***Submitted by Diana, who is a Regular Contributor to Crying Out Now
I don’t list alcoholic on my business card, but I am not afraid of the title.
I understand the reason for the anonymity aspect of AA, but I think overall it keeps our disease in the shadows. And I hate that. If no one talks about it, how will anyone ever understand it?
Recently my husband, Bob, mentioned that he had a conversation with a friend in which he struggled to identify my situation. He said to the friend, “You know Diana doesn’t drink anymore” and as he relayed the conversation to me he added, “I don’t like the word ‘alcoholic’. It has such a stigma.” Exactly, and avoiding the word perpetuates the stigma. I promptly gave him my permission to use the word alcoholic to describe me anytime. I am completely OK with identifying myself as an alcoholic. The face of alcoholism has too long been that of the old man with a paper bag sitting under a viaduct next to his shopping cart. No wonder there is a stigma. We need to update the photo in our collective consciousness.
I don’t broadcast my disease at work, but I have alluded to it. Most people know that I don’t drink. Some of the younger people have asked me, incredulously, if I ever drank. My standard response is that I did and then I retired. I usually compare myself to Brett Favre and suggest that I probably should have retired sooner than I did. If I didn’t work for an ultraconservative company, I would be more forthcoming. And if someone, anyone, asks me directly, I will answer him or her directly.
The stigma that we are fighting is powerful and makes seeking help that much harder. We have enough of a fight on our hands with this sneaky bastard of a disease without the public humiliation, real or imagined. Some of our well-intended friends and family reject our diagnoses or make us feel flawed because moderation is not a word in our vocabulary. They would never debate a cancer diagnoses or shame us for our inability to process sugar, would they?
Alcoholism is not a weakness or a character flaw. As those of us on Team Drunk know, alcoholics are a smart, funny, good looking bunch of people. Wait, maybe that is the real reason for the anonymity. If people found out how cool alcoholics really are, they would all start hiding wine bottles in their laundry hampers just to fit in.