Unending Thirst: Signs That Alcoholism is Taking Over Your Life

By SB Veda


Marty Summerset’s first drink occurred quite by accident. Sitting at the dinner  table , all but nine years old, his mother had served him an afterschool snack of left-over pizza and an apple juice.  The atmosphere at home was tense. Dad had come home from work early, and seemed unusually grumpy. He’d been munching on trail mix at the table minutes earlier, thumping his fist before rising as he complained the knuts had gone stale.

That’s when it happened: Marty  reached for the wrong glass – his father’s scotch and soda.

“Gross,” yelled Marty, the offending concoction spraying out of his mouth. “What is this, Mom?”

She seemed to deflate and erupt at the same time, shoulder’s slumping but teeth clenched. Part of her seemed resigned, defeated, another part enraged. ‘It’s something that went bad,’ she said, picking up the glass. ‘Rinse your mouth out, and everything will be fine.”

Marty’s father who was by now lounging on the couch, stirred, as Mom tossed the unfinished cocktail into the sink.

“Hey!” he said. “That’s twelve year old single malt!”

Then, the unthinkable happened: the glass came flying  out of the kitchen right at Marty’s Dad. It bounced off his shoulder and exploded like a hard snowball on the wall behind him.  Silence lingered for a long few seconds until the six-foot two inch onetime varsity linebacker was  chasing his wife up the stairs.

Marty heard shouting, the clap of skin on skin, slaps, maybe? A falling chair or night stand banged against a wall, and then the ceiling shook as the weight of heavy feet, perhaps the roll of tumbling bodies, crashed on the floor above.

Marty started to cry. He hated that feeling of heaviness around eyes and sinuses, tears defying him, breaking down his cheeks. Why did he have to reach for the wrong glass? This was his fault, surely, for everyone knew that Jack and Holly Summerset were the happiest couple on Brookmill Lane.

It wasn’t the first or last time that their fighting had caused him distress – nor the first or last time he felt responsible for it.

Years later, he resolved never to drink. He found the heavy smell of beer on his classmates at school dances nauseating. ‘No thanks,’ he’d say when offered a drink at parties. It didn’t bother him that the other kids thought he was square. By then he’d retreated into books, anyway. And, because the stately solitude of the tennis court appealed to him far more than the crass camaraderie of the football field caused Marty’s  dad along with some of his football buddies – all of them, by then, evening drunks – to call him Martina or just plain ‘fag’.

He was a good student but he needed a scholarship to get out of Cottsville, Michigan. All through high school, his hopes rode on the prospect of a tennis scholarship being his ticket to the Ivy League or at least a good state school… any decent college as far away from Cottsville as possible.

Marty’s mother was a serious Christian, and raised him with those values. While trying to be a good Samaritan, running down a purse-snatcher while checking out the University of Chicago, Marty fell and tore his Achilles tendon.  There would be no tennis scholarship in his future, thereafter.

With his father out of work, all the Summersets could afford was a community college for Marty in neighboring Lansing.  Marty spent his first year on crutches. It wasn’t just the injury, his whole body felt heavy, his head bent down to the ground. Not even eighteen, he felt defeated. To what kind of a life could he now aspire?

There are certain patterns, some imperceptible by the conscious mind that drive the human body, even human behaviour.  A sad birthday celebration with a few old friends brought about a familiar sound: ice cracking  to the sound of whisky being poured over it. It wasn’t single malt; the kids drank Jack Daniels – but Marty knew that sound – it was the sound of relief.

The first glass almost made him gag but he got the stuff past his gullet. The whisky tasted sweeter the second time around. Soon his teeth felt numb, and he giggled. He felt light, and danced for the first time in as long as he could remember, crutches in hand, until the bar closed.

His friend Anita drove him home, and the made out in the driveway for some time before he went inside.

He was still drunk when he woke up, and it felt good. By the end of the day, his head ached and heart was beating like a constant drum roll. He was tired but couldn’t sleep. A quick trip to his father’s liquor cabinet solved that problem. A pattern had begun that night.

After getting his business degree, Marty managed to get a job at a bank, starting out as a teller, and then moving up to becoming a personal banking representative.  When Anita got pregnant with what were to be twin girls, they married – Marty couldn’t disappoint his mother.

Someone else’s life had gradually become Marty’s – his father’s, in fact – and he was deeply depressed because of it. It wasn’t long before Marty was drinking every day, putting him on the same path as Jack. Perhaps they both self-sabotaged to destroy lives that made them deeply unhappy.

Each morning, Marty downed caffeine pills and Tylenol with his morning coffee. ‘You drink a lot of water,’ said one co-worker. She meant it as a compliment, hydration being a healthy habit. But Marty was just desperately trying to get the dryness out of his mouth. He rattled through the day, propelling to that trip to the bar or liquor store on the way home, so he could drown out the world while Anita tended to to the girls, Karena and Corina.

He’d even drive under the influence at times.

Anita was livid most days when he came home. He wasn’t the violent type like his father. He was a runner, and tended to avoid fighting by tearing out of the driveway whether he’d been drinking or not.

Marty stopped drinking, though. He had to, they served no drinks in jail. That’s where he ended up, for one weekend, tearing out of his drive, he didn’t notice the girls making a snowman at the corner of the driveway. When he drove over the snowbank, he just thought he’d hit the curb. He didn’t even stop and get out. He didn’t answer his phone when his wife and mother called. He couldn’t remember the cops coming to his favourite bar looking for him. He just remembered the feeling of wanting to die. When he woke up in the hospital, hand shackled to the bed, realising he was still alive, he wished he’d never had that first drink. That first drink killed his daughter, Corina, years before she was even born.

Marty’s cautionary tale doesn’t have to be yours or that of a family member/friend/spouse. The first challenge is recognising the problem. Here are nine signs that alcoholism is taking your life:


1: Your Alcohol Use is Steadily Increasing

One of the most obvious signs that your use of alcohol is veering towards alcoholism is if your use of the drug is increasing over time, whether it be in the sheer amount that you’re consuming, the frequency of your consumption, or both. When someone develops a chemical dependence, they need to maintain the same effect in order to cover up whatever issues they’re struggling with. Because the body develops tolerance, this takes more and more of the drug as time goes on.

2: Your Job Performance Suffers

It’s hard to be responsible when you’re drunk a good portion of the time and hungover much of the rest of the time. If you are frequently late for work, missing time because you’d rather drink, having problems concentrating because you’re still recovering from the night before, or are forgetting to do important tasks, then you may have a problem. Ask yourself if your boss is frequently mad at you, if you’ve been fired, or if your productivity is just not what it used to be.

3: You Spend a Disproportionate Amount of Your Income on Booze

Another easy way to gauge whether or not alcohol has become a problem for you is to simply look through your financial records and see just how much of it you’re buying. You could even couple this with the first sign and see if the amount of money that you’ve been spending on alcohol has been increasing. They say that what you spend your money on reveals a lot about what’s important to you. If your bank statement shows that alcohol has become more important in your life than it ought to be, then you might want to take notice.

4: You Have No Other Hobbies

As your psychological dependence on alcohol increases, the pleasure that you get from other activities decreases. You lose interest in things that you used to enjoy, whether it’s hanging out with friends, playing sports, or painting. One way to measure the progression of alcohol addiction is by how much of your time it consumes, slowly but surely taking away from other aspects of your life. If you notice that you’ve discontinued things that you used to do in your spare time because you’d rather drink, that is a red flag.

5: Your Relationships Have Decreased Both in Quality and Quantity

One way to measure the quality of your life is the quality of your relationships. Another way to tell if alcohol is ruining your life is if it is ruining your connection to other people. Alcoholics tend to become very isolated, whether it is because they walk away from others to spend more time drinking, or because others walked away because of their inappropriate or irresponsible behavior. Beyond that, the problem’s drinker’s relationships with the people who do stick around are often strained. Alcohol can make you detached, argumentative, or just plain mean. If you can’t think of someone that you currently have a good, close relationship with, that’s a warning sign.

6: You Have Frequent Legal Issues

Alcohol diminishes inhibitions, which can lead to impulse control problems and poor judgement. Besides that, the denial of the problem can so strong that you might get behind the wheel even if you’re drunk. If you have a history of getting DWIs or DUIs, have been arrested because of things you’ve done while intoxicated, or otherwise been sued, and this hasn’t stopped you from drinking, it’s a good indication that alcohol is ruining your life.

7: You Experience Black-Outs or Lost Memories about Things You’ve Said or Done

Not only limited to forgetting what you’ve said or done at times, uncharacteristic and unwanted behaviors might result. One man drove 12 miles to his home, parked on the street and went to bed, unaware that the headless body of his best friend was in the vehicle beside him. A woman repeatedly bit and scratched her best friend in an unremembered quarrel and later asked me, “Who is this monster living inside of me?”

Other common acts can include hurtful words, domestic violence, unprotected sex, assault, and other violent crimes

Ordinarily careful young women suddenly become promiscuous and have unprotected sex with strangers, even men they find loathsome. One woman wrote, “When I drink alcohol, it’s like I die. Another person takes over my body, talks for me, walks for me, thinks for me.” Blackouts are perilous-for the victims, for their families, for society.

8: Friends, Family, and/or Co-workers express concerns about your drinking

You don’t need to have had an A&E style intervention to have had others express concern about your drinking.  It’s usually a spouse, parent or sibling who take such steps.

Unless your friends are all drunks, it might not be unusual to have one or two ask you to take it easy. Problematic drinking not only affect family but friendship are often the first casualties as these are more expediently dissolved rather than family ties.

You might respond that you can stop any time – but you never actually stop.

9:You Deny That All of These Problems Are Due to Drinking

Thou protest too much: perhaps the telltale sign of addiction is denial. If the suggestion that alcohol is at the root of your problems immediately fills you with anger, and you mind starts flooding with alternative explanations and justifications, then that’s a pretty good sign that alcohol is ruining your life.

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