No more hesitating. I’m going to do it! The story about Alice is still one I want to tell, but the story I have to tell first is the one about Sophie. A true story before a fictional one. And I don’t want to do it anonymously – how can I talk about removing the stigma and shame attached to alcohol abuse when I myself hide behind an alias and am still so preoccupied with what people might think that I don’t want to stand by my own freaking truth? So when I tell Sophie’s story I have to start by killing her off because this story is my own, it’s my truth and it’s my voice I want you to hear. After all, how could I ever expect to encourage others to talk openly about alcoholism and trust in me to be in their corner when I show up to the party wearing a Halloween mask? It doesn’t seem right and it’s about time I pull my own pants down.
“Why don’t you?” hubby asked.
Not just about pulling my pants down, which he always approves of the dirty git, but why I don’t just slap my real name on here along with a photo where you can see more than my woolly hat and behave according to how I hand on heart feel – i.e. how I absolutely, 100% embrace the fact that I’m an alcoholic and if anyone’s got a problem with that I know with conviction that it says more about them than it does about me. After all, I’ve been open with both my family and my friends when the subject of drinking has come up – told them truthfully that I have quit drinking alcohol for the simple reason that I can’t stop when I start. So why hide here, of all places? It’s a bit ridiculous really if you think about it, not least because this is a tiny little blog in a huge ocean of others with a small handful of readers and the chances of this landing in front of my family are minuscule. I.e. a family I’m not trying to hide anything from in the first place so using an alias is actually quite ridiculous.
But! (There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?) How would my parents and siblings feel about having an alcoholic in the family, something so closely associated with shame and embarrassment? “Yes, this is my youngest daughter who is about to get her Phd, and this is my eldest – she’s an alcoholic.” As open minded, supportive and kind as my mother is, I just can’t exactly see her saying that with pride. Hubby himself is a good example, actually. It’s his surname I bear. An unusual one at that. And hubby happens to be on the board of a global company. Call me crazy, it won’t be the first time, but I do feel that for this reason alone I’d be best advised to be discreet about what a big, fat drunky-drunk I am. Can you see what I mean? That’s what has made me weary more than anything else, because I genuinely don’t have a problem with it for my own sake.
“What if it affected you negatively?” I asked, “would you not worry about it reflecting badly on you to have people know your wife is a drunk? Wouldn’t you be embarrassed?”
“No,” he said without missing a beat.
Huh. Am I desperately prejudiced myself, or shockingly backwards in my thinking, in saying that if it were me I’d probably be a little concerned in that respect? Even though I personally would like to think I’d never judge, I’d be painfully aware that many others would. Hubby seemed completely unconcerned by any of that. Weirdo! Or is it because I’m so preoccupied with this that I have completely misjudged all of it? After all, every single person I have told about quitting drinking and my reasons why, has responded with nothing but kindness. And not the sort of kindness you’d expect if you were diagnosed with cancer “oh my God, you poor thing, we’re here for you and we’ll do all we can” but a more relaxed sort of kindness “oh OK, well, good for you“. An it’s-no-big-deal sort of kindness. I fully expected my father to go to town with a long lecture followed by scolding me for having sunk so low, yet instead he praised me for making such a great decision and told me he had huge respect for me. Huh. Or perhaps it’s just I’m discovering that the world – amazingly – does not revolve around me and that’s what’s actually shocking me. That friends, family and people in general, including business associates of hubby’s, don’t actually need to give it further thought than “oh“. That they don’t, in fact, gather around to discuss my many shortcomings at length. Huh.
More than anything, I need to stop worrying what people may think. This is me, this is my truth and I own it. And if those close to me feel shame for any reason, the question should be whether I want to have them near me anyway.
My name is Anna and I’m an alcoholic.
Hahaha, it’s not the most heroic outing the world has ever seen, is it? And after all that build-up it’s a bit of an anti-climax, don’t you think? Oh well, there we are. But just like the 23rd of January, it’s a START, because this is when I stop thinking about putting my little journey to good use and begin to actually DO IT. I’m not a fan of clichés or those “words of wisdom” on cheesy memes or whatever else, but there’s one I once saw in my Facebook newsfeed that I downloaded with the intention of having it printed and framed. And I think I now will, along with living according to exactly what it says:
Today is all I have and today I’m not going to drink.