For whatever reason, I was thinking this morning about whether it’s better to be the alcoholic in a family or to be the family. Since I’ve been both, I had to really think about it.
But not for long.
For the alcoholic, alcoholism (addiction of any kind for that matter) is insidious and destructive and it tears at the very foundation of our soul. It keeps our minds occupied and our hearts hard. It lies and steals and does whatever it takes to keep itself alive. It is truly a terminal disease/condition (or whatever you choose to call it) because if you don’t stop you will die. You will die because you drink yourself to death or you will die because you take your own life. Worse, your soul will die and leave you alive.
During active addiction however, we don’t see any of these things. We drink and isolate and retreat. We hate ourselves. We hate that we drink. We wake up every morning and make promises we know we can’t keep. We cry in the shower because we want so badly not to do it again but we know, in the deep dark secret lonely core of our being that when the clock strikes wine o’clock, we’ll uncork yet another bottle and start all over. It’s, what we believe, our own personal hell and as long as we continue to go to work and keep a clean house and meet the needs of our children and attend school functions and blah blah blah, that we are only hurting ourselves. At the end of the day however, we get to escape, we get to numb.
We get to drink.
Families (and many times friends) don’t have that luxury. Often there is no escape. They are trapped.
I know for a fact that this is true because I’ve seen the other side.
Families of “drinkers” – whether or not the call themselves alcoholics is really of no consequence because the impact is the same – live in their own hell. They walk on eggshells wondering who will be waiting when they get home. They hate going anywhere social because they know it will end badly. They grow weary of promises broken and teary apologies. They dread the yelling and screaming that is often the result of a long night of drinking.
Resentments grow. They resent being told that money is tight when there always seems to be money for alcohol. They resent not being able to bring friends home or throw a decent party because they know they’ll be humiliated before the night is over. They resent having to make their own breakfast because the drinker can’t get out of bed. They resent having to care for a hung over addict because it was all self inflicted. They resent ruined holidays.
Often they find themselves enabling the addict because it’s the only way they will get a few precious minutes of peace. Give the addict what they want and they will be pacified for at least enough time to get the kids into bed…but it really doesn’t matter because when the fighting starts the kids are awake and very aware of what is going on. Let me tell you from experience that kids know WAY more than you think they know. You can tell yourself that you’re keeping it from them…I promise with everything in my soul that you are not. They know. They hurt. They feel helpless, alone and not cared for.
Families sometimes begin to believe it is their fault the addict uses. After all, that is often what the addict tells them. For many years I believed my mother was the reason my father drank. If she had been a better person then he wouldn’t have needed to escape. If I had been a good little girl my father wouldn’t have needed to drink. If my sister hadn’t been such a handful then my father wouldn’t have needed to drink. If God hadn’t made him blind then my father wouldn’t have needed to drink. Never has there been a larger pile of bullshit than the one my father built while he was drinking. Never have I felt so bad about not being good enough.
Except when I was doing it.
I’m not sure why I needed to write this post or where it was supposed to go. All I know is if I were playing one of those “would you rather” games I’d choose being the drinker every time. It’s easier.
But this isn’t a game so in the real world…I choose sober.
Every fucking time.