Living with Alcoholism
Throughout my career I’ve witnessed the disease of alcoholism capture some of the most amazing individuals! Addiction often destroys health, career, and family too.
Pure evil, the disease of alcoholism grabs a hold of someone like a tsunami and the destruction is inconceivable. Clearly, a genetic disease that knows no bounds. None of us are exempt.
If we look at genealogy, you’ll typically see history repeat itself within every generation. Many argue it is simply learned behavior. I’ve never met anyone who aspired to be an alcoholic.
Even in today’s world there are misconceptions about what defines alcoholism. I still hear people say, “I’m not an alcoholic, I don’t drink everyday.”
I learned from my mother’s alcoholism and sobriety that, “Alcoholics might only drink once a year, the difference being, alcoholics drink to get drunk”. Someone once described an alcoholic as the last person in the pub, drinking every last drop from their friend’s beer mugs.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease. An alcoholic might get drunk in January, stop drinking, buy a bottle months later and pick up where they left off in January. I bet you have an alcoholic in mind as you read this. We all know one right? We all know the difference between a social drinker and the individual I am describing. Yet, even in 2019, so many of us talk about it behind closed doors or look the other way. The stigma continues and the alcoholic gets progressively worse.
The disease destroys lives and families.
Loved ones completely beside themselves, burned out and often suffering in solitude. Many family members feel like prisoners to the disease. Working late, as returning home feels like a battlefield. The dysfunction and dread of living with an alcoholic feels unbearable. There is limited understanding within our circles. Many simply cannot cope with the shame and stigma. Turning to their support system often hearing, “Why don’t you leave him”, if it were only that simple. Our home is supposed to be a safe haven.
I’m visualizing an episode of “Shameless”,
William Macy stars as Frank, an alcoholic father of six. He spends his days getting drunk. A wonderful portrayal of the devastation of alcoholism. I vividly recall a scene in which Frank is passed out drunk, lying on the floor and his little girl places a pillow underneath his head. It is honestly one of the most heartbreaking scenes. All of this awareness even on television and yet we still joke and think of alcoholics as skid row bums. Sadly, as I write, alcoholism continues to destroy families. It doesn’t exclude the wealthy, those families are suffering too.
The disease of alcoholism impacts all of our lives.
At a young age, Alanon taught me the Three C’s, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it”. The Three C’s helped me understand I was not responsible for my mother’s alcoholism.
Somehow, these C’s also instilled an innate sense of helplessness. Doom and gloom, a feeling of dread, a knowing that the nightmare would continue until mom got sober.
I am incredibly grateful my mother found Alcoholics Anonymous. Her sobriety precipitated my career in mental health.
The good news is there is treatment for this disease. Maybe we can be proactive and assist our loved ones battle their disease? We help and support our loved ones with physical illness. Somehow it feels different. The negative aspects of alcoholism; lying, stealing and manipulating wreak havoc on our relationships. Often, leaving loved ones emotionally drained and burned out with nothing left to give.
My colleagues Jeff and Debra Jay are experts in the field of addiction. I wish everyone had them in their back pocket while living with alcoholism.
You don’t have to suffer in silence
Alanon is a great resource to help you focus on your own self care.
Jeff and Debra Jay and their phenomenal website, www.lovefirst.net can help too!