I come from a very conservative, traditional, extended family on my father’s side. Basically the complete opposite of me! 🙂 I have never truly “fit in” on this side of the family. I have been teased for my upbringing, and I almost never get asked to do things with them. It hurt when I was a teenager, but I’m okay with it now. They are passionate about certain things, and I am passionate about other things. And that’s okay! I love them for exactly who they are. Being different is okay!
But, here’s the kicker: almost nobody on my dad’s side has ever had an alcoholic in the family (that we know of 😉 ). “Blessedly ignorant” as my mom likes to call it. My extended family is lucky that they have never had to deal with an active alcoholic/addict. My grandma said “we got a lot of problems, but alcohol isn’t one of them.” My aunt called my mother and told her that “this is just a phase Sara is going through, she’ll get over it.” All of this is incredibly new to them. My thought process was “I’m already different as it is, this is just going to put it over othe edge!” Two of my cousins have had baby showers over the past couple of months that I did not attend. I didn’t feel comfortable being in an environment where alcohol was involved. This has also been upsetting my family- they think that I am deliberately ignoring them for reasons that are unclear.
Easter Sunday is coming up, and quite frankly, I am dreading it. I recently told my grandmother that I will be attending the Easter Sunday family party, but I proceeded to tell her that I will stay as long as I feel comfortable. I told my grandmother that I am not ignoring family events out of hatred, and being around alcohol in early stages of sobriety may lead to relapse. I told her that I am an alcoholic and that I will never be able to (and don’t want to) drink again. Her response was ” Oh, I am so sorry. Yes, you’re probably right… you will probably be never be able to drink again.” I wanted to yell through the phone “what do you mean PROBABLY? I won’t be able to drink again! I’m a damn alcoholic! Don’t you know?! Don’t you understand?!” Through the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, and processing this with my sponsor, I am learning that I cannot control people, places, or things. I can only control myself. I am accepting the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.
What really stuck out to me when I had that conversation with my grandma was that she was “sorry” about my alcoholism. I actually get that more often than not. My friends have said the same thing. Or, the “…oh” with a disgusted look. Or they have absolutely no idea how to respond. I went to a Mary Kay party that my friend was having recently, and when she offered me a drink and I said, “no thanks, I don’t drink” she shuffled around her kitchen trying to find me a bottle of water like she just committed a serious crime. I actually thought it was funny and assured her that it was okay!
I mean, I get it. I feel “bad” for alcoholics who are continuing to use and have not found solace in sobriety. I feel bad for the alcoholic who is actively tearing families apart, ripping through finances in an irresponsible manner, getting into legal trouble, damaging essentially every organ in their body— the list continues. This individual is sick, and that breaks my heart. So many alcoholics have been there. Even individuals who aren’t alcoholics do these actions! But, I happen to think that recovering alcoholics/addicts are some of the strongest individuals on the planet. We are facing our demons, making amends, doing a complete self-inventory, and have the strength to say “no” to that drink/drug. Let’s face it, society does not label alcoholics/addicts with sunshine and rainbows. Instead, society labels alcoholics/addicts as junkies, wine-o’s, meath heads, stoners… etc. These stigmas all infer (in my opinion) that substance abuse is a lifestyle choice, not a disease (I’m already planning on making a post about this topic- don’t you worry!). Many alcoholics keep their disease a secret in fear of losing their job, or fear of harsh judgement. Those are just two examples, but the list could go on and on. These fears are a result of the “skid row” alcoholic stereotype, so to speak. Breaking “anonymity” is often a personal decision to help another alcoholic, but often doesn’t come up in general conversation. Outside of a meeting, its not like I go up to someone at a social gathering and say with a huge smile on my face “Hi! I’m Sara, and I’m an alcoholic!” I have a very strong personality (shocking, right?!), and whenever I have a chance to advocate for vulnerable populations, I tend to do it- especially if I have a personal connection/experience with it. What can I say? It’s the social worker in me. 🙂
I’m an alcoholic. But I am SO MUCH MORE than that. My alcoholism does not define who I am. Even individuals who are still using are so much more than their addiction. I am a daughter, I am a grand daughter, I am a niece, I am a cousin, I’m a friend, I’m an opera singer, I am a social worker, I am a free spirit, I am confident, I am human. I am beautifully and uniquely created in my Higher Power’s image. I am a recovering alcoholic working through my disease one day at a time. 🙂
I always like to end my posts with a quote than can connect with the topic:
“You can hurt her, but it will be temporary. She knows how to love, but she also knows how to love herself. And if you cross that line where she has to choose, understand that you will lose.”