Following yesterday’s blog on trauma stewardship, I will share my experience with someone very close to me and their struggle with addiction. I will not share publicly who this person is out of fear. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma when it comes to addiction. When this person was slowly coming to terms that there was a problem, he reached out to those at work and explained he was struggling with stress and mental health issues. Immediately there was empathy and support. Shortly thereafter, as often happens, the person identified that the mental health issues were directly linked to addiction: binge drinking. Treatment was sought out and openly shared with those at work. Immediately there was a cold wall of judgement and limited communication. Hence, although this person is courageous and open in explaining his disease, for which I am exceptionally proud, I am concerned that he will be unfairly judged.
I share this not for any response, pity, and absolutely not for anyone to make my drama their drama. I ask that you possibly ponder the story and suggestions. My hope is that this story will make a difference by preventing another person fall victim to addiction and help a family rethink parenting and communication strategies so that the disease of addiction does not hold and choke a life…. COVID a life. Yes, addiction is like COVID, it doesn’t care, it’s a disease that manifests in the brain and once it takes hold like COVID it very difficult to battle.
This person has battled the disease of addiction for approximately 16 years. When he took his first drink around 15, he says he knew something was different. He was the fellow who couldn’t stop drinking. Oh sure, there were times that he could have just a couple of drinks but often it became a black out episode. These black out episodes continued with more frequency and often the blame was directed towards a lack of work life balance and working in a crazy service orientated business with exceptionally long hours and demanding workloads. These cycles of drinking did not help his highly sensitive and empathetic personality. He was using alcohol to self-medicate given his stress. He did stop drinking all together for over a year, then starting back to the same binging spikes. Finally, it was the last black out that scared him to surrender and obtain help.
My role in all of this was to support, question, suggest, encourage and forgive. Did I enable? Did I make excuses or was I delusional suggesting that his work was the cause? It’s a constant guilt factor that I wrestle with, yet, I know there were circumstances at times that had I not been there to offer support, he might not be here. I differed to compassion and love.
This young man is one of my heroes. It has been a long journey for this very loving and sensitive fellow. Throughout his crazy ‘ride’ he consistently was more honest with me than not. He has had the courage to admit that he is helpless to alcohol. He has learned to forgive himself, which I believe was more important than hearing I forgave him. He has approached his recovery with such tenacity that he attends 12 step meetings several times a week, assumes leadership at a variety of meetings, attends meetings when traveling, spoke eloquently as a guest speaker and supports others when they express the need for encouragement and support when battling the disease of addiction. His statement now is that his sobriety is his most important commitment. He is constantly working a living amends for past transgressions. He is constantly taking inventory of his daily character defects and tries to make amends on a daily basis. He is living a growth mindset … a rebirth. I couldn’t be prouder of his strength of character to battle this disease.