Being an alcoholic/addict in recovery takes strength. We wake up every day fighting a battle against our addictions. Sharing that battle with the people and loved ones in our lives can be difficult. Especially when they don’t understand and make comments that hurt or drag us down.
I’ve received so many comments that left me questioning my sobriety goals. People who meant well but had no idea what they were talking about tried to give me advice. People who didn’t want to see me change tried to push drinks on me. Family members who didn’t understand the first thing about addiction asked questions that led me to self doubt.
Here are five toxic things I have heard in recovery and the courage I found to overcome them.
- Really? Are you sure? You don’t look like an addict/alcoholic.
Well, thanks! I guess that gives me the go ahead to drink and use even more until I really have lost everything. Maybe I do still have most of my health. Maybe I do still have my marriage and a place to live. That doesn’t mean I need to keep going down a path of destruction.
I know in my heart that I have crossed a line. When I start drinking, I can’t stop. I have a physical allergy that causes a mental obsession and a craving for more that is beyond my willpower.
I am an addict and an alcoholic. I have accepted it. I’m OK if you don’t believe me.
- How long do you have to stay sober?
Let’s see…how about the rest of my life. Thank you for bringing that up! Now I’m thinking about the years and years of sobriety ahead of me and panicking about holidays and birthdays and stress that hasn’t even happened yet…
But that’s not the way I’m taught to think about it. I’m taught to take it “one day at a time.” I can’t promise that I’ll never drink again. That’s an impossible promise. What I can say is that I won’t drink today. I’ll think about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.
- I know how you feel.
Really? You’re an alcoholic/addict too? Oh, you mean you’ve had a hangover once or twice. That is so not the same thing.
This is a hard one to deal with. It brings up a lot of emotion in me – a lot of anger. I suppose because I like to think I’m special and unique. The fact is most people do not understand the absolute loneliness that comes with addiction. You can’t know until you’ve been there – and that’s why I find so much strength and comfort in the rooms of AA.
- Why can’t you stop at one or two? Can’t you have just one? How about an O’Doul’s?
First of all, why on earth would I want to taste beer if it’s not going to get me drunk? Second, the whole point of alcohol, for me, is to get drunk. It is not the flavor. It is not having a good time with friends. It is to get smashed. It is to black out.
Again, I have crossed that line. One drink is too many, and a thousand is never enough. It’s hard to help people understand that. I’ve found that it helps to relate it to allergies. Someone who is allergic to seafood can’t have even just one shrimp. The same goes for me with a drink.
- You’re doing it wrong! You haven’t even hit your rock bottom yet. You need religion!
There’s nothing quite like someone telling you you’re doing recovery wrong. Especially when you respect and love that person. When I heard this, it filled me with self doubt. I second guessed myself for weeks. I nearly relapsed.
But I talked to my sponsor about it. The thing is – you can hit your rock bottom if you stop digging, and there is no right or wrong way to do recovery. Everyone has their own path to walk. I know I’m not working a perfect program, but I am staying sober – and I am trying to offer experience, strength, and hope wherever I can.
We can’t control what other people say to us, but we can control with whom we share our story and how much of our story we share. Some people, like close family members, husbands, and wives, will naturally know more of our story and will hopefully be supportive and understanding.
We take a risk when we share our stories because we are opening ourselves up and being vulnerable, but in sharing our experience, strength, and hope, we are helping others in recovery. Even when we receive toxic responses, we can face them with courage and fortitude, grateful for our recovery and sobriety.