This editorial appeared in the Beatrice Daily-Sun on September 2, 2006
During this time of the year in 1976, I was just beginning my freshman year at Yankton College , in South Dakota . A future was hard to conceive, because I was keeping a secret. A secret I would keep for nearly 18 years. Anytime someone got close to figuring out my secret I would have nothing to do with them. In fact, I became angry and belligerent toward that person for even suggesting that they knew my secret.
My secrets kept me on the move. It cost me friendships, a college education, marriages, and most importantly a future. This secret controlled me – it owned me – until I surrendered. By the time I revealed my secret, I quickly realized that everyone already knew it.
The secret? I am an alcoholic. Everyone knew and that seemed to hurt more. I didn’t have the power to control my drinking. I felt weak and defeated. It would be a long time before the shame of my past was put in perspective. For a long time I believed I was a truly evil person. I felt I had the knowledge and the strength to control my drinking. By admitting that I was an alcoholic, I was saying that I was powerless. I needed help. I had an illness I couldn’t control.
While some people were very supportive in my recovery efforts, still many others looked at me with disgust, seeing a weak moral individual with no will-power. It took nearly two years of sobriety to realize that I had indeed changed. The person I was when I was drunk was not the person I had become.
I still regret my actions when I drank. Now 12 years later, I still understand how some people see my sobriety as an illusion. At the time, my ex-family believed alcoholism was my problem – not theirs. It was this belief that would eventually end my marriage. The main reason was because while I began to change, everyone else remained stuck in the past.
Even though my alcoholism was accepted as an illness, there was a sense of disgrace for my family. A belief that because of alcoholism, I was nothing more then a failure. When the truth finally came out, a wall of secrecy shrouded our home. No one wanted to talk about it or deal with it.
Only through education can we understand the effects of addiction on children, families, and our community as a whole. Substance use disorders are treatable. By acknowledging those who seek out treatment with support, we begin to build a stronger healthier community.
On August 16th, Governor Dave Heineman proclaimed the month of September as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month in the State of Nebraska . Only through surrender can a new life begin. There is a strong support system in the Sunland area, with treatment facilities, out-patient clinics, and 12-step groups. Everyone involved can start on a road to recovery; a miracle is waiting to happen. It starts with three words “I’m an alcoholic.”