I have these conversations almost daily. Somebody is having problems with a family member or friend or themselves and so they ask me these same questions as in this recent text from a friend asking my opinion –
I’m not saying everyone is the same, but the sickness is almost always the same. And it always involves shame. I’ve seen it a thousand times. It’s spoken about in hushed tones and in private messages and in dark corners. Shame that this family member need not carry around with them because as far as I’m concerned, alcoholism is a sickness. Shame because the person afflicted is scared and ashamed of their behavior and when they dry out, that shame becomes even more amplified for a period of time.
I don’t speak with shame about this sickness. Not mine and not anybody else’s.
People want to know why. People want to know how. My answer is, does it really matter? We are where we are now and what are we going to do about it?
People choose to do drugs, yes. People choose to drink and keep drinking, yes. But the difference between normal folks and those of us who have this sickness is that choice is removed for us at a certain point.
I say this all the time, nobody wants to be an addict or an alcoholic. It’s not any fun when it gets to the point of no return. The party ended long ago.
I will fully admit that since the election in November and all the events that have passed in the last year, I’ve been more tempted to drink than I have been in 15 years of sobriety. My inner peace is threatened by the wondering what will become of us as a nation and what we are leaving our children. I’ve gained weight and many wrinkles. I won’t drink, but it’s been difficult finding that balance of living life on a daily level of mother and wife and family member and employee and citizen of the planet. I practice extra kindness due to some of the hateful thoughts in my head at times. I find myself feeling vindictive and vengeful and that’s not my deal for the last several years. My peace, love, and harmony nature is at war with this fighting to keep the most vulnerable among us safe. My fear and resentment is trying to get the best of me.
The reason I won’t drink today? Choice. Because I’m sober today. I have the ability to choose. And I choose not to drink so I don’t get so far into my sickness that I lose the ability. I have learned to live in my feelings today, granted, the feelings I’ve had in the last year are big and make me question ever having children (they are pure hope), but all this would be made so much worse if I drank.
There is nothing that can’t be made worse if I choose to drink today.
If I drink, I lose my empathy and my spirit. I lose my ability to think rationally and make sound decisions. I lose my ability to rise up and keep demanding better. I lose, well, everything.
So many don’t have this critical capability to choose. Is alcoholism a disease or a choice? It’s both. But I won’t condemn anybody for getting sick. I won’t condemn anybody for choices they’ve made that have made them sick. Who the hell am I to do that?
We have choice on how we recover.
I’m not nearly as into AA as I once was, but I believe it saved me when I needed saving. And what saved me was the community. It still saves me and so I continue to be of service. But it’s far from the only way. Wherever you can find community – meaning people going through the same thing you are and supportive of such a condition – KEEP THEM. Find what fills you up instead of what depletes you. And then find those who need filling up and pour yourself into them. Whatever form that takes, if it works for you and for your sobriety and well being, GRAB ONTO THAT and don’t let anybody tell you that you’re doing it wrong. There isn’t a wrong way to be sober. There isn’t a wrong way to find happiness and relief.
There seems to be a lot of talk about doing recovery the right way or the wrong way, and in my opinion that inhibits people getting into recovery at all. We are all in recovery from something. Anything that makes you feel less alone and less scared and a bit better – do that! Connection and gratitude are the keys! Working on the shit underneath all the pain is what heals us. Forgiveness of ourselves and others sets me free.
Alcoholism in incredibly painful to everyone involved, so however you go about healing, I won’t judge you. Nobody chooses this sickness, but as far as it being a disease or a choice? It’s both. It’s time to do something about it. And for me, even after so many years, I have to make the choice each day to do something about it before it does something to me.
As my kids grow up, we will have many conversations about who their mama is and how to be careful with substances. I won’t terrorize them with it or it won’t end well. I won’t tell them they cannot do something. I can hopefully raise them with love and hope and empathy and kindness and knowledge. I can always (if I’m so fortunate) be here to talk with them and more importantly, listen. I cannot be paralyzed by fear these days as I was in my past. I’m not afforded that luxury. Action and moving forward is my choice.
We don’t have to live in this shame. We can come together and talk out loud about all this. The best way I’ve found to get out of my own head is to help somebody. In ways big and small, we can recover. Vulnerability is the opposite of shameful. It’s incredibly strong and the way out of hell. We need to help each other over the threshold.
My dear friend Betsy shared this: “Rock bottom is a very real place. It is the sucker punch that finally breaks through the fog of addiction, of complacency, of the last shred of “I’m not *that* bad” denial you cling to with aching fingers. It reminds me of the bottom of a dumpster in late August. It is shameful, horrific, and disgusting.
Out of the shame filled dumpsters, we rise. ❤️❤️❤️
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