Most of those to whom I'm known, personally and professionally, are aware that I'm a recovered alcoholic. I don't shout it from the house- tops, but I'm not ashamed of it either, any more than I'd be ashamed of having cancer or diabetes. You see, I have a disease . . a monstrous, progressive disease that destroys more lives in its subtle, malignant way, than anyone can imagine.
Statistics don't show all of the deaths caused directly and indirectly from the use and abuse of alcohol and other mind-altering drugs . . . nor can they show the ruin of loving relationships, the alienation of friends, destruction of families, losses of jobs, the accidents, or arrests, confinements to hospitals and mental institutions, or the millions upon millions of dollars lost by American industry every year, as a result of this disease.
But, saddest of all, statistics don't show the gradual destruction of the lives of countless men, women, and now children, who go through every day in a fog . . . not feeling, or tasting, or enjoying life, but rather escaping into that private hell we create for ourselves.
Living, is like licking honey off a thorn . . . for everyone. The difference between the "addictive personality" like me, and the rest of you "normal" folk, is that our "copers" are broken. We must use alcohol or other drugs, or food, or gambling, or even another person, to help ease us through the bad times, or to help us have a good time. It's only a matter of time until all of the times are bad. It's a progressive, vicious circle.
Addiction to alcohol (alcohol is one of the oldest drugs known to man), or to anything else, in my opinion, is a disease of feelings. Without exception, of the hundreds of recovered alcoholics that I've heard share their experiences, the feelings before the recovery process were all the same . . . feelings of impending doom, nameless fears and forebodings, of loneliness (even in a crowd) and the kind of emptiness that feels like a black hole in the pit of the stomach, with a blizzard blowing through. There are feelings of not belonging anywhere, not being a part of anything, feeling "different " from others. We think that new people in our lives, new places to go, or new things to have, would make us happy, but the attainment of those things don't.
We're so full of anger, resentment and frustration. We blame others for our problems, never daring to look inside ourselves, for fear of what we might find.
We have little or no self-esteem. We feel that we can't measure up to others. We're not as good as . . as rich as . . as smart as . . or as attractive as . . ad infinitum. We begin to build walls between ourselves and others so they don't know how scared we are. As the disease progresses, and it always does, our self- esteem gets lower, because we try to quit or moderate and we can't. We do and say outrageous things that we despise ourselves for, and that's a vicious circle.
Finally, if we're lucky, we come to the turning point in our lives. There's a "moment of clarity", when we know that we must get honest with ourselves . . . or die. We must let go of our pride, and the fear of not knowing if we can live without alcohol. We know that we have to make the decision to reach out for help. And we do. So simple.
I've really run off at the heart here. I'm sharing myself with you, not to preach sobriety to you, because the large majority of you don't have my disease. But, if any one of you "feels" just one thing I've said, and can be better off for it, then the purpose for which I live is fulfilled. You see, I need to be an example of sober living, and share my sobriety with others, in order to stay sober myself.
I'm grateful every day of my life that those dreaded "yets" haven't happened to me. I haven't had a DUI, or an accident, haven't lost a job because of alcohol, or lost my family, haven't had to go to jail or prison, or a psycho ward . . . YET!
I'm learning how to laugh, how to be content with what I have, and how to accept adversity. I'm learning to say "I'm sorry", how to say, "I don't know, can you help me? I'm learning to love others, but best of all, I'm learning to love myself . . . and know I'm worth it. What a gift it is, to wake up every morning with a clear head and a happy heart, and know that I've been given this day, with no regrets for the yesterdays, with no expectations of the tomorrows, and that I can live my life, in joy and peace, one day at a time, without alcohol.