In case you missed it, I ditched my alter ego, Emily Crawford, on Sunday, September 6th. No more pen name. Just me. And my addiction. Living my truth.
When I “came out of the addiction closet,” I really didn’t know what to expect. I simply replaced all references to Emily with Laura. And, I wrote a blog that ended with the news that Emily was no longer in the picture. I’m a “fly under the radar kind of gal” so, no matter how unlikely, part of me was hoping the change would go largely unnoticed. But, of course, it didn’t.
There were immediate cheers from my friends in the online recovery community. People I know in real life who connected the dots on Facebook expressed their surprise and offered support. Someone I grew up with shared one of my blogs on Facebook and tagged me. Personally. Me. Laura. Not Quit Wining. She outed me in a little bit bigger way than I outed myself. While I thought I’d thought of all probable exposure scenarios, I have to admit I wasn’t expecting that. But, our mutual friends started liking the post and commenting with words of encouragement. “This is good,” I reminded myself.
But, then there was something I hadn’t anticipated. I didn’t expect comments from people who are not familiar with addiction, specifically alcoholism. Someone wrote: “It’s not easy to expose one’s struggles and shortcomings.”
Wow. Shortcomings. Ouch. That stings.
I have always been extraordinarily hard on myself for “letting” alcohol addiction “get me.” And, to a certain extent, I haven’t wanted to “buy into” the science that alcoholism is a disease. What I mean is that I have had a difficult time acknowledging there is something beyond self-control fighting to grab the wheel. Having someone directly refer to my illness as an inadequacy, failure, fault, defect, flaw, limitation, weakness – all synonyms for shortcoming … well, it sucked. But, I’m not angry. And, I’m not complaining.
While I know the commenter offered the words in the most sincere and supportive way, they struck a nerve and launched me into a place I’ve not volunteered to go before now. Dear, dear, wonderful friend, if you are reading this, thank you. You have given me such an incredible gift. I am about to write words I’ve only ever partially composed in my head. This is the kind of therapy you just can’t buy.
For a long time I refused to see alcoholism as a disease. In my mind, it was a shortcoming. And I had every intention of rising above it. Overpowering it. Mind over mattering it. Dealing with it. Getting past it. But, no matter how strong my resolve, no matter how many Jedi mind tricks I tried, I continued to fail. I’d give up drinking for a week, a month. And every time I allowed myself to drink again, my thirst was stronger, more unquenchable.
Because … I am an alcoholic. I am an addict. Not because I am weak or inadequate or flawed. Because alcoholism is a disease that renders me physically, chemically, emotionally unable to control my appetite for the drug. If I take a sip of alcohol, I will not stop drinking until I have passed out. And, when I wake up, I will want more. Plain and simple.
That’s not a shortcoming. That’s an illness. And, acknowledging this fact is key to my continued recovery. Forgiving myself for being sick gives me permission to not hate myself. And, it strengthens my commitment to sobriety. Every day.