I saw this image this morning when I (as I often do) Googled the word “sobriety” and clicked on images. It’s a quick and powerful way for me to get an instant head-check to remind me, as I heard on an episode of The Bubble Hour recently, that every morning I wake up with untreated alcoholism. The only way for me to keep my disease in remission is to actively follow a program of treatment. On days that I can’t make a meeting, I do so by blogging, reading others’ blogs, and interacting with the sober community on Twitter (@sober_dragon) and the Booze-Free Brigade.
Like many people, it’s been a bit of a struggle for me to accept my addiction to alcohol as a disease, but I did so toward the end of my stay in rehab. At first, it felt like a cop-out, like I was abdicating all responsibility for for my drinking and saying, “Hey, this just came out of the blue. I had nothing to do with it, so back the hell off.” It’s true that I never, at any point, sat down and said to myself, “I’m going to work hard to become an alcoholic,” but I certainly ignored the warning signs that I was heading down a bad road. I also romanticized drinking and writing, wrongly assuming the two had to go together in order to produce great art. I know that’s not the case. Somewhere along the way, I crossed the line from a casual drinker to someone for whom alcohol became a companion, and then a constant companion, and finally my worst enemy that I nonetheless loved and became willing to die for. That’s why I resonate so much with Caroline Knapp’s memoir, Drinking: A Love Story. So much of her story is my story, just as so much of the stories I hear in meetings and read online are my story. There’s so much power is recognizing that bond, and that power helps keep me sober.
Back to addiction as disease, here’s what the the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has to say in a recent article:
“At its core, addiction isn’t just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem. It’s a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other areas,” said Dr. Michael Miller, past president of ASAM who oversaw the development of the new definition. “Many behaviors driven by addiction are real problems and sometimes criminal acts. But the disease is about brains, not drugs. It’s about underlying neurology, not outward actions.”
“The disease creates distortions in thinking, feelings and perceptions, which drive people to behave in ways that are not understandable to others around them,” Hajela said in a statement. “Simply put, addiction is not a choice. Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease, not a cause.”
In rehab, addiction counselors reminded me time and time again that alcoholism is a disease process, and as such, it’ss chronic, progressive, and often fatal. Thankfully, those three points eventually hit home with me, and I chose to path to recovery.
Speaking of addiction counselors, I was pleased to see Katie at a weekend meeting, and she saw me pick my my nine-month chip. I’ve only seen her a handful of times since leaving rehab, but I think of her often. Like my family, I want to make her proud. Feelings like that alone won’t keep me sober, but they certainly help.
Here’s to a new, sober week. Hope all of you are well.