I was in denial about the extent of my drinking problem for years before I took the actions that finally led to a recovery path I continue on today. There were others in my life who shared concerns over the years of my drinking career, and likely others who also shared in the denial.
In My First “Last Drunk” post I write about my college friends Deb and Zoe. They, along with my friend Sheila, were early messengers pointing out my patterns and my dangerous choices, in supportive and caring ways. They made a difference, but I simply had more drinking to do.
As I look back now on the last three years of my drinking, when the disease of alcoholism was definitely progressing in me, warning signs and indications of a serious problem were fully evident. Easier to see in hindsight, I needed help realizing and confronting it then. A friend of a friend, who I only met a couple of times, played an instrumental role in giving me the push I needed to seek help. Messengers are sometimes like that. Minimal contact, but significant impact. When I met her, Sarah was a young woman who had been through treatment for her drinking problem and was attempting to live sober. I was still drinking myself.
With ego, audacity, and—let’s just call it what is—a real lack of understanding about what addiction to alcohol really meant, I was trying to be helpful to Sarah.
I felt my previous attempts to quit drinking had taught me some things, which I was imparting to her. A few months later, in the summer of 1989, I received a letter and a book from Sarah in the mail. I still use the book today. It continues to teach me about recovery. The letter was tougher to read. She was angry and concerned and brutally honest. I read and re-read what she had to say, but didn’t make any changes at that point. It wasn’t until years later that I actually picked up that book and started using it like I should. But the letter—it helped break down some of the walls of denial and rationalization I had built.
Here are some of her words from that letter:
This letter is a key piece in my recovery history. Thank you Sarah! We soon lost touch and I have no idea if she stayed sober. Within weeks, however, I started the period of recovery I continue on today. A few years later, I tried to find Sarah so I could thank her. I never found her, but I share her role in my recovery as a way of showing my gratitude and to remind others of the impact our actions and concern can have on another person. Never underestimate the power of the right messenger at the right time, and that can be you!
My sister Leonice was another key messenger in that summer of 1989. As I wrote in my most recent post “My Last “Last Drunk”, she was one of many who witnessed the sad and drunken show I put on at a wedding on August 12. I was gone on a trip to California immediately after that wedding. When I returned in late August, Leonice came to see me in my apartment. She spoke to me of her concern for my drinking, especially after the recent evidence she had seen.
I don’t remember specifically what she said, and I remember not having much to say in return. I was angry. Denial looks and sounds like anger. I wasn’t ready to fully surrender to the idea that I couldn’t control my drinking, although deep within me I knew it was the truth.
Sarah wrote it like she saw it. I had conveniently forgotten that I identified myself as an alcoholic. I truly was sick. Sick and tired of the life I was leading. Sick and tired of the person I saw in the mirror—a weak fool and someone I also referred to as “you dumb, ugly bitch.” Leonice’s words and concern came at just the right time. I may not have seemed receptive when she was there talking to me, but within days I reached out for help and started on a sober path with a conviction I never had on any previous attempts. Conviction led to faith. Faith led to gratitude.
The faith and gratitude continue daily.
Thank you Leonice and Sarah! It took a few messengers to get through to me, and you two knocked enough of the walls down to get me moving. I can only pay this debt of gratitude to you with ongoing recovery. And that is exactly what I plan to do; a moment, an hour, a day at a time.