- Posted June 17, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Are you an Alcoholic?
Are you an Alcoholic? I am.
Many people think that recovering from alcoholism is simply a choice, much like exercise or a diet. However, there is a broad misconception here that reduces the severity of an alcoholic’s disease and places society’s version of recovery as the ‘snap-of-a-finger-here-comes-my-fairy-godmother’; when in reality, there is so much more that goes into getting help. Yes, an alcoholic must be in a place where they can make a decision to acknowledge they have a problem and are willing to do whatever it takes to ‘cure’ it. On the other hand, the unknown depths one must succumb to before that willingness occurs, is different for every individual. There’s nothing written in stone that says “You are a drunk if you…”.
Obviously, we (the alcoholic) cannot place blame on someone else though. Our finger-pointing really has nowhere to go. We can’t point at our parent’s saying that we drink because of the way we grew up, nor can we direct that finger at a spouse, child, or job. I also feel that pointing the finger at ourselves gives the alcoholic a deeper sense of shame that they have to overcome, as well as the alcoholism. I look back now and still loooove to point all of my fingers at myself. I’d point all my toes and yours too, if I could. But, what does that accomplish? Does it make me accept the accountability of my actions or does it simply make me feel as though I am a minute being who is smaller than a grain of sand…..which would give me reason to drink again.
When I think back on my drinking, I search my mind trying to understand why I didn’t stop before I made some horrendous decisions. Why? I knew the actions I was making were absolutely contrary to the person I thought I was, yet I couldn’t stop them for whatever reason. It really baffles me. How could I have let myself lose everything that meant the world to me in order to have that momentary lightness and escape?
I really do feel that after a certain point, our mind becomes diseased and our thought patterns are indelibly altered. There’s no way that in my right mind I would jeopardize my life with my children; they were (are) my life. Yet, drinking slipped its hook so slyly into my core that I wasn’t cognitively aware of the decisions I had made while living under the cloak of active alcoholism.
Trust me, I never, ever thought I was going to say the words, “Hi, my name is Lisa, and I’m an alcoholic.” Are you kidding me?! C’mon people! I was the fun, hilarious, goofy party girl, right? Even at the age of 41, I could hold my own with the young’uns and drink more beer than a frat boy. That’s certainly something to brag about, right? Sadly, in my sick mind, it was.
When I tell people that I’m a recovering alcoholic, I often get a look that seems to say, “You? But, you don’t look like a drunk!” I may not look like the stereotypical heavy drinker, but that doesn’t make the perception any less real. In the latter years of my drinking, I started to plan when/where/how I would buy my alcohol. Since, I was at the liquor store every other day, I had to go to different ones in town in order to ‘hide’ my affection for imbibing. I also made sure to pick up my drinks before my eldest got out of school, so he wouldn’t see me going into the liquor store yet again. I’d buy my booze and hide it under a blanket in the trunk. That’s totally normal, right? Then I’d sneak it in the house when he wasn’t looking. I also had huge garbage bags filled with empty cans and bottles that were hidden throughout my house – why I didn’t throw them out confuses me.
The mind becomes a ‘hell’ of sorts. As John Milton once said in his book Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Man!, I wonder if he was an alcoholic, because he certainly got that quote right. I couldn’t have explained it better.
Drinking is a SELFISH disease. It’s an isolating disease. It’s also very ugly and incredibly sad.
When I was first getting sober, my pastor, his wife and two of my friends sat me down. They proceeded to tell me the ugly truths about myself. It was raw and completely unfiltered, albeit said in love. Have you ever given someone complete freedom to say what it was that they truly thought of you and not given any excuse for your behavior at the end of the discussion? It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I listened to them tell me that I wasn’t a good mom when I was drinking; that I often put my children in jeopardy and practiced ‘distant parenting’. They told me that I liked to function in crisis mode and would get furious when no one bailed me out or empathized with me, amongst many other hurtful and painful things. Do you know what I did after that meeting? I took their words - as excruciating as they were – wrote them down on notecards and carried them around with me for three months. When I started to feel sorry for myself, I pulled them out. When I started to wonder if I really was an alcoholic, I pulled them out. I even drove with the cards propped up on my dashboard where I could look at those ugly truths and remind myself of whom I had become….and who I would become again if I picked up a drink. Those piercing daggers of truth were good for me. They painted the picture of an alcoholic who was stuck in the swirling tornado of drinking, damaging anyone who got in the path of her storm. And like a tornado, the devastation could happen in a mere moment leaving behind years of wreckage, while the winds of the storm kept moving on, disregarding the damage it had wrought.
I was talking to someone newly sober last night and told her that things may very well get uglier before they get better. Real nice encouragement, huh? But, the reason I told her that is because once an alcoholic is able to stop drinking, it doesn’t mean that (s)he doesn’t have to go back and rebuild after the tornado destroyed her home. Stopping the drink is the first step…. dealing with wreckage is next. However, there is a bright ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds: once people see that you are serious about your sobriety, they are much more likely to work through the storms with you and forgive a lot of the damage. If we go into sobriety with humility and not relying on excuses, we have a better chance at staying sober and repairing our lives. For the first few months of my sobriety, I did not utter an excuse for the horrible things I had done. I didn’t blame the alcohol or life’s circumstances. I simply said, “You’re right – and I’m sorry.” I do believe that if I had gone into recovery and gave excuses for my behavior, then my marriage wouldn’t be as wonderful as it is today. My husband needed to hear me say that he was right. Why? Because he often was.
Recovery isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be downright miserable at times. But, there’s NO way that I’m going to give my husband another opportunity to take a picture of me: passed-out, face-first on the floor next to our bed, bloated waistline visible, with a bowl of popcorn nearby.
So, who is an alcoholic? Wouldn’t it be great to have an actual definitive answer? Yet, it often relies on the individual with the diseased mind to determine whether or not they have a problem. If drinking has caused any sort of ruckus in your life and you’ve swept it under the rug, hiding from its effects, then you may very well be on your way to saying, “Hi, my name is ______, and I’m an alcoholic.”
I would like to state that I do not think that all who drink are alcoholics. I admire those who can drink responsibly. Their mind doesn’t have the chip that says, ‘more, more, more!’. Those lucky ducks. Yet, I’m BLESSED too. I have my family back and have found all of the love and affection from them instead of trying to find it in a bottle. And that is where I find my rainbow amidst lifes tornado's.