It seems in the last few years that the global community has come to fear the word pandemic. First with was the bird flu that began raising our concerns. Now it’s the swine flu. We wonder is this the one where millions will die around the world.
The reality is, we have had a global pandemic for centuries. According to the CDC in 2001, it killed two people every hour or 19,170 people in the United States alone. It is alcoholism. That figure does not include those that are killed by drunk drivers or homicides. Most importantly though is that these figures are just the United States.
While the number of deaths is staggering, we need to also wonder about those that didn’t die. I grew up in a home with two alcoholic parents. As an eight year old I watched my father in a drunken rage give my mother two black eyes. I witnessed him holding her down and burning her face with a lit cigar. Even though my mother has been dead for over 30 years, I still can hear her screams.
By the time I was a teenager I was numb to my surroundings. I remember when my father tried playing his manipulative games on his children looking for their pity, but I had reached a point that I cared less. One game that almost ended it all was his attempted suicide. He hung himself with his belt and I just sat there and watched. I didn’t try and stop him; in fact, I was hoping he would succeed.
I share this little bit of my childhood not looking for pity but rather to share the trauma of the non-alcoholic in an alcoholic home. I was infected long before I took my first drink. I believed that women were nothing more then the objects to abuse – both physically and sexually.
And my early relationships proved this point. I had no idea what love was or how to make a relationship work. And I really didn’t care. All I wanted was a symbol that I was normal. That I had a girlfriend to show off to the world. Those girls were not meant to spend any quality time with but yet they better be ready for me whenever I called them. I had no respect for women.
While I had become my father in these relationships, it is also safe to say that the women I dated were just like my mother. They didn’t mind the abuse and it seemed like they expected it. We drank together, to the point of always getting drunk and then finding our way into a bed. Not really the healthy grounds of building a loving and nurturing relationship. Sadly though it was the only type of relationships I knew for nearly 20 years.
In those early years of dating, we were destroying each other, but as time went on, my abusive alcoholic ways began to wreck havoc in other people’s lives. I began dating single moms and now I began changing the attitudes and beliefs of their children. Now those children are in their 20s and their beliefs are affecting a whole new generation.
Through 18 years of growing up in a toxic home and then 20 years of spreading my own dysfunctional needs around - the pandemic that I grew up with began to spread. The sad part with this pandemic is that there isn’t a cure-all for everyone. So how can this pandemic be stopped?
The simplest way, though not easy, is by surrender. To admit defeat goes against everything the alcoholic has learned to master. By admitting defeat, the alcoholic gives up all control and becomes willing to learn for the first time how to live.
Every time I go to a 12 Step meeting I begin by saying, “I am an alcoholic,” or “I am a co-dependent,” or “I’m a child of an alcoholic.” The point is that I come out of hiding. I no longer try to keep secret that I have a disease that has not only hurt me, but countless others.
As of this writing, by the Grace of God, I have over 14 year’s sobriety. And I find some comfort that my past is littered with souls I have destroyed, my present is lined with people I have helped by sharing my experience, strength, and hope.
This pandemic will never be eradicated but I do believe it can be arrested one person at a time. With my surrender I had a direct affect on the lives of four other people. Now these four people’s lives have also affected another four people each – so now we are up to 16 people.
It’s a domino effect, that when one life is changed countless others are affected. Sadly though, the results are not always positive. Myself, for example, thought that I was smarter then my folks. I thought I could handle alcohol without having the troubles my parents had with it. But I never took into account that I needed to grow and learn from their experience.
Some need to go down that road and learn for themselves. All I can do is help when they are ready. And the best message I can give them right now is the example of living a life alcohol free.