I was a High-Functioning Alcoholic-& I was Damn Good at It.

My wedding day was magnificent.

But they weren’t. Not even close.

The best day of my life was January 10, 2018. That’s the day I declared to the world that I was an alcoholic.

Except for my spouse and my parents, my declaration was a shock to everyone I knew. My wife and I owned our own moderately successful small business, our kids were smart and healthy, we were active in our community and with our church, and our house was well-maintained with a neatly trimmed lawn. I was a high-functioning alcoholic with no outward signs of calamity.

But on the inside, I was slowly dying.

My wasn’t getting worse as time passed, but my alcohol-induced depression was becoming debilitating and deadly. I would wake at 3 a.m. Monday mornings, after a weekend of drinking, in a panic-unable to catch my breath and with thoughts racing through my head. I would simultaneously feel the crushing weight of regret from overdrinking and saying crude things, yet also wish the weekend wasn’t over so I could drink away the pain. I called it “ ,” and it was getting deeper and darker and more hopeless as my drinking continued. I didn’t want to live anymore. The darkness was closing in, and only my wife knew the depths of my despair.

To my friends, neighbors, and most of my family, I was productive and helpful and gave all indications that I was happy. I did what I was supposed to do. I was a high-functioning alcoholic, and I played the role magnificently.

The decision to come out about my alcoholism was not easily made, and I was terrified about the repercussions. In addition to the small business my wife and I owned, I coached high school soccer, and I was worried my admission would get me fired. I remember walking off the field the night before my coming out email. As I said goodbye to the other coaches, I knew our relationships would never be the same. I didn’t know if they would be supportive or disgusted, but I knew things would be different. It was one of many thoughts that filled me with anxiety.

I was very accustomed to the mental burden of anxiety. That’s one of the most onerous aspects of alcoholism. Sometimes it is overwhelming, and other times it is just a dull, back-of-the-mind concern. But the anxiety is always there. So, my anxiety over coming out about my disease was as familiar as it was paralyzing.

I was one year into my recovery from alcoholism at the time of my coming out announcement. With my recovery well underway and progressing in a healthy direction, it might seem pointless to tell people a secret they might never really need to know. I decided to announce my affliction for two reasons.

Why I Came Out Alcoholic

Secondly, I decided to come out as an alcoholic for exactly the benevolent reason you are probably imagining. There are estimated to be over 15 million alcoholics in the United States, and only a small fraction of them seek help and recover. Most suffer in silence. Many of them hide in plain sight as high-functioning alcoholics. I was hopeful that large segment of the population would resonate with my story and seek help.

I fended off my terror and anxiety and sent my coming out email and social media announcement to over 3,000 people on the 10th of January, 2018. What resulted was beyond my wildest imagination. First, some factual results.

>> I did not get fired.>> 100 percent of the responses and calls I received were supportive.>> My anxiety vanished for the first time in over a decade.>> People resonated. My story has helped others.

>> I am no longer pressured to drink at social functions.

In spite of my fear and dread for the aftermath of my coming out, all of the points above were predictable, and they left me with a sense of satisfaction about my decision. Had that been it, I would have been pleased. But that wasn’t it-not by a long shot.

Knowing Connection

I am not claiming that everyone I knew was a high-functioning alcoholic. What I am saying is that alcoholism had touched the lives of virtually everyone I knew. Three million people a year die from alcohol-related circumstances. The likelihood that the disease has touched a person’s life-whether battling for survival within the home or helplessly watching a drunk uncle at Thanksgiving-is incredibly high.

And the way my people felt an instant brotherhood with me upon reading my confession was as unexpected as it was exhilarating. I was worried that my admission would shame me and get me fired. Instead, it earned me the respect, love, and commiseration of my peers. It makes me tear up to this day to think about the impact coming out had on my life and the relationships that surrounded me.

Stigma

The stigma associated with alcoholism envelops not just the active alcoholics, but the drinkers in recovery as well. By coming out-by owning my alcoholic label and declaring that I was the proud survivor of a dastardly disease-I took away a little bit of the strength of the powerful stigma associated with alcoholism.

That felt great. Really, really great. In fact, it felt like I was doing what I was put on Earth to do. And it continues to feel like my mission in life. Each time I write about alcoholism, I take another notch out of the stigma and feel more like I’m fulfilling my destiny. There are a lot of people muddling through life and asking, “Is this all there is?” And I was one of them. Then I told my truth, and my purpose unfolded right before my eyes.

Before I announced my affliction to the world, I feared scorn and employment termination. When I pushed through the anxiety and worry, I was rewarded with transformative relationships and a clear vision of my destined path in life. Unimaginable.

Who would drink with me?

If I ever do feel the urge to try again, who would drink with me? Everyone I know . Everyone I know loves me for my outspoken recovery. Everyone I know admires my courage and vulnerability. No matter how thirsty I get, nothing will change how my friends feel.

And that’s why the day I came out alcoholic was the best day of my life.

If you are considering making a change to your drinking patterns, or if you are concerned about the drinking of a loved one, I encourage you to read my free e-book, Guide to Early Sobriety .

I hope you find what you are looking for, even if you don’t know you are searching. Maybe it will inspire you to change your life.

Maybe you’ll even have a new best day.

Originally published at https://www.elephantjournal.com.

I live in Denver, Colorado, with my wife and four kids. I write and speak about addiction and recovery. Please follow my blog at SoberAndUnashamed.com.

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