I’ve already told the story of Michael’s motorcycle accident, so I don’t need to do a retelling. If you didn’t read it, it was my blog from 3/28/13. Feel free to go back and read it. I try not to sugar coat what happened, or hide it for what is was.
Hiding alcoholism is never the way. It doesn’t help the alcoholic, the family, or anyone who cares about them. It doesn’t make it go away, or hurt less, or lessen the severity. Unless you know or live with an addict, you have no idea what daily struggles are present. You can sympathize, you can nod or hug, but you don’t know the pain. Some people are in denial about it and think the family is making a bigger deal out of it than it is. I think this is especially true for alcoholics. Drinking is so socially accepted, almost expected, that when someone turns down a drink the reaction is usually shock or bewilderment. “Oh sure ya do!!!” as he’s handed a bottle. “You can have just a couple, I’ll make sure you don’t get too drunk.” Or how about the best one, “You can have just one, it’s my birthday/anniversary/job promotion/insert the reason here.” If he could have “just one”, he wouldn’t BE an alcoholic, would he????
Alcoholism never goes away. Someone can achieve sobriety, but it doesn’t ever go away. A person in recovery can go years without a drink, but something triggers a response in them and after that first sip, it’s all over with. Hopefully, they can get right back to whatever helps them stay sober; 12 step, counseling, friends, church, rehab, whatever worked for them, they need to work it hard! But so many can never right that ship once it’s off course. The shame they feel internally can not be expressed outwardly. I call it the “Shame Spiral” because that’s what it does. They continue to drink because of the shame they feel for drinking. Makes a lot of sense, right?
I go back and forth on my feelings about people drinking in front of or around him. I think it’s rude most of the time. I think it’s mean-spirited, selfish and inconsiderate. I also think that if you can’t go an evening without drinking to support a friend, maybe you need to look at your own drinking habits and seriously evaluate your own life. I’m not saying non-alcoholics shouldn’t drink, it’s a trillion dollar a year industry (I just made that up, I have no idea how much they make a year, but it’s a LOT) and it’s a lot for a reason. Happy Hour is one of our favorite past times, right? But here’s what I want all of you non-alcoholics to realize….if an alcoholic (especially a recently in recovery alcoholic) attends a social gathering where alcohol is sure to be present, it has taken a tremendous amount of nerve to even show up. S/he sees everyone drinking. S/he feels like they are sticking out like a sore thumb. If S/he stays for 15 minutes, that might be all they can take. But to come to the alcoholics own home with alcohol, drink it in front of him, is just…..just….. WRONG!! How selfish do you have to be?? Is it REALLY all about you that you can’t give one precious evening of drinking soda? Or tea? Or water? Can you really not have a good time unless you’re drinking? Again, I would say that calls for some self-evaluation. Sorry if that’s harsh. I’m calling it like I see it.
If you know someone who is an addict, please do what you can to support that person. Support them where they are right now. Not where you want them to be, or where you think they should be, but where they are. It is soooooo hard to do that. It’s hard to live it every day. It’s hard not knowing what each evening will bring. Encourage that person you know to get help. Attend a meeting with them. Offer to drive. But always remember, it’s there, lurking below the surface. Because one thing an addict is great at doing besides using…is hiding.