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Too Young Too Smart Too Successful to be an Alcoholic

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It’s like a Jeopardy game show question: “What are the three reasons given as to why people with a drinking problem cannot get sober?

What is too Young, as “I’m only (__) fill in the blank, years old. How can I possibly be an alcoholic, I’m too young?” “Yes, my mother and father drink too much and probably alcoholics but they are in their mid-seventies.” “Not me, I’m much too young to be an alcoholic.”The undeniable truth is that alcoholism affects both men and women of all ages.

What is too Smart, as “I have an MBA from a very good school and have received excellent grades throughout my entire academic career. I believe only high school and college dropouts can be alcoholics. Not me, I’m much too smart to be an alcoholic.”

“Besides, I have a great work history and promising career.” The undeniable truth is intelligence is no more a factor as who may be an alcoholic than the day of the week they were born on is.

What is too Successful, as “I don’t live outdoors, I didn’t spend last night under a bridge. I have an excellent paying job, a home in a nice neighborhood and a BMW in my garage. No. I’m definitely too successful to be an alcoholic.” The undeniable truth is that money and an individual’s wealth play no role as to who may or may not be an alcoholic.

My personal and professional experience in the rehab, recovery and treatment world suggests strongly that it is either one, a combination or all three of these reasons why people believe they cannot have a drinking problem.

In my own case it was all three reasons, “the trifecta” as I like to refer to it, as why I could not possibly be an alcoholic.

I was 38 years old, a college graduate and a successful, small business owner who attended Church each Sunday. How could I possibly be an alcoholic? Besides, I had a lot of friends and especially relatives that had spilled more than I drank.

I used to say, ‘I only had a problem when there was nothing around to drink.’

The craving started most weekdays between 2:00p and 3:00p.m. It was at this time each day that I would start romancing the idea of having a few cold, “Tall Boys” on the drive home. Winter or summer, hot or cold, it made no difference. Stopping each late afternoon at the local convenience store or “packy” as we say in New England and purchasing what I considered my just reward for completing yet another day at work became a ritual.

I had become like Norm on Cheers. How else was I supposed to make my way home through the late afternoon Boston traffic? Besides, I worked hard each day and deserved a few beers on my way home, didn’t I?

I had always believed alcoholics were dirty, lived outdoors, and people who drank cheap wine from screw top bottles.

Arriving at home each day before taking my winter or suit jacket off, I would routinely reach into the fridge for another of my trusted friends, my Buds.

Oftentimes I would proceed to have several additional ice-cold beers in arm’s reach while taking a hot bath or sitting in a bubbling jacuzzi.

Just one or two more before supper and I’d have captured once again that illusive beer buzz that I so craved at the end of each day.

I thought I could stop drinking any time if it became necessary. The simple truth was I was living a lie and had a secret I could not share with anyone. I knew deep down inside I was not able to stop or control my drinking.

I began to worry that it was just a matter of time before I too hit what I had heard referred to as a “bottom” and lost everything.

I discovered there are two “bottoms” an alcoholic will experience. There are what are referred to as High bottoms and Low bottoms.

Examples of an alcohol addict’s Low bottom oftentimes includes DUI’s, divorce, bankruptcy, job loss, hospitalization, house arrest or jail.

But again, how could I be an alcoholic? I was only 38 years old college graduate and owner of a sailboat and a BMW.

It wasn’t until a Sunday afternoon in the winter of 1992 my wife gave the ultimatum and choice between continuing to drink or losing my marriage and children. I finally surrendered and sought relief. I was desperate and sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It was taking a prep school classmate’s advice and attending twelve-step meetings that allowed me to come to grips with the fact that I had become powerless over my alcohol consumption and that the loss of my life, health and family were truly at risk.

I proceeded to attend ninety meetings in ninety days. In hindsight, this saved my life. The gratitude I have today stems from the fact that I didn’t have to lose everything as so many others had before I succumbed, surrendered and acknowledged my alcoholic disease.

Today, with 28 years of continuous sobriety I chuckle to myself and oftentimes cannot help but smile when I hear someone say they are too young, too smart or too successful to be an alcoholic. As now I know better.

Lawrence (Laurie) Traynor

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Lawrence (Laurie) Traynor – a retired drug and alcohol treatment executive, volunteers his time helping addicts and alcoholics, their loved ones and families locate public and private drug and alcohol assistance resources.

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Last modified: June 27, 2023