My name is Allison and I’m an alcoholic. There hasn’t been a day since June 11, 2012 that I haven’t admitted this to myself or others, usually both. Since the day I checked into rehab for alcoholism, I have never had a problem admitting that I am alcoholic. I knew long before I entered the doors of the treatment facility that I was alcoholic—I just never wanted to give up on trying to not be an alcoholic. As crazy and delusional as it may sound, I thought I had a choice in the matter. Turns out, I don’t. My only choice was recovery or keep trying to convince myself that I had control over my drinking, which was unsuccessful for years.

My counselor told me I could either admit that I was an alcoholic and choose recovery or go down the road of active addiction until the bitter end. But not admitting that I was suffering from the disease didn’t make me any less of an alcoholic. She compared it to someone being diagnosed with cancer or any other progressive and chronic disease. Ignoring the fact you have cancer doesn’t mean you don’t have cancer. Same with alcoholism. Choose treatment or let it ultimately take your life—the decision was mine.

So, I chose treatment. For the past 1,240 days, I have chosen recovery and stayed sober.

Has it been easy? No. Has it been worth it? Yes.

From time to time over the past three plus years, I have entertained the idea that I might not be an alcoholic. The thought will come into my head and I let it take me to some pretty delusional thinking. Like, maybe I overreacted with the whole rehab thing. Complete abstinence seems a little dramatic. And do I really need all these meetings? Maybe I was just dealing with grief and my drinking was normal. Maybe after all this time without a drink I could have just one. Maybe, just maybe, I could control my drinking and drink like a normal person. I mean, obviously I don’t have a drinking problem if I have gone 1,240 days without drinking.

Right? Wrong.

Yup, this is the kind of crazy ass thinking that happens when I entertain the idea I may not be an alcoholic. Luckily, I have a few tools I can use that quickly remind me that I am. Like the laundry list of bad decisions, arrest, hospital visits and blackouts. The fact that it’s never been one drink for me…ever. I know I’m an alcoholic, but I still have those days or those thoughts, no matter how fleeting where I entertain the idea that I might not be.

On those days I look at my life sober versus my life drinking. I have come to realize I’d rather go through life believing I am an alcoholic than trying to convince myself I’m not. I did that for years. It was exhausting. Not to mention, it took my soul and left me without hope for a long time. I was ashamed I had allowed alcohol to control my life for so long and I hated the person I had become. Morals, dignity, respect and self-love disappeared a little with each drink until they were nonexistent.

My life today? Well, that’s another story. I wake up each day with purpose and hope. Not to sound cheesy, but it’s true. I freaking love my life today. Life without alcohol, whether I’m an alcoholic or not allows me to live a life of purpose and hope with no hangovers, blackouts or shame.

I’m present for life today. I can account for every single day in sobriety. I haven’t said or done anything that I don’t remember. I have the freedom to go anywhere and do anything and feel comfortable in my own skin, which may very well be the greatest thing I’ve gotten from sobriety. I experience feelings in all their joyfulness and all their sadness and that makes for a way less dramatic life—believe it or not. Alcohol not only intensified the good but intensified the bad and there were way more bad feelings in my days of drinking than good.

Take the labels away and my life is still better without alcohol. Plain and simple. On days I think I might not be an alcoholic, I can still look at how much better life is without alcohol. However, saying I’m an alcoholic reminds me of what my life was like when alcohol controlled me, my decisions and my way of living. I don’t ever want to forget of how bad it was for me. I don’t have any shame in saying I’m an alcoholic. I don’t think that saying I’m an alcoholic is defining me by my disease as much as it’s keeping me accountable to my recovery. If I let myself believe I might not be an alcoholic then why wouldn’t I take a drink? Why would I continue to go to meetings or work a program of recovery? I probably wouldn’t. Which is exactly why I have no shame in saying that my name is Allison and I’m an alcoholic.