A close friend who I have just told about my blog (and who spent a large portion of last night reading it from start to finish!) has just emailed me and said:
"Wow, It has given me a much better insight into not just what you have gone through over the last year and a half but also the extent of the battle you were actually having with your drinking before you stopped. Its really helped me see why you had to stop ... I never really knew just how much it was ruling your life and the danger of that."
I do sometimes feel like people who I tell I have stopped drinking think I just blew on a feather and got sober. I mean, why wouldn't they? I try to go into detail ("I found it really hard to stop drinking once I started") but it's difficult to encapsulate a very complex addiction into a few sentences and my set of addictive tendencies are rarely disclosed in our society (seems fine but isn't).
What might help people understand is if I just said more often "I'm an alcoholic". But I don't. I have to admit I don't readily bandy the word around. I say it online a lot when commenting on my other lovely sober friends blog posts.. and I use it very occasionally with friends and family.. but even though I often tell others I meet that I don't drink any more because "I can't", I rarely use the word "alcoholic". It's almost as though I feel like it's overly dramatic. But it's the truth!
And herein lies the irony. Being an alcoholic has such a dramatic stigma attached to it precisely because people like me don't adopt it. But because people like me don't adopt it it it retains it's dramatic stigma and I don't use it because I don't want people to get the wrong idea about me...!!
Here I am an alcoholic who is in a position to change how an alcoholic is viewed yet I don't call myself one because of the stigma and terrible image attached to the term. Aaarrggghhh I'm getting myself all muddled up.
Anyway, how is that ever going to change unless people like me start freely admitting they are alcoholics? (Is it also ironic that I keep spelling the word 'alcoholic' wrong as I type?! I keep missing the first 'o'. Clearly I don't use it often enough even in print!!)
The problem with the stigma attached to being an alcoholic, and the fact that most people don't ever discuss their alcoholism publicly, is that the resulting image remains - that all alcoholics are complete and utter derelicts who crashed to an almighty rock bottom before they gave up the sauce and now they kind of shudder through life with pock-marked skin, husky voices and sunken eyes. Well come on people.. we all know that isn't the truth (nothing wrong with pock-marked skin by the way!).
The truth is I am an alcoholic. I am a very nice, smiley, respectable, articulate, groomed alcoholic. I had to get sober because I was completely and utterly addicted to wine. I stopped drinking after I had proved to myself through years of trying that I couldn't moderate or control my intake. And I don't see any shame now in admitting that I got addicted to something that is addictive!!!!!!!
Right. From today I'm going to start a one woman crusade to change the face of alcoholism, right here in my own little circle of life Down Under. From today I'm going to start using the word 'alcoholic' more in my face to face interactions. Seems like a small thing, but for me it's big. Wish me luck.
Love, Mrs D xxx