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.
- 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.
- My mother was a train wreck that not only could not feel unconditional love, she couldn’t express it either.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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!
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.
WE MUST SUCCEED.
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.