Jenna, over at Drinking to Distraction, inspired me to write this piece with her well written and honest post here. What really stood out for me in her post were her thoughts about alcoholism and recovery.
As mentioned before, I view the problems people have with alcohol as a continuum, with those who have never drank on one end and the late-stage, chronic alcoholics (like me) on the other. Because alcoholism is a progressive condition, between those two extremes there’s a wide spectrum where people can find themselves at any given time. In Jenna’s words, there are “many shades, grades, and natures” among us. Social drinking, problem drinking, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are just four intermediate points on the continuum that are often mentioned.
With that in mind, there certainly must be a continuum of remedies for us, from Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” to a host of psychological therapies, through to AA’s introspective emphasis on the alcoholic’s problems other than alcohol as the solution, and many other ‘treatment’ methods. They all have a degree of success; one mountain to climb with many paths from which to choose. Yet none of them will work in anything approaching 100% of cases. While we are all alike in many important ways, we are all different in ways that are just as important. Where one person drinks to relieve social anxiety, another drinks to forget; another drinks out of boredom, another to alleviate depression and still another to elevate the highs–and so it goes.
Where does all this leave us, those who have been in the problem, made it through to the other side, and now wish to help those who still suffer? Jenna’s conclusion is that we keep a dialog open to help those who are still living in the problem. I agree with her.
I’m a firm believer in the power of personal testimony. One of the best ways I can reach others is by sharing what it was like for me, what happened to get me through the problem to the other side, and what life is like for me now.
I was taught years ago that when I’m teaching, or simply want to convey a specific message, and the other party(ies) aren’t ‘getting it,’ the breakdown is on my end, not theirs. I’ve found through the years that open dialog in the language of the heart combined with two-way communication is the surest formula to get any message across, no matter what the subject happens to be. To that end, I do my best to keep an open mind when others share their experience, and I can then pass that experience along as a third-party anecdote.
Keeping an open mind also keeps me in a learning mode, ever reminding me that I don’t know everything, or even all that much, about either the problem or the solution. I’m fairly certain that for me, to stop investigating and learning will lead to yet another relapse. And I have every reason to believe I won’t survive another one.
The more people we have actively sharing and discussing recovery, the better the odds that someone will read (or hear) what they need to hear and progress down their own path to recovery. It still amazes me when I think of all the times I had heard the same thing over and over without the slightest understanding, then someone rephrases it, no matter how slightly, and it’s like I was smacked upside the head with an iron bar. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” but we can improve greatly on that by being ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ prior to their readiness.
One other item I noted in Jenna’s post: It appears she has come keypad to keypad with one of the Tormenters I’ve written about before. Well, it happens. I’ve come to the conclusion that regardless what someone says (or writes), given a large enough audience there will be someone who will take exception to it. This is as certain as death and taxes.
I’d love to hear from all of you on the topic. Whether you’ve been through the problem and come out the other side or you’re still looking for your answers, agree or disagree, hit me with a comment! Thanks!
BTW–The title of this post comes from the TV show “Different Strokes.” I couldn’t help myself.