- Critter Fuqua is a writer and musician living in Nashville. He is a recovered alcoholic and passionate about helping people with drug addiction.
I could go into the details of my alcoholism story, but I won’t. I’ll give you the gist of it, but in the end, I believe all true alcoholics have a similar story; they could not stop drinking and they would die, end up in prison or be placed in an institution.
This disease, and I see it as a disease, is insidious. My alcoholism, which I believe was the stuff of birth, manifested itself in terrible anxiety. I had nightmarish obsessive compulsive thoughts that kept me from enjoying my life early on.
I grew up in an upper middle class, a loving family in a small town. I had good friends and the freedom and always enough to eat. I loved Halloween, music and reading and had a big imagination.
But I have always been haunted by this anxiety. It was as if I was gazing into the abyss, right at the edge, ready to fall into it anytime. It took a tremendous amount of energy to deal with this anxiety, which left me with little bandwidth to have a good day.
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This anxiety led me, like so many children in the 80s, to take Ritalin. It seemed that any child who drifted around in class or was restless or couldn’t pay attention to anything for a very long time was getting this drug.
As if a restless and fuzzy child was something that needed to be fixed.
I remember when I started Ritalin and went to a therapist when I was in fourth grade. He told my parents that I have great potential to become an alcoholic. He was right.
This anxiety lasted through elementary school and college. When I was in the first year of high school, I drank my first beer. It was magical. All the anxiety I was feeling vanished. I could function without the bogeyman in my brain filling my mind with terrible thoughts. That’s why I drank. It made me feel normal. It gave me happiness, ease and comfort. I had indeed come to a place where I could enjoy my life.
Drinking has worked for at least a decade of my life. I was successful and happy. Why wouldn’t I drink. It suited me. If a person with asthma takes a puff of their inhaler during a seizure, they feel better. They can work. They can breathe. This is exactly what alcohol has done for me. It allowed me to breathe existentially. I could live in my own skin.
This is the reason why the alcoholic is so confusing to his loved ones and to society as a whole. They are suffering in a way that nonalcoholics cannot understand. Alcohol consumption is a symptom of alcoholism and the solution for it.
What alcoholism looks like
For some reason, the alcoholic suffers from an illness that some would call a spiritual illness. This term is archaic and the old definition does not imply that the alcoholic is bad or goes to hell or that he is responsible for his condition.
Instead of using the term spiritual sickness, I like to define it as some kind of existential buzz.
A buzz that gets louder and louder in the soul and devastates the brain and body until the victim needs relief. This relief comes with alcohol. Then the cycle starts.
Along with the torturing existential buzz, there is a mental obsession. The alcoholic needs alcohol to be well and can’t help but think about where to get his next drink. A third part of this disease is physical. Once introduced into the body of the real alcoholic, they can no longer stop. What is happening is a phenomenon of thirst.
A craving so overwhelming that they have no power over it
So the alcoholic cycle, in a nutshell, goes that way. The alcoholic is unhappy. They are restless, they are irritable, they are unhappy. They are obsessed with alcohol, knowing that it will stop their suffering. They take a drink and feel instant relief. Then the craving phenomenon hits. The alcoholic is off for the races.
This is when car crashes, prisons and psychiatric services, arguments with family and friends occur, sometimes leading to physical violence. There are power cuts and falls resulting in broken teeth and cracked skulls and sometimes even death. The list could go on and on.
Alcohol, from the point of view of illness, is perfect. The cycle will not stop. Despite the tragedies that occur during alcoholic insanity, there will be a time when the alcoholic picks up again despite the terrible things that happen when he drinks. It boils down to this; alcoholism is too painful not to be treated. I like to use the analogy of someone who is drowning.
A person needs air to survive and it is known that when a person is drowning, they will push anyone for air, no matter their girlfriend or boyfriend, mother, son. father or his friend. It’s not serious. Getting fresh air is essential for all other things. It’s not that they like to look more than their loved ones.
Love has nothing to do with it. It’s a lizard brain thing.
Far from where the heart and lungs live and need oxygen to keep the body alive. It may sound extreme, but I assure you it is not. The alcoholic is drowning and needs to breathe.
I found help and recovered from the alcoholism. Yes, recovered.
There is, I think, the feeling that the alcoholic will always be an alcoholic, and that’s true, but they can recover and stay well. I recovered from a desperate state of mind and body. There are organizations to contact for help. It’s hard to ask, but your life depends on your ability to reach out.
The stigma of alcoholism is rising, and it is increasingly being treated as a disease than it is, a moral failure. I want every suffering alcoholic to know that he can heal and stay healthy. To reach.
Critter Fuqua is a writer and musician living in Nashville. He is a recovered alcoholic and passionate about helping people with drug addiction.