Letting go. Thoughts on being an alcoholic. A cautionary tale.

Why do I tell people, up front, that I’m an alcoholic?  I certainly haven’t always been able to admit it.  That’s the journey really.  Once you can admit it, some of the sting is gone.  Once you can admit it, help looks appealing.  Once you can admit it everything changes.

It took me more than seven years to admit it to myself. And then s l o w l y getting help took another several years.  It is hard.  Proud people don’t easily concede and I was very very proud.

In November of 02 my father was diagnosed with brain tumors and it turned out to be a death sentence. I was abusing alcohol even then, but it took me years to process intellectually and spiritually that I might have a problem. And to be honest at that point it wasn’t bad — I was quite functional — just had bouts of over doing it.

Today I have to admit that I am an alcoholic and that I will never drink alcohol again, because I was headed toward being a falling down drunk. No, because I was a drunk.  But most people, even those I drank with regularly, didn’t see it and some still don’t believe it.  Of course I was careful.  And bless him, the one person that did see me the few times it got super ugly was my husband.  We’re talking black outs and you name it, it all happened.  He was never judgmental but he was worried — very very afraid and didn’t know what to do.  Over the years, we ‘quit’ together at his pushing and it lasted for a while.  But I wasn’t committed to that idea.  Let me be clear I am not proud of any of that, AT ALL.  I don’t write this to glory in it in some weird way.  I’m ashamed.  It was awful.  I’m grateful that my children were young and didn’t witness most of it.  When they ask me why I don’t drink I tell them I can’t and basically repeat what I’ve said above.  My daughter has asked me why I can’t just have one drink at a party?  I have to tell her there is no “one drink” for an alcoholic.  I wish it were different, but that is the plain truth.  One quickly becomes five, or eight.

I am sharing this story because, I think people need to know that I a forty-something, white, Christian women from the suburbs was a drunk .  It could happen to anyone.  This is a cautionary tale.

Alcoholism is partly genetic and my extended family is riddled with addiction.  With a parent who is an alcoholic, there’s one in four chance that you will be.  (Yes, I have told my daughter that and my nieces and nephews.) Scientists do not yet know how much is determined by our DNA and how much by our life experiences, but circumstances in your life play into it.  Also your emotional state.  And, although it’s not simple, but I can admit it myself that at a certain point in my addiction, I decided the following.  It was a clear-headed day when I said, “Perhaps I am an alcoholic, probably, but I will not quit yet.  Not until I really, really have to, because, at least I can enjoy a few more years of my life.”

Now that seems sad, that I believed life wasn’t worth living without alcohol. And I can say, today that life is way, way, WAY better without it.  (And I still crave it sometimes.  I’m only at the beginning of recovery.)

I told myself that I could “manage” my drinking.  And I did that, for about a year, until it escalated into drinking every day and then drinking a lot every day.  And then, … well, … all I can say is that God told me to quit. (And that is a story for another day.)

And so for years, I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol.  It was more important to me than almost everything.  I had lost friendships because of it.  And other intangibles like personal integrity.  That was the sin I think.  I’m genetically predisposed.  I struggle with and receive treatment for major depression and I knew alcohol is a depressant.  I was on medication for depression that had warnings about drinking alcohol with it, but I did not want to give it up.  At one time I had a frightening suicide attempt.

I believed that I could not give it up, but here is the kicker . . .  I would not ask God to help me with it.  I mean how pathetic would that be? “God, please help me not to drink.” Swig.  Not me.  I turned away from God.

Now I can say publicly that I have struggled with addiction, depression and self-harm because I have finally let go. It all happened to me, but laying all that down was the biggest relief! I will never drink again.  I will likely struggle with major depression through out my life, though I have learned a lot about managing it and it’s better than it has ever been.

But I got help.  I had a supportive, rock solid, amazing husband, and family & friends that didn’t give up on me.  I have the best therapist.  I got trained in my addiction through Gateway Drug & Alcohol, which I cannot recommend highly enough.  But it was the ongoing teaching at Blackhawk, and my personal study of Biblical principles, and a small group of women praying, that was as or more important than anything else.  Through personal study I began to understand in a new way now, I can say to you, without shame, I may be an alcoholic but I am loved.

I am more than a year, free (as of July 08)!

I found, at last, unconditional love from God.  After wondering and struggling my whole bloody life, finally I fell so far down that there was only up.  I looked up and God was still there.  Somehow, I believed it and although I have to take up with Him (almost) daily it is good.

“Do you mean it?  You really, really love me? Accept me, with all my sh*t.  I mean, I’ve messed up good.  How can I ever stand in front of people and admit…….” You get the picture.  He says “Yep, I mean it. I love you.”

And I start another day.

And, I continue to figure out what it means to be loved.  And what kind of person I need to be: humble and yet confident, kind, honest and compassionate, striving to serve others who walk the same path … for starters.

Life Long Yearning

The galactic hole in my heart makes me tired

of holding all the pieces together. Tired of doubting.

Tired of needing.Wishing.Hurting.Crying out in all the ways that speak of your neglect.

All my life, Daddy, learning  that I am incomplete.

So am filling up, gorging on all the things that don’t fill that galactic hole.

Wishing for love that never came. All my life, yearning.

It stops when I say so.  I am here, not billowing in space without an anchor.

I want more. I need.  I wish. I hurt. I cry for love and find it.

At the cross, in peace I lay a life of yearning. I am home.

All of my poems are organized with images and can be found here.  One in particular is about that time when I turned away from God.  It can be found here.

If you or someone you love struggles with depression there is help.  If I had managed my depression better I would not have needed to drink.  I’d be glad to talk to you or there’s tons of help on the web.  This website, http://alcoholism.about.com/od/about/u/symptoms.htm, does a good job of breaking things down.  A caution:  Medical doctors are terrible at helping a person with these issues.  I don’t know whether they are just too busy or in denial or just don’t have the where with all to help.  But I would not go to an MD if I were worried about my drinking.  They will likely play it down.  That goes for most Psychologists as well.  There is no harm in talking to a Drug or Alcohol professional, with is covered by many health insurance policies.  Or, you can pay out of pocket for one appointment if confidentiality is a concern.

Whether it is you or someone you love that you are worried about, I can tell you that if you are worried enough to get more information, then the chances are they have a problem or are headed in that direction.  It doesn’t have to shatter your life, if they can get some help sooner than later.  I’m grateful that I was able to get help before I drove drunk and killed someone.

**Two out of three people who struggle with depression never seek help, and untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide.  In America alone, it’s estimated that 19 million people live with depression, and suicide is the third-leading cause of death among those 18-24 years old.  The good news is that depression is very treatable, that a very real hope exists in the face of these issues.”   Source: http://www.twloha.com/index.php

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