Alcoholism and Making Amends
I recently had something happen to me that I thought I would share with you. Yesterday morning I woke up and navigated my way from my studio to the kitchen for breakfast. On the way I passed my son who for whatever reason was up early. Now you must realize that waking up is not a piece-of-cake as it once was. My sixty-three year old body is quite reluctant to get out of bed and on that morning I still had sleepy eyes and I was not navigating the path with a spring in my step.
I thought my son’s good morning was a bit odd but I just chalked it up to his normal grumpiness in the morning and I moved on, determined to start the day despite my desire to crawl back in bed. A few minutes later my son came into the kitchen and explained that when he saw me staggering into the house he flashbacked on the times he had seen me drunk and it unsettled him for a few minutes.
Thus I was reminded of a valuable lesson that I need to always remember: the damage done because of alcohol abuse is always with us, branded on the psyches of our loved ones. I have been sober now for five-and-a-half years and yet it took one instance of a tired old man walking unsteadily to the kitchen to remind my son of the damage that had been done years ago.
Sober Does Not Mean the past Is Forgotten
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have sat in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and heard a member share, with a great deal of emotion, that he/she wishes their family would just forgive and forget and move on with life. The alcoholic will speak of the hard work they have done to find sobriety and maintain sobriety. They have begun the arduous task of changing who they are and they have made every effort to mend fences and regain the trust of their loved ones and yet something will happen and their family will react in a manner similar to my son’s reaction. Oftentimes the alcoholic will be discouraged and talk about how unfair it is that their loved ones still cling to the old days and the old hurt. When will it ever go away?
Quite Frankly It Never Does
An alcoholic needs to put this all in perspective. Speaking for myself, my drinking career spanned almost three decades. It would be one thing if I had just been in a drunken stupor for those three decades; if that were the case they could have found a way to adjust and their lives would have moved on with the knowledge that Bill would never get better.
However, for this alcoholic, the history of my drinking was one that fostered hope only to have that hope crushed time and time again. Trust would be established as I gave up liquor only to have that trust squashed once again each time I relapsed. My son lived with me during ten years of sobriety only to see me crash and crash hard in 2002. Then periods of sobriety would follow only to see it all gone once again, finally culminating in a relapse so bad that I almost died in 2006.
Overall my drinking career included three trips to detox and two trips to in-patient treatment so that it really did resemble an emotional trip on a roller-coaster for those who loved me. Trust, no trust, trust, no trust, and on and on it went until skepticism was the only possible reaction for them.
More thoughts on alcoholism
- What Is It Like To Be An Alcoholic?
Trying to understand an alcoholic is an impossible task for most non-alcoholics. Maybe this article will help in some way.
Recovery Is Multi-faceted
During recovery from alcohol abuse it is not only the alcoholic who is recovering. The family and loved ones of the alcoholic need to recover as well for they have been affected by this disease every bit as much as the alcoholic. Their lives have been in turmoil for years. Their lives have been disrupted and their emotions strained to the point of breaking time and time again and recovery does not come easily.
I have said often that alcoholism takes no prisoners. Those who love an alcoholic are affected every bit as much as the one with the disease and this important fact needs to be remembered by the alcoholic.
It is not enough to make amends and then move on. A simple apology does not erase the years of psychological damage that has occurred and any alcoholic who thinks the damage ends with an apology is a fool. The lives of the loved ones have been shattered and it takes time and effort to rebuild those things which were trampled during the drinking years.
Is It All Hopeless Then?
Not by a long shot but it would be silly to think that years of suffering will just magically disappear because the drinking has ended. Through the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous I have come to realize that recovery is an ongoing process. Each night before I go to sleep I review my day and my actions. Did I say something that caused worry or harm? Did I do something that caused worry or harm? If so amends need to be given the next day. Communication is vital as I move forward. My actions need to be explained to those who care about me. I do not live in a vacuum and I need to realize that important fact and act on it.
Many times I have explained to Bev, the love of my life, why I acted in a certain way. It helps her to better understand and it lessens concerns she may have about me. I have done the same with my son and others who care about me. Since they do not have my alcoholic brain there is no way for them to understand my actions unless I tell them.
Related to that truth is the fact that I must be willing to listen to their concerns and show empathy towards them. In a very real sense my actions of the past have made them sick and they need to be treated as someone who is recovering from an illness and the illness is me.
Did this hub help you to better understand alcoholism?
A Valuable Reminder
My son did me a great service by stating his concerns. It is so very easy for an alcoholic to slip back into old behaviors. I think a part of our brains would love to just forget the horrors of the past and move on as if nothing bad ever happened but that is simply silly and unrealistic. The horrors did happen. The pain I caused was inflicted and it is a pain that lies just below the surface in the hearts and souls of those who care about me. I cannot ignore that fact but I also can’t be consumed by guilt about it.
My job is to move forward. We are taught in AA that ours is a journey of progress and not perfection. As long as I am aware of who and what I am and I continually try to improve my life then the pain I caused will eventually subside. It most likely will never go away but it will subside and my loved ones will be able to live without fear.
I carry that responsibility. I am the one who caused this problem and I am the one who can provide those around me with peace of mind. It is a responsibility I take very seriously and it is one I intend to uphold. I owe it to Bev, to my son and many others….and….I owe it to myself.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)