I’ve been reading a lot (about disease, cure and the role of community) and some things are starting to come together for me.
I’ve never been comfortable with using the word alcoholic to describe myself and I’ve never accepted the idea of alcoholism as a disease until now.
By all definitions I am a highly functional alcoholic. The highly functional kind is the worst because all of the wonderful things that we accomplish every day encourage us to think that we are in control.
The problem with the word alcoholic is that we all associate something very very dysfunctional with it.
So a parent who’s up at 6 in the morning cheerfully making breakfasts for their kids while making sure that everyone is clean and spanky and has taken their vitamins can’t be that word.
A parent who spends every free moment of their weekend helping their kids study for tests and organize school projects can’t be that word.
A professional who clocks in day after day and solves every problem that their job throws at them cannot be that word.
But for those of us who have had that awful feeling of sinking to the bottom of the bottle and not just getting pleasantly buzzed but losing ourselves time and again we know that for a few hours every day we have become that word. And when those few hours start to suck the life out of us ,even though we remain highly functional, we need to find a cure.
So here’s the thing…….it is a disease ( hereditary and behavioral like diabetes 2 and heart disease) and there is a cure.
They’ve been doing a lot of scientific research on addiction over the past 40 years and have found overwhelming evidence that addictive tendencies are genetic. Environment also plays a role but our brains are wired at birth to be more or less likely future addicts.
Arguing against that research is about as scientifically valid at this point as denying global warming.
They have also found that once someone is actively addicted to drugs or alcohol their brain re wires in many different ways so that they eventually feel the need for the drug or alcohol in much the same way as needing water or food to survive.
They’re trying to come up with a medical solution but in the mean time the only cure for the disease is to stop using the drug and never use it again.
That sounds a lot easier than it actually is. I grew up with Nancy Reagan telling the USA to ” just say NO to Drugs” and it seemed like a pretty workable solution. It is if you don’t live in a culture where your drug of choice is something that everyone in the community, from your prime minister to your priest says you should be able to enjoy ” in moderation ” and even let yourself over indulge in “once in a while” because you work hard and you deserve it.
Community as a Cure
So what’s the cure?……It is so weird but true and we have found it here.
The only way to really kick it and stay on track is to talk to other addicts, listen to other addicts, realize day after day that it is a disease because no matter how different we may all be our experience with alcohol is so similar and……although it may be hard as hell to take it seriously and never drink again …it is the only thing that will cure the disease.
I grew up knowing that there were alcoholics in my family and that someday I might find that I had that problem and have to stop drinking.
What that has always meant to me was that if I couldn’t moderate or “control ” my behavior I would someday be one of those people who attend AA meetings every day, felt deprived of true joy, and couldn’t be around “normal drinkers” mouth wash or vanilla extract.
So now that I have finally gotten to the point where I know that my drinking career is over I am so thrilled to be part of a community team that is learning that life without alcohol is the reward not the punishment.
So keep the positive words coming and also keep being honest with yourselves and us about where you are because the cure for this weird disease is community.