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The Bottle

Susanne Johnson
| February 19, 2018

Alcoholism did not always bring pain. In the beginning, it was fun to drink, but first you drink from the bottle, then the bottle drinks from you. It sucked all the life out of me steadily, gradually increasing until it seemed unstoppable.

The line between ‘fun drinking’ and ‘problem drinking’ is blurry– I can’t really tell when I crossed it. I simply started out way too early in my life.

I was only around age 9 or 10 when I took the first drinks from my parents’ liquor cabinet. Why did I do what I did? I don’t know, I was too young. My brain didn’t allow me to think things through at that time, and it didn’t give me a reason why I did those things. That’s why I truly believe that most alcoholics are not at fault for their disease. Society often states that who have become addicted to drugs or alcohol are at fault, or that they get in that situation through a conscious decision. Do you believe that a 9-year-old could be responsible for that? I don’t. However, I did have a responsibility to stop the drinking as soon as I recognized the problem.

The liquor bottle was my friend; our relationship was almost mystical. I drank everything from high quality liquor down to the plastic gallon bottles near the floor shelf. It wasn’t their appearance or taste that made them my friends, it was what they did to me.

I did not have many friends when I was young. My father was strict and it always seemed to be a problem if others came over to our home. I was an only child, too– always a loner. It was almost impossible to get my mother’s attention, as she was an alcoholic as well, caught up in her own problems, hiding bottles and numbing herself. I just did what she did; I grabbed her bottles.

The liquor bottle became its own go-to location. My parents were both working. In Germany, where I was raised, students arrived home from school between 12 noon and 2 pm. For many years, no one was at my home after school. I had to make my own lunch and didn’t know what to do with myself all afternoon. My interest in school and hobbies went down, and my interest in the bottle grew. My mom died when I was only 14 years old, so I built an even closer relationship to the bottle. Soon thereafter, my friends changed. I only kept friends that had a similar interest, which was to drink. We shared out bottles, and shared our life. The bottle became normalcy– it was all I knew.

Years of ups and downs followed. I managed to stay afloat in life somehow– I was functioning, working hard, and experienced few setbacks because of my drinking. I arranged my life around my habit. Boyfriends came and went. I couldn’t be alone. In order to be my friend or my boyfriend, you had to not only tolerate my drinking, but also actively participate in the drinking. I had an ability to share my love of the bottle.

Every empty bottle had many stories inside. I was hiding full bottles to have a reserve, and hiding empty bottles, not knowing what to do with them. The stories that happened in my head while I was drinking made me feel like wonder woman.

No problem in life was too big to be solved. In truth, each morning would arrive with no new solutions; things only got worse. But each bottle took a heroic story of success with it to its grave. The temporary full flight from reality was a normal and everyday occurrence. What a life (I had in my dreams)!

Fast forward to my point of no return and going into recovery. I got very unhealthy and I almost died. Alcohol, my best friend, had betrayed me. I thought that people only died of alcoholism in the movies, and that withdrawals only happened to people who lived under a bridge. I was wrong.
My bottle had consumed me for many years—by the time things changed, I was 42. I had to say farewell to my bottle and I did it in a dramatic way, drunk and at the doorstep to my first treatment center. I finished the vodka, gave the bottle to the person that did my admission, and never looked back. I don’t miss my bottle anymore—yet, it would be a lie to say that I’m happy not to drink at all. I would still love to be like others. But then, I guess I still wouldn’t drink anymore. I have accepted that I can’t, and never will be able to pick up the bottle again.

Actually, I can’t stand the smell of alcohol anymore. If I enter a bar or restaurant that has that alcohol smell, I leave. Not because I am triggered to drink, but because I totally dislike it. I’m seven years sober today and grateful for every day of my life. I like the feeling of control, clarity, and freedom I have today and I know that the only way was to let go completely. If people around me have a drink, I don’t mind. I know that their relationship to alcohol is a different one than mine is. The bottle and me are history; I enjoy iced tea today instead and I love its smell and taste.

Today, I choose to change my life instead of numbing it until I can stand it. I do things I love and surround myself with people that make my life worth living. I’m a very happy person and don’t feel the need to numb anything; I enjoy the feelings I have.

If you are a slave to the bottle and find yourself in these words of mine, please consider getting help. There is a different life available, if you want it. Alcoholic drinking is a slow suicide– a painful one, too. I’m happy that I don’t have to live that way anymore. You can be, too. Life can be wonderful and I’m awake and conscious to enjoy it.  I carry a camera in my hand today, not a bottle. I want to capture moments and make memories. I hope that I still have many years on earth in harmony with myself, my life, my husband, and my cat.

We do recover.

Susanne Johnson

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