13 Reasons Why I Don’t Look Like An Alcoholic

JoyOn October 19th, 2015, by the grace of God, I welcomed in 13 years of freedom from the dependence on that which once enslaved me, alcohol.

When given the opportunity to share my story I always hear the same statement from at least one listener with a confused look on their face, “…But…you don’t look like an alcoholic.”
My response remains the same, “What does an alcoholic look like?”

Knowing full well that I have my own mental image of what an alcoholic looks like and it’s motivation for me to never go back to the life I once knew.

Her hair is matted and her clothes unkempt.
There are deep creases in her face from years of neglect.
She wears her wounds, making no attempt to hide them.
All forms of dignity have been stripped away.
She appears to be around 60 years old when in reality she’s 42.
She looks…well…tired. And she is.

Her children, if any, have long since given up on her and moved on with their lives.
The family she once knew has disowned her.
The church has overlooked her.
Society has pitied her.
Friends have deserted her. (They had no choice really. She stopped trying years ago.)
She’s an inconvenience, with bad teeth, no concern for personal hygiene, flammable breath, and a reputation that precedes her.

People say things without regard for her humanity, like, “Why haven’t her foolish ways killed her yet? She’d be better off dead and so would everyone else.”
Or, “She probably drinks mouthwash or rubbing alcohol. What a waste of space.”

Is my description harsh?
Have you ever seen an alcoholic in the grips of their disease?
To say it’s ugly is an understatement.

Throughout these years of recovery, I have visited treatment centers, held the shaking hands of the one in detox, claimed my seat in the rooms of A.A., accompanied a scared mother to a court hearing, listened to teary family members nightmares of living with an active alcoholic, and attended too many funerals for the seemingly hopeless one who never saw their 30th birthday.
I have seen what my future could look like if I allow my disease to dictate the direction of my life. Quite frankly, it scares the hell out of me. I hope it continues to scare me enough that I never pick up that first drink. That’s where the stronghold begins. The very first drink.

It’s a bummer. I don’t want to be an alcoholic. I didn’t grow from a little girl to a young adult dreaming of one day being a blackout drinker. I never aspired to be dependent on alcohol.

Not once did my parents say to me, “Now Joy, strive to be the best alcoholic you can be.” But I definitely gave it my all for several years. 

The reason I don’t look like your stereotypical alcoholic is because;
1.) I’m not homeless
2.) I’m a wife, mother, and productive member of society, and most days I’m pretty dang good at it.
3.) I have all my teeth (some natural ones and some designed by a dental artist).
4.) I’m obsessive about hygiene.
5.) My family is still speaking to me. Some of them actually like me.
6.) I have incredible friends who know me and aren’t embarrassed to be seen with me in public.
7.) I love and care for my children.
8.) My children love me, except when I’m driving them crazy.
9.) I don’t willingly participate in self-destructive behavior.
10.) I pay my bills…on time.
11.) I am of service to others and I love it! It’s one of my favorite things to do.
12.) I’m not a liar.
13.) I have a relationship with my Creator that everything else in my life centers around.

Most of the things listed above were not true of me 13 years ago. It has been a journey of faith with unpredictable twists and turns. Trust, especially in close personal relationships, has been earned and restored over time. I know and embrace the meaning of “Amazing Grace.”

We all have something in our lives that wants to destroy us. Mine happens to be alcohol. Maybe yours is food or sex, compulsive shopping or depression? No matter what it is, you know that the moment you become complacent in this particular area, you’re in trouble. There is a solution.

Do you know what the best defense against complacency is?
Gratitude.
I call it my complacency repellant?

I am more aware (than ever), going into this 13th year that I better be thanking God in the first few moments my eyes open and my lungs draw a sober breath. Before my feet hit the floor, praise must already be on my lips. It will be the first thing on my tongue in the morning and the last thing I taste at night.

Here’s the big takeaway… Beginning the first few moments of your day with a grateful heart has the potential to change everything. Guaranteed. If it works for me, it can work for anyone, anywhere, no matter what.

Do you believe that?

Need a place of refuge? Visit my friends over at People of the Second Chance. Get connected. Whether you struggle with addiction or you love someone who does, you don’t ever have to be alone again.

Think you have a problem with alcohol? AA is a group of individuals from all walks of life, who share the same ism. It’s a program to which I owe my life. Learn more in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous 

Egomaniac with an Inferiority Complex

Ever feel like you’re walking around inside out? Like people can see, not who, but what you are?

Or that you have a neon word glowing above your head?

I do.

For me, it could be any number of things over the years… alcoholic, people pleaser, bulimic, liar, gossiper, faker, cheater, doubter, wounded, hypocrite, quitter…the list is lengthy and it only gets worse.

What’s your word?

Did you immediately think of something negative?

Why do I turn into a “Nancy negative” (no offense Nancy) when it comes to self-awareness checks?

Is it because I’m humble? Hardly!

It’s because my ego gets the better of me and I begin comparing my insides to your outsides. I become fixated on the past, instead of focused on the future, while living in the present.

Humor me for a minute and let’s go another route.

What if, when I went out into the world, I walked around with a different list of words adorning my head? Words like…Believer, Redeemed, Recovered, Loved, Forgiven, Cherished, Treasured, Saved, Blessed, Beautiful, Capable, Wanted, Free, Worthy, Accepted…as I wrote these words, I read them out loud. It is amazing the tone, the energy, the transformation of thought from one paragraph to another simply by changing a few words.

Ladies, we are the worst about this. Be careful what you are speaking into the hearts and minds of your daughters, friends and more importantly, yourself.

May I encourage you to try a little experiment with me? Come on! It will be so fun!

Take a dry erase marker (or lippy, whatever works), stand in front of the mirror where you get ready every morning, and in the space (on the mirror) above your head, choose one word of affirmation.

Write the word on your mirror so that when you look at your reflection you will see truth.

I call it, “Affirmation in Action.”

My word right now is “Redeemed.”

I begin my day with that word in my heart and on my mind. I don’t give the lies a chance to one up me.

There is power in our words. Even those never spoken, but that we allow to take up residence between our ears.

If you’re walking around all day with a head full of negative self-talk, stop it.
No really…STOP! You are going against your purpose, everything that you were designed to be. You are deeming yourself spiritually useless.

Harsh? Yes.

I speak from a position of repeat offender when it comes to bashing myself. What I am encouraging you to do, I am doing myself. Work in progress, remember. I don’t have all the answers, I am just very persistent.

It begins from within.

What’s inside you can either tear down and infect those around you with the poison of darkness. Or it can shine, igniting the light in others that is within us all. For some of us only a spark remains, while for others a fire rages.

Here is my promise to you…for the next 7 days, I am going to pray for you. I would LOVE it if you would tell me your word in the comment section below. However, even if you don’t, God knows your word and more importantly, He knows your name.

The future is very bright!

Now…

What’s your word?