#2. "How Do I Know if I'm an Alcoholic?"
Because of this, I get a lot of messages from people about this. A lot.
Non-alcoholics are probably baffled by all of those Warning Signs of Alcoholism checklists from treatment programs. "Uh, how about, you're an alcoholic if you drink a lot?"
"Sir, 'hand me a glass and lock the door' is not on the drink menu."
It's not that simple from the inside. As with the bad relationship and bad job, you stop noticing the smell if you stand in a puddle of shit long enough. Coming to terms with your situation is actually the hurdle that most alcoholics never make it over.
As I mentioned in the article I linked a couple of inches above, Step One of my Action Plan was to start drinking before high school. Then, maybe a decade or so into that process, you'll have a moment of realization. For me, it was a wedding.
Wait a minute, that beer looks an awful lot like cake.
My best friend's wedding was important to me, it wasn't just something I attended out of obligation, and I was honored when he asked me to be the best man. The wedding was set in the late afternoon, and I knew I couldn't show up smelling like beer, so I held off. By the time we got there I was getting pretty cranky, and I didn't realize at the time that it was because I would have normally started drinking five hours earlier. Fortunately, the wedding was quick.
The reception was alcohol free because he and the bride didn't drink, and when I heard that, I started getting minor anxiety attacks. I asked a couple of times about the toast because I knew that once that was over, my duties as best man were finished. I started my speech and looked down to find my friend comically staring up at me in horror, as if what I was saying would summon a demon. Normally, I would have laughed my ass off at this, but in my current state of agitation and withdrawal, it pissed me off. He was ruining my well-thought-out and heartfelt toast! How dare he!
You can see my rage boiling in this only photo to survive the ceremony.
I cut it off in mid sentence and finished with, "Know what? Just ... have a good one." I drank my juice, and stared out over a confused crowd of their friends and family. It was the single most embarrassing moment of my life, not because of the funny look he was giving me, but because of how I reacted to it.
A few minutes later, I shook his hand, congratulated him, and told him that my then-wife and I had to get back home to relieve the babysitter. In actuality, we didn't do that at all. Instead, I used it as an excuse to go buy a case of beer and get drunk in kidless silence.
Incidentally, that beer cost about the same as the tie he loaned me. Because I couldn't afford one. Even though I had a month's notice. That tie combined with that truncated toast-and-flee was the first time (in hindsight) I really considered myself an alcoholic. I couldn't physically make it through 3/4 of a day without needing a drink.
"Dad, if you don't mind us staying up late, just lay there completely passed out ..."
This realization is what motivated me to, uh, completely forget about it and continue drinking for about eight more years.
Looking back, that one incident literally fulfilled seven of the Ten Warning Signs of Alcoholism I posted earlier (to qualify, you need just one). So if you need it boiled down to just one, like if you don't like lists (though if so, you probably are on the wrong website) then I guess it would be this: Does the thought of going without alcohol scare you? Even a little bit? That's a good indication. Maybe you'll catch on 10 or 15 years sooner than I did.
#1. "How Will I Know When I've Become an Adult?"
This question got asked in the forums a while back. It seems like an odd question, but I'm thinking this is why tribal societies would have an actual ritual you go through, where you run an obstacle course and then slay a wolf for the right to be declared an Adult. Without that clear line, it's kind of hard to tell.
From what I can gather, in our grandfathers' time when you turned 18, you were shoved out of the house and either had to go fight a war, or mine coal until you died of Black Lung, or Mining Dementia, or Coal Shits. Then with the next generation it became normal for people to go to college, so they'd stay in teenage party mode until they graduated at age 22 or so. Now, it seems like most people are stretching that out until they get close to 30.
"Just got my Associate's in Art History! The world is mine!"
Most of them don't have shit on me -- I crashed on people's couches into my mid-20s, and refused to get a career until somebody finally agreed to pay me to write boner jokes. I could write the book on delayed maturity. So how do you know that your efforts to shape up and become a grown-up have paid off?
First of all, having children of your own does not make you an adult. Any two jackoffs with functional reproductive organs can produce children. And there is no magical line when it comes to age, not even a ballpark.
No, it seems to be a balancing point between when you stop depending on other people, and become the person other people can depend on.
"Sorry, dude, can't help you. I'm on my way to a bigass party."
For instance, the most mature guy at my last job was 16-years old. He went to work because his mom was morbidly obese to the point that she couldn't work. She collected disability, which wasn't enough to support her family, so the kid picked up the slack. Each week, he would sign his check over to his mom, who would deposit 100 percent of it in the bank. He never saw a dime, and that was fine with him, because he was helping out his family.
Compare that to the other guys there, many in their 30s, who would spend half of their check on mods for their car stereos, and whatever was left over on their three children. Instead of school clothes for the kids, they'd replace the back seats with giant subwoofers. I'd watch these guys scream at their girlfriends for bringing their lunch late -- the lunches that those guys could have made themselves and brought to work with them. They might have married those girls by now, and now those guys have a new mother. They are 35-year-old kids.
"Yeah, let's see a kid handle this much BASS!"
I mentioned my years spent crashing on friends' couches earlier, people taking me in because they knew my only other option was living on the street. Do you think I ever thought about how much work they had to do to provide me with a place to stay? Or how wrong it was that as an able-bodied man, I wasn't the one providing a sofa for somebody else in need? Or that I was always taking instead of giving? No, because that's how an adult thinks. And I wasn't one.
You know you're an adult, not just when you're able to put the needs of others above your own, but when you're able to do it without giving a single thought to what they "owe" you in return. You realize that, at some point you weren't even aware of, you became the tap instead of the bucket. And then you look back and hate your younger self for living under the delusion that somehow a world full of buckets could function.
It sounds obvious to the point of being insulting, and it is ... to an adult. So, as with everything on this list, the answer is that when it happens, you'll know. Give or take a decade or two.
For more Cheese, check out 4 Anger Management Tips the Internet Could Really Use and 5 Ways Methamphetamine Can Make You a New Person.