But, you don’t look like an alcoholic.

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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!”

Sigh.

…Huh?

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?

Thought so.

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?

Now.

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.

HOWEVER…

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?

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Alcoholism: The Equal Opportunity Destroyer

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Hi, my name is Lindsey, and I’m an alcoholic.

These days I say those words often. In the photo above; however, just two short years ago, those words would’ve never made it out of my beer drinking, sailor cussing mouth.

You see, the stigma of alcoholism and addiction is an interesting one.  We live in such a world that putting your entire life on social media is acceptable, twerking on TV boosts ratings, tattoo sleeves are no longer a rarity, marijuana is legal in several states, cuss words fly out of our mouths faster than the F/A 18 Super Hornet, and drunken, sloppy, half dressed “ladies” receive the most views on YouTube.

In 2015, the things I mentioned above, really aren’t considered “terrible” anymore.  There’s not much of a stigma for that world.

So what about my world? And the worlds of so many others?  What about the alcoholic world?

The alcoholic world is quite possibly the most complex world I’ve ever, ever had the pleasure torture of living in. See, alcoholics are an interesting breed, with interesting stigmas surrounding them daily.  I am a 29 year old, hard-working real estate professional, smack dab from where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains. On the outside, I’m not often judged. I don’t “look” any differently, I work, I drive, I eat, I chat, I laugh, I cry, I put my pants on just like you – one skinny jean leg at a time.

On the inside though, I’m much more different than the majority. I have a spiritual malady, a thinking disease, I live in self-pity city sometimes, and there is one thing in the world that I have never, ever had too much of…

fizzy, bubbly, can-still-hear-the-bottle-popping…alcohol.

My mouth salivated while typing that.

That’s because I am an alcoholic. Luckily, I am an alcoholic who is in recovery… for today.

To those of you who are baffled by an alcoholic’s mind – we alcoholics are too. Sadly for us, it’s the only mind we know. Let me see if I can accurately paint a picture for you of what it feels like to be in my head on a daily basis.

Imagine the uncomfortable feeling you get when you’re invited to meet your new boyfriend or girlfriend’s family. Think of the butterflies and the thoughts that race through your head… “What will they think of me?”, “What should I wear?”, “What do I talk about?”

 Now imagine driving home from work in 5:00 traffic. Imagine how frustrated you feel that the only car you can control is yours. The only speedometer you can control is yours, and the only thing passing you is the time.  Imagine your immense frustration, because you have to be somewhere in 10 minutes and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it but sit there and listen to whatever Top 40’s hit is playing for the 15th time through your speakers.

Picture yourself walking into a room, by yourself , full of strangers.  Let’s say strangers who speak another language.  Imagine being the only one who speaks English in the entire room and you cannot communicate with anyone in that room because you do not have the knowledge.

Now combine all of those feelings into one.

And live them, every second, of every day of your life, from your earliest memory.

Exhausting, right? I completely fucking agree.

That is often how I felt, until the day I discovered alcohol. You see, when an alcoholic discovers alcohol, it’s different than when a non-alcoholic discovers alcohol.  When an alcoholic discovers alcohol, meeting the future in-laws is easy, top 40’s repetitive radio in traffic becomes background noise to a relaxing drive, and communicating with those who you know do not understand you, comes naturally.

It is truly a feeling of the deepest exhale you can imagine. Complete comfort for the first time in your life. Finally getting to the surface of the water, after holding your breath and swimming up as hard as you can, for as long as you can.

At some point, for an alcoholic, we cannot get through these moments without that comforting friend by our side… or in our bellies, rather.

I use the term “friend” loosely, because for an alcoholic, this friend quickly becomes an enemy. My drinking took a progressive turn for the worse pretty quickly.

I’ll save the details for another time, but let’s just say – they’re ugly.

Fast-forward to the point where an alcoholic admits they are, in fact, an alcoholic. After all, that’s what this blog is about, right? So, a 29 year old, successful, got-my-shit-together-on-the-outside, runner, healthy eater, fashionable, smart, I’d like to say witty, bubbly girl from the ol’ midwest – an alcoholic.

Gasp.

(Insert awkward silence here)

…Now what?

You tell me.

Now, I am a 5 year old on the first day of kindergarten, without the familiarity of my mother, my home, my toys, and my comfort zone.

And I am also obligated to go through all of these things without telling a soul. Because of the sober stigma. People of the world, let me tell you the thing that absolutely baffles me the most about the LARGE community of alcoholics in the world, some admittedly, some not so much.

I can walk into a bar right now, down a bunch of shots, dance on a bar top, go home with any man in that bar, have porn star sex, laugh obnoxiously, repeat myself 10 times, and wake up tomorrow and have brunch… right? (That’s a rhetorical question… trust me, I can do that, I have the video evidence to prove it).  After all, this sounds about like how a popular romantic comedy starts out, doesn’t it? One that you only have to be 13 years old to watch, mind you.

But what about when I do the opposite? What about when I say “I’ll have a diet coke” or “No thanks, I don’t drink anymore, I’m an alcoholic.”  I wish every time I said that, I could immediately snap a picture of the facial expressions I receive.  But, why?

The Sober Stigma.