In memory of Josh and Jacob.
I miss you both.
I miss you both.
When I woke up and rolled over in bed this morning, I did what I usually do: checked my phone for messages and then checked my Twitter. The first thing I read was that Amy Winehouse had died. The cause is as yet undetermined, but Amy had a history of alcohol and drug abuse. Most likely, she overdosed.
I’m disturbed today because the next thing I saw on my Twitter time-line was people talking about how Amy had a choice, or that she was selfish. That she had no regard for her family or fans. Let me tell you, this disease is very selfish, that is true, and alcoholics and addicts appear to be very selfish as they continue to use and drink to the point of self-destruction.
Tell me, do you really believe that someone has a choice? Do you really believe when Amy was a little girl she said, “When I grow up I want to be a drug addict and alcoholic”? Do you really believe any alcoholics or addicts set out to become what they are? Of course not. No one would choose that life. It seems so simple to those of us who maybe used drugs recreationally when we were younger or can have one or two drinks and then walk away. Why is it so hard for others who seem to have a problem?
For an alcoholic mind, there is no choice in the matter, folks.
Now, I am not writing this to talk about Amy… I didn’t know her, obviously. I’m writing to share with you my experience with drug addiction and alcoholism. My condolences go out to Amy’s family and friends. I, too, know what it’s like to lose someone to this horrible disease.
In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous there is a chapter that speaks to the insidious disease of alcoholism. It is a disease. It is NOT a choice. Please read it: http://silkworth.net/bb/doctorsopinion.html.
In fact, buy a copy of the book and read the whole thing. If you think you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, it may help you. If you love an alcoholic or addict, it may help you, too. If you are just a person who wants to understand the disease, it will change your view.
This amazing book was written in the late thirties. The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous had to have been touched by the hand of God. They created this amazing program that has saved countless lives. That program birthed the next in line: Al-Anon. Hundreds of programs followed after these two, all of them based on the core principals of AA.
I have known and loved many alcoholics and addicts. My father is an addict/alcoholic. I watched him get clean and sober, as well as relapse, many times. Today he is sober. I watched both of my husband’s cousins, Josh and Jacob, die from their addictions to heroin. I loved them both. My husband has a long history of alcoholics and addicts in his family. In addition to Josh and Jacob, I have lost at least two other friends to drug overdoses. This is a very real and very horrible disease and it takes lives. Society only pays attention when it happens to be a celebrity.
The sad fact is addicts/alcoholics die every day. Some find recovery every day too.
But, what of the families? How does all this affect them? There is always much focus on the actual drunk or addict isn’t there? Always much talk about what they should or should not be doing. And then of course those people who share their opinions of said addicts/drunks, that most likely have no idea what it’s like, or worse, they do, and they themselves have never sought help.
Let me tell you, I am a crazy, CRAZY alanon. I grew up in this disease. I call myself an “alanon” like you would call an alcoholic a “drunk,” etc. What I have come to learn is that it’s a family disease. My father was not home a lot, and though he used drugs and drank regularly, he didn’t do it at home. He was, however, very grumpy, and also violent. My mother’s first husband was a violent alcoholic. She had two children with him, and after divorcing him she met my father and had me.
My mother was very focused on my father. Always trying to control, to get him to “behave” and do whatever it was she needed or wanted him to do. She worked a lot out of necessity and was angry a good majority of the time. She had bouts of depression my entire life and took most all her frustration out on my two siblings and me.
Don’t get me wrong, my father was a bastard, but he was also predictable. My mother was a damn roller-coaster ride. You never knew what sort of mood she would be in or what might set her off. I suffered more damage at the hands of my mother than I ever did from my father. And although my siblings grew up in the same home as I did, their experience was different than mine. They may feel as though they suffered more at my father’s hands than my mothers. I can’t share their story, it’s theirs.
My father got sober for the first time in the early eighties. My mother took me to Alateen and she went to Al-Anon. Al-Anon uses the same steps and principles as AA. Like AA, it works, but you have to work it. You have to have a willingness and capacity to be honest. You have to be willing to see your part. Mostly, you have to be ready. My mother never seemed to really grasp the principles of the program. She was still very caught up in my father and blamed him for everything. In her mind, it was all his fault and there was nothing wrong with her. She couldn’t see her part.
I learned about alcoholism and addiction at an early age because of Alateen. I learned it was a disease and that I didn’t cause it, I couldn’t cure it, and I couldn’t control it. I was not cured though, and I still went on to make many mistakes as a young adult and still continue to work on myself today. Growing up in the family disease warped me. I had and still have distorted thinking, and as a result, I made and make poor choices. I still have a laundry list of things I try to control. It just is what it is.
I had a son at the age of nineteen and I was not a good mother for a long time. My son is now twenty and let me tell you, he has never lived with active alcoholism or drug addiction. He is pretty screwed up and he has only ever lived with me. ME!
My two youngest children, ages eight and seven, have never lived in active alcoholism, and though for the majority of their lives I have been in active Al-Anon recovery, they are not immune to this disease. Any of them can become either an alcoholic/addict or an alanon. Maybe even both. There are no guarantees. It’s a family disease and it spreads through generations. It’s cunning, baffling, and powerful. It manifests itself in many ways. Gambling, sex, food (over-eating or anorexia), controlling, worrying, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.
The list goes on and on. It doesn’t just show up as alcoholism or drug addiction, and I’ll tell you something else: I believe whole heartedly that the non-drinkers spread this just as rapidly, if not more so, than the drinkers themselves. This is my opinion and many of you will not agree. I’m okay with that.
My mother was out of her mind. She was consumed with my father and trying to control him, and as a result, she neglected us kids. She took her frustrations out on us. She did just as much damage as he did. I chased around plenty of alcoholics when my son was young. I was always consumed with a “him” and I neglected my son. I took out my frustrations on my son. I did plenty of damage. Again, no alcoholic present in his life.
If my son ends up being an alcoholic/addict or even an alanon like me, is it the family disease or did I play a part? I believe it’s both. The same goes for my younger children. I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, and I sure as hell can’t control it, but I play a part in it.
I hated my mother for years because I felt that she never took ownership of her part. I believed that, although she attended Al-Anon meetings for years, she chose not to get better. She CHOSE!
Now, doesn’t that sound awfully like what people say about addicts and alcoholics? It does, doesn’t it?
I had buckets of compassion for the alcoholics and drug addicts in my life. I even had it for the newcomers in Al-Anon, but I had none for my mother. In my mind, she should have known better. She should have been able to be honest about her part, her wrong doings, and contribution to the insanity in our home. I struggled with this prior to entering recovery and for a very long time after. Then a miracle happened. One day a friend said something to me that completely changed my thinking. She said that maybe my mother was never meant to find recovery. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to so that I could. Whoa!
In that moment, everything changed for me. I couldn’t really blame my mother, then, could I? If she was never meant to recover, then that means that she didn’t have a choice. I’ll say it again: She didn’t have a choice.
Was it God talking through my friend? I believe that it was, but who knows? All I know is in that moment I saw my mother differently, and because of that I was able to love her again. I was able to be a good daughter and stop treating her so poorly. I was also able to make amends to her verbally as well as through changing my actions. I was able to see my part.
My mother is still a crazy untreated alanon and she is also very sick with Parkinson’s disease, but I love her today. I don’t always like her, but I love her. That is recovery.
Some alcoholics and addicts never recover. Some die and some just exist. It is not a choice. It’s between that person and their God. Some have to die so others can recover.
Alanons die too. No one realizes it. We don’t see headlines in the paper about the woman who ran a red light and killed herself and two other people. Was she driving blind with fury, chasing after an alcoholic child or spouse? Was she so caught up in her own thoughts that she wasn’t paying attention? We’ll never know, because it’s not talked about. Hell, it’s not even recognized. It goes unnoticed because we are all so focused on the alcoholic and addict. WE: The children, the spouses, the friends, WE get sick too. Sometimes we even get sicker than the alcoholic/addict. I know I did.
Today I work a twelve step program known as Al-Anon. I go to at least two meetings a week. I have a sponsor; I call her every week at a designated time. I sponsor other women; they call me at designated times every week. I pray on my knees to a power greater than myself, whom I choose to call God. I take commitments in my meetings. I work the 12 steps as they are laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I do these six things because I want to and need to. I do them because I want to own my part and I want to recover.
I study the Big Book, and everywhere in the first 164 pages where it references the “alcoholic” I change it in my mind to “alanon” and everywhere it references “drink” or “drinking,” I change it to “control” or “controlling.” When I do this, every damn word of that book applies to me.
I will never graduate and never be perfectly healed. I will, however, get a daily reprieve from my insanity, contingent on my spiritual maintenance.
Bill W., the author of the AA Big Book, wrote it for the sick and suffering alcoholic, but he also wrote it for their families and friends. It’s a design for living and it works for me.
The book applies to life. I suggest you read it. It may just save your life. It saved mine.
Much love to you all.