There is so much research now on the disease of addiction, where it comes from, why we have it, who is prone to it and how it manifests chemically in the body. I’ve read a lot on these subjects; however, I know the following to be absolutely true: I have a spiritual malady, an obsession of the mind, and a craving or allergy of the body – combined, they lead to the disease of alcoholism.
From a very young age I carried around a lot of fear – fear that I would be rejected, that you wouldn’t like me, that I wasn’t “enough”, and the biggest fear of them all: that I was different. I think the last one scared me the most because deep down I knew it was true. I lied fairly consistently from a young age, about very minor and insignificant things. What I had for dinner, that I received a mark 1% higher on a test than I actually did, or that it definitely was not me who ate that last piece of cake.
My mind always seemed to be racing, telling me lies, and comparing me to other people. Deep down, I had this horrible feeling that I was a “bad” person. I just knew it. I was a round peg in a square hole and was just not going to fit in, so I did everything I could to make sure you would never know the truth about me.
I needed your approval – I needed you to like me. I slowly became inauthentic and changed my behaviours based on who I was around in order to gain that external validation I needed. I felt like I had this void in my soul that needed to be filled with validation, and the quickest way to fill that void was with alcohol.
From the moment I took my first drink at age 14, my mind settled. I did not need to pretend to fit in, because I did. I was confident, courageous, beautiful and funny and my crazy brain could not tell me otherwise.
My defenses to protect myself from being seen were to overachieve, strive for perfection, never miss an event and be involved in every extra-curricular I could in high school. Slowly, throughout University, the things I love became less important as alcohol took over.
What appears to be different about my story, is that I am from a beautiful and supportive family, in a well-off area of Toronto called Etobicoke, and I grew up with more privilege than I ever realized. That was hard for me when I came into recovery because I compared my story to others. I didn’t have childhood trauma, I had this great home and life, so why was I an alcoholic?
I know that so many people have this struggle, and that comes from the stigma of addiction. What I am hoping to do is to smash that stigma. Addiction can affect everyone. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, who you hang out with, or what your life looks like – it doesn’t discriminate. Hiding that we are struggling from the world only perpetuates our shame around it. Hiding that we have a family member in addiction only perpetuates their shame and our own.
I hit my “bottom” at 24-years-old. It made no sense, but I knew that I was done. How could a 24-year-old from a good home be an alcoholic? I am so grateful for my recovery now and I am open and honest about my addiction, because there is nothing to be ashamed of. If my honesty helps people become honest with themselves or others in their lives about their struggles, then my struggle was worth it.
One of the things I am most grateful for is how embracing and supportive my family has been. They don’t carry shame around my illness and they are open about having an addicted family member in recovery for the same reason that I am – to help others. I think if everyone was willing to be honest and authentic, we wouldn’t have the amount of pain that we have. I believe that a disconnect from who we really are brings us down this path in the first place.
Recovery is the greatest gift life has to offer. We can all use recovery in some areas of our life. I now have the ability to live an authentic life, a life that I have designed that works for myself that is not based on anyone else’s approval but my own. That is the ultimate form of freedom.
If you are struggling, reach out for help. I am here for you. There are so many places that will embrace you and help you.
Love and Light,