What's the Big Deal?
Alcoholism can be a strange thing to try to define. And not for lack of trying to put it in boxes: we have pamphlets and brochures galore in doctors offices that offer a quick five minute diagnosis. Many start with the simple question “Have you ever…?” and go on from there- illuminating the simple idea that what someone may see as normal in regards to their own behavior might actually be the markings of a life unraveled. And of course in our Psychiatric world and correlating DSM- we love labels. Anymore we love re-labeling things when we decided that the original phrasing was too biting.
And yet, there are features to a life dependent on alcohol or chemical assistance that elude us. This short blog is an attempt to capture just one of them.
“Perhaps your husband has been living in that strange world of alcoholism where everything is distorted and exaggerated.” Big Book pg. 108
One of the punctuating features of my early adulthood well into adult hood is things that happened to me, or inside me often fell wildly out of context in the world I lived in. I made extraordinarily big deals out of any slight, minor disappointment, or inconvenience. Often, of course, followed by a medicinal bout of self destructive drug abuse… coupled with distilled spirits and all the trouble that used to bring. Often this was the beginning of a spree that left the original causality of it in an old dust cloud of new problems- legal, emotional and otherwise. I’d get a bee in my bonnet sometimes and have myself a rough ride, taking the family along with. Oh how they worried back then. One thing I remember- just barely- is marching down the court house convinced I was going to change my last name to take revenge on a family that had done nothing but try to love and support me. But I was like that: overly emotional with a hair trigger that led to nothing but grief.
And that is just how it was. Except for the other times when a tidal wave of catastrophe was met with a nonchalance more befitting of a lost button on a coat, perhaps.
“How can such a lack of proportion or the ability to think straight be called anything else?” pg. 37 Big Book
When I was twenty five, I shared a home with several other alcoholics. The lease had been transferred into my name as it were, with the previous lease holder having moved on to other findings.
We hadn’t paid rent in three months, the landlord was furious.
When one of the roommates asked me about, I shrugged it off: Yeah. It’s fine, I think…not that big of a deal. I’m not going to worry about it.
Which was met with a challenging rebuke on his part: Maybe you should worry about it. And he was right. The landlord had kept his promise: changing the locks in the middle of a workday and posting an eviction notice neatly on the front door. I lost a lot, that day. Music equipment. Expensive scuba diving equipment my parents had bought me for a career plan to become a diving guide that would never materialize. Thousand of dollars, down the drain. And not for the first time, nor would it be the last.
Most of the families I work with- they just don’t know what to make of it, much like my own mother didn’t. When I finally got honest about my drinking and drug abuse at nineteen, she had seemed relieved: she had begun to conclude something was terribly wrong with me. Turns out, we both were right.
The gift of recovery- well, one of them, has been to see the world as it actually is. Most of the time. And often, to see the world through an empathic lens of the way others had seen it- especially as pertains to the past. Sometimes we can change more in a few months that decades of trying to work it out ourselves. But it always starts with getting help, and having an honest conversation around that help.
If you or someone you love suffers from addiction or is in mental health crisis, please reach out to Labor of Love. #alcoholusedisorder #addiction #intervention #familysystems #alcoholism
November 2021October 2021