Failure May Very Well Be An Option

Since my post the other day about the “A” word, I’ve been thinking a lot about why that word bothers me so much when I apply it to myself.  I have nothing but compassion (and maybe a little pity) for other alcoholics.  What’s the problem with just saying it out loud…to the world?  Why can’t I have the same compassion for myself that I feel for other addicts?

So I sat with the feeling a little while and tried to dissect it.  (Get me!  Using all my recovery tools like I know what I’m doing!)  I let the feeling settle.  I got very quiet until the reason popped into my head like one of those old MTV pop-ups.


Whoa…back this train up a sec.  What did I just hear in my head?

F. A. I. L. U. R. E.

Shit.  That’s what I thought I heard.

The longer I sat with that one word, the more I realized that it was exactly why I was having trouble (and may always have trouble) with calling myself an alcoholic…even though SURVEY SAYS!!!!…I am most certainly an alcoholic and always have been an alcoholic.  (Let’s play a fitness game shall we?  Every time Sherry says the word “alcoholic” in this post, do 20 squats. That ought to help with that April challenge.)

Then I got all analytical on myself because…well because it’s what I do.

Why do I feel this way?

That, friends and neighbors, is the question.  Let’s examine the facts as we know them.

  1. We all know I grew up the child of an alcoholic.  I loved my father fiercely but I did not like what his alcoholism did to our family and to me.
  2. My mother was a train wreck that not only could not feel unconditional love, she couldn’t express it either.
  3. My extended family on my mother’s side – aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. were also a fucked up mess and could have benefited greatly from some deep, soul-searching therapy.
  4. My extended family on my father’s side was either narcissistic, alcoholic or had divorced themselves from the family long ago (guess I should have taken that as a sign – I always liked those people).
  5. In short, I come from a long line of losers.  Some of them loveable but all of them a hot mess.

I grew up knowing that I was different.  That I wanted to be somebody separate and apart from these people.  I set about to make myself different.  I took control.  I took care of everyone and everything.  I dressed differently.  I spoke differently.  I carried myself differently.  Most importantly, I believed that I was different…better even.

And it worked!  It was a crock of shit but it worked!  I crafted a successful, well-educated, articulate and loving human being.  I have a lovely home, amazing husband and relationship, fulfilling career (for the most part) and six of the most wonderful offspring on the planet.  More importantly, they are growing up to be healthy and happy as well and have begun raising their own kids.  Look at me!  I’m not a loser!  I didn’t FAIL. 

But I forgot one, very important thing.  Genetics don’t give a flying rat’s ass what you think of yourself or how much you’ve worked to separate yourself from the fray.  If you’re born predisposed to alcoholism (it counts…start squatting) then guess what – if you drink then one day you’re going to wake up and say to yourself, “I think I have a problem.”  And you’ll be right.

For me…that spelled a failure of epic proportions.  How could I, the “good” one, the “successful” one, the “stuck up” one (that’s my sister talking) have let myself get this way?  How could I have lost control like that?  After all the promises I made to myself about how I wasn’t going to torture my family the way my father tortured us could I have let this happen?   OH MY GOD!  I’m one of THEM! 

I failed.

The problem is that children of dysfunctional homes that have taken on the control freak-care-giver-grow-up-way-too-fast persona (there’s usually one) don’t fail well.  We do not tolerate mistakes in ourselves.  We MUST be number one at all costs.  Things MUST be perfect in our lives.  Our houses must be clean.  Our children must be well-behaved and well-dressed and get perfect grades.  We must excel at school, work and every single activity we put on our plate. 


And if we don’t?

Well then we fail don’t we?

I failed.  I succumbed.  I lost control.  I suck.

I became an alcoholic. (Squat)

But wait sports fans!  Sherry would never end a post with negativity like that!

Hate to disappoint you but this time she will.  After all, I just figured this out.  Believe it or not this concept of alcoholic=failure just popped into my pea-brain.  Why, you ask?  Well because I never thought of alcoholics as failures.  I never looked at my father and thought, “Dude…you failed!”  On the contrary, at some base level I knew he couldn’t help it – that he was an addict and that it had him in its grips.  He may not have been a great man but he was no failure.  He was simply an alcoholic.

So why can’t think of myself in the same way?  Why can’t I have that same level of compassion for myself?

I’ll have to get back to you on that one.  Besides, my butt cheeks are cramping up from all these squats I’ve been doing.



20 thoughts on “Failure May Very Well Be An Option

  1. I think you have an incredible amount of courage to have been able to admit your addiction to yourself and realize you needed help. I went through some of your earlier posts and found them quite inspiring. You may have had some failings in the past, but you’re definitely not a failure. You should be more compassionate towards yourself 🙂

    1. I know I should! Easier said than done. This is only the beginning…now that I’ve figured out this piece of the puzzle, I can work on putting it all together.

      Thanks for stopping by.


  2. I could have written that, except Mother was alcoholic instead of dad, and my sister and I were estranged because I was “stuck up” ” why does Sharon get all the good stuff”. Because we worked hard to pull ourselves out of that hell hole,that’s why. ok so we slipped up, shit happens, we dug out. Well said Ninja, but I also think we succeeded, we tried and tried again and now we can be proud of our success, of our soberness. Gene pools suck out loud. you are too hard on yourself. My knees hurt from the squats.

    1. BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Mine too!

      I know I’m too hard on myself…but isn’t that all part of what we go through? I’m a work in progress.

      Thanks for the laugh…forgot about my knees.


  3. Once I came to the realisation that was what I was and that I could actually get better I was fine with it – actually more than fine with it I embraced it I’m really glad to be one – which to those outside may sound daft but honestly I’m glad I know what and who I am and know that there is a way out of it – just don’t drink, stay healthy in my head and my heart and I’ll not need to drink… seems a reasonable deal to me in the end.

    That bit about wanting to be separate – that that was me in a nutshell until I realised where that had taken me

  4. I just want you to know that this and your previous two or three posts on the “A” word have stuck with me. I’m not sure exactly what it is that I want to say (apart from superb writing, as usual.) I guess I would like to convey my appreciation for the stupendously difficult work you are doing with your recovery and exploration of self. That in and of itself would be more than most of us could claim for a job well done. But then you go ahead and articulate it here so damn eloquently, warmly, tenderly… You engage with your readers and make us feel welcome. Your outstanding generosity blows me away. So, thanks.

    1. I agree, you write and share very well which translates into smart thinking. Nobody’s perfect, we’re only human given temptations out the wazoo, but you will figure out all the pieces! Keep up the good work and don’t be too hard on yourself! As we all tend to be on ourselves! You are not alone.

  5. I never ran into folks who had trouble with the A word until I jumped into the sobersphere. I thought it odd at first – someone describing their battle with alcoholism, clear as day, and yet had issues with the word itself. But I never said anything, as it’s not been my place. And I know that some just have to work through it…as you did so well here. We can be tempted to say “hey, it’s just a word, dude”, but then again, words have power. And for some, it carries a lot of baggage. And in that regard, I understand and respect that.

    To each their own, in other words.

    But I really loved how you broke this down, unveiled yourself, and came down to failure. Ugh! Ego hates the idea of failure, doesn’t it? ME? A FAILURE? How dare you! Oh boy, does that thing go off and then start demanding shit and getting bossy and all touchy about words…oh man, will ego ever just let us alone? Nah.

    My experience was the opposite – I was happy to be attached to something. I always wanted to be a part of something…so even being a booze pig. I took it. Gladly. So it goes to show how differently we approach this. And coming from an alcoholic home, you have the insight (and old baggage) to see how that played into the whole failure thing.

    Thank you for this, Sherry. Thank you for helping others who might struggle with this, and sharing with us all. What a gift 🙂


    1. Oh Paul… Thank you so much for understanding so well what this post was about. I’ve been worried that some may think it was a pity party but it’s not…it’s just a dissection of feelings which is something I learned to do in recovery. I’m so grateful for this particular tool…it rocks.

      So happy you’re back out here.


  6. I don’t care for the A word. I’m okay with that because I accept I can’t drink and that I don’t need to drink and that my life is a thousand times better without alcohol. Being unable to handle alcohol doesn’t make me feel like a loser. If anything, being surrounded by other people who also choose to stay away from alcohol and reap the rewards makes me feel like I’m tapped into something big. It takes courage, hard work, a strong heart and soul.

    1. You know, that’s EXACTLY how I feel about being sober! I know I’m a ninja warrior – brave, strong and confident – it’s just that stupid word that gets the “f” word in gear.

      So I try not to think about it. I can’t deny that I can’t, under any circumstances, drink but that word just does something to my soul that I don’t like.

      Thanks girl – you make me happy.


  7. Surprisingly, perhaps, i’m a fan of the “a” word. First off, the label comforts me and lets me know why i’m so fucked up. It lets me know where my strange impulses and compulsions come from. Also, it reminds me that there is a solution. That all i have to do is not drink and work my recovery and i will be a happier person. i imagine that’s why in AA, you have to identify yourself as an alcoholic before you speak–it’s a way of facing reality and taking the sting and stigma out of the word.

    What a beautifully written post! Thanks so much for the brain food!

  8. Thank you for this, as ever, you encapsulate what you want to say beautifully. I have struggled with sugar addiction all my life and although, yes, I see each and every slip as a failure, and I beat myself up over it (how I love your description of the “control freak-care-giver-grow-up-way-too-fast persona” !) I was also so pleased to understand that it wasn’t *me* who was bad / had failed, but my biochemistry which led me to it. It helped immensely. These days I am working on being gentle with myself. Last week I embarked on a practice of just trying to be mindful of these things and not to beat myself up. Funnily enough, just prior to reading this, I read a fantastic blog about failure – so I must pass it on 🙂 Amy.

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