“He just drinks too much and needs to limit himself.”
“If you had my problems you’d be drinking too.”
“If he would just stop hanging out with that crowd he could get his drinking under control.”
“Of course she is not an alcoholic! She works full-time and raises a family.”
“He will stop drinking so much once we have kids.”
“There is no way she is an alcoholic. She doesn’t drink every day and she can even go months without a drink.”
“We drank the same amount at dinner, why is my spouse suddenly out of control and drunk?”
Have you ever said any of these about someone you love, or even about yourself? Sometimes we aren’t ready to admit there is a problem, but sometimes it can cost us way too much to keep denying it.
I am not a doctor, nor am I a psychologist or counselor, but if you have uttered one of the phrases above, chances are pretty high that the person you are talking about could be an alcoholic.
How do I know?
I am one.
For a moment, close your eyes and picture an alcoholic. If you have never been closely involved with this disease before, you are probably picturing an older man, scruffy skin, maybe a beard, ragged clothes, slurred speech, brown bag in hand, and more than likely … he is sitting on the side of the road somewhere.
Now let me tell you what an alcoholic looks like. He could be the man you pictured above, but he could also look like your child’s soccer coach who is so good with the kids. An alcoholic looks like your high school teacher who sat and tutored you for hours on end. An alcoholic looks like the insurance agent who did such a great job taking care of that last claim for you. An alcoholic looks like your neighbor who always seems to have it all together and waves while walking to the mailbox each day. An alcoholic looks like your grandfather who you admired for years. An alcoholic looks like the cashier at the grocery store who always seems just a little sad but smiles nonetheless.
An alcoholic looks like me … On a good day I am a suburban mom who can hold down a job, show up to get the kids from soccer practice, host a dinner party, and volunteer at the local non-profit. You never saw my bad days because I hid my problems from you while my spouse took over.
Sure I can stop drinking for a while, I can even do it for months at a time, but I couldn’t stay “stopped.” Once I took a sip, all bets were off. It could end up being a night out with friends where I am drinking pretty heavily and the night ends without any significant damage. Or it could end up being a night that is out of control where I wake up the next morning riddled with guilt and remorse. My problem was that I never knew (or had a choice) of which scenario would be played out.
My body was no longer able to handle my alcohol consumption like it used to. I was slowly becoming a greater nuisance to my family because of my hangovers and the lack of motivation that came with it. I could not physically keep it together and mentally checked out from life and my family. I wanted to run from everything I loved. I justified my drinking because I told myself that I was only hurting myself. I had no idea how much I was damaging and hurting everything in my life with my behavior.
Alcoholism does not discriminate. The most important thing to realize if you or someone you love is dealing with drinking issues is that it is a disease. No one invited alcoholism into their lives and trying to quit without help is next to impossible.
When someone’s drinking begins to cause problems in their life, yet they continue to drink anyway, this is usually the first sign of alcohol abuse.
The good news in all of this is that if you want help and can acknowledge the problem, then there is a way out. You don’t have to walk this dark road alone. Not one more day, not one more hour, not one more step.
If you are the one with the alcohol dependency problem, there are many options for help. Sobriety can be found many different ways. I attended a few meetings in AA, and declared to myself, “I am not that bad”. I thought to myself, “I got this”, and continued to drink on social occasions knowing full well where it would lead if I couldn’t monitor my drinking levels. Several months later, I found sobriety after an intervention with family and friends and a 28-day stay at a treatment center. I was fortunate enough that I was ready for a change, for I could no longer count on both hands all the broken promises I told my family, and worse, told myself.
To this day, the 28 day vacation was one of the best things that happened in my life. I found my smile, laughed, cried a whole bunch, and I was fortunate enough to find myself, and began living my life with some peace and serenity that I hadn’t known in a long long time.
After treatment, they prescribe the medicine, it is called Alcoholics Anonymous. The first time I went to a meeting after treatment, it was still tough. I was still scared. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back. I thought that everyone there was different than me and I doubted if I should even be in those rooms. They told me to keep coming back. What I did know is that I didn’t want to go back to drinking with all of the other emotional baggage that is associated with it, so I went back to a meeting a second, third and fourth time. Before I knew it, I realized I was exactly where I belonged, surrounded by people who have struggled just like me and who loved me even though they had never met me. If I was the “black sheep” of my family, I finally found the rest of the herd.
If you love someone who you think may have a drinking problem, Al-Anon is for you. You will probably feel uncomfortable the first few times you attend a meeting, but keep returning. Someone there has been through exactly what you are going through, many times they have been through much worse. They will help to show you that there is happiness at the end of the tunnel.
Take it from me, someone who finally admitted I had a problem and someone whose life has been turned completely around into something more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed. I am free from the shackles of alcohol.
There is hope.
A huge thank you to our guest blogger for this inspirational and moving blog today. She has asked that we encourage all of you to please share this blog through social media. If it can help just one person, her story was worth sharing. We also encourage you to submit comments below. If you would like to leave an anonymous comment, simply leave the boxes for “name” and “email” blank and only fill in the security code and comment section.