One of the hardest things anyone will ever be challenged to do is walk into the midst of strangers and say “I am an alcoholic and my name is ____.” In 1996, I did just that for the first time.
If you had told me back then that I would someday be a Licensed Professional Counselor working for Assisted Recovery Centers of America—helping people get and stay sober—I would have no doubt laughed in your face and used it as a reason to get drunk. People like me are not normal drinkers—we do not have one or two drinks and then stop because more would make us sick. People like me make up about 10% of the population, a population incapable of processing alcohol normally, whose bodies have permanently adapted to tolerate alcohol to the point of self-destruction.
I started drinking regularly at 18, and by the time I was in my mid-twenties my drinking was out of control. While others I knew had different drugs of choice our intentions seemed to be similar—alter reality so that life was not so awkward, lonely, boring, stressful… whatever. In time, though, being sober became unbearable due to the discomforts of withdrawal and the guilt associated with what I was capable of when drunk. My physical dependence to alcohol was affecting my actions and thinking which, in turn, impacted my perception of self and others. The immediate way to feel “normal” and guilt-free was, of course, to drink again. Crazy? You bet, but that is the nature of alcoholism: a disease of the body and a dis-ease [sic] of the mind. Contrary to what I learned growing up, alcoholism is not some failure of moral character, lack of religious faith, or absence of will power. By the time I knew I had a problem no amount of character, faith, or willpower was able to cure me of my disease. The only remedy I knew then was more alcohol, and alcohol made for a very poor, temporary cure serving only to make everything worse.
I didn’t know about ARCA in 1996, or about medically assisted recovery programs like ARCA. I was only aware of Alcoholics Anonymous. It took me about three years to get and stay sober, and as of today I have been alcohol-free for over fourteen years. I have often wondered whether the medically assisted treatment that ARCA provides would have made a difference for me in 1996—got me sober faster? I have also wondered if some of the people I knew who died along the way might be alive today if they had accessed medically assisted treatment? I don’t know. But this I do know and with it I close: medically assisted treatment (ARCA) and AA/Alanon/Celebrate Recovery etc., are not mutually exclusive programs. Those who wish to live life drug-free have a great many opportunities for help today, and the work that it takes to become sober is well worth it. See you in group.