Tell us about a situation where you’d hoped against all hope, where the odds were completely stacked against you, yet you triumphed. Be sure to describe your situation in full detail. Tell us all about your triumph in all its glory.
My name is Anonymous, and I’m an alcoholic. I’m hardly alone. About 18 million people have an alcohol use disorder, classified as either alcohol dependence—perhaps better known as alcoholism—or alcohol abuse. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that “about 18 million people have an alcohol use disorder, classified as either alcohol dependence—perhaps better known as alcoholism—or alcohol abuse.” It also suggests “that heavy or ‘at risk; drinking affects about 1 in 4 people who drink heavily may have alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse problems.” Then there are people who have other substance abuse problems — but I’ll leave them to their own devices.
I love that old commercial that shows a man who drinks because he happy, he’s sad, he’s celebrating, he’s depressed, etc. because that’s what alcoholics do — they justify their drinking just as I did when I was abusing alcohol.
The problem is that once you’ve crossed the line, there’s no going back. When you have become an alcoholic, you must give up drinking. (There are other opinions, which would not work for me.) This is where it gets tricky. Remember, many people who try to quit drinking are never able to do so. They often die early, not of “alcoholism”, but of cirrhosis or other liver disease, heart attacks, strokes, wet brain/dementia and of course, car or other accidents. Excessive drinking also contributes to some cancers and adversely affects the immune system.
First I had to acknowledge I was drinking too much. I admitted it to my husband first, then I stated in an AA meeting that I was an alcoholic. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, even though I knew it was true. Once I admitted I knew what I was, then I had to take steps to get better. Well, human nature, particularly the alcoholic nature, tries to keep you in its clutches. I lied, justified, denied, minimized, intellectualized, blamed, and more, and these defense mechanisms sabotaged my own recovery. They are typical. Besides that, my body had become dependent on alcohol. During the last worst year, I probably had a blood alcohol level all the time, except during the short periods when I was able to stay sober. I relapsed often, I went to 3 inpatient treatment programs over two years, I did outpatient counseling, I went to AA meetings.
Finally one inpatient program saved me, but the key is that I was ready to be saved. I even quit drinking before I went: The Caron Treatment Center in Pennsylvania (ranked on some sites as one of the best in the country). Three weeks there working towards acceptance, breaking down my defenses, and addressing the psychological and spiritual vacuum I faced, did the trick. I didn’t want to be an active alcoholic anymore. I had finally surrendered my life and my will over to the God of my understanding — I could not defeat alcoholism on my own. I knew God didn’t want me to live this way. He wanted me to be restored in body, mind and spirit, and set free from my addiction.
AA played a big part in bringing me to acceptance, and keeping me sober. While by the grace of God I no longer wanted to drink, I was still an alcoholic, and while temptations were few, I cannot say they never surfaced or I have never been tempted — it’s like that evil gremlin one sees depicted as sitting on someone’s shoulder whispering negative and naughty thoughts in one’s ear.
While newcomers don’t want to attend meetings (they don’t want to be alcoholics!), they are generally that best place for a “new” alcoholic to be. Everyone has been where he’s been, felt the shame she’s felt, failed like most recovering alcoholics do, gotten up again to face another day and collect another 24-hour chip, and keep plodding toward his or her way to recovery. There is also kindness, humor, total acceptance, hugs when a person feels unlovable, strength to borrow when one doesn’t have any, and a pragmatic 12 step program that gives structure to otherwise unstructured lives. If everyone lived by the simple 12 steps, life would be better all around. Honesty and action.
While I shouldn’t anticipate my anniversary, I’ll be 20 years sober in June. It’s probably been the best 20 years of my adult life. I’ve learned how to live, how to cope with situations that confounded me before, and how to trust in the wisdom of the divine — to let go and let God. If I’ve made any of this sound easy, it’s not. While it was ravaging me, it took a toll on my husband and children. They are the last ones in the world I would want to harm, but the alcoholic me did.
Why I should still want to protect my anonymity I don’t know. I feel proud that I have lived when many have died, that I got sober when many cannot, that I have grown when many have stayed stuck in their addiction, that I have a personal trust in God while others feel their soul has been drained.
I am winner, without the glory, but an inner glow I cherish and a resolve to keep it that way.