk,” instead of just listening and understanding that I was trying to explain that it was not the right type of rehabilitation centre for me.

I wish that people would treat us like normal human beings and not like aliens from another planet, and make such a big deal about it when they find out. When someone tells you they have a peanut allergy or a lactose allergy no one questions why, but when you tell someone that you do not drink alcohol they immediately respond with “why???” it is quite frustrating. My family definitely acts different around me, a member of my family goes out of his way to constantly ask if I would like sparkling water, when everyone else is being offered wine. Perhaps he is trying to be nice but it just annoys me at how blatantly obvious he makes it, if I want a sparkling water I’ll go get one myself, and plus I have never even liked sparkling water and they keep buying and offering it to me.

What do you wish people would do to support you?

Often times I need to vent and talk about how I am feeling, the struggles, the things that annoy or frustrate me, etc. to loved ones. I am not looking for any advice or suggestions on how I should go about fixing it, I just need a listening ear. These types of solutions and goals are what I work on and strive to achieve with professionals like my therapist and doctor. I know it is coming from a good place, but it is almost impossible for friends and family who do not understand alcoholism or have not been through it to try and give you advice. It really does not help at all and just proves how much they do not understand.

What makes you want to drink?

I primarily want to drink to feel that very short temporary period of happiness or euphoria, and use it as an escape from reality. I get a rush through my body which makes me feel great and want to be very social and outgoing. Next, it leads to me forgetting all my problems and feelings, or about a bad day, stress and anxiety, and all troubles seem to disappear and not matter anymore. This then leads to me usually feeling numb and not feeling any pain or sorrow, and then I usually black out and then pass out. The only problem here is that when you wake up you feel ten times worse about absolutely everything that you tried to forget about the day before, which makes you want to pick up a drink and do it all over again, to forget again. That small moment of euphoria that you get from a couple of drinks seems to completely override all the shitty things that follow.

Here are a few other reasons:

Habit: It is a habit to pour a glass of wine while cooking, pop champagne on New Years or when celebrating, have a cocktail at an event, etc. These are all things that seem so important in the moment but when it really comes down to it, you don’t need to drink at any of these occasions. I always feel like I am going to miss out on so much by not drinking, but I look at my boyfriend who has never had a drink in his life (for religious reasons), and enjoys every moment of his life to the fullest.ii.

Being alone/boredom: Although therapy has taught me that I am never alone because I am always with myself, I do need to find hobbies and activities that I enjoy that keep me busy during the times I would usually pour myself a drink and sit and watch Netflix for hours. I started crafting and making holiday cards with a great friend that I made in the Center, which we spent hours doing. It made me realize that I really enjoy doing arts & crafts, and it keeps both of my hands busy rather than drinking.

My parents & Sisters: Since I have been spending a few months living with them, I feel like I have zero freedom, especially that I don’t drive. I can’t go anywhere or do anything without asking them, and they barely let me go anywhere alone. This frustrates me and makes me want to drink more, and find creative ways to get away with it behind their backs. Not only that, but they always have so many questions, and I understand that maybe they feel like they are trying to learn, but it really stresses me out and makes me want to shut down, go drink, and not talk at all.

Why do you think drinking makes you feel better?

It makes me feel better because it temporarily relieves me of all the stress, pain, depression and anxiety that I am experiencing each and every day. It is an easy escape from reality, but unfortunately it is very short and ultimately painful to your body, soul, life, and everyone around you. I also like the adrenaline rush that I get from trying to get away with it behind everyones back, which is so horrible.

What are you doing to get help?

For many years I always told myself that I could stop by myself whenever I wanted. I would tell myself that if I got my dream job I would stop, if I met the man of my dreams I would stop, etc. I did both of these things and continued to drink, and it even got worse when the pandemic started. After a year and a half of the pandemic I had a mental breakdown and went on sick leave from work, where I started drinking morning to night, home alone. One night I ended up being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and hospitalized for almost overdosing. Since waking up in the hospital and not knowing where I was, to being sent to the Douglas, which was a complete nightmare in itself, it ultimately led me to the most incredible recovery centre I could have ever dreamed of called the Centre de Crises de l’Ouest de l’ile. At this centre I had to do an hour of therapy every day, which I had been scared to do or couldn’t afford my whole life. Doing therapy, and speaking with people who know and understand what you are going through was an incredible and life-changing experience. I was also terrified to do AA meetings and avoided them at all cost, but this crises centre showed me that speaking to people at an AA meeting is no different than speaking to them or the friends that I made in the centre. This opened my eyes and made me change my perspective on meetings, which I now love and attend 6 days a week. So, to summarize, I am getting help by seeing a psychotherapist once a week, attending my AA meetings every day, and having weekly meetings with an addiction Rehabilitation centre called the Foster. I also keep in touch with great friends I made in the centre, and have a few sponsors from AA who I can talk to. I have also expressed to my family some things they do and say that bother me and they are being mindful and respectful of these things.

What would you tell someone who is also just starting to get help?

If you are really ready to make a change then you need to be completely honest and transparent to everyone around you, therapists, family, friends, doctors. Stop hiding behind lies, sneaking around, and making excuses.

Find an AA meeting group that you are comfortable with and attend those meetings as often as possible. Find friends and sponsors and build a support system around you of people who have been through similar addictions and mental health issues, who will make you feel understood and feel like you are not alone

Thank you Chelsea, I really appreciate the profound words you’ve kindly shared with us on such a sensitive and personal subject! We’re with you in this!

Thank you for reading…if you have any questions, comments or messages for Chelsea feel free to write below and I’ll contact her. Have a wonderful and safe first week of the year!

What's YOUR take?