A friend of mine, a dear friend since many years, lives and works outside Sweden. (He is Swedish, but has spent enough time abroad to master the English language.)
Yesterday, he decided he needed to tell his friends at the company where he works something very personal and very important.
I have asked him permission to spread it, since it’s an incredible read, and a text that may very well help other people in his position.
I am asking you to distribute it, in all channels available. Perhaps it can make a difference.
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The following is deeply personal. If you’re uncomfortable with that, or if you think it’s unprofessional to use this forum for such content, then you should stop reading now. It’s totally fine, of course.
I’ve been wanting to tell you for a long time, and I’m finally finding the courage to do it: I’m an alcoholic.
I’ve been aware of it for more than ten years. During these years, there have been some periods of abstinence — the longest lasted for 2-3 years — but I’ve never been able to put the cap on the bottle once and for all.
My alcoholism is the result of genetic disposition, an early alcohol debut and excessive drinking for many years. Pretty much what you read in any information material on alcoholism, in other words. I don’t consider myself ill or a victim; this is exactly what can be expected of the choices I’ve made.
It’s really hard to deal with. I don’t have any illusion that I’ll ever be able to consume alcohol moderately. The alcoholism lives a life of its own, I see what it’s doing and I know what it has planned for me, yet I have allowed it to continue. It must stop.
Here’s how it works: The alcoholism knows that it can’t just tell me to get drunk, because then it would be so obvious and I would be able to resist it easily. No, it needs to trick me into drinking! And it’s really smart, too. During the course of days or weeks, frustration and anger will build up inside of me. And just like a volcano, it will reach a level where it needs to erupt. Instinctively, I will reach for a bottle in order to allow for that to happen. When the volcano of negative energy erupts, it will hit anything standing close to it. A cascade of burning anger will hit colleagues, bus companies, Twitter followers or whatever happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is not an accident: It’s part of the alcoholism master plan. See, it knows that it will need to eliminate any obstacles preventing me from drinking. It wants us to be alone. That’s why you see these poor people sleeping in their own urine under a bridge: The addiction won. There is nothing left to prevent that person from feeding the monster inside. There is no job, no family, no future, no reason not to drink. I see this happening to myself too. The alcoholism needs to let it happen slowly so that hopefully I won’t notice it until it’s too late, but I know what it’s up to.
I’m not ashamed of being an alcoholic, and anyone with a sharp eye have already been able to tell. But it’s not something I generally talk about, for two reasons:
(1) It makes some people extremely uncomfortable. But more importantly:
(2) The alcoholism doesn’t WANT me to talk about it, because if I tell you then it will make it more difficult for me to drink.
However, I see this thing taking over, so now I have to tell you in order to be able to fight this thing. If you know that I’m an alcoholic, then it will be easier for me to drink something other than alcohol the next time we’re having a social event, because you will think that I’m an idiot if I don’t.
There is another reason why I’m telling you this now: You. If you have been the target of any of my eruptions, then you must know that you did nothing wrong. It’s not your fault, it’s mine. The alcoholism wants to distance you from me, and the best way to do that is if I act like a complete asshole so that you stay away. Alcoholism will drive me to drink, and then it will scan the surroundings for anything that can serve as a target. Under the influence of alcohol, I will say (or rather, write) things that I don’t mean, I will do things that I shouldn’t do, I will be a slave of the monster that wants us to be alone.
You don’t deserve that. To any of you who’s been a target of any of my poisoned actions, I want to say: I’m sorry. I really am.
Telling you this doesn’t really change anything. I’m not trying to say that you should excuse me, I just want to tell you the REASON for what has happened, so that perhaps you understand that it’s not your fault.
You don’t have to treat me differently. Actually, please don’t treat me differently. I’m not weak, I don’t need special considerations and I absolutely don’t want you to feel sorry for me. We don’t have to talk about it at all, or we could talk about it a lot. I’m fine with both. Like I said, I’m telling you this because I think that you have a right to know.
I’ve tried a few approaches to not drink (classical ones, like therapy and medication), but it didn’t really work. There is no magic solution to the problem. It’s just the hard way: Do not drink. If you think that sounds easy, then I will suggest that you don’t really understand the mechanics of substance addiction. It’s hard, but it can be done.
The act of not drinking is not the difficult part; the challenge is to deal with the thoughts, feelings and extra time. It can also result in the feeling of losing a close friend. We go way back, me and drinking. We had some great times together, we’ve had so many relaxing moments, so many laughs. Of course it’s sad to see it go, but I will need to remind myself all the time that the good times are gone, and continuing the friendship will only bring anger, sorrow and tragedy.
I’m going to take a couple of days off now. Nothing major, I just need a few days to digest this thing. I’ll be back at the office early next week, and I’m looking forward to it.
I hope you can accept my apology. And if you’re feeling sorry for me, you don’t have to do that. It’s such a relief to tell you all of this, trust me. There is a voice inside of my head now, screaming to me: ”DON’T PRESS THAT SEND BUTTON!” It’s the alcoholism screaming. Well, take this, alcoholism: