What Happens When You Realise You're Living As A Functioning Alcoholic

I wore my party girl persona as a badge of honour, always drinking to blackout - and I assumed everyone else did the same
Igor Ustynskyy via Getty Images

As a forty-something, middle class woman with a good job, house, husband and kids, some would think I had it all. I had the ability of appearing to be happy and in control of my life but inside I was the opposite, and somehow was living my life as a functioning alcoholic.

I believe I was born this way. I believe there is something in my genetic makeup that means when I take an alcoholic drink, I have an inability to stop until I cannot physically consume any more. The first drink would be the hardest, I would swear off another and insist that I was ‘only going to have this one tonight’. I would test my resolve but I always failed and despite my best intentions I always finished the bottle. It was a bit like having a huge sense of relief that it then made it okay to have another drink, then another until the bottle was done.

Growing up I was always the most drunken person in the room, I loved to dance and being drunk gave me confidence. I developed my party girl persona and sometimes wore it like a badge of honour. Throughout my twenties this was a rite of passage; I surrounded myself with a group of friends that all behaved the way I did, and so I naturally moved in the crowds who drank heavily, or at least would tolerate me drunk. I always drank to blackout and had this sense that if I wasn’t in blackout then I wasn’t drunk, that this drinking was perfectly normal behaviour - and I assumed everyone did the same.

More recently I found out what blackout meant, and it was really quite unnerving. Blackout is when your brain has been saturated with so much alcohol that you can no longer form memories. A lot of people think that they simply forget what has happened, but the reality is you have never remembered in the first place.

Home drinking began in my thirties. I was now married with two kids and drinking at home became normal, with me regularly drinking at least a bottle of wine a night. I was working full-time so I had this sense of entitlement and that somehow I deserved it.

In my working life I would talk to other working mums and would actively seek them out, so I could question them on their drinking habits to ensure what I was doing was the same as everyone else. Once I found someone with the similar identity then it would justify my behaviour and allow me to carry on. Although it took me a long time to realise that I would drink because I was bored, tired, happy, sad or just because I damn well deserved it.

After a heavy night, the next morning would be fuelled with regret and the potential embarrassment of what I might have done or said. I would swear off another drink ever again and would really mean it. I would go to work, pretending desperately that I was fine but in reality my head would be throbbing and I would be feeling so ill.

On and on this behaviour continued with my drinking getting worse and worse. I took a decision to end my marriage as we were both miserable, and made plans to change my job. I was always looking for an emotional fix to change a mental problem. I was sure that if just one of these areas improved then I wouldn’t feel the need to get drunk all the time. Needless to say, none of these changes made any difference as I hadn’t truly looked why I was so obsessed with alcohol, and that I was in fact an alcoholic.

One Saturday morning in December 2015, after a very messy Friday night, I surrendered and was exhausted. I was so tired of who I was and how I behaved that I couldn’t do it anymore but had no idea of how to stop.

Slowly people had been backing away from me, and I was more alone that I had ever been. That Saturday morning was most definitely my rock bottom and with that realisation I phone Alcoholics Anonymous and asked them for help.

For more from Nicola, visit her blog at 365daysayear.blog