When appearances are deceptive: the hidden alcohol addiction

Outwardly, Nathalie Stuben’s life seems perfect. She is a successful journalist and has many friends. Nevertheless, she develops a drinking problem – and eventually frees herself from the addiction.

Sparkling wine for a birthday, beer after work, wine in the evening: alcohol has become indispensable in Western society. On average, Germans drink 10.7 liters of pure alcohol per year. Those who don’t drink often have to justify themselves in this country. Alcohol is a highly addictive drug. According to the Federal Ministry of Health, 1.6 million people in Germany between the ages of 18 and 64 are considered to be dependent on alcohol. The story of the journalist and author Nathalie Stüben shows how quickly and unnoticed the entry into alcohol addiction can go.

Experts have argued for decades why some people become addicted to alcohol and others not. The risk factors that favor alcohol addiction include a genetic predisposition, psychological difficulties such as depression, anxiety disorders or trauma, as well as cultural and social influences (such as poverty, easy availability of alcohol). Stüben explains her addiction, among other things, with the fact that alcohol is a drug that has changed the processes in your brain – and that can be addictive: “I didn’t drink to suppress anything or to cope with trauma or stress. For me This stress, this powerlessness and this self-doubt was created by drinking in the first place, “she says.

The unnoticed path to addiction

The path to addiction is creeping and often goes unnoticed by those affected at first. It was the same with Stüben: “I can’t remember a day or an event when I thought for the first time that something was wrong. What I noticed very early on, however, is that I can take more than my friends “I was always the one who blacked out, but I didn’t associate that with a problem”. In her early twenties it dawns on the now 36-year-old that something was wrong with her consumption: “I could just keep drinking. I never had this thought to switch to water now. Once I started drinking, I could do not stop.”

Loss of control is an important characteristic of alcohol addiction. Those affected do not manage to stop drinking after the first glass. They keep going until they are completely drunk. Over time, some develop a kind of tolerance. Then larger and larger amounts of alcohol have to be drunk in order to achieve the desired effects. The frequency of drinking as well as the amount of drinking so increase with the progression of the alcoholic disease. “I worked a lot to somehow maintain this appearance that everything was okay. Then I shot myself every now and then. In the end, every three to four days until I was lying in a corner, unconscious,” remembers Stüben.

If an alcohol disorder progresses without intervention, the amount and frequency of consumption will continue to increase. In the end, almost all of life revolves around alcohol. Those affected neglect their interests, the social environment and often even lose their jobs.

The drop that made the keg overflow

Stüben got the curve just in time and freed herself from her addiction before she assumed even worse proportions, such as a physical dependence. The then 30-year-old didn’t have to hit a particularly low point: “I had this one last morning when I woke up. Once again a naked guy was lying next to me and once again there was torn clothes on the floor. That day was that a white, super nice summer dress, “she says, and adds:” It was a terrible morning, but not a special morning. ” On that day, Stüben had a late shift and “flogged” himself back to work. And although she had seen these terrible hangovers so many times, she decided to stop drinking for good. That was five years ago. Since then, Stüben has lived without alcohol.

Most alcoholics can’t do that straight away. Despite their will to live a sober life, many have relapses before they eventually dry up. So what is Stuben’s secret of success? “What I did intuitively right is that I saw abstinence as something positive. I did not associate it with renunciation, but instead focused on making me feel better if I live sober in the future,” explains them to. So it’s important to keep thinking about the benefits of a sober life.

It also helps many sufferers to remember how badly alcohol has affected their lives. After all, when you are intoxicated you all too often do things that you bitterly regret in retrospect and that sometimes even have long-term consequences. After all, everything is possible, from a lost cell phone to cheating to serious injuries. Stüben quickly experienced how beautiful life is without alcohol. This also increased their motivation: “I felt like doing sports again, got in shape and suddenly had dates where I no longer went to a bar with men and shot myself, but went to art exhibitions or went for a walk. It it was just so great how my life regained details and color, “she recalls, looking back.

Dry thanks to in-house research

What concrete steps did Stüben take to get rid of alcohol? Alcoholic people often go to a clinic or contact an addiction counseling center. Stüben did not do that: “At the beginning of my abstinence I still did not see myself as an alcoholic. I thought that you are only an alcoholic if you drink in the morning. But that was not the case with me. I was able to relax for a few days didn’t drink and never drank for several days in a row. I never shivered or had racing heart when I left the alcohol, “she says.

more on the subject

When Stüben made the decision to stop drinking, she did what is typical for journalists: She sat down at the PC and did some research on the subject. “I wanted to learn how to live sober, so I looked for books and podcasts that deal with the subject,” she says. At that time, there were no German podcasts dealing with the topic of alcoholism, so Stüben listened to American ones in which those affected talked about their addiction and how to cope with it. “I then just tried out which methods worked for me and which didn’t,” she explains.

Because this path was so good for Stüben, she shares her experiences today in her podcast “Without alcohol with Natalie” and now also in her new book “Without alcohol: The best decision of my life” in order to help other affected people. “I want to raise awareness of the fact that an alcohol problem starts much earlier than we think. If you intervene earlier, it is easier to get out,” she says. Who asked “Would I be better without alcohol?” can answer yes, according to Stüben should consider the idea of ​​living soberly in the future.