Would you rather…?

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.


16 thoughts on “Would you rather…?

  1. Me too. It is easier to be the drinker, because you know deep down that you can always end your pain, one way or another. And you can lie to yourself that you are only hurting yourself.

    Thank. You for sharing the other view. You are right. Kids hear and see everything.

    Sober is better.


  2. Hi Sherry
    thank you so much for this Post. I savoured every word and thought it was very true. I am glad I have stopped doing that to myself and my family as I know you are too. thanks again.

  3. And the family often times becomes addicted to the addict….to managing and helping and fixing and that leads to a whole nother clusterfuck of troubles. It’s hard for me to not be a black and white thinker in the realm of addiction and alcoholism, I am ashamed to say. It all scares me to death so I prefer total abstinence for myself and those I love, thank you very much! The sad thing is that I don’t get to make those choices for everyone else, just myself. Which circles me back sound to being uncomfortable enough and afraid enough and crazy enough that I am forced to find solutions for my own life….that or alienate everyone around me!

  4. I just read another post on another blog and yes I agree with you. As a drinking alcoholic I had the drink to get me through however bad I felt and however destructive it was to those about me but it was there for me. In recovery I’ve AA and recovery friends who still will always understand aspects of how my mind works intimately whereas my family whilst they know the problem don’t get me at times. I know there are support groups for families but my experience is that they never worked for my wife and kids at all really.

    So I’ve only experienced the one side to be fair – but I’d rather be the alcoholic than the family anytime.

  5. My heart always gets wrenched when I read about what the families go through with the alcoholic. I do. I don’t know if I could sit in an Alateen meeting because I would only be thinking about my kids being there if I were still drinking. It’s heartbreaking. My mother was/is an Adult Child and I know that she still suffers to this day from it. I think you certainly have a unique and can I say blessed POV having been both? And that is why I loved this post. You can see it both ways and have come to that conclusion. I know for me I wouldn’t be able to handle if my wife was the alcoholic. I wouldn’t be able to stick it out. I just don’t think I could.

    They say that alcoholism is a family disease and I believe it. Others get sick / co-dependant when things happen like that. And when the alcoholic gets well, the family still may not be well. My wife went to two Alanon meetings and didn’t like it. But she read a bit of their literature and she was right as rain. She just wanted to know that she wasn’t CRAZY because I made her crazy. I got her into my sick world and mind. I convinced her up was down and black was white. Sick. But that’s what we do, right?

    Anyway, thank you again for a killer post, Sherry. You are always a pleasure to read and you bring so much to us.


  6. I’ve been on both sides too, and being the drinker is way easier. Except when you realize what you are doing to your kids. Which is why I COMPLETELY agree that sober is best. Every fucking time.

    Thank you for a great post.



  7. Nothing brings this addiction better into focus than when you shed the “light of Comparison” on it…Every fucking time…I love you baby….

  8. maybe you felt compelled to write this blog because you knew someone somewhere in the world needed to read it. ME!! my mother is an alcoholic, we are in messy messy territory (again), not speaking, verbal abuse, lies, broken promises the list is endlesss and your blog just has helped me a lot. Not sure why. Not sure I even agree that being the addict is/ would be better…i imagine it is a hell worse. But still i feel a sense of calm and peace that this is not my fault
    Thank you.

    1. I’m so glad because, above all else this is NOT YOUR FAULT no matter how many times she tries to convince you it is. Read the comments. You’re going to be okay.

      Thank you so much for the lovely comment.


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