The Chameleon


My name is Lance, I am 44 years old, and I am an alcoholic.

If you “knew” me you would say “No, you are not”, “That other guy drinks more than you”, “Shit, I drink more than you”, etc.  My friends have said that and they will continue to do so, but why?

People have a certain definition of an alcoholic in their minds, people fitting that description certainly may be alcoholics, but that is absolutely not the whole story.  I have never lost a job and have always been successful in my career.  I have never had a DUI or gotten into serious trouble.  I did not start drinking heavily at a young age.  I was able to stop for periods of time when I wanted to.  I don’t walk around with Vodka in a water bottle.  I have never disappeared for 3 days on a bender.  I have never injured anyone seriously (physically).  I don’t pass out in public places (well, maybe once or twice).  It was even fairly rare that I appeared completely shit-faced drunk.  I was always there for my family (in person anyways).  On the surface I did not appear out of control.

So, what’s the deal?  The fact that I didn’t fit into these categories made it very difficult to come to the realization that I needed help for my problem.  Probably much more difficult than if I had had many of these symptoms. At times, thoughts would bubble up that my relationship with alcohol was not good, but the denial quickly pushed them away:  “I am in control, I just like to have a good time.  I am successful, not a skid-row bum, and everything is fine.”  As an analytical person, I have spent hours analyzing whether I fit into the “alcoholic” category or not:  “I’m not like them, I don’t buy three handles of whisky at CVS for the weekend and tell the cashier I am making bread pudding”.  I have come to discover that analyzing whether you are an alcoholic in this way  is a pointless task, there is no conclusive answer and your brain will spin forever.  They say that if you ever have to think about whether you are an alcoholic or not, then you likely have a problem – people who drink normally don’t think about things like that.  I have come to believe this.  Forget the “Am I an alcoholic” tests,  it boils down to one thing.  If you are uncomfortable with your relationship with alcohol then you have a problem – I am and I do.  Failing any other test will not help you anyway, because it is only this revelation that will drive you to change.

Although I never reached the above levels, the signs were there once I chose to look for them, it is amazing how easy these signs are to ignore.  Unfortunately they were far too easy to write off as “No harm done, just having fun” for a long time.  Fortunately, I can see it now.  Most  weekends I couldn’t wait to get home and see my friends – so we could drink.  I was they guy who could drink A LOT and many times not appear drunk.  I would have a couple of “pre-drinks” before a party and be the last to leave.  In the last 10 years, I rarely get hangovers – I was complemented on always being able to power through the next day.  I was the guy who would “accidentally” pick up your drink and finish it, before going back to my own.  I did have real non-drinking days, but also  having only 1 or 2 beers after work started counting as a “non-drinking day”.  I drove drunk.  I drank in the car.  For one period of time I would park in the parking lot of a 7-11 after work and drink half a 40 of malt liquor, and then pour the rest in my empty coffee cup for the ride home, warm nasty and mixed with traces of coffee – didn’t matter.  At the end I started doing this with vodka.  Nobody had a clue.  I went to Little League Board Meetings drunk, and was recognized for my valuable input.  I went to some of my kids sporting events drunk, nobody knew.  Preserving the external image was of utmost importance.  I never stocked the house with any booze except beer.  But when a bottle was brought in, or left from a party, it never lasted for more than a couple of days – usually the contents never seeing a glass. I peed by the side of my bed once and didn’t remember it.  I passed out on the couch once and my 3 year old daughter decorated me – that broke my heart but I didn’t stop.  Even casual drinking at home after work – I was they guy who would want to go to bed but stay up another 10 minutes so I could pound just one more, and take a couple hits out of my wife’s open wine bottle on the way to bed.  Other things I did less often, but did them nonetheless:  hiding bottles, morning drinking, blackouts, etc.  I took a job where they kept bottles in the office – and I emptied them after hours.  When it was an “acceptable” situation I would let myself appear drunk, and once in a while I couldn’t control it, but most of these times I had this uncanny ability to appear perfectly normal.  Of course much of that ability comes from keeping people at arms length so they never quite know what “perfectly normal” is – but that’s another topic.  I used to think I was some kind of a fucking genius that I could get away with all this shit, nobody knew, and I stayed out of trouble.  I don’t think that anymore.  All this and I was still trying to analyze whether I was truly an alcoholic or not?  Unbelievable.

They say that one of the signs of alcoholism is when you plan to have a limited number of drinks and can’t do it.  I never had this problem, but not in the good way.  I never planned my drinking, so I could never fail this test.  I could do whatever the fuck I wanted.  When drinking, sometimes I would stop, but it was rare.  Usually the process would continue until I eventually made my way to my bed.  Once I started, I could never have just one.

One of the most shocking events I have experienced regarding this topic of recognizing alcoholism is the following:

My wife (of 15 years) had accused me of being an alcoholic on many occasions before, and right about the time I was getting ready to surrender she was urging me to visit an AA meeting.  Soon after this she recounted a meeting with her therapist where her therapist had suggested that I might be an alcoholic.  My wife told me she was stunned and speechless.  I, upon hearing this, was stunned and speechless.  “How can you be surprised?  You accused me and urged me to go to AA”, I said.  She replied “I said it, but I didn’t really believe it”.

Alcoholism is different for everyone.  Some are “out there” getting in trouble and some are hiding in plain sight.  When I alluded to this at home, my wife said “Did you hide drinks?”  It is much more than that, it is about blending in, appearing normal, living a lie – now you know which type I am.

Wish me luck.

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About A Beast Within

Trying to find myself, battling alcoholism, and other personal demons. Sharing the journey. View all posts by A Beast Within

15 responses to “The Chameleon

  • Grandby

    I can remember way back when, when I too was not sure I fit into the mold of alcoholism? A very wise person told me two thing that I will always remember.
    1. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, than it is a duck!
    2. Normal drinkers don’t think about whether or not they have a problem with drinking?

  • Grandby

    Lance keep on not drinking and going to meetings, you get better, even when life throws some major curve balls as it can. I walked into my first AA room January 28, 1979 and never looked back, through the grace of my higher power, whom I chose to call God. I thought I am never going to be able to do this, but it worked because I worked the program. We who have walked this journey before you, know how you feel. Our stories might be a bit different, but if we walked into an AA room, than we were kindred souls. Good luck, stick with the winners and you can’t go wrong!

  • Lisa H.

    Thank you for writing my story for me. Guess I’m the same type of alcoholic. I identified so much with your story. I always felt that I blended in and I did so many of the things you did. I am SO grateful to be sober today and being able to live truthfully. What you see is what you get now. I never imagined I’d be comfortable like this. Please keep writing and sharing. You are helping so many of out here, whether we’re sober or not.

  • thirteenpointoneandone

    This sounds so much like me, that it’s eerie. I am 30 days sober today. I hope that you are doing well.

  • Porkchop

    Amazing post. I relate to every single word. So grateful I found your blog today.

  • Porkchop

    Also, would it be okay if I reblogged this? I’m not sure what the etiquette is here, I’m a little new to the world of blogging.

  • Porkchop

    Reblogged this on The Briar Patch and commented:
    I’ve been meaning to reblog this for the last several days. Just now getting around to it. I am a fan of this blog and of this post in particular. It really speaks to me. As I enter into sobriety, I feel like a lot of people around me don’t or won’t understand why I can’t drink anymore. Anyway, this says a lot about why I can’t.

  • byebyebeer

    Can relate to so much of this. I hid my drinking so hard, I too didn’t suffer much backlash or consequences. But it was really hard and I got tired. Plus, yeah, I was showing up (secretly) drunk to normal life stuff too, so it was a matter of time before I got a DUI or something devastating happened. Glad you decided to stop and I’m looking forward to following your blog.

  • EM Vireo

    Great, honest post. Thanks.

  • The Sober Lawyer

    Lance, as a fellow high functioning alcoholic I can relate to so much of your story. As a successful attorney, I’ve also been told that my high IQ interferes with my recovery. My strengths professionally are my biggest weaknesses in recovery. Good times!

    Anyways, I’ve put some time together and things have turned around big time.

    I blog at http://www.soberlawyer.com if you want to check it out. I will add you to my blogroll.

    One day at a time, Dick, The Sober Lawyer

    • A Beast Within

      Thanks Dick, I read your “About Me” and can relate as well. Definitely true that traits that served me well in business are a huge liability in the rest of life. Especially, as you say, my “over analytical way of life.” I have discovered that analyzing everything does not work all that well in recovery either.

  • facingfactsaboutmyself

    His lance, I’m glad I came across your blog today. There does not seem to be that many blokes writing blogs compared to the sisters. In either case these blogs are invaluable. Its like you are telling the story of so many people out there, mine included. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts as I hurry up to grow up and leave alcohol behind. Keep up the good work!

    • carrythemessage

      HI Lance, just stumbled upon this blog too and I have to say I agree with facingfactsaboutmyself there – not too many of us lads doing this, so I am really pumped to have run across your work here. I look forward to diving into your posts and getting to “know” you. Cheers, Paul 🙂

  • Gwen

    WOW, I am so thankful I came across your blog Lance & THANK YOU for sharing! Much of my story is just like yours. I started my very first AA meeting last Wednesday & am looking forward to this weeks & future ones. This last weekend was my very first weekend in a VERRRRRYYYYY long time not having a drink (which generally “weekend” for me starts on Wednesday or Thursday). It’s going to take me some time, but I look forward to reading your blogs & following them for inspiration. Thank you!!

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