I read so many books about addiction and alcoholism as well as mental health and when I ponder whether I have a story to tell that’d be of use or help to anyone, there is always one thing I come back to: it’s fine and dandy to share and be honest, but when you throw it out there in, say, a book, it is OUT THERE. I have a teenage son who might not particularly benefit from having a mother who “comes out” as an alkie although you could argue of course that this is way better than having a mother who drinks still. I bear my husband’s surname, so would it bring shame to that part of the family? Would my family feel utterly embarrassed and humiliated to have me shout about it? And now for all to see? OK, I haven’t even figured out what the book would be, but indulge me here for a minute – let’s PRETEND I am in a situation where I have enough material to submit. Or even, I have a publisher on the hook.
- Would I go ahead as ME?
- What about my son?
- What about hubby?
- What about the wider family?
I am asking because hubby and I were talking about it last night and he put to me how much I’d share bearing in mind Bambino may read it one day and/or be faced with people who have. It’s frightening enough to accept I’m an alcoholic, more frightening still to share openly on this tiny blog (it is, after all, MY face there in the corner), but more widely and my full name slapped on there? For all my cockiness and bravado, would I be ready to face the music and the almost inevitable condemnation I might encounter? But let’s look at some of those whilst going for a little walk in my make believe La-La-Land in the clouds where I’ve just been offered a book deal for my story about alcoholism, my drinkoir if you will:
So he knows why I quit drinking and he can obviously see the immediate rewards – hell, he finally has a mother who is lucid and present – but it’s not going to be as cool to have the mum who wrote a book because she’s a drunk as it is to have J K Rowling or similar to call yo’mama. I can’t write a book like that if I soften the edges – that’d be removing the whole purpose of it. How can I show how ugly and terrifying addiction is if I airbrush it? But how would I feel if I read this blog and the author was my mother? It would break my heart if these were her words more than it does when they are my own, it’d be so much more painful. As a side note I can say that I genuinely believe alcoholism hurts those who love us even more than it hurts US. That makes me think I just couldn’t go ahead.
Then there is part of me who feels I need to be the person who shows my son that this isn’t something you brush under the carpet. It makes me FURIOUS to think this should be treated like something we don’t talk about, that addiction and mental illness are those things that are still a bit hush-hush. What if I had undergone cancer treatment and wanted to write an account of my battle? Would I worry that those who love me would feel embarrassed because I was very ill? Because I lost my hair? Because I needed lots of time off? Because I was in a difficult spot? Because it could have killed me? Uhm… NO. And this is something I want to change – WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THIS! I’m not someone really unfortunate who just made a bunch of bad choices, this isn’t a case of “it only happens to other people”. That part of me feels that if I were to write either anonymously or not at all, it’d be a waste as I would in that case just show my son that this is a dirty secret we don’t talk about and instead brush under the carpet. Hell no.
There are no easy answers to this.
I’m not actually worried about hubby. Even with this little blog, I told him I don’t put my full name to it. He is on the board of a global company – how in God’s name would THAT look?! I asked him precisely that but he didn’t seem to think it’d present any kind of problem. In fact, he asked me “why not” when I first said I didn’t put my (our!) full name on here plus hid his face in some photos. I know he understands it all though and I also know he wouldn’t give a flying fuck if anyone should ever raise an eyebrow – I know he’d be totally fine and hold his head high when acknowledging that yes, his wife is a recovering alcoholic and he is proud of her. (Jeez, I really am ridiculously lucky and I do realise not everyone is as fortunate as I am). Seriously, I have no doubt that he’d say anything other than that. I’m not proud of me, just so we’re clear – the fact that I’m a drunk fills me with nothing but sorrow. I’m just parroting here what he tells me. So going on what he says and conversations we’ve had, he seems to not only not mind but actually encourage me to go wherever I need to go and put my full name to it. HIS name. His family’s name. Yep, that is frightening and it’s frightening because it might cause hurt and upset to those I love.
My parents are probably the only people I haven’t said the A-word out loud to and it’s simply because I worry it’d really upset them. I’ve been very clear on that I drank too much and that I can’t control my drinking, but I am really worried about hurting them – the tip of the iceberg seems like plenty, I want to shield them from seeing all that is below the surface if I at all can. I’m sure they had all sorts of hopes and dreams for me but whatever those were or are they won’t have included me developing alcoholism. It’s probably already a source of pain and would have been for years as they knew I had problems with booze, but to have it splashed out there? I don’t know that they would fare too well with that one. And in terms of a book, let’s ask the same question as earlier about Bambino: how would I feel reading these words had my son written them? You know, the idea fills me with such sadness it’s suddenly hard to breathe.
Then there is hubby’s family. Their name. And that name to a story of alcohol abuse and sinking to levels so low it’d all be completely foreign to them. Of course also add worry and in this case for their son and what he might go through being married to a freaking alcoholic…!! With the name, what if they felt I dragged it through the dirt when it is in fact a name I bear with such pride and feel such gratitude for as it means that I’m part of their amazing family. It makes me proud to be one of them because they are so wonderful so what if it would bring them shit to be associated with ME? Like when nazi fucktards use the Swedish flag, taking a beautiful symbol of Sweden and all the great things Sweden stands for and making it represent something nasty, dirty, evil and dark instead? OK, so drinking isn’t as bad as nazism (few things are) but you get what I mean, right? Given they are on the other side of the world, e-mail is the easiest way to keep in touch and when I’ve had exchanges with my parents-in-law I’ve mentioned I’ve quit drinking and pretty much put it the same way that I have with my own: it wasn’t doing me any favours and I lose control. The Diet Coke version, really – honest but gentle.
I don’t know where that leaves us, but given this was only a La-La-Land scenario I guess it isn’t something I have to decide NOW anyway. I am bubbling over with all these things I want to say, share and spread. I want to fight for a world where mental health and addiction aren’t illnesses we only whisper about and keep hidden. As the saying goes: be the change you want to see in the world. Big girl pants firmly ON.
Today I’m not going to drink.