You all know that saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”.
(This post isn’t going to be as funny as the title. It’s about the effects of alcoholism and addiction. Feel free to read another, happier post while this blog doubles as my therapist.)
You can show someone a better way of life, but sometimes they’d rather stick to their old ways – no matter how much they’ve already lost because of those old patterns of behavior.
If you’ve never been affected by someone’s alcoholism or drug addiction, or you’ve never had an alcohol or drug problem of your own, you are very fortunate. It is heartbreaking to see someone you care about return to drinking or drugs, simultaneously losing everything important in life. The willful self-destruction by a loved one is too much to witness. Sadly, I’ve seen this happen to people I care about several times. One time is too many. It never gets any easier.
Recently, I’ve encountered three alcoholic/addict friends who just couldn’t “drink the water” for more than a month or two at a time before returning to alcohol. It breaks my heart to know they are placing alcohol above family, friends, and their livelihood. One already lost all of those things once before because of his drinking, and he’s losing them all over again. Another (who is just that guy in the future), is a bit further along and has lost literally everything – he has no home, no livelihood, no possessions at all. Just a drinking problem to comfort him.
People, myself included, have tried to help these folks. But at some point you have to give up. There is only so much anyone can do to help someone who makes alcohol a priority above all else, even their family.
Many are just too proud and too stubborn to change. But I believe those I mentioned above secretly harbor a death wish. They have other health issues they don’t address, they drink when it’s contraindicated with their medication, they continue drinking and using knowing how their changed personality hurts those who care about them, but they have even less regard for their own health. These folks are often very depressed but hide it well. (I know, I was one.) They seem to want to die. Continuing to drink and use, and ignoring serious health issues and warnings on medication, is a slow form of suicide.
There is a better way of life for those suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, but they have to be willing to get clean and sober. A small amount of Faith is needed: Faith in what those who have gone before you are saying about how much better life can – and will – be if only you take certain steps.
Bill Wilson, the man credited for founding Alcoholics Anonymous, is famously quoted as saying:
“Believe more deeply. Hold your face up to the light, even though for the moment you do not see.”
Not everyone who wants to get sober can. It requires a level self-examination unfamiliar to, and uncomfortable for practicing alcoholics and addicts. Besides Faith, openmindeness, and honesty, getting sober requires humility. These qualities are cultivated by working a 12-step program. The twelve steps are simple, but they are not for the faint of heart. You have to really look at your inner most self, your (very likely) skewed view of life, and how your actions affect others. Too many practicing alcoholics are too proud to admit they have a problem, too insecure to change their way of life and let go to learn a new way of living.
It is a simple program, but it can change your life if you let it. No one is “struck perfect” by working the steps – it’s about progress, not perfection. No one among us can achieve perfection, we are human, after all.
But too many wait until it’s too late. Don’t be one of them, get help while it is still an option. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have meetings near you – wherever you are. For those of you affected by someone’s drinking and using, there is Al-Anon, for the friends and family members of alcoholics and addicts.
Only those who want to live will do something to save themselves. But some would rather die slowly than “drink the water”. No matter who you are or what you believe, there are people who care about you and will do so until you can care half as much about yourself.
UPDATED: I love you people! When I first wrote this I sat on it for a few days, contemplating posting it. I really thought this post wouldn’t be very popular. Gees, was I wrong! Those of you who’ve commented here, and on my personal and fan Facebook pages have touched my heart. Thank you all.