I was prideful. I did not want anyone to know. Both of us thought we were be so careful and discreet hiding his little drinking problem. The problem was that there is no such thing as just a little drinking problem. It is kind of like being pregnant; you either or you are not. It’s the same way with alcoholics – you are either an alcoholic or you or not.
Everyone knew and for a long time, to my face anyway, they acted like there was not a problem. Then they began to avoid doing things with us. We weren’t invited to parties and events that we had been invited to before. When I would run into them in the grocery store, or somewhere, they were always polite and before they moved on they would say something like we need to get together soon.
When our fiends finally did say something to me about his drinking it was almost accusatory; like it was somehow my fault; or like they did not understand why I didn’t do something about it; or they didn’t understand why I put up with it. They didn’t understand, and I could not explain it either, not even to myself. Their attitude towards me only reinforced my feelings of failure. I wanted to shout that I was not contagious. I felt isolated and alone. I felt embarrassed, ashamed and enormous guilt.
There seems to be more understanding towards the disease of alcoholism and addiction today than there was when I started going to meetings. I believe that part of the reason is because there are very few families out there that do not have a sufferer somewhere in their family. But even when you accept that it is a disease you still have to deal with the fallout from that disease; the lies, the financial impact, the embarrassment, and the chaos, humiliation and insanity of it. And after a while if those friends with the best intentions want to avoid you.
On the other hand, the people in my program totally understood where I was coming from. There was no condemnation, no judging, no pushing me into doing something I was terrified of doing. And, they did not avoid me or treat me like I had the plague. Even though I was grateful to have found understanding and acceptance I still had a problem of fitting in because just I did not want to be one of “those people.”
Today, many sunsets later, I am grateful that I am one of those people. Everybody that knows me knows I am in a recovery program. I have friends, not in the program, that I know are dealing with alcoholism or addiction in their family. Even though they know I am in the program they never say a word to me about the problems going on in their family, and I never say a word to them either. I don’t because I respect my friendship with them. They don’t ask me for advice and I have no intentions of trying to force my advice on them. If they ever do ask I will help them find a meeting, and if they want me to I will go with them to a few meetings with them.
As far as I am concerned a 12 Step recovery program saved my life. My friends do not have to do it my way; they don’t have to do it at all if they don’t want too, because recovery is an individual choice. I have finally learned that I can’t save the world and that my way isn’t the only way. I know that what works for me but it may not be the right solution for someone else. There are professionals in this arena and of course there is the church and other sources as well.
Each of us have the right to deal, or not deal, with our problems the way we want without the outside interference of others. Took me a long time to learn how to Live and Let Live.