Two Big Misconceptions About Alcoholics
Let me start by saying that I knew very little about the disease of alcoholism/addiction before I entered rehab. I had no idea what recovery was about. I didn't know what the 12 steps actually were and had no idea what The 'Big Book' was. Time magazine placed it on its list of the 100 best and most influential books written. In 2012, the Library of Congress designated it as one of 88 "Books that Shaped America." And anyone who has read the book, if being honest, would have to agree.
With this being said...most people who haven't been directly affected by the disease don't know much about it. I get it. I am still learning about it. But below are a couple of the biggest misconceptions that I would like to address. Please read...share...tell you friends. These misconceptions keep many alcoholics in denial and ashamed.
1. Alcoholics are older men who wear ragged and dirty clothes, live under a bridge and drink moonshine from a paper bag.
Exhibit A: Me...your average alcoholic.
I sit in the rooms of recovery everyday filled with the most diverse group of people. They look like you and me. They have families and jobs. They have homes and drive cars. You work with them...go to church with them...live beside them. We look like you. We talk like you. We walk like you. Yes, you. We are just like you...we just don't drink like you.
The other day in a meeting, I was beside one woman who looked just like Paula Deen...very well put together with a sweet southern accent. She is a mother and grandmother and when she spoke, she said she had 40 days sober.
The person sitting on the other side of me was a young man about 20 years old with khaki shorts and a collared shirt. When he spoke, he mentioned he was starting his senior year in college and had a little over a year sober.
The disease does not discriminate. Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Those bums that we think about as being the "real alcoholics" were probably just like you and me at some point in their life too.
We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain's Table. ~The Big Book p. 17
2. Alcoholics don't have will power.
You don't recover from an illness by simply deciding to stop being sick. Wouldn't that be nice? You wouldn't tell someone with diabetes to just stop having it, would you? No...you wouldn't. It's the same thing. It is a chronic and progressive disease and will kill you if not treated.
When I was in rehab, we would go to the Wal-Mart once a week to stock up on toiletries and snacks. They would drop us off for like 3 hours. Have you ever spent 3 hours in a Wal-Mart? Well...it was a chance to get out in the real world, so most of the girls, including myself, saw it as a real treat. I can't make this stuff up. Anyway...it's really hard to pass 3 hours in Wal-Mart and not raid the beer and wine aisle and sneak to the bathroom to guzzle a magnum of wine in a stall. Oh yeah, I thought about it, but I didn't. One, I was paranoid they were always watching us. And two, we could only take a certain amount of money and they checked the receipt and amount when we got back to the house to make sure it all added up. So...we would usually hit up the nail salon and get manicures and pedicures. I'll never forget the first week I was sitting in the pedicure chair and the lady doing my nails was aware of where we were from. She says, "Why you drink too much? Why you not just stop. You no willpower." I wasn't what we would call pleasant by any means during this time. I just looked at her, handed her my polish selection and turned away. I thought...you're right. Why didn't I think of that? I should just stop...brilliant idea. Don't you think if I could just stop I would? Bitch.
From the 'Big Book': In a vague way their families and friends sense that these drinkers are abnormal, but everybody hopefully awaits the day when the sufferer will rouse himself from his lethargy and assert his power of will. The tragic truth is that if the man be a real alcoholic the happy day may not arrive. He has lost control. At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail.
The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink. ~The Big Book p. 23- 24
I wish more people knew about the disease of alcoholism and addiction. It would save lives. I carry guilt and regret that I didn't admit my problem sooner...before my brother passed away. I was his big sister. He looked up to me. I often think about how great it would be to share recovery with him. He would have been good at it...he just didn't have the knowledge or the tools at the time to get better, and neither did I.
The majority of you reading this know someone close to you who is suffering from this disease...you may not know it because you are looking for a bum under a bridge drinking from a paper bag.
If you are waiting for your brother, sister, mother, father, wife, husband, or best friend to just stop drinking own their own...it's probably never going to happen. Believe me...we have all tried to stop on our own. It's just as baffling, if not more, to the alcoholic as it is to you as to why they can't stop. Alcoholics are sick people and we need help to get better.
Open your eyes. Open your minds. Open you hearts.