I grew up with family and friends that all drank alcohol. It was a way of life. Social gatherings, family outings, holidays, they all came with alcohol. As I grew older, it became a way of life for me as well. I married a man who drank and at that time I didn’t see it as an issue. I was more of a social drinker. I could take it or leave it. My husband was more of the drink a few beers everyday kind of drinker.
I always thought of alcoholics as a homeless person laying in the gutter who couldn’t function in life. I didn’t realize that alcoholism also included those who got up every day, went to work and functioned in society, but that’s the exact case. When we put alcohol as a top priority in life that we can’t turn away from, then there’s a problem.
My husband and I no longer drink alcohol. There are many twists, turns, heartaches, and tears that brought us to this decision, but this article is far too short to get into all of that. There are several things however that I learned from this struggle with alcoholism that has made me a much better person today. I use this knowledge in many facets of my life now, not in just dealing with someone who has an addiction.
1. I didn’t cause it. No one can cause alcoholism or any other addiction. Alcoholism is a disease. Although I had alcoholism in my family, I am very thankful that I did not get the disease passed along to me. I have always been able to walk away from it, but I have seen many who simply could not and it ended up destroying their life and their family.
2. You can’t control it. Oh, how I tried though. Trying to control someone with an addiction will drive you mad. They can’t control themselves so what makes us think we can. We try everything in our arsenal to control them, tears, bargaining, threats, promises, but nothing seems to work. This is when you have to give control over to your higher power and let them handle it. You have to learn to control what you can and let go of the rest. This you must let go of.
3. You can’t cure it. Alcoholism is a disease that the person will have all their life. They will not be able to have just one drink or think they can start to drink socially and not have to fight the demons again. There is no cure for alcoholism.
4. Healing begins within. Once I realized there was a problem, the only choice I had was to fix me. Alcoholism affects everyone it touches, spouses, children, friends and family members. Some of us who choose to stay and fight the battle with our loved ones need to see that we have dysfunctional thinking that needs to be corrected. Our controlling tendencies must be addressed and then the healing from within.
5. There is hope. It’s not always a lost cause. I have seen many who overcame the battle. I see it personally in my life. It is not easy. It takes work, commitment, compassion, and a willingness to change on both sides.
What I learned from dealing with alcoholism is that I’m not the know all, fix all person I like to perceive that I am. I had to learn some hard lessons myself, which included swallowing some pride and acknowledging my faults.
This will be a life-long battle that includes that I keep my focus on myself. I need to continue to grow and learn about how to be my best self. I need to keep my nose out of other people’s lives and choices. Life is about growing and giving back to one another. Loving one another and not judging without walking in their shoes.
I am a better person today for having gone through all of this. My focus is to be a better me, not be so judgmental. Let others live their life as they choose, be there for others, lean on my higher power for answers, have compassion. I don’t have to be perfect to contribute, my past does not define my future, and every person on this earth has something to contribute.
If you are concerned about a loved one’s addiction to drug or alcohol, reach out to a local Al-Anon group for help. There is hope and healing. We are affected by this disease even though we are not the one that is addicted, be sure to reach out for help and break the cycle.
Photo: Flickr/ John Ott