Today I am pondering ‘what do you need to know that will make a difference for you?’ In other words, what is the sense of making a blog about my experiences with a loved one’s addiction if it doesn’t make a difference for you, the reader. As I do so I am thinking of what someone said to me yesterday… He said ‘your blog is very personal.’ He’s right. It is very personal.
It’s interesting to note that I have gone into the rooms of Alanon, which is a program for friends and family of alcoholics, and I have heard personal stories of people who live with this sickness. I have gone into the rooms of Codependents Anonymous, for people who may or may not love some one with an addiction- but who act and live as if they do- and I have heard personal stories. I have gone into the rooms of open AA meetings and I have heard personal stories. I have gone to Overeater’s Anonymous where people grapple with their own food addictions, and heard personal stories. In any twelve step group you will hear personal stories. The good, the bad and the very ugly. And those stories make a difference. They let you ‘see it quicker and change it sooner.’- whether the ‘it’ be something you are doing that does not work- or whether the ‘it’ be something that makes you see that the person you love does indeed have a problem, and that you- living in the insanity- need help too. And make no mistake, those personal stories, and the people who are brave enough to tell them, make a big difference for the people who are listening.
But those stories cannot be told to the outside world. The stories, listeners, and speakers are bound by a golden rule, repeated clearly and succinctly at the end of each and every meeting. “Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.’ This is the heart and soul of anonymity. This is the rule that has allowed millions of people to share their hearts and their lives in a safe space- knowing that what they share will never come back to harm them. This rule of anonymity is truly what makes it possible for people to seek sanctuary in recovery groups around the world.
And anonymity is a good thing…
Except when it is not.
Anonymity is good for the people who are addicted- who would certainly face shame, disdain, exclusion, and even downright discrimination if the outside world knew of their plight. And anonymity is good for the loved ones, who would face judgments, and a level of derision from smug onlookers and people who have never walked the path of loving someone with an addiction. They would hear judgmental things like “Why doesn’t she just leave him?” Or “I would never put up with that.” Or “Doesn’t he have any backbone at all?”
On the other side the person who loves an addicted person might be told “What kind of a mother are you, to let your son do that?’ Or ‘Perhaps if you were a better wife, he wouldn’t drink.’ Any of these remarks, and all derivatives in between, might be said with the best of intentions. But they would completely undermine the process of living through a loved one’s addiction. Such remarks and such an attitude would only come from complete ignorance. So anonymity protects bothe addicts and their loved ones from the hurtful ignorance of others.
But there is one person who is not helped by all of this anonymity…
And it is you, the average, unknowing, normal person- who has no knowledge about addiction.
You see, if you are a person who is living a ‘normal’ life, and you have not gone to school to learn about addiction, nor sat in a 12 step program, then what you don’t know could hurt you. What you don’t know could even kill you. You see, I lived with an alcoholic for 10 years, not knowing he was sick, and it nearly did kill me. If I had only known what I later learned in the 12 step recovery rooms (Such as Alanon for families and friends of alcoholics) life could have been very different for both of us, and for our children.
And that’s why I want you to read my blog. That’s why I write it- so it can be different for you. So that you don’t walk around blind- believing that you are seeing. I write so that you can know what to say to a person that you love who is walking straight into addiction with his own blinders on. I write so that you can know what it looks like to love someone with an addiction. I write so that you can say the word addiction, without feeling shame, derision, and thinking how nasty it is.
I envision a world where the shame and derision disappear. I envision a world where people do not have to be anonymous in order to live their lives and heal their sicknesses. I envision a world of togetherness, where no-one walks in the shadows of addiction, alone and afraid.
I see such a world. And if you can see it too, then visit my blog, and send your friends. And let us begin to see together.