The first time you refer to yourself as an alcoholic, it can be a jarring revelation. Although you know that you fit the profile and exhibit all the textbook behaviors, this realization puts a label on you that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. It’s a stigma that will never leave you and will always leave some people looking at you funny. As hard as this can be to swallow, you can’t let the stigma stop you from getting help. There are far more recovering alcoholics than you realize (even with the high numbers reported in the media).
The “recovering” in recovering alcoholic is the most important part of the classification. Instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed that you fell victim to alcoholism, try to feel empowered and proud that you had the strength to look it in the eye and beat it. People in recovery often lose sight of this when they leave their treatment program, and often completely implode under the withering scrutiny of an unsupportive community environment. They let the insults and skepticism of naysayers dictate their success and usually wind up relapsing at least once. This story has become all too common in the recovery community among people of all backgrounds.
As someone who spent the first two years of his thirties in Florida alcoholism treatment. I’ve discovered two truths: 1. Good treatment is hard to come by. 2. Even the best of treatment will only take you so far. It’s up to you to take what you got from treatment and apply it to everyday life. If you’re lucky, like I was after my third time, you will land in a place that teaches you to stand on your own two feet and combat skeptics and stress. These adverse factors are an inevitable part of recovery; it’s your responsibility to learn how to deal with them.
It’s easier to stay on track with the right kind of help, but in the end you have to be able to rely on yourself. There won’t always be somebody there to tell you not to go to that party or meet up with that ex-girlfriend or revisit that horrible family trauma. Part of recovery is recognizing your limitations and respecting them. I’ve remained sober for the last three years primarily because I know what situations to avoid. Hopefully you will gain these insights when you’re in treatment and take them with you once you re-embark on your journey of sobriety.
Recovery is a balancing act of leaning on others for help (which you will need to do to stay successful) and finding the personal strength and independence to stand on your own. During my third and final stint in treatment, it became clear that nobody was going to do the work for me after I got out; but if you hold tight to the lessons you learn in therapy and develop a plan to avoid temptation, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish…I’m living proof of this.
New York, NY