This is a painful post to write because I am the alcoholic. I am loved by many, many, many people despite my poor choices, my erratic behavior, my relapses, my promises…. I have continually let down the ones I love. The ones I love most. I’ve ruined precious relationships because of my choices. I’ve chosen Master Alcohol over everybody else.
Sure, from my perspective, when in my alcoholism, I wanted to beg for understanding…for mercy…for my loved ones to realize that this is a disease like cancer. I wanted them to see that I didn’t mean to be this way. I don’t want to be this way. I didn’t plan to be this way. I spent every day praying God would “fix” me.
I’m not an irresponsible person. I run my own business, have a college degree, two beautiful children…lots of friends. I think people even like me.
But I’m a real alcoholic. I drank alcohol and I couldn’t stop. I tried to avoid that “first drink” and then I succumbed to it. When I succumbed to it I’d do all types of crazy things—drive, emotionally react, panic, exaggerate, was cruel, lashed out, hurt the ones I love most. Cancer patients don’t do this.
Cancer patients—while similarly, cancer does affect the whole family— don’t lash out at those who are caring for them, helping them. Cancer patients appreciate help, are humble and resigned to their sickness. Alcoholics rebel—we fight back. We are confused—we deny and think we don’t have a problem. We think everyone else has the problem. Until we don’t. Until we realize we definitely are the problem.
That’s when things get worse. The shame, remorse, guilt, suicide thoughts…all that kicks in.
I’m writing this post because I regularly get comments from readers/followers who don’t understand why their loved ones have cut them off. I ache for their pain because I understand and get it. I have loved ones that have cut me off too. It hurts so badly. It contributed to my shame, isolation and sense of worthlessness.
I reached out to my best friend to get her perspective. She is one who has distanced herself from me. I am absolutely certain—and I’ve always been absolutely certain—that her distance was out of love. I KNOW she loves me, wants the best for me, wants me sober and believes I have so many gifts to offer the world. She is a Christian and knows God has a better plan for my life, if only I will adhere to His call.
My take on it was this. I thought she was trying to control me, to fix me. I thought she thought if she showed me tough love (withdrew her love from me) then it would somehow make me get sober. Actually, I even thought it was a little “passive-aggressive.” I thought she was trying to get me to do something by withholding love.
So, today, I just flat out asked her.
Why? Why do people shut out their loved ones who are alcoholics? I was afraid to ask her. I was afraid she would get defensive and avoid me more. But I really wanted to know. And she was the only one who I truly loved who has responded this way, I wanted to know why? I knew 100%, 1000% that she loved me. So I never questioned that. What I didn’t understand is why she would abandon me?
And her response…was beautiful and helpful and I wanted to pass it along to my followers/readers. Her response was this:
“Sometimes the people on the other side need to protect their own sanity; and the only way to do that is to walk away. That doesn’t mean they stop loving. It’s setting boundaries. Boundaries are healthy.”
And I understood. My heart opened and I understood. This wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about me being bad and her judging me. It was about her having healthy boundaries, protecting her heart and spirit from my poor behavior. Even though I am sick and am trying to get well, I can’t expect her to hang in there to the detriment of her own sanity and emotional health.
I am so grateful for this understanding. It’s critical to my walk. I hope this helps some of y’all out there? We are LOVED. We truly are loved. XO