7.4
August 8, 2021

I’m proud to be an Alcoholic, I just wish it didn’t carry so much Shame.

 

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I just started reading the book, Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker. I am devouring it. I am drawn in by her story.

It has taken me so long to get it because I heard she bashes Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a patriarchal system and doesn’t resonate with the term alcoholic—and she prefers non-drinker.

I am so glad I gave it a try.

I have grown up in AA and attribute it to saving my life back in 1998 at 21 years old, but I also love reading a good memoir and “quit lit” books that give hope to people struggling with their alcohol consumption.

I came sliding into my seat in AA just like the rest of us I suppose. I had been handcuffed and taken to the station and then was court-ordered to meetings and treatment for two years. I had to go at least twice a week to get a court slip signed, and did it begrudgingly. But then, once I heard people sharing and saw the 12-steps on the wall, I sunk a little deeper into my seat. I saw people laughing and recovering where I saw my own family members drunk and afraid.

Alcoholics were no secret to me, I’d been around them my whole life only I had never really heard the term alcoholic as it pertained to me and my family. Yes, alcohol was what we did, but we weren’t homeless living under a bridge (yet).

Yes, I can see her point that many AA meetings are mostly men, some like to ruffle their peacock feathers when they see a pretty young girl walk in the room, but most are sweet and kind gentlemen who got lost in the demise of alcohol just like any of us. I consider some to be my closest friends and family. I know men in AA who have treated me better than people in my own family of origin and for that, I can only be grateful.

When I sit in the chair now and introduce myself as an alcoholic these 23 years later, I do not sink down in my chair in shame. I rise up and say it with pride. My name is Melissa, and I am an alcoholic.

I have found hope in a hopeless situation.

My mind and body were addicted to drugs and alcohol and now they are not. I have recovered one day at a time by not picking up a drink or a drug, but as they say, I only have today.

I sit in my seat, grateful that I have the power to say I am an alcoholic. Did you know only 1 in 30 makes it in sobriety? So I sit in that seat and will shout it from the rooftops. I am an alcoholic! And look at me sitting in this chair and not incarcerated like my father was. Look at me sitting in this chair and not dead like so many of my family members from this disease, including my own mother.

Look at me. I have managed to stay sober through a divorce and the deaths of my parents, moves, and arguments. I have gone to treatment with five years of sobriety because I was suicidal and neurotic, but I didn’t drink.

I have given myself the ability to get better, recover, mother, and be a partner just to break this goddamn cycle all because I didn’t pick up that next drink.

When I sit in that seat with my other sober women; women who I love and admire, I see in our faces where we’ve been and where we don’t want to go back to. I hear stories of families reunited and of grandkids. I hear victory over the beast that is alcoholism. I hear joy and I hear the pain, but we are not going to drink over it today.

I look around at my AA family and when all my other family is gone, I will still have these survivors, these warriors sitting around in a circle ready to pray and hold hands at a moment’s notice. People I could truly call in the middle of the night and who would do anything for me and these people are all over the world.

To be honest, AA is cheaper than therapy and gives me a similar benefit. I get to lock arms with people fighting this fight, trying to better themselves and peel those layers that we had when we were drinking.

I am proud to be an alcoholic. I wish it didn’t have such a negative connotation.

I feel like I made a choice to stop letting alcohol kill me and for that I am grateful.

I love how Holly talks in her book about alcohol being poison and it’s not that non-drinkers failed and couldn’t control it, but that no one should be drinking a toxic substance and having better results. Heavy drinkers will still say, “oh well I’m not as bad as Susie, she had to go to AA.”

Here is the ticket to freedom, you don’t have to be as bad as anyone. You don’t have to feel shame about not being able to control a lethal substance in your bloodstream.

Alcohol and beverage companies spend more billions of dollars each year to advertise and make alcohol look fun and appealing. Guess how many ads kids see a day on average?

“Youths in the study (ages 11–14) were exposed to an average of three alcohol ads per day; black and Hispanic youths’ exposure was roughly double that of white youths.”

The media companies are targeting our children because when all of the older generations die of alcohol use disorder (a nice term for alcoholics), they need fresh customers.

It is just like the advertising for cigarettes. For years, the companies providing cigarettes denied the claims that cigarettes were harmful. Now, look at us.

I for one had a grandmother who smoked out of a hole in her throat. Anyone else?

I could ride a Harley and wear a motorcycle jacket, smoke a cigarette, and put it out with my boot and that was my alter ego for a long time, the tough girl who could order a Black Velvet and Coke or a double BV and Coke, take a shot, smoke a cigarette, smoke weed, snort some lines.

That was my MO, that is who I was.

So, when I finally slumped down in that chair with a court slip defeated and had to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, and then I saw the steps on the wall and I heard other people say they were alcoholics I felt like I was home. I felt like I found my place. I felt like sitting in that chair and saying that I was an alcoholic was the answer for all of the things that had gone wrong in my life.

I had grown up around alcoholics and it made sense to surrender. I didn’t see it as disempowering; I saw it as a full surrender which is empowering.

My power was given back that day because many of my family members never made it to that chair. I am a miracle. I’m able to sit in that chair and say I’m an alcoholic; I win. I have a chance.

They told me that first day that I never had to drink again, even if I wanted to.

They told me it wasn’t the 10th drink that got me drunk, but it was the first one.

They told me that I had a disease or an illness and alcohol in my brain was uncontrollable and from where I came from, that made so much sense to me that had to be true. I’ve lost countless family members to this disease and yes, I do believe it is a disease. I do believe that I was predisposed genetically to alcoholism. I do believe that my alcoholism story started when I was in utero.

But guess what? I found a way out and anyone can pooh-pooh it all they want, but I am not giving up my chair for anything.

~

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