I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting today and I left there feeling inspired and reflective. I thought of my brother Lonnie, a recovering alcoholic, who passed away at the age of 35 in 1995. I watched three people receive their sobriety chips for nine months, one year, and two years and thought back to the AA meeting I attended with Lonnie when he received his one year chip. He was so proud of himself and we were equally proud of him especially after witnessing his near death car accidents, bike accidents, shame around dropping out of school, the arrests, and the overall pain the disease of addiction causes.
I was very young when I first witnessed the severe repercussions of addiction, and I took addiction personally then. I thought it was a character flaw in a person, a choice they made to ruin their lives and the lives of their families. The chaos and confusion, the yelling and screaming I witnessed as a child provoked fear, frustration, and eventually rage. I didn’t even know I was capable of rage until I grew older. In my young adult life I became arrogant, righteous, and judgmental about addiction and refused to see it as a disease. I was a victim of addiction and lived that way for a long time, powerless. I just stuffed my emotions, left for college and tried to be as successful as possible to make up for what I thought addiction had done to my family and eventually wore myself out.
As I have grown into adulthood and experienced many learning opportunities, I can see that chemical addiction is at epidemic proportions and it is a disease, just like any disease that needs treatment. The disease is in my face today, and its gnarly tentacles have surfaced and grasped on to my daily life again through my step-son’s struggle with addiction and still it provokes frustration, anger, and fear in me. The good news is I have the opportunity to do it differently. I am not that helpless little girl anymore. Just the other day, I asked myself, “What am I here to learn about addiction because it is back.”
I am a firm believer in nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. I have learned to live with more compassion for myself and others and I think my brother Lonnie is intervening somehow. I think of him and I feel like I have a chance to do it differently this time. Instead of taking it personally and becoming a victim, I am facing this disease head on as if it were a cancer diagnosis.
I left the meeting this morning feeling humble and grateful. I’m grateful that I had a relationship with my brother before he passed away because he was treating his disease daily and had committed himself to a 12-step program. I am grateful that I was able to attend the AA meeting with my stepson and support him fully today and also learn something new for myself. I am also grateful that I am able to work with young people and support them in speaking about their own feelings with our Reality Check program. I am humble in knowing that we all have our stories, addictions, unhealthy ways of dealing with life and we are all in this together.
We are all a work in progress and deserve compassion rather than judgment.
By: Kathy Roy