After months of refraining from writing about this, I’m going to put it out there. Like so many other folks, my life is touched by addiction. Someone I care very much about is an alcoholic. I have hesitated to write about it because it is painful and I really believe you need to put a lot of thought about what you put on the internet for the whole world to read. The web leaves a deep and enduring footprint, and I don’t what to do anything to harm someone. Words are an important coping mechanism for me, and I am finally writing about it because it will help me to heal, and I think I can do it in a way that maintains the privacy of the addict. This post is about me really and not about the alcoholic. I need to do this, and I may never write about it again. It is a tiny step and yet, such a giant leap for me. Will you hold my hand while I jump from the curb?
An open letter to my friend, the alcoholic:
I love you, I really do, but your disease casts a wide reaching net that has pulled me under and practically drowned me in recent months. I keep thinking you’ll hit rock bottom and make a change, but that hasn’t happened despite everything you’ve lost this year. After months of butting my head against the wall and picking up the pieces each time you fall, I have finally learned that I can’t “fix” you. Only you can fix you. However, I can fix myself, and I need fixing. After your most recent brush with disaster, I have hit my “rock bottom”. You see, I realize this disease makes the non-addicted sick, too. And I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. You have not chosen recovery, but I have. My recovery starts today.
I will stop driving by your house every day, wondering what condition you’re in. Little clues like whether your lights are on just fuel my overactive imagination. Sitting at home at night, wondering if this is the day it gets the best of you is making me physically ill, and I have to find a way to stop that. I have to stop making myself a hostage to my worries. I can’t let this disease consume me, too. I will not clean up any more of your messes. You must face the consequences of whatever problems you create with your drinking, or you will never have a chance to get well. Conversely, you can truly own your victories, too.
I have found a support group full of wonderful people who will help me to put some control back into my life. I’m hoping they can help me find some peace and help me to let go of this anger I’m feeling toward you right now. I didn’t ask for this disease. I never wanted it, and yet I’m suffering from it. Is this how someone feels when they find out they’ve caught AIDS from a lover they trusted? Betrayed in a life changing way? You know, I realized yesterday that sometime in the last few weeks I unknowingly accepted your alcoholism as a terminal illness, a disease that’s in its last stages. I was driving down the road, heard a song on the radio and thought that it would be appropriate for your funeral. That thought horrified me, and I almost had to pull over to the side of the road. I wept for the second time that day.
In recent weeks I’ve struggled with my running. Inexplicably I lost my endurance and my breath and then it occurred to me that I was dragging my heart around and yours too on those solitary runs, replaying the hurt over and over in my mind, mile after mile. It was wearing me out. Today I ran and forced myself to think about other things. I felt stronger than I had in a long time.
You and I have been friends for years. I don’t want that to end, but I can’t witness the destruction from the front row anymore. I have to step back. I will still love you, and I will only be an arm’s length away, but I will be focused on my recovery. That probably sounds mean and selfish to people who have never been in my shoes, but those who have been will understand completely.
We’ve taken vacations together and talked a lot over the years about the other places we’d like to travel to together some day. We’re at a crossroads in our friendship right now, and we may be headed in different directions. I know which path I’m taking, and I wish you would travel down the same road. Let this be our next journey together, without the margaritas this time. If not, I will grieve for you, but I will stick to my path. I love you deeply my friend, and that love will not end. My support for you will not end, but MY journey begins today.
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