**Submitted by Caroline
I remember back in the day . . . back when I was usually so drunk I couldn’t imagine being sober that day, or the next, or the next . . . I remember thinking that I didn’t look like an alcoholic.
An alcoholic, in my pickled mind, was a complete degenerate.
An alcoholic was some poor sap whose drinking had progressed to the point that he (and the image I had in my mind of the stereotypical alcoholic always involved a “he”) had lost his family, his friends, his job, his home, his network of people who are always the last to extricate themselves from an alcoholic’s life. An alcoholic was someone who was absolutely penniless, standing outside the convenience store, begging for a few dollars “for something to eat” (which we all know is code for “something to drink”). An alcoholic was someone who trembled only slightly when he was drunk, and whose shaking verged on the terrifying when he was sober.
I did not look like an alcoholic.
On August 10, 2007, I was finally ready to admit that, although I might not look like an alcoholic, I am one.
I could no more control my drinking than I could stop breathing for any amount of time.
At that point, I had even started to exhibit some of the “signs” of an alcoholic. I had woken with the shakes a few times. One time, the shakes were bad enough that I couldn’t lift a spoon to my mouth. My sister, who was furious with me when she arrived at my apartment, took pity on me and helped me eat the first meal I had eaten in days.
Still, I just didn’t see it. I didn’t see that I could ever come close to resembling an alcoholic.
The funny thing about it? In the past two and some years, I have met so many alcoholics, I can’t count them. I attend meetings several times a week with an ever-expanding group of people who have become willing to admit that they are utterly and absolutely powerless over alcohol. One of them has been instrumental in my sobriety as she has guided me, and other women like me, through our journeys of recovery.
I sit in those meetings. I look around the rooms. I look at the people I see in those meetings, and the thought that I have had, more than once, might sound like denial, but it’s not.
I just don’t see it.
That nurse who sits in the back corner of the room by the door, hesitantly sharing only when compelled? She doesn’t look like an alcoholic. There is an elderly man who comes when his health permits who has been sober since 1968—longer than I have been alive. I just don’t see him as an alcoholic. The quiet somber girl who sits by her attorney boyfriend several times a week and who has been sober for nearly 10 years? She just doesn’t look like a drunk. Neither does he, come to think of it. And that woman who has been so pivotal in the maintenance of my sobriety? I honestly cannot, for the life of me, imagine her with a drink in her hand, much less comprehend the unloveliness that is an alcoholic after a few drinks have been downed.
I look at them all, and I just don’t see it. I don’t see how any of them were ever so out of control when it came to alcohol that they lost their children, lost their jobs, lost their dignity, their self-respect, their ability to even try to convince others that they could drink like a normal person. I just don’t see how some of them were ever so bad off that they went to jail, to prison, to detox centers, to treatment.
I just don’t see it, because although they might have been those people, they aren’t now. They are people who live. They work. They love. They have problems and they deal with them, like normal people do, without drowning their problems in the bottom of a bottle. There is laughter there. They regain the respect of their families, experience love and romance, find friends, and regain their self-respect after firmly believing that that elusive creature was long since extinct.
I think that I just don’t see them as alcoholics because when we come in the rooms, that might be all that is left of us. We are alcoholics. For some of us, that is the only title we can still claim, having lost our role as someone’s wife or husband, the mother to one or more children, our career as a teacher, a nurse, a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, even. We were alcoholics, unable to claim any other titles but that. Over time, though, through sobriety, some of us are blessed.
I am still a wife.
I am still an attorney.
I am a daughter, and a sister to four beautiful women who have graced me with their love and respect after I had reached the point where I didn’t believe I was deserving of either.
By the grace of God, I am also a mother. My Bitlet.
I know there are people out there who don’t believe me when I tell them that I am an alcoholic. They are shocked that I was ever that person who couldn’t control my drinking. They can’t imagine me drunk, even though I remember still when I couldn’t imagine me sober, without alcohol, forever. To them, they don’t see it.
I’m not an alcoholic.
I am just me.
I am Caroline. I am an alcoholic, but that is only a part of who I am, and it is only something I admit. It’s not something that others see.
That is the true blessing, I think, of sobriety.