I remember drinking vodka and fruit punch in the basement of my parents’ house in high school alone on a Friday night. I felt the buzz. It felt different, as if something uncomfortable was being erased. I liked it. Throughout High School I would not say I was a heavy drinker. When I did drink it was at house parties generally. I remember the first party I went to and got drunk. I do not think I got sick and I do not think I felt sick the next day. I felt like I was doing something different that would put distance between the shy, awkward, geeky persona I projected and make me one of the cool kids.
Then there was the time a friend slept over and we drank, played Monopoly and dipped tobacco in the basement. In the morning I was really hung over. I think I told my mother I was sick. My friend went home and I went to sleep in my room. My mother later discovered the half-finished bottles in a cooler in the basement. She made me feel like I was the worst criminal in the world. I think she also suggested sending me to a rehab or a counselor, which I refused. I did not think there was anything wrong with me. I was just doing what kids my age did. Later on my Dad drove me around in his car and interrogated me about what I had done. I remember him asking me if I had mixed the alcohol or drank it straight. I remember not knowing why he wanted that information and feeling really embarrassed and frustrated about answering it.
In college I joined a fraternity. I drank in the fraternity to be one of the guys. For the most part it was the time of my life. The worst part was getting so drunk that the room spun or waking up hung over. But there was also something in me that told me the more I drank, the cooler people would think of me.
I did the same thing after college when I worked and went out with friends (although not to the same degree or extent). When I went to law school I did the same thing, perhaps to the same extent as in college, but I was living in New Orleans so that is probably an exception.
At some point after I got married and was working for a law firm alcohol became a way of coping with anxiety and depression. It switched from something fun and seemingly inconsequential to something I began to be concerned about and had trouble stopping.
The good thing and the bad thing about alcohol is that it obscures feelings. It is bad in the sense that if my feelings are obscured then I do not deal with them and do not move past them. It is good in the sense that sometimes feelings are too much to endure. If there is no escape and no dealing then maybe it is a good thing to have alcohol around to escape. Of course the danger of that is addiction and damage to health. It is not easy to control and becomes more difficult if whatever feelings are being obscured by alcohol are never dealt with. In my case that feeling was shame.
So the answer in the long run is of course to deal with feelings and ultimately that is how to overcome a problem with addiction. It is a chicken and the egg type of situation (maybe).