I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, and the topic of vulnerability has come up a few times. It made me really think of my own vulnerability during my active addiction, as well as my vulnerability in recovery.
When we as addicts finally make the decision to seek help for our disease, we are extremely vulnerable. For people who don’t understand alcoholism, we are deciding to stop using the only thing that has ever made us feel comfortable or normal. It has become a part of who we are, and we can’t imagine living without it.
For me, admitting I was an alcoholic was admitting that I was uncomfortable in my own skin. My anxiety was the reason I drank, so before I was diagnosed, I was self medicating with alcohol. I was untreated for years due to the fact that I didn’t want to admit I was anxious, especially in social situations, because I saw this as a flaw. Although I was eventually prescribed anxiety medicine about a year before I truly accepted my disease, I took the medicine without seeking therapy, and I continued to drink.
Clearly this was a not the path to wellness. I also knew that just taking the medication and not drinking was not helping me feel less anxious about everything that was going on in my life. I wanted to pretend things were fine to everyone in the outside world, even thought that wasn’t the case.
Looking back, I find it funny that I actually thought I was fooling anyone. I was ashamed of my drinking, but too scared to be honest with my family and friends about my complete and utter reliance on it. It is still hard for me to be completely open with some people about the amount I was drinking when I was heaving in my addiction. Since people who are not alcoholics or addicts don’t understand the reliance a person has on their drug of choice, they’re usually shocked and sometimes disgusted by how much a person drinks or uses when he or she is entrenched in their addiction.
The shamefulness I felt over my alcoholism was what kept me from being honest with myself. When I first attempted to stop drinking, my obsession with alcohol was still there. I wanted everyone to think I was fine, so of course, I didn’t admit to anyone or myself how I was really feeling. Amazingly, I was able to abstain from drinking for three months before I finally gave into my obsession.
This led to over 6 months of on and off drinking, and many bad decisions. Although going through that was my personal hell, it forced me to understand that I needed to go to rehab, become educated about the disease, and continue to talk to other alcoholics.
Overall the hardest step for me to take in my recovery was to let myself be vulnerable. This is still tough, but I now force myself to do it in order to stay well. For those readers who are not alcoholics, I would like to make a simple request-if someone you love has a problem and shares this with you, try your hardest not to judge him or her. Our society makes it hard enough for addicts to seek help, so if someone feels comfortable enough sharing their person hell with you, just remember that this might be the first time he or she is allowing them-self to be vulnerable. They’re most likely not looking for advice, they just need a person to listen without judgement.