Hi, My name is Lindsey.. and I’m an alcoholic.
(I’ll continue to start my blog entries with photos like above, as to remind you and myself).
Let me start this entry by just saying… wow!
The last blog that I made public has been read/shared over 6,000 times all over the world. I can’t even wrap my brain around the fact that so many people took time to read a tiny chunk of my crazy little story. I’ve received countless emails/phone calls/texts – most of which I’ve responded to, others that I promise I will. My favorite ones are the readers from the U.K., who have told me about their “pint” drinking days. I am so grateful for all of the feedback I’ve received. The internet is a funny thing.
It turns out that the disease of Alcoholism is significantly more common than we like to talk about, eh? That was kind of my point in my last writing, so I’m glad people understood that.
Of the responses I’ve received, you guys have shared about your husbands, wives, children, and yourselves. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “that’s exactly how I felt!” I’m not sure whether it makes me less crazy, because other people get it – or if it makes you guys just as crazy as me. Either way, we are not alone. I also can’t tell you how many times I got, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry to hear this!” – While I appreciate it, please… don’t be sorry for me. I’m not sorry for me, and no pity is necessary. That’s a whole other blog post we’ll save for another time…
The one response I received that has really stuck out in my head the most is one that feeds into exactly the stigma that my last entry brushed the surface of. I’m glad it was brought up, because it makes for a good excuse to write some more regarding the stigma I am faced with every day.
I received a very sweet, very genuine email from a lady in Australia (pretty cool, eh?), who seemed to really have concern and care for what I was writing about. She shared that she, herself, lives with an alcoholic in her immediate family, and that she really enjoyed reading the “other” side of things. I appreciated all she said; except for when she ended her email with, “You could’ve fooled me, you don’t look like an alcoholic!”
What exactly does an alcoholic look like?
This takes me back to what I may have pictured an alcoholic looking like, maybe as a child. You know what we’re all thinking, but no one wants to say it – so per usual, I’ll say something that may offend. Are you picturing a homeless man, under a bridge, drinking from a paper bag? Probably an unkempt, unshaven, hold-your-purse-a-little-tighter, kinda guy? Stumbling around, slurring words, scaring people?
The reality is, the guy I am speaking about above, very well may be an alcoholic.
And he and I have more in common than you’d think.
So continues the stigma.
While I appreciate someone telling me I don’t “look” the part, I promise you, my thoughts qualify me. And frankly, my actions in my days of drinking definitely qualify me. So, where does that leave us as a society, when it comes to talking about addiction?
Do we only reach out to people when it’s gotten so far that they are living in a shelter, in prison, or under a bridge? When is it okay to start talking about it?
In today’s culture (here in the U.S.), there are people who go into public schools maybe once or twice a year and speak with our youth about drugs and alcohol. I think these programs are great, so before you continue reading I’ll say it again… these programs are great.
You could’ve told me a thousand times over when I was a kid, “don’t do drugs”, “or don’t drink alcohol”. (I really consider them one in the same, but for the purpose of not being so broad, I’ll keep them separate for now). While it is the desired result for no one to ever abuse drugs or alcohol, that is not the reality. Young people are educated on what not to do, which again, is a fantastic thing.
What happens when they don’t listen?
Only 10% of Americans become addicted to drugs or alcohol. There are people in the world who are able to drink and use drugs in a recreational way, (my hat is off to them), so what about the 10% like me?
In my experience, I knew at an early age that my “experimenting” was different than those around me. I always wanted more, it always felt like an itch I couldn’t scratch. I think I said it in my last entry and I’ll say it again – I’ve never had too much alcohol.
I look back on my drinking and I’m reminded of my thought process in those times, (is there enough? how much is he drinking? when does the store close? I have to go now so I can make sure I have plenty of time to get more alcohol and get home) – these are a few of my many patterns that I now realize are not normal at all.
I am also reminded of how alone I felt when I realized I had a problem. I had been told for so long something as simple as “don’t do that”, and the reality is, I did do that, and I’m hooked… Now what?
Again, while I think the programs that are going into our schools and talking to our communities about abstinence from drugs and alcohol are truly making an impact, my fear is that we’re not educating anyone on the reality of addiction. Addiction is a real thing, and it happens whether we like it or not, and there are ways to cope and manage.
For me personally, I was born an alcoholic. We don’t have to debate this, if you feel that alcoholism is a series of poor choices, then that’s how you feel, and I won’t expend energy trying to change your mind. There is no doubt in my mind that I was born an alcoholic. So, let’s get that out of the way.
What if someone had come into my high school, sat all of us down educated us behind the true disease that is alcoholism? Now, I’m not saying that would’ve stopped me at all – in fact, I know it wouldn’t have. My point is that if myself and my family had been educated on this very real disease, then it wouldn’t have been such a taboo thing to talk about.
It’s a very, very scary thing to admit to oneself and anyone else that they have a problem. But, why? Because the general public is not educated enough. Alcoholism is not a lack of self control, and you don’t have to live in a card board box to be an alcoholic. Alcoholics are not bad people.
Let me reiterate: Alcoholics are not bad people.
I had someone ask me the other day how I felt about putting my alcoholism on the internet, and was reminded that now it’s searchable, and “what if your kids someday see that?” Well, in this moment I don’t have kids, and if/when I do – my kids will absolutely know that (gasp), mom’s an alcoholic.
I encourage you to do the same.
I am incredibly fortunate that I have a family, and a significant other, and some pretty amazing friends in my life, that I am able to discuss my alcoholism with, and it helps me in my recovery every single day. It wasn’t always like that, though, and I know that there are people right now who are not able to sit down at the dinner table and discuss their struggles. This is what feeds into the stigma.
So, for those of you who read my last post and got something from it – thank you.
For those who are reading this, I ask that you open your minds a little bit to what addiction is, who addiction is affecting, and to really ask yourself why we aren’t talking about it.
What are we so afraid of?