A Shift in Perspective

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I’m Tammy and I’m an Alcoholic

I’ve always waffled on how I feel about saying I am an alcoholic. It’s such a negative label. If you want to watch people squirm, just say “No thanks, I’m a recovering alcoholic.” You might as well say you were just released from a leper colony.

I went through a phase of deciding I wasn’t going to label myself as an alcoholic. Alcoholic felt so negative. I rebranded myself as a grateful sober person. This worked well for several months. I even quit going to AA meetings. I was fully enjoying being a grateful sober person. Then I went on vacation and this grateful sober person who was staying in a beachfront suite with a hot tub began rationalizing how having just one glass of wine (well maybe two…but that’s it!) would be something that a sober person would do.   I suppose I had morphed from a grateful sober person to a “normal” drinker. It made sense at the time. And, I was convinced of two things.

One, it wasn’t that big of a deal. We’re just talking about having 1 or 2 glasses of wine while soaking and relaxing. That’s it and it’ll be over … well until maybe next year at vacation time.  And two, that I couldn’t possibly enjoy a hot tub soak without a glass of wine. It suddenly seemed impossible and totally unfair.

I went as far as going to the wine aisle of the grocery store and informing my husband that I would be buying a bottle. I would only drink two glasses. He gently put his hand on the small of my back and said, “You don’t want to give up all the time you have sober do you? You’d have to start over.” And he gently guided me in another direction of the store. I was fuming inside. I resorted to buying junk food and O’Douls non-alcoholic beer. I needed to do something rebellious.

As I stepped out of the grocery there was a car with a license plate that said AA. I didn’t find it very humorous. I rolled my eyes at my higher power.

I went back to the room and gorged on empty calories. I continued to feel cheated and finally fell into a self pitying, topsy-turvy sleep. The next morning I felt hung over. It was more than the empty calories. It was an emotional hangover.

It was in my quasi hung over state I decided I couldn’t live as a grateful sober person because the disease of alcoholism would sneak up and bite me in the ass as it almost had the night before. When I returned home I got myself to an AA meeting and confessed my sins.

As I sat in the meeting I felt a very strong connection to those crazy alcoholics. I realized that alcoholics are the only people in the world who can fully understand how my mind and emotions work when it comes to alcohol. I felt a huge surge of gratitude for the endless supply of support that existed for me in this alcoholic world. I could go on vacation anywhere on earth and find an AA meeting. We support each other. There appears to be no racism, classism, or sexism in the world of recovery. There is a great deal of humility and community. We are there for each other.

I can be in an airport (which happens to be a very big trigger for us alcoholics) and page Bill Wilson. This is code for, “HELP I’m an alcoholic and I need some AA support.” A recovering alcoholic will come to the rescue and help me through my plight.

I now view myself as a grateful recovering alcoholic. And when I say “that word” I don’t feel shame or regret. Because I know I have a lifetime support group that focuses on personal development, growth and keeping it real. And it’s all free. I can throw a dollar, a ten or nothing at all in the basket at the end of the meeting and there’s no judgment. This is my church. And I like it because you can cuss like a sailor and no one will care.

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