Almost An Addict - Navigating Life When Addiction Runs In Your Family
**Trigger Warning: Addiction, Rape**
It's interesting growing up knowing that there are a lot of health things that you have to worry about for the rest of your life. My Dad pretty much has everything you could worry about (cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease) and the one thing my Dad doesn't have my Mom does (arthritis). I've lived my whole life knowing that all these things could impact my health in the future, everytime I went to a doctor I was reminded of these facts when filling out paperwork.
The thing is, I don't think addiction and alcoholism is ever really addressed in the Latin community, it's just a part of our life; but that doesn't stop the fact that addiction is a disease and it can run in families. Latin families are constantly being portrayed with drinks in their hands, getting drunk together, and it's looked at as the norm. (Hello, Borracho loteria card - I'm looking at you). But this normalization of drinking and getting drunk is a huge disservice to the members of the Latin community who are struggling with addiction because they can't get the help they need. Alcoholism is an addiction and addictions are a disease and unfortunately, it's another disease that runs in my family and I didn't realize that until I went to college.
Before I went to college I'd only gotten as far as being tipsy once. I had definitely drank but nothing to get drunk and always with people I trusted. I had gotten high a few times too, but again nothing overly crazy. Everything had been just enough to let me know I could handle these things and enter college with a false sense of security with my consumption. I got drunk the first night I got to college and pretty much every night after that. What started out as a fun way to get to know my roommates turned into getting blackout drunk 4/7 days of the week (& the other 3 days I was high off my ass).
**Trigger Warning: Mention of rape ahead**
I won't get too into the sordid details of my college years, mainly because then we'd be here for a good 24 hours. But just picture a girl walking around campus with her skirt pulled up with her ass out there, walking in to random dorms and dancing on tables. Oh, and she doesn't remember any of this. That was me for a good year, I'd like to say that I learned my lesson after college but I didn't. Near the end of my freshman year of college I started to feel like I was gross, I hated getting drunk every night and wasn't enjoying myself anymore. Sooo I started smoking weed. But that became the same thing, getting too high every night (& usually ending the night with a drink because why not). I was in an unhealthy open relationship and was definitely using alcohol to forget that. One night I went on a date with a guy I met online and got blackout drunk. I didn't "wake up" until he was raping me. What followed was a year and a half of using alcohol to drown my sorrows.
I was lucky that all it took was one really bad trip to get me to quit weed all together, but no matter how many times I would blackout I'd keep coming back to alcohol. It wasn't until my sister forced me to get a job that I started to wean away from drinking but even that was slow going, I would go to work and then come home and drink an entire bottle of wine. I'd justify this in my mind, saying that it's wine and not hard liquor. Eventually I started to work more hours and that wouldn't leave me much time to drink (thankfully). By the time I was 20 I was fully sober. It made for some real awkward conversations at parties, but I usually leaned back on the fact that I was the built in DD. I very much have my sister to thank for the person I am today. It wasn't easy and I was really mad at her at the time, but her pushing for me to get a job 100% saved my life.
I want to say this now, I do drink. Right before my 21st birthday I started to drink wine again. I was in a happy and stable relationship, going to therapy again, and felt more in control of myself and my emotions. I eventually started to add in hard liquors again and I can proudly say that I haven't blacked out in 5 years. I've managed to find my sweet spot really well and a big part of that was figuring out that addiction is a disease and I had to manage it the same way I manage my other possible diseases.
My whole life I've been told that I have to watch what I eat, how much I eat, and how much I exercise because diabetes is such a huge part of my family. While I'm not the perfect example of diet and exercise, that is always in the back of my mind everyday. Yet, I had never put that into practice with alcohol. I didn't realize that I could manage my alcohol "addiction" the same way I managed my "diabetes" (these are in quotations because I do not have them but know that I could very easily).
I developed certain checkpoints when it came to drinking. No more than 4 drinks in a night (& and they need to be consumed hours apart), no shots, and always eat food and water. I also do checkpoint through the night and in between drinks: Does the room spin when I close my eyes? If yes then stop drinking there. Can I text on my phone without getting a lot of typos? If more than two non autocorrected misspells comes up then it's time to pump the brakes. And most importantly, do I feel like I'm in control of my words? If my filter is completely gone then it's time to eat food and sober up.
These are the stuff I needed to do to feel safe and secure, but these can change over time just as how I may have to adjust my diet over time to prevent diabetes. It's crazy to me, this stigma that surrounds addiction. If I was to tell someone no I can't eat peanut butter because I'm allergic and it could kill me, no one would say "that's not real it's all in your head" or "just have a little it's okay". If I told someone I couldn't go out to the beach because I have skin cancer and don't have any protection against the sun, they wouldn't say "live a little!" If I had diabetes and they had cake at a party and I said yes to one piece but not two because of my diabetes no one would question that, they'd just be happy I'm having one. Yet people say all those things to me constantly when I talk about not wanting to overdo alcohol. This stigma that addiction is all in our head and that we can just magically will it to disappear causes so many people to go untreated and it's so unfair. We would never question someone's decision to get chemo to stop their cancer, or their use of insulin to control their diabetes; so why do we question someone's decision to go to AA or stop drinking.
Being aware that addiction is a disease and that it's something that could be managed and treated when needed is so important and I'm so happy that I've recognized that. My life is infinitely better with the changes I've made and I no longer hate myself. If you or anyone know is struggling with addiction please be kind to them (or yourself). Help is out there and you deserve to get it.
Until next time!
A Whelmed Christy