I cannot tell you how many times it’s been said to me since I’ve been sober. My sweet friends, loving family members, and good hearted individuals all wanting the best for me.
The conversation goes a bit like how most do. Casual, catching up, short stories about kids and jobs. Yadda yadda. All good.
Then it might shift to a concern they candidly share with me regarding someone they care about whom may or may not have an addiction problem. I love it as they are open, honest, and seeking knowledge by asking questions… I’m grateful I can be of some service to them, humbled that they consider me a safe place to discuss this usually taboo or uncomfortable subject.
They may mention how this person of concern “has been calling in sick” more often at work, or how they “can’t seem to keep it together.” They may add how they noticed “some pills were missing,” or “excess drinking,” maybe even something like “he keeps picking up his kids later and later from school.”
I may then share some statements or stories regarding how I came to terms with my own addiction problem, and perhaps offer some insights or encouragement from my own experiences.
Then it happens. They say the scariest thing this addict could EVER HEAR.
“Yea, well you weren’t THAT bad. I mean you were functioning… Never lost a job or your family. Never any big run ins with the law. I mean you just sorta stopped because you wanted to right? Made a personal decision?”
Woahhhhh. Simply writing this, and my heart speeds up a bit.
You see, that’s exactly the scapegoat, crack in the brick wall way out, light at the end of the tunnel, “ohhh hell yes YOU’RE SOOOOO RIGHT, I didn’t have a problem! Oh my goodness- I DIDN’T ever get into trouble with the law! Amen! This has all been simply a nightmare, a misunderstanding, a fictitious, MADE UP LIE in my head” moment that this addict wants to hear and know and feel and most importantly- BELIEVE.
It would be so easy to take that baton and run. But then I remember to play the tape all the way through.
I realize it’s usually because some people still don’t understand the power of addiction, and are just as confused as I once was by the misconceptions surrounding it all.
But sometimes it’s deeper than that. It’s fuzzier, more complex. It’s that my friends and family still don’t want to SEE me as a drunk. It makes them uncomfortable.
They don’t want to see me as THAT person anymore because they never wanted to see me as that person- then or now. And quite honestly, it’s much harder now because I don’t look or act like that person anymore.
Sometimes it’s easier to forget. It’s like an old abusive boyfriend; a dramatic breakup occurs and then with some space and time, all the bad slowly slips away and is forgotten… until before ya know it, you’re back dating again and kicking yourself, remembering exactly why you left in the first place.
I understand it’s a part of THEIR denial that’s coming out. But God, do I want to eat up that denial and fly like a bat out of hell with it- because living in recovery can sometimes be HARD. It takes making hard choices, commitments, boundaries, priorities, and sacrifices. But then I remember it’s not nearly as HARD or uncomfortable as living drunk or high is.
An addict or alcoholic can be anywhere along this list at any point, at any time:
-only drinks on the weekend
-binges once a month
-happy hour black out
-in tact family
-no criminal records
-stay at home mom
You get the point by now.
Just because someone has YET to have outside trouble regarding a job, family, or law, doesn’t mean they don’t have an addiction problem.
The range from highly functioning to losing everything is extremely broad. Some people can go their whole lives as an alcoholic and never show signs of having a problem to the outside world. Others may lose everything quick and be a raging lunatic 24-7.
Point is, an addict is an addict is an addict. Whatever level or situation. It is such a personal experience; a battle from within. It’s an uncontrollable obsession and will to numb or escape that increases over time (maybe quickly, maybe slowly) and thus it’s ramifications usually are also very unique.
I have to check myself every time a loved one says those scary words. My stinkin thinkin goes right into the flee/party/oh heck ya/break outta this place/ zone and I have to ring it in- QUICK. I remind myself that although it was a choice I WANTED to make, initially it was a desperate choice I HAD to make.
Addiction is a disease that is “cunning, baffling and powerful.” When those scary words are spoken to this addict, it’s like someone mistakenly watering a weed that I’ve worked so hard to tame.
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