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[ Opinion ]

Why i “came out” as an alcoholic

I’ve been blogging about my Alcoholism for quite some time now. It’s been a healing process for me and I’ve really enjoyed it. I was writing under the alias “Sober Mom” and in the beginning, was targeting my audience towards mom’s like me, who need to know that they are not alone and it’s OK to get help. But once I started getting a couple of my writings published on external sites, it started to feel odd and it didn’t seem right to keep going under an alias. I started to ask myself, “Why am I hiding my own identity when my goal is to help others feel safe?”

A little history; I spent my childhood with an alcoholic mom. Back then, the stigma of the disease was very strong, especially with women, so although we “knew”, we didn’t generally speak of her disease, we just learned to live with it. I was often confused by my mom’s behavior when she drank and it seemed that every attempt to get her to stop failed. I just figured that my mom didn’t think I was worth it for her to stop drinking, and grew to resent her and eventually cut ties with her. I had no idea that this was a disease, I just “knew” I would never be like that. My mom died at 58 years old, alone and isolated, after essentially drinking herself to death. I spent so many years sad, not understanding why she drank, only knowing that I didn’t want to be like that…until I was.

When I started to drink to “cope with life”, it eventually got to the point that it was taking over a lot of aspects of my life and I spent many years in denial, which eventually led to my own isolation. For some reason, it still wasn’t sinking in that this was not a “will power” problem, but rather a very powerful disease that progresses and can eventually lead to death for those that don’t get help. When I finally reached the point where I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, I went to an addiction therapist to get some answers. She brought me through an extensive screening and taught me that this is a disease and there is help for it. It was as if the flood gates opened up by learning that this is in fact a disease and even more, there is help for it and I didn’t have to live like that. It was a major turning point in my life.

At that pivotal point when I decided to take control back, I wanted to learn as much about this disease as I could. I went to meetings, I listened to others talk about their experience, strength and hope and I soaked it in like a sponge. It was an awakening and I had no idea how many people were just like me. The common thread that I have with millions of others, that was always a foreign and embarrassing topic to me, was now filling in gaps to parts of my life that I needed to understand. I learned that I had been running all my life from “becoming” my mother by not looking like her, not acting like her and thinking I was going down a separate path. At the end of day, it ended up that I am like her – I have her genes and I have her disease, and with that knowledge, I can forge a new path. I can end the cycle that goes several generations back and by doing so, be a vessel for my own boys, should they (God forbid) ever need help with addiction.

So, here is the thing…I WAS ashamed and afraid and embarrassed of this disease for many years for different reasons, starting from being the child of an alcoholic up until I was the alcoholic. Now I feel that I have a gift to be shared with others and not wasted. I want to do whatever I can to give this gift away and help those still struggling. WHY would I keep all the knowledge and information I have learned a secret when I can help people who may be unaware like I was? Today, I want to shout to those still suffering, “It’s a disease, there is help for it and YOU ARE NOT ALONE!” If I remain in hiding, and not my authentic self, I am not being true to my mission. It’s time at last to come out of the secret identity of “Sober Mom.” It is time for me to be vulnerable and be true to who I am, especially since I am no longer ashamed of who that person is. I am a warrior who fought very hard to overcome addiction. For anyone out there in this boat, you know that is not an easy fight.

I am not implying that everyone is stronger if they come out from anonymity. I am doing it because it is what is right for ME on my life’s journey. My days of hiding are over. My healing will continue for the rest of my life and I will never turn a blind eye to this disease, because it wants me to. It wants me back in its grip and I will keep fighting it with the tools I have developed to do so. If I want to truly be a part of a movement to break down the stigma of addiction, I cannot do it under an alias because that to me, defeats the whole purpose. If I can’t show my TRUE self, the self that I am so proud to have been able to become, how can I empower others to not be afraid? Today, my blog has my name and my picture on it. It’s ok if others see what I write and realize that they know me. I am much happier with people knowing the person I am today in her entirety, battle wounds and all. Even if it means I can reach one person, it is worth it to me. Today, I stand up bravely and say “My name is Kelly and I am an alcoholic.”