When I grow up, I want to be a drunk

When I grow up, I want to be a drunk

I want to wake up feeling restless and uncomfortable. It’ll be neat to drag myself out of bed to open that first bottle of wine. I’ll drink all of it within an hour. Then I’ll go to the liquor store. The guy behind the counter will know that, everyday, I will buy a pint of vodka from him. He will look at me with stony eyes, which will make me feel even more restless and uncomfortable. What he doesn’t know is that I will also get two more bottles of wine and a case of beer from the grocery store before I return home. As an adult, I want my sole coping skill to consist of getting drunk.

When I grow up, I want to get fired from all of my jobs because I am frequently drunk. I can’t wait for my boss to call me into his office because my coworkers smell alcohol on my breath. It’ll be fun to make an a$$ of myself while working because I just can’t stop myself from drinking that bottle of wine in the morning.

When I grow up, I want strangers to see me doubled over a tree planter with vomit on my shirt. I look forward to police officers shouting at me to get the f-ck up and move along. I am eager to see the disdain and disgust of the firemen and ambulance drivers when they realize that the 911 call was, yet again, for me. I can’t wait to hear the doctors and nurses in the emergency rooms say things like, “Oh, not him again. I’m so tired of seeing him. He’s taking up a bed that could be used for someone who is really having an emergency.”

When I grow up, I want to ruin all of my relationships because I am a drunk. I look forward to destroying property and scaring my girlfriends. I can’t wait for my wife to request a restraining order against me because I’ve threatened to kill her one too many times. It’ll be great when my parents and siblings never invite me over to their houses because they think my behavior is out of control. I can’t wait to achieve that level of isolation and notoriety.

When I grow up, I want to spend a lot of time in jail. I look forward to receiving charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, assault, and battery. I can’t wait to collect warrants because I was too drunk to show up for my court dates. It’ll be fun to bounce in and out of jail and frequently apologize to of all of my probation officers. It’ll be neat to lose my housing because I couldn’t pay my rent while I was in jail. Homelessness will be a delight!

When I grow up, I want people to judge me because of my alcohol problem. I look forward to people hating me because they believe that I choose to drink alcohol to the point that I can’t function. It’ll be exciting to realize that people believe I am useless and a waste of a human being.

When I grow up, I want to hate myself because I am a drunk. It’ll be fun to feel constant shame and complete lack of control over myself or anything else. I can’t wait to experience unending self-loathing and disappointment. And how thrilled I will feel when I realize that the only thing that makes me feel better in the moment is drinking more alcohol.

Maria Yang is a psychiatrist who blogs at In White Ink.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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  • http://about.me/gwalter gwalter

    I was going to repost this on our EMS Legacy Facebook page – until you referred to your fellow medical colleagues as “ambulance drivers.” Really? It’s the 21st century already. The paramedic program was instituted in the late 1960s and these professional caregivers are now providing high-quality care in awkward, dangerous, and interesting environments that many MDs could never function within.

    An ambulance is now a mobile critical care unit staffed with professionals who are able to provide essentially the same care as any modern ED.

    This is a great post and deals with a situation we all deal with all too frequently, especially the medical care professionals in the streets. Would you please change your verbiage and stop equating us to the ambulance drivers who’s drug of choice was gasoline and speed?

    Thank you.

  • JoLynne

    All righty then! And the point of this post would be…? I am a recovering alcoholic, with 25 year sobriety, with 26 years experience as a Critical Care/ED RN. I have worked diligently, over these years, to improve awareness of the recovery option, both in the healthcare community and in the general population. It never ceases to amaze me the continued ignorance of the perspective of the medical community, as reflected by this author’s writing. I have been asked by nurses and physician to share my experience, strength and hope with patients (which I do) and I have been reprimanded by my management team for the same. Their rationale is that it causes the patients to lose confidence in my clinical abilities, by sharing my recovery status. I would love to know the purpose of this writing, that offers only the negative aspects of alcoholism.

    • http://www.facebook.com/alan.wartenberg Alan Wartenberg

      As stated below, you are missing the point. This author obviously either didn’t have her sarcasm font turned way up, or some people cannot see sarcasm. Her point is exactly that nobody choses to be an alcoholic.

  • JoLynne

    Daily Tune-Up by Yehuda Berg

    Our body has limitations, but our soul is limitless.

    The body’s desire is to receive, while the soul’s desire (our true
    desire) is to share. Letting our soul drive is what puts us in touch
    with the ability to surpass our limitations.

    Through sharing
    we elevate our consciousness to a place where we can break down the
    walls in our life, extending ourselves to conquer things we once felt
    were impossible.

    If you want to become limitless, share as much as possible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Fitzsimmons/1405121136 Tom Fitzsimmons

    Wow. Glad this ones not a relative! Is this some sort of ‘tough love, tiger mother’ thing? How dehumanizing an analysis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Fitzsimmons/1405121136 Tom Fitzsimmons

    OK, I read another of her pieces. She’s a writer. She has this ‘flow of events’ sort of style that’s more literary and not meant to be a medical statement. It’s just inappropriately placed.

    • Noni

      I was wondering what the point was with this entry!

  • Scott

    The way I read this, it isn’t a bash on alcoholics, but quite the opposite. I think the point is that nobody chooses to be an alcoholic – looking at the portrayal, why would somebody choose this? The point of this piece is a counter argument against the idea that alcoholism is a choice and not a disease. I think some of you read this wrong, or didn’t finish the whole thing…just my opinion. It makes sense, since she is a psychiatrist and probably has treated many of these patients.

  • ButDoctorIHatePink

    My mother died of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and my father is well on his way to doing the same. They were drunk every day of my 54 years, and yet they both managed to hold down jobs, not get arrested, and seemed not to self-loathe – in fact, my father seems proud of his boozing. They were abusive to their children and lived for alcohol and not family and there was a DUI or two. Yet, it was a middle-class life. The myth that every alcoholic loses their job and family and is a bum that will hit rock bottom and wake up and sober up is just that – a myth. Many are functioning in society yet still drink themselves to death and you might be shocked to know what happens behind the closed doors of that company president.

    You in the medical field miss them. My mother was diagnosed with a tiny stage I breast cancer at 76, her first question always after (morning) tests and treatment was “Can I have a cocktail now?” and nobody ever questioned her. When her liver function tests were crazy skewed, they did a PET scan looking for more cancer, never thinking it could be alcohol. When I got up the courage to tell her doctor that she had a drinking problem,something I knew saying would make her not speak to me for years (never saw her again, in fact) he shrugged and went back to discussing cancer. Her 1 cm tumor was not why she weighed 76 pounds, alcoholic malnutrition and cirrhosis was..

    My mother died knowing only one coping method in life, only knowing one way to feel good, and that was with alcohol. And, nobody ever told her different, even when opportunities arose. My father is now experiencing exactly the same thing; crashing cars, having medical problems related to alcohol and no doctor seems willing to broach the subject. None seem to even notice, and this is a man who wakes up to drink and drinks all day.

    Doctors, wake up and talk to your elderly patients about their alcoholism. Don’t be fooled by old bodies and grey hair.

    • Suzi Q 38

      Doctors probably don’t want to deal with it because the patient is too old at 76 or so. The point being that she isn’t going to change her bad habits for them.

      • ButDoctorIHatePink

        No, she would not have changed her habits, few do. Does that mean a doctor shouldn’t tell an obese patient to lose weight? Should they just not diagnose diabetes in a fat person because they probably won’t change their habits anyway?

        Had the doctor listened to me, he could have appropriately diagnosed her as having cirrhosis and warned her about what might happen if she kept drinking. When my father found out (a week before she died and over a year after I told the doctor – she had esophageal varices and started vomiting blood) he immediately threw all the booze away. It was too late by then and he went back to drinking immediately, but by missing the true diagnosis, the doctor also missed a chance to help. Slim chance, I agree. I don’t believe she would have quit but we’ll never know. And, perhaps her last year could have at minimum, been made more comfortable knowing what was really happening. Although she was drunk most of the time, she was still quite uncomfortable.

        My point is good doctor don’t ignore problems, even if they can’t solve them.

        • Suzi Q 38

          Yes, I can understand what you are talking about.
          So many doctors don’t listen, your mother’s doctor is not alone. In their defense, they don’t have much time to deal with a lifelong problem. They don’t have the “Dr. House” or “Columbo” in them to push for the best care for each and every patient. It is wrong.

          As far as the diabetic, and smoker, same rules apply.

          There are doctors that will “get in my face” a bit like mine did, but maybe he figured at the age of 54 I might “go for it.” If he were staring at me obese at age 76 and my weight had been that way for 50 or so years, he might have a different attitude. Not the right one, but he figures that I will not change. Even if my metformin wasn’t working and I needed additional treatment.
          My father was an alcoholic and a smoker. The alcohol made him a horrible man to live with. There was no way that you could get him away from his booze and cigarettes.
          He had his first heart bypass at age 58, and it was a quadruple. The minute he could talk to me, he asked me to go out and buy him some cigarettes. He said that the felt like smoking 5 cigarettes all at one time, that is how bad he wanted to smoke. I told him “NO!,” that his days of smoking and drinking were over. I don’t know if he kept his promise to stay away from them. He ended up having another bypass at the age of 65. He died at 68 of congestive heart failure and probably liver problems.

          In retrospect, maybe sending my father and your mother to an in patient treatment program for alcohol abuse may have been in order.

          You are angry that the doctor missed an opportunity.
          The doctor definitely did. Have you ever told h/her so? This way, h/she can be of better help to others.

          You are right. A good doctor doesn’t ignore problems, even if they can not solve them. I have found that to be true personally. I am now going through patient advocacy to make sure that they understand. I am hoping that it won’t be a frustrating experience.

          For me, another doctor found the problem that the other two didn’t. He was angry at the other two doctors, but at least got me the care that I needed and deserved.

          This was a sad learning experience for me. I previously thought that if the doctor had the stellar credentials that he was a good doctor.
          What I have learned is that that is so far from true. The credentials are a good start, but there is also experience, and the “detective” instincts, and caring about each patient as an individual that has to come together and deliver the best care possible for that patient. Not every doctor has “it.”
          Two of my doctors definitely did not; but they are young, and God isn’t done with them yet. The other two have “it.” My PCP has “it.”
          When I moved to another teaching hospital, the surgeon has not demonstrated that he has “it” yet…I cut him a break, because he is a neurosurgeon.
          My :”Senior” MS specialist (he has been there since the 70′s) and fellow are very proactive, and they are leaning towards my not having MS, as everything is negative. I like that. I totally trust these two.

          Your point is that doctors should act and treat the patient when needed. I agree. My point is they don’t always care enough to act, or they are not as good or confident as others that would have acted on your mother’s behalf.

          I am in search of a few good doctors to keep. I will be dropping the ones that just aren’t good enough to treat or care.

  • Molly_Rn

    Some of you missed the point: no one would or does choose to be an alcoholic thinking it is a good thing. My mother was mentally ill and horribly abusive, and I spent years hating her until I realized what a terrible life she had. When I realized that no one would have chosen her life and mental illness I could stop hating her and let all of the anger and hatred go. What a relief. It allows us the opportunity to help people who are trying to get well and struggling with mental illness and/or addiction. It also helps us to see that there but for fortune go I.

    • Guest

      “there but for fortune go I.”

      I have been sober for over 9 years. I took my last drink on July 4, 2003.

      I chose to start drinking to excess. No one ever forced a drink down my throat. I did it because I got more out of it than I thought it was costing me (I was wrong, of course).

      You may or may not be able to “choose” to become an alcoholic, but you can choose to stop drinking. To pretend otherwise is to say to all the drinking alcoholics out there “Don’t worry, it’s not your fault, it couldn’t have been helped, there’s no need for you to ever try to pull yourself out of the hole that you’ve dug yourself into.”

      • Molly_Rn

        Good for you! I didn’t say you have to stay an alcoholic, but most addictions are not a choice, You enjoy whatever the thing that meets your addiction needs and before you know it you are hooked. To have the courage and will power to quit is wonderful.

    • Guest

      You are also giving all the morbidly obese people, and cigarette smokers out there, a free pass. After all, if their addiction is not their fault and they really had nothing to do with their self-inflicted conditions, then how could you ever ask them to lose weight or stop smoking? We are not helpless animals, we do have free will.

      • Molly_Rn

        Nope, free will assumes you have no genetic predispositions, no societal or family pressures
        and that it is merely turning the button to off. There is no such thing as free will. If there was things would be a lot simpler. Some people are fat because there is no healthy food available in their neighborhoods and they don’t have the money or availability of transportation to a different neighborhood where
        there are good grocery stores. Also cheap, greasy fast food is cheaper and when I have mouths to feed and not much money I go for the biggest bang for my buck. It is so easy to hate, or condemn or criticize others when we haven’t walked in their shoes and don’t really know or understand their circumstances. “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Seems clear to me and I am an atheist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1702352 Arjune Rama

    as a psych resident, i too get so frustrated by how people in medicine, even psychiatry, believe that our patients choose to drink. as you so eloquently describe the lifestyle: who would chose this?! thank you for a great piece.

    • Guest

      Neither do the morbidly obese choose to overeat, nor the COPD sufferers choose to smoke Everyone’s just a victim.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1702352 Arjune Rama

        Guest, I think you bring up an important point when it comes to volition. I totally agree that no one is forced to eat too much or smoke nicotine. However, when I ask my patients if they are interested in stopping either activities most not only answer “yes,” but they wish they’d never begun. So certainly the desire to avoid these habits exist.

        I’m less interested in assigning roles as far as who is the “victim” and who is the “victimizer” because this doesn’t actually change the clinical outcome although it may make non-obese/non-COPD people feel better to have someone to blame. So instead I hope you’ll join me in supporting lawmakers and legislation that help folks get into family practice clinics on an annual basis so healthcare providers can intervene before morbid obesity or COPD even develops! If motivated folks like you and I push hard on elected officials we could really help improve the health of a lot of patients!

        • Quill

          Putting more resources into mental health would be a huge help as well. I am not a psychiatrist but even I can see that alot of people who smoke, drink or binge-eat are doing it because there’s something else wrong. We (as society) end up paying hugely for the results of peoples’ self-medication anyway, by way of medical resources, child protective services, the justice system and prison cells….. better to spend money trying to fix the underlying problem in the first place, then we save money down the line! But who in politics is interested in such long-term investment?

      • adh1729

        I would submit that nobody should ever take the first dose of any potentially addictive substance: the first cigarette, the first hit of crack, and yes, the first drink of alcohol. I have a family history of alcoholism, but I chose never to take that first drink.
        I would also submit that alcohol is more of a curse to our race than a blessing; we don’t need it to have a good time; we can take care of our coronary arteries and get our antioxidants without it. I am getting sick of the constant drumbeat from the media about the blessings of drinking 1-2 a day. None of those studies have the authority of a randomized controlled trial; the last major one excluded lifelong teetotalers. Sure, if you get rid of devout Mormons, Adventists, and other groups known to have a longevity advantage — if the final analysis pits a corporate lawyer who has a glass of wine with clients and runs 10 miles a week, versus a depressed, morbidly obese hamburger flipper who drinks Coke in front of the TV, then you will get whatever conclusion you want. (Or, perhaps the researchers were just intoxicated as they ran the data.)

        • Quill

          I am in the same boat, I grew up seeing my mother embarrassingly drunk most of the time, so I decided never to have that first drink. I am prone to depression and anxiety already, I am pretty sure that if I let myself drink I would be in huge trouble. So I don’t.

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