Does Anonymity Help?
This morning I woke up and was going through old photographs. I found one from my college years and thought, "if only I could've known then what I know now." Of course, we all look at our younger selves and think this at some point. But, with the subject of alcohol abuse, it is a serious question. Why didn't I know? Because not one person similar to me ever told me.
This is an issue I have because I was a knowledgeable and cautious person. I am intelligent and always have been. I manage my money. I have never been late to work. I have an impeccable record. But, yet I slipped from social alcohol use to alcohol abuse into addiction without anyone standing up and saying, "I'M LIKE YOU, THIS IS NOT NORMAL."
There is a lack of information out there because of the anonymity and stigma of alcoholism. It is a social norm to have someone hand you a glass of wine when you enter her home. It is given to you at every function as an adult. It is easily accessible. And, yet...I did not know anyone like me until I sought out the information a decade into my addiction after many brushes with death. I feel like this is a manipulation of consumers. I feel like alcohol was marketed to me under the guise of being harmless and helpful.
Most of all, I feel like our society has made anonymity part of the problem and not the solution. I understand that some people do not want to disclose that they have had legal problems and marital problems due to being judged at work and amongst his/her peers. I understand this. But, I truly am not embarrassed by my addiction. I am embarrassed that I did not realize what it was sooner. I am embarrassed because I am intelligent and could not recognize what had happened to me until it was almost too late.
I am saddened that people like me do not want to speak out and not be anonymous to prevent others from falling into fatal addiction. I just wish I had a 30-something successful woman come to me at 22, 23, 24....30 and said, "Don't believe what you hear about alcohol. It is not your friend. This is my story." Maybe I would've had that in the back of my mind instead of trying to figure it out on my own under the influence. Maybe I would've looked at an alcoholic as something that could happen to me instead of a 50+ year old beer-bellied man or a drugged up party girl.
I remember whispering about someone who had gotten a DUI or in trouble for drugs and thinking they were such deviants. I remember judging them for not being responsible like me. But, this is what I didn't know, I wasn't a responsible drinker. I was just really good at it.
I am about to read a book that Elizabeth Vargas wrote. I love that she is speaking out. I identify with her as a woman. She was in denial for years because she didn't know that you can be an alcoholic and be responsible at the same time. She struggled for years and almost died because of it, yet we saw her poised and well spoken on the television for many years in the midst of alcohol addiction. I am not going to be ashamed of myself. I do not have anything to be ashamed of. I am not going to be anonymous because I want to help someone prevent a decade of addiction. I want someone to recognize herself as having a problem before she has to pull herself from the depths of hell and blindly find an anonymous room. I want to prevent, protect, and purvey for the young me. This is for you, young April. Also, watch out for the perms of the 80s. Not for you.