The other day, in an online sobriety group I will call XXX because it is anonymous, I posted a photograph along with the following commentary after several members of the group had posted things like, “I’m not sure I’m an alcoholic because I wasn’t really that bad…” Because I had had those thoughts myself more than a few (million) times, here is what I wrote:
For those of you who think you aren't that bad, who are trying to talk
yourself into "moderating" and out of AA, this [the picture, which I
will not share here, as this blog is anonymous] is me with a crippling hangover
and waves of shame and self-hatred making me sicker than the waves of nausea
and pounding headache. This is me last year hung over after I drank one night
after nearly 2 months of sobriety. I don't look like a mess, do I? I look
happy, physically fit and if I do say so myself, pretty damn fabulous for [my
age, which is, let’s just say, way over 21]. I am with my awesome dad (sober
20+ years) and my adorable daughter. You would never know from the picture that
I was a complete mess inside. But I was.
The longer I am sober, the more certain I am that alcohol was destroying my
life, and that if I had gone on that way, the ugliness inside would eventually
have been ugliness outside as well. I told myself I wasn't that bad, but let's
be honest -- if you are questioning how much you drink, if you have to try hard
to moderate (normal drinkers don't), if you are feeling shame and self-hatred,
then you have a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol.
I don't know what made me finally ready to admit that when I did. I know I
couldn't have gotten sober if I hadn't admitted it. Other people telling me I
had a problem (they didn't, because I hid it so well) would have just made me
angry. But if you are in this group, it's because you have told yourself you
have a problem.
XXX is different from AA, and both are valuable in different ways.
There, no one will tell you what to do. They will let you explore your feelings without
judgment, realizing that you need to do that until you're ready. If you go to
AA and get a sponsor, he or she will call bullshit on stuff that people in XXX won't. AA and XXX are different, like friends and family are different, and
both are valuable. They serve different purposes, though, and one isn't a
substitute for the other.
I thought I could be sober
without AA, but I've changed my mind. I'm not telling you what's right for you,
only what was right for me. I hope and pray that those of you who are
struggling and suffering with the am-I-aren't-I? should-I-shouldn't-I? will
find your way out of the forest of questions soon. It's a dark place to be, but
for many of us, it was while wandering in that dark wood that we hit bottom,
high or low, and decided to start walking the long, slow but suddenly and
inexplicably clear path out.