Sober since April 6, 2006


Sunday, October 15, 2006

humbling experience

Something happened tonight that I have never seen before, and I hope I never forget.

I went to a discussion meeting. A nice lady apologetically arrived a few minutes late. She appeared to be in her mid-30's. When the discussion opened, she introduced herself as "Jen" and said she took her last drink eleven hours ago. She was from out of town and was temporarily staying with her parents in town. They were planning on seeing a doctor on Tuesday to consider her options for treatment.

But as the meeting went on, her hands started to tremble. Then they started to shake. The people sitting on each side of her took her hands and held them in their own. Soon she was shaking so hard that even they couldn't keep her hands still.

The meeting leader (a 30-year sober old-timer) told her that her physical condition was becoming serious, and that she needed to get to a hospital or treatment center immediately. Everyone in the room agreed with him.

But she said she was afraid it would make her parents angry. Her parents did not believe her when she told them she was an alcoholic. They refused to allow her to even propose alcoholism as a potential condition, even though she told them about her drinking habits and withdrawal symptoms. But even as she spoke, her whole body started going into convulsions. Still she kept on speaking as if nothing was wrong. It took everyone in the entire meeting to convince her that she needed to get medical help.

A few people shared their experiences with needing medical help during withdrawal, one guy saying that when he was in similar shape, his blood pressure was high enough to suffer a stroke or heart attack. She finally agreed to get medical help. The meeting leader cut the meeting short and several members arranged to get her to a center.

She was still worried about making her parents angry.


I do not know what to say. I never experienced the withdrawal symptoms that she did, and I have never seen anyone in that condition. What really struck me was that she was so concerned about the possibility of angering her parents for seeking medical help. Most people do not understand that alcohol withdrawal can be medically endangering. Some people literally DIE when they stop drinking: The mortality rate for delerium tremens ("the DTs") is 35% for those who do not receive medical help, and 5% for those who receive early help.

I feel bad that her parents did not support her. I also feel bad for her parents, because although I am sure that they love her, they are facing the shock of social stigma. That is why they so vehemently denied her confession of being an alcoholic.

It is terribly unfortunate that society places such a negative stigma toward alcoholics. If she told her parents that she had developed a phobia or a type of depression, they would have accepted her condition and supported her with open arms. But alcoholism is simply dirty in the eyes of society. It throws unaware loved ones into denial over an alcoholic's condition, and it prevents many alcoholics from seeking help. Alcoholics do not want to have that negative stigma applied to them, and they do not want to disappoint, dishonor, or humiliate their families. So it is only out of true desperation that alcoholics finally come to their families for help. Being told, "No, you're not an alcoholic" or being otherwise shunned is scarring. They are ashamed of themselves enough already.

I did not want that stigma applied to me, and I did not want to dishonor my family, so I spent a year trying to stop drinking on my own. I repeatedly failed. The longest I could stay continuously sober was 12 days. I was too ashamed and did not want my parents to know that their beloved daughter -- an honors student in college and national champion Tae Kwon Do Master -- was an alcoholic. I strived to make them proud all my life, but I felt that my alcoholism would result in ultimate disappointment. I could not do that to them. I admitted my alcoholism to the few close friends who knew of my drinking, but I never accepted it. I did not want to be an alcoholic. It was not until I became desperate enough to stay sober that I became willing to be an alcoholic.

I am still willing to be an alcoholic. Because now that I am willing to embrace the truth about myself, I am empowered to recover and to spiritually grow. Recovery and growth are impossible for someone in denial or resentment of their condition. I do not deny my alcoholism, and I do not resent it either. I embrace it. I would not change it for the world. Now I can grow, rise out of the shame, and finally experience peace.

I am very fortunate that my parents accepted me with open arms when I told them about my alcoholism. I was more worried about dishonoring them than anything else. But at least now, the lie is over, so I can make my parents proud for who I really am, and not for who I pretended to be. I am also very fortunate that I did not experience extreme physical withdrawal symptoms. I do not understand why I was spared while others were not spared, but I am grateful.

Anyone who reads this, please, if you could, remember "Jen" and her parents in your prayers.

Today, I'm grateful for ...

  • being 192 days sober
  • meeting "Jen" tonight
  • being willing to be an alcoholic
  • having a supportive family
  • being reminded of the preciousness of sobriety, and the desperation of alcohol's influence
  • God, because He has provided a way to live


lash505 said...

Thats the real deal and it is cloudless. I was there and I never forget. Thanks for keeping it fresh..

Alcoholic Brain said...

Great post. I will pray for her. That's a good reminder of our "yets."

recoveryroad said...

finally linked you. Sorry it took so long.


..and indeed, re "yets".



Trudging said...

Wow, thank you for sharing about Jen! It is so important for alcholics and addicts not to try to detox in isolation. Because people do die telling themselves that they should and will be able to do it on their own.

SCoUt said...

Agreed with Trudge. We can die in isolation. Great post, girl. By the way, "willing to be an alcoholic" = SURRENDER. Congrats on your surrender and keep it close to your heart.


Oh that poor woman. How fortunate she had a wonderful group of people around her at that meeting. It is a sad world when people do not understand what a horrible disease we live with. She is in my thoughts and prayers and I hope she gets the medical treatment she needs.
I see you,

Sober Chick said...

Oh Denial is so powerful and a deadly thing. Sometimes poeple that love us cannot help us. I am grateful to hear that she was right where she needed to be. Somehow God put her there, in that room, where God's work could take place.

A prayer for those that are still suffering in and out of the rooms of AA . . .

BigSkymAAck said...

The yets!!! sometimes I think God puts people in our life so that we can learn where we don't want to. I have a few of those that stand out in my mind, they do a lot to help me stay sober.

stayathomemotherdom said...

Reading this, I am so grateful that my parents were extremely understanding and supportive. I hope she finds help.

V said...

hey! i'm there too. days sober? 8..... it's a start... just some advise if you have it. you mentioned you don't resent being an alcoholic. how do you get over the resenment? i get so p&@##ed off about it and also that hubby can drink and i can't. does this eventually go away, get better, what? V

tkdjunkie said...

Hey, V! Congrats on 8 days sober! That is so awesome! The beginning is the hardest part (well, at least it was for me).

I'm not exactly sure how I got over the resentment, but I think it happened in stages, and it was fueled by desperation. I desperately wanted to stop drinking.

When I realized I couldn't stop drinking on my own effort, I became willing to seek help from AA. I was so desperate that I was either going to commit suicide or reach out for help. I really didn't want to die, but I didn't believe that anything or anyone could help me either. I got desperate enough to go to AA's website. After reading AA's "Big Book" (which I read online HERE), I came to believe that AA could help me. I read the book and started going to meetings. So reaching out to AA for help was the first part.

Coming to peace with my alcoholism happened over more time. As I read more books, went to more AA meetings, and met more people with many years of sobriety, I came to realize that there is a way to live without drinking -- and to be happy about it.

Over time, I realized that recovery wasn't really about drinking -- it was about living. I became willing to live my life on the same spiritual principles that those sober people did. After I embraced their way of living and thinking, the desire to drink left me. I stopped resenting being an alcoholic. Instead I became grateful that there was a way for me to live and to be happy again.

So in short, it took time and desperation. I know that's one of those answers we alcoholics hate to hear ... but that's how it worked out for me.

As far as other people being able to drink, it doesn't bother me anymore. The way I see it now is this: We are all injured and hurt people -- whether alcoholic or not. Non-alcoholics have their Higher Power, and I have mine. They have their defects, and I have mine. Although I may be an alcoholic, they have other problems I don't have. At least I know what my problem is, and I have a program for recovery. God help them with theirs, and bless their hearts. Would I rather exchange problems with them so that I can drink but they can't? No. I'm grateful to know the exact nature of my problem. They don't know anything about the nature of theirs. I know how to fix my problem. I have found happiness and peace in six little months of sobriety that I never found in a bottle after several years of looking for it. That's good enough for me! I never want to exchange that.

I hope this helps, V. Keep staying sober!

Khakra said...

is "jen" cute

Khakra said...

alright trying to be funny. i'll fess up to a bad attempt! i know it's unavoidable -- but why do you pay a heed to society's take on alcoholism? you have to learn to ignore junkie, learn to ignore. be passive. pick that up, and you'll be happier

tkdjunkie said...

Khakra, society's view on alcoholism doesn't bother me personally anymore. Society's ignorance is beyond hope of repair.

But the negative social stigma is a barrier to recovery for many alcoholics who want to reach out for help, but are too afraid to do so. By the very nature of their alcoholism, they are stuck in a rapidly worsening self-demoralizing/shaming state. Because of that, they lack the confidence necessary to shrug off society's stigma. Instead many feel so suffocated by it that they drink even more because of it. That's why it's unfortunate.

Khakra said...

i learn something today. thanks junkie. your views are based on reality, and society is a big part of our life that we can't ignore. we do have knee-jerk reactions to society's response.

i'm just a highly theoretical character, but when I read your blog, I'm learning a lot. keep it up, and keep questioning.

tkdjunkie said...

Thanks Khakra -- you're the bomb :)