“I am an alcoholic, my name is Dianna.”
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have said that. That is how we introduce ourselves in Alcoholics Anonymous. We say this as a reminder of who we were, who we are and who we desire to be.
My views on alcoholism, it’s symptoms and the circumstances necessary to allow recovery all come from a mix of clinical knowledge and personal experience. I am unable to untangle the two. The most meaningful information I can share is what happened to me, what my symptoms were.
According to Alcoholics Anonymous literature, alcoholism occurs when we cross an invisible line between heavy drinking and total loss of control. The heavy drinker may experience loss but with sufficient motivation, he can stop his drinking. The alcoholic, no matter the price he pays, continues to drink. Rarely does an alcoholic seek sobriety and rarer yet is the man who achieves recovery. Only those who desire sobriety more than drinking will receive the gift of recovery. Even then rarely does an alcoholic achieve sobriety without asking for help. A spiritual experience is a must.
So, do you know the symptoms of alcoholism? Here are a few of them that I experienced:
- I made myself promises that I wouldn’t drink for a week and three days later I would find myself drunk.
- I rarely drank without blacking out. (Not to be mistaken for passing out). Blacking out is a state of being where you walk and talk and yet have no memory of the events during the blackout.
- I tried switching from beer to wine, wine to mixed drinks, mixed drinks to beer again.
- I hid my drinking.
- I drank alone.
- I drank to get drunk. Always!
- I had severe consequences from my drinking.
- I chose alcohol over the people that I loved, my children, my partner and my parents.
- I lied, stole and cheated to support my drinking and to cover it up.
- I obsessed about a drink from the time I woke up until the moment I took my first drink.
- In the end, one drink was too many, a thousand not enough.
- I always had a supply so I was sure I wouldn’t run out.
Sadly, these were but a few of my symptoms, but they do present an overview of my alcoholic drinking. Alcoholism is a disease. It can be as deadly as untreated cancer. The agony of watching an alcoholic die from their disease is equally as frightening as watching another die from cancer. The man may not believe in God but recovery is still attainable if they believe in the strength of the people around them. (Thus, a power greater than themselves.)
The widely accepted volume “Alcoholics Anonymous” outlines a course of action, in the form of 12 steps, that if followed thoroughly will lead the alcoholic from the pit of despair, perhaps even the brink of death, to a life beyond their wildest dreams.
In step one, found on page 59 of the 4th Edition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it states “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” This step must be approached with the attitude that we will leave no rock unturned, no unmanageability ignored. It is essential that we recognize our utter powerlessness when it comes to alcohol in any amount, in any form. In addition, we must seek out the connection between the unmanageability in our lives and our use of alcohol.
Step two states, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” and step three states “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” These three steps, especially, are essential to recovery from alcoholism. When we can finally walk in step three we have been spiritually connected with other recovering alcoholics, thus a power greater than ourselves.
In my experience, I not only connected with a group of people who understood me but with a God that I could accept. A God who I believed loved me enough to help me when no one else was available.
Finally, it is important to stress that recovery from alcoholism is a journey, not a destination. Knowing my symptoms was key on my road to acceptance and recognizing the unmanageability in my life. My disease had robbed me of relationships, trust, success, financial security and many other things I had once held dear. After grasping the first three steps I was ready for total change and so started my journey to the truest form of me.