Once again, let’s go back to what we can do when we know someone we care about drinks too much….. As an alcoholic, this is a very interesting one for me and I have often wondered if there might have been something someone could have said or done to make me get to my turning point sooner. My instinctive and spontaneous answer is simple: nothing. Perhaps the truer answer, however, is that I still don’t know.
I had a conversation with one of my sisters-in-law, M. Instead of an initial, let’s give her a nickname for the purposes of this blog as we are close and chances are I’ll write about her again. Straighty! Oh, how apt! She is the most orderly, by-the-book person I know. A straight arrow and a straight shooter. Beyond this, she also has a better grip than your average non-alcoholic Joe on what alcoholism is due to her profession – this is particularly refreshing as it cuts out a whole catalogue of misconceptions and ignorance around what an alcoholic is. She gets a lot of it. So anyway, Straighty and I had a little exchange yesterday because I came away a little worried that I had dropped the A-bomb like that and might have caused my brother additional worry given he in that moment went from having a sister who drinks too much to having a sister who’s an alcoholic. I think the way I actually put it to them was “well, I’m a raging alcoholic, a full-on, pure bred drunkard“. I am nothing if not blunt. So I wanted to emphasise that me having come to understand and accept this, along with a genuine and sincere wish to stay sober, is good news and hopefully something my brother (and her, of course) can see as a positive thing.
Straighty did what Straighty does and told me straight.
“I don’t think your brother worries more. I think he feels it’s a good thing you’ve come to this point and you just confirmed what we’ve believed for some time now anyway.”
Well, that’s good and exactly what I wanted – remove some pain, worry and fear by showing that hey, I get it and I’m trying to turn it all around. It was a good exchange to have, albeit via e-mail. We only see each other for a few days twice a year and with us rushing around to see everyone and her a busy mother of four with at least one kid whining for her attention, the uninterrupted moments she and I get just the two of us are extremely rare. Straighty felt I shouldn’t bother trying to “save” anyone’s feelings when it comes to saying I’m an alcoholic. It’s the truth, so what? But for me it is 100% about that when it comes to my parents, saving their feelings. They live in a small town and they are of the generation and upbringing where one keeps one’s dirty laundry to oneself and having an alkie for a daughter would bring shame – lots of it. There is endless gossip, everyone’s in everyone else’s business and you can’t fucking fart without it being the talk of the town in that place, I swear. And that generation is also more worried about how it looks than how it feels, my father and stepdragon two fine examples of how all dirt should be brushed under the carpet. Out of sight. Let me clarify: in all likelihood they all know that I’m a drunk, but it’d be much worse to put a label on it and if other people knew.
I have no issue with saying I’m an alcoholic, much less with what others might think – after all, I’m not going to be more (or less) of an alcoholic just because people talk about it, right? To be fair, if I can get people to talk about it, it’d be my greatest achievement in life. And my sobriety is much more important than people’s opinions – besides, if I didn’t have my sobriety I’d have no life for anyone to have opinions about in the first place. So for me it’s irrelevant, plus I don’t live there so it wouldn’t affect me anyway.
But for my parents I figured it might just be too painful to hear so I told them the truth in a softer (but no less honest) way: I drink too much, I can’t stop when I start and it doesn’t do anything for me. Straighty made a good point though, a VERY good point:
“If you just tell everyone straight, then it becomes easier to understand and absorb, and no one has to wonder how far or how low. If you just say you’re an alcoholic, everyone will understand how serious it is.”
True. Can’t argue with that. But still it does bother me how it might be too tough for them to deal with. Having said that, I think just like with Straighty and my brother D, my parents (and everyone else who knows me) will already bloody know and perhaps it’ll be a relief for them as much as it is for me to just put those awful knickers out to air where everyone can see them. Perhaps there’ll be a moment to present the A-word, straight and clear but without it being a bomb. And after all, they can choose if they want to tell anyone or not. It’s not a secret. I’ve really been searching my soul if there is part of me holding back in front of them for any other reason than wanting to save them from hurt, and there genuinely isn’t a single one. And they are in a minority anyway, because I’ve told pretty much everyone without shying away from any detail. Unlike Straighty – as much as I do also agree she is right in a way – I do still worry about them having to hear that particular word. Straighty understands a whole lot more than most non-alkies and therefore she is easy to discuss it with, but sometimes she’s just a bit too… ….straight.
So anyway. The point here was back to my still unanswered (or unanswerable) question as to whether there would have been anything anyone could have said or done to make me quit sooner. So if we take Straighty and my brother D. She tells me they talked about it on numerous occasions and when I told them I’m an alcoholic it only confirmed what they had already known, or at least suspected, for quite a long time. Here’s the funny bit though…. Or not so funny. No, it’s funny. I think. At Christmas, just last Christmas, do you know what their present to me was? A bottle of Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc – my favourite, darling kind.
This is what I mean when I’ve pointed out how alcohol is the mother of all bitches to walk away from in terms of getting people around you to understand. Because not only is it considered normal, it is encouraged too, to consume ethanol as part of social occasions. And these are two people who strongly suspect or pretty much know that their sister/sister-in-law has a massive drinking problem, yet gives her a bottle of wine for Christmas. WOW. I’m not saying this is wrong of them, I’m pointing out how fucking mad it all is. Not them, IT! They loved me then, as they do now. Cared for me, as they do now. Worried about me, as they hopefully do a little less now. But isn’t that just absolutely crazy? Like giving a gram of heroine for Christmas to someone you love who you think might be a junkie. Would you?
I reiterate what I kind of think – that if you confront someone you love and tell them their drinking (or whatever other behaviour or drug or condition or what have you it might be) worries you, you are likely to be met with an angry reaction and the person with the possible problem shutting you out. So I’m not in any way saying they did anything wrong, I’m just saying it’s crazy. I think in an even crazier way, it made me less uncomfortable around them and perhaps therefore more likely to tell them straight when I was ready. Because I always knew I wasn’t any good at hiding it.
Anyway. There we are and do let me know your thoughts – there is no end to how much this fascinates me.
Today I’m not going to drink.