My Alcoholism is Not Your Problem—Or is It?

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Legal Stuff - This is an advertisement for Service Industries, Inc., part of a network of commonly owned substance abuse treatment service providers. The phone number and email provided in the advertisement will connect you to one of Service Industries, Inc.’s representatives to discuss your insurance benefits and options for obtaining treatment at one of its affiliated facilities only. Service Industries, Inc. is unable to discuss the insurance benefits or options that may be available at any unaffiliated treatment center or business. If this advertisement appears on the same web page as a review of any particular treatment center or business, the contact information (including phone number) for that particular treatment center or business may be found at the bottom of the review.

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My Alcoholism is Not Your Problem—Or is It?

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My Alcoholism is Not Your Problem—Or is It?When I decided to check into a 28 day treatment facility for alcoholism almost four years ago, I was quiet about it—only letting my closest family and a couple of friends know. There were several reasons I wanted to keep it on the down low, and they had nothing to do with embarrassment. I wasn’t ashamed because it was actually the first right thing I had done in a long time. No, it was because I didn’t want to hear what people had to say. I didn’t want people to talk me out of it. I didn’t want their opinions. Sadly enough there were people who would have done just that.

I thought most of my friends would be shocked to learn I was in rehab—like they would think it wasn’t necessary or I was overreacting. Much to my amazement, my closest friends weren’t surprised at all. I called them one by one throughout my stay to let them know why I’d been missing in action. Not one person expressed disbelief. A couple of them even told me they assumed (and hoped) I was in rehab when they hadn’t heard from me. One friend confided later that after we hung up he cried and thanked God. But these are all people who loved me and knew I had a problem.

There was an entirely different group of “friends” who didn’t make the phone call cut. The ones who probably didn’t notice my 28-day absence at all. Unless they were trying to reach me to go out drinking or noticed I hadn’t been at my most frequented watering holes. These people weren’t actually friends at all. It turns out we had very little in common other than the way we drank. Once I got home from rehab I quickly came to terms with the fact they had no interest in me if I wasn’t going to drink like them.

I was warned in rehab that I was going to have to change old “playmates and playgrounds” if I was serious about my sobriety. Of course I thought I was the exception to this suggestion. I was actually naïve enough to think I’d be welcomed back with open arms and a glass of soda water at my favorite bars. I was amazed at how unsupportive the old playmates were. I felt like I was constantly having to defend myself, my alcoholism and my sobriety. That’s when I came to the conclusion that their behavior wasn’t about me. If I was admitting I was an alcoholic and staying sober what did that say about them? I imagine it was a bit of a reality check and they probably used me as a barometer to measure their own drinking.

People would often say things like, “You’re not really an alcoholic,” and follow it up with “you just drank too much” or “you just need to learn to control it better. I’d also get “You’re not like a real alcoholic,” or “Don’t you think it was just grief from your brother’s death?” These were just a few that I heard a lot and it always left me a little confused as to why they questioned my alcoholism. First of all, yes, I am really an alcoholic. I am also a real alcoholic as opposed to, I guess a fake alcoholic. And no, my brother’s death didn’t make me an alcoholic. I was an alcoholic long before he died. His death only loaned me another excuse to drink, which I surely would have found without him dying.

I initially thought stigma was the reason people disregarded my diagnosis as an alcoholic. However it didn’t take long to figure out that it had less to do with stigma and more to do with their own self-reflection. No one cared that I was an alcoholic, but they did care what that meant for their own relationship with alcohol. I imagine it made some of them question whether they were alcoholics. Once you go down that road, drinking becomes a little less fun.

It would probably never cross someone’s mind to argue with a friend who had recently received a cancer or diabetes diagnosis from a doctor. But you tell someone you’re an alcoholic and they often question it without hesitation. This is because selfishly they don’t want someone they see as a reflection of themselves to be something they don’t want to be. No one wants to be an alcoholic but ignoring doesn’t make it go away—just like cancer or diabetes.

I’m not calling anyone an alcoholic. Those who don’t want to come to terms with the fact someone who looks like them, acts like them and drank like them is an alcoholic, that’s their business. I’m just saying no one with a healthy relationship with alcohol has ever tried to convince me I’m not an alcoholic.

Here’s a rule of thumb I’ve learned in recovery: If I think I am, I probably am. If I think I’m being a bitch, I probably am. If I think I’m being a slut, I probably am. So, if you think you’re an alcoholic, you probably are. And if you want to disprove any behavior, action or disease in another person so you don’t have to confront the truth in yourself, well…there’s your answer.

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5 Comments

  1. Emily Martin on

    hahaha as opposed to being a fake alcoholic. That made me giggle. Because faking alcoholism is the new cool fad. And I couldn’t agree more with all of what you wrote. It all goes back to the fact that this is not a black or white issue. It isn’t like cancer where there is a definitive test that can prove that you have it. That is why I also like your litmus test- if you think you are, you probably are. Also, if you have to ask if you look fat in this, then you probably do.

  2. Amazing and thought provoking article Allison! It highlights the importance of being able to come to terms with our own thoughts and emotions when it comes to addiction. Too often we place an emphasis on labels instead of really doing a thorough self-analysis. For an amazing resource on drug relapse prevention plans and overall relapse prevention strategies check out the following guide. Relapse prevention is a necessary element in any successful recovery effort.

    https://www.paxhouse.org/services/relapse-prevention/

    Thanks!

  3. Am totally not in support. Alcohol is not good for body and that is clear.
    This has gave alot of people many problem that they have not regain their conscious since.
    And people taking it always claimed that they are healthy, is it true?

  4. “I’m just saying no one with a healthy relationship with alcohol has ever tried to convince me I’m not an alcoholic.” so, so true. i was commenting to my friend the other day that if I wanted to I could round up many people who would tell me I was not an alcoholic. and they all have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

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About Author

Allison Hudson

Allison Hudson shares about her struggles with alcoholism and life in recovery on her blog, It’s a Lush Life, and is a feature blogger on The Huffington Post. When not writing, she is working on the opening of Will’s Place, a sober living facility in memory of her brother who died from a drug overdose in 2012, that is set to open fall 2015.

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