I will not begin this letter with “Dear” because you are not dear to me…you never have been and you never will be.
You and I have had a long and interesting journey together. I met you as a child – you and my father were well acquainted. You lived in my home alongside me everyday of my young and vulnerable life. While I was the first born, you were the most loved. My father put you before me and cherished your relationship with him more than mine. You almost killed him three times but not until the third time did he decide to end his love affair with you.
I hated you and because of that, for a time I hated my father. I cared for him. Stood by his side when no one else did except you. I tried to save his life while you tried to kill him. It wasn’t until you had almost succeeded that he turned to me. By then he was old and you had exacted your toll. He only had 13 years left for me. 13 out of 35…even I can do that math…you won.
Because of your relationship with my father, I avoided your company for many years. I drank beer on occasion and tried wine from time to time. Since my first husband had lived with you when he was a child as well, there was no alcohol in our home. Because of you I invented rules to keep you at bay.
No drinking alone.
No drinking at home.
No drinking before 5:00 pm
But you were always below the surface because you had already taken up residence in my soul. You slept…for a time…until my life changed and I stepped over the line and woke you.
Like the abuser that you are, you began by courting me. You were warm and inviting after a hard day at work. You gave an insecure and beaten young woman the confidence she desperately sought. You made me witty. You let me fit in to a world that I believed belonged only to the most successful.
But soon you began to show yourself…slowly…and I wasn’t paying attention. Or I ignored you. I suspect the latter to be true.
Because of you I was not capable of only one drink. I was the one who always got drunk. I was the life of the party. I thought about alcohol all the time. I became obsessed with when and how I would drink. I organized my life around when I could drink. And I rationlized and made excuses for you. I lied for you (mostly to myself).
And then you woke completely and we came face to face. And, after all you had done to me, after all the hurt and heartache you gave me, I embraced you! It was like I had forgotten all of your ugliness. I had forgotten all of the pain you brought to my life. I think it was more like I dressed you in different clothes and called you by a different name in order to co-exist with you. I could not deal with my father’s lover. I had to figure out a way to live with you on my own terms. I called you fun. I called you coping. I referred to you as temporary.
Until I didn’t.
When you were finally unmasked and I saw you for what you were I was ashamed. I hid my face and pretended I was fine. I negotiated with you to try and pretend you didn’t actually exist. But you persisted. The harder and louder I denied you, the stronger you became.
And then one day I gathered my courage and brought you out of the shadows and into the light. I exposed you for what you were. Cunning, baffling and powerful. I decided to fight you.
I began fighting you alone but learned quickly that you would not go quietly into the night. I needed help. I didn’t want to need help because it meant I would have to admit I let you in and I was still ashamed. It meant I would have to call you by name and that I would have to admit to myself that you lived within me…I had to say, “I am an alcoholic.” I wasn’t ready for that.
As with any abusive relationship, people tend to look from the outside in, shake their heads and say, “How could she put up with that? Why doesn’t she leave?” I was still ashamed because those of us that live with abusers know…it’s just not that easy.
Finally I put aside my pride and stretched my hand out for help.
And there were hands! Hands from AA that taught me not to be ashamed. Hands from therapists who are trained to fight you. Hands from bloggers who have had the same experiences as mine and who taught me that I am not special. My relationship with you is not special. I am just a drunk and you are just a disease and you CAN be defeated. They had and continue to defeat you every day.
They also taught me that you never go away. Like polio you are only sleeping. Thanks to those helping hands I have learned to be hyper-viligant and to recognize my cravings for what they are, your attempt to come back into my life. Keep sleeping – you are not welcome here.
Most importantly the hand of God was there. By His grace I was able to put you in your place within my soul. I gave you a tiny, tiny little piece of me because you will never go away. You will always be waiting to reawaken our love affair and assert yourself as my abuser once again. But God occupies the remainder of my soul and as long as I stay connected to Him…you can never hurt me again.
So remain in that small part of my soul, alcoholism. I no longer hate you or what you did to my childhood, or my adulthood or the childhood of my children. I do not hate you for what you did to my body and the work I must now do to regain my health. I do not hate you because hate and love are strong emotions that sit side by side.
Rather I respect you. I will never underestimate your power. I will keep you close because that’s what you do with your enemies. But I will not give you any more power.
Sleep you bastard of a disease…you can’t hurt me unless I allow it…and I no longer allow it.
My name is Sherry and I am an alcoholic.
“The real sin against life is to abuse and destroy beauty, even one’s own –even more, one’s own, for that has been put in our care and we are responsible for its well-being.”
~ Katherine Anne Porter