I had an interesting experience this week. I met up with an old friend and while chatting he told me about his son’s wife. She’s an alcoholic who has been sober for three years. My friend was quite adamant that life with an alcoholic was not a good life for his son. He expressed anger and concern for his son, and judged the son’s wife as damaged goods. I asked if she had remained sober the last few years- yes. I asked if his son expressed and concerns – no. I bit my lip and told him I have a soft spot for alcoholics. He looked shocked, taken aback that I didn’t share his fear for his son. And then I told him I am an alcoholic and that I’d been sober for 16 years. Again the shock “you are?” I am. I told him that it was my experience that the first year is the hardest and the fact that she made it that first year shows that she has gained some strength. He wasn’t willing to give it up though. He explained to me that I had changed my whole life though – although clearly he didn’t know me then. I said that it was true I had. He said and you don’t still hang around the same people. I told him that was true, because the friends I had dropped me when I got sober. I asked if his sin’s wife was still hanging around the same people- he didn’t know.
I’ve often been told that I travel in charmed circles. I travel this planet with many people who share my beliefs, who are non-judgmental, who take he time to know me (even when I was very closed) and who support me. If I didn’t have the family I have I winder if I would have made it through my first year of sobriety. I had a drinking buddy back then who told me I was no fun when I wasn’t drinking. I’m not sure I could have stood up to that level of encouragement to drink without the support I had coming from other sources. I hope that this man learns something from our conversation and tries to lose the fear and celebrate his daughter-in-laws achievement.
This conversation with my old friend brought to mind another conversation I had with a co-worker once. She had expressed her disdain for women – yes only women- who were addicted to alcohol and drugs. She said that women should be stronger than that. Wow! This particular coworker, who by the way was a woman, knew that I was an alcoholic. Clearly she wasn’t impressed with my years of sobriety. She was caught up in her own judgements.
I like traveling in my charmed circles where I feel safe, loved, supported and even celebrated. It’s a very nice space to be in. And yet, I need to remember that others are not in these same spaces. They need support from external people and part of that support comes from sharing our stories. It comes from having the courage to say I am an alcoholic all these years later so that those who are earlier in their own recovery feel some level of support even if it comes from a stranger.
Know that if you are in your own recovery I am celebrating you.