Moral failings. Drinking made me feel like a failure. It made me feel weak and less than. My self-esteem was one of many things my disease stole from me, but feeling that bad about myself was probably the worst. I simultaneously thought, “I deserve better than this” and “I am getting exactly what I deserve.”
I am not alone in this, it is often said, “Alcoholics like me think very little of ourselves, but I am all I think about.” The selfishness of thinking I’m not hurting anyone but myself is so misguided. Just by not being present for my family and friends hurt them. I did that with no malicious intent, but I did it, nevertheless. I have no ill-will. I was absent because I had to be. I couldn’t behave like I needed to in front of people who love me. I rarely even drank in public towards the end. I couldn’t behave like I had to in front of strangers. I was so embarrassed by how I drank that I really only felt comfortable drinking alone towards the end. A question often asked of potential alcoholics is “Has your drinking ever made you seek lower companionship?” My answer has to be yes. I drank alone. That was my seeking lower companionship.
How freeing it was when I first heard that I am not a bad person trying to be good, I’m a sick person trying to get well. What I did is not who I am. Moral failings are a symptom of my disease, not the cause. Sure I still make mistakes and do crappy stuff, but not like I did while active in my disease…. not before or since. The disease takes me to places I would never consider going when sober, especially not sober in recovery.
But in recovery I’ve learned I was a slave to alcohol and would do its bidding under any circumstances, even when it was not in my own best interest to do so. Addiction ruled almost every waking minute. Struggling under the yoke of alcoholism, I did whatever it took. And took whatever I needed if only to get by, to get through another day. But I have been granted a choice, a reprieve if you will. I can make better choices now. I do make better choices now. I no longer have to be so deeply ashamed of my behavior. I did what I had to do, and now I get to do better.
Now I try to make good choices. In recovery, I’ve met some of the kindest, most altruistic people that I’ve never known in my life. People who devote their entire lives to the well-being of others. Sharing the gift of recovery that we have so freely been given. To give back.
Having existed in the dark places our diseases took us makes the light so much brighter, so much warmer. Now I try to think less of myself in order to think of others more. To live right now in the most loving fashion possible. And the result of that is I feel better about myself… we feel better about ourselves. Our future looks better because we’ve improved our past one day at a time, one kindness at a time. I do it because it’s right and good. I do it for fun and I am overpaid.