Letter to a Female Alcoholic
lcohol and liver disease – an ugly combination. Wherever you are, at whatever stage in the long descent, this is for you. It says nothing of shame or scorn or ridicule; it brings only love and understanding and help.
If I lived across the street from you and saw you gallantly but hopelessly struggling against your disease and sometimes spoke to you when you couldn’t avoid meeting me, I’d dare not tell you what I want to tell you now. You would have run away from me, because you would be afraid that I knew your terrible secret. Your paranoia would consume you to the point of isolation. Behind closed doors, you could safely drink yourself into oblivion. Your husband has given up trying to help you control your drinking; your children hide from you whenever your anger is lubricated with alcohol and you scream at them to go to their room and do their homework.
If we looked into each other’s faces, I could find a way of letting you know that I understand what you are going through. I couldn’t tell you that I find nothing in you to despise or ridicule or preach at, for you would not let me speak about your hidden secret. So we both pretend it doesn’t exist. You and I begin by having one bond in common. We both know you are secretly worried to death about your drinking.
You may be any age, a young mother, an admired professional woman, the wife of your town’s most prominent businessman or a staid-looking grandmother. You may be an extrovert and the life of the party or a frightened, inferior-feeling little person who has to pour courage out of bottle before attempting anything, no matter how simple it seems to other people.
You may have been drinking for months or years. You would be horrified and deny it hotly if anyone called you an alcoholic, but secretly you are wondering whether you are an alcoholic. I’ll answer that immediately by telling you that if you can’t control your drinking, if you drink more than you would care to admit or if alcohol is costing you more than money, the chances are you are an alcoholic.
When I say that word, I have named a person afflicted with a disease. It grows progressively worse, constantly narrowing one’s world until nothing is desired and nothing is real by alcohol. Guilt and shame are your constant companions.
Because you are a woman, your drinking life is probably most secretive, for you have done everything possible to hide it from everyone, even from yourself. Perhaps nobody knows and yet you feel guilty and don’t know why.
You decide not to drink in public because you cannot guarantee your behaviour. You may become a “bedroom drinker,” and a good actress, slipping away to your room when friends and family comment on your apparent fatigue and inability to engage in normal conversation. Your family may not yet be suspicious of your frequent headaches and morning lethargy.
On the other hand, you may be one of those shadows whose family may have stopped trying to cover up for you, not even your children try to make excuses to their friends about your strange behaviour. That is a “yet” if it hasn’t happened already. Or you may have lost your family because you were helpless and in denial about your drinking.
At whatever stage you are at this moment, there is hope for you.
Neither blame nor shame should be directed at you because you are not a bad person, but a very sick person. You do not deserve the self-righteous pleadings and the accusations that everyone has showered upon you. “If you loved us, you would stop.” “You think of nobody but yourself.” “You should be ashamed of yourself, with all your education and opportunities you have thrown away.” You are not a selfish, immoral monster. Indeed you are quite the opposite. You are a desperately ill woman.
When you accept the fact that you are powerless over alcohol and your life has become unmanageable, you have taken the first step to recovery.
You are not alone in the indescribable torture that is alcoholism. There are countless thousands of women just like you in early or late stages of falling to pieces. One in 10 women in this country has an alcohol dependency – psychological and eventually physiological. It is difficult for the Bureau of Statistics to count them accurately, because women, especially housewives, can hide their condition better than men. They can hide it, at least, for a while. But the woman alcoholic suffers more acutely than men; her psychology and constitution are more complex and more sensitive. She can endure her self-loathing less easily and she feels the social stigma that our ignorant society dumps on female alcoholics. I don’t need to tell you that as I’m sure you already feel the hopelessness of your situation.
The bravado that insulates men alcoholics does not come to women like you until they have almost killed their emotions and sometimes, their bodies. I have heard many women alcoholics say, “I was completely dead inside myself. I felt nothing. I was void of feeling anything. Nothing could reach me and help me.”
It is difficult for most women to admit, even to themselves, that they are alcoholics. Yet this admission is their first step toward sobriety and sanity. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
If you have not taken the first step already, let me help you through the darkness and into the light. If you can admit that you are powerless over alcohol and your life has become unmanageable, you have done the first step and are ready for help.
My purpose in writing this letter to you is to tell you that, in spite of your desperate illness, you can “join the human race” and live a reasonable normal life. There is life after alcohol! You will not return to the old life you enjoyed before alcoholism overwhelmed you. That life was not good enough for you; you tried to escape your frustration, despair, agitation, shame and guilt by living in a sea of alcohol.
Medical science has established the fact that alcoholics suffer from different brain chemistry to social drinkers. They are very sensitive and emotionally unable to accept life on life’s terms. Most alcoholics are perfectionists and idealists. They expect to accomplish wonders with their lives; when they cannot live up to their ideals, they cannot face their disappointment in themselves. They hate not having control over their addiction.
In spite of what others usually believe, alcoholics have a conscience. They care so deeply about everything that they cannot endure the stress and strain of worry. When a guilty conscience meets a glass of wine they revel in the glory of a quick fix. The agony or worry is a sure invitation to excessive drinking.
An emotional conflict in your supersensitive nature becomes so unbearable that escape, amounting to total obliteration, is sought through the bottle. In some alcoholics a feeling of inferiority born in childhood builds up to a crescendo of “self-entitlement” and emerges as a chronic malcontent wanting to be somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else. Their inability to stay in the moment is paramount. They live in the past or the future, never in the present.
Women drink because they are unhappy and they are unhappy because they drink and the vicious spiral whirls on until one cannot tell the cause of this deception. The way back from this unfathomable torture must include treatment for the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual.
I hope this letter finds you willing to change. Step out of the darkness and into the sunshine and let go of the chains that bind you to alcohol.
- You drank for happiness and became unhappy
- You drank for joy and became miserable
- You drank for sociability and became argumentative
- You drank for friendship and made enemies
- You drank for bravery and became terribly afraid
- You drank to forget and were forever haunted
- You drank for freedom and became a slave
- You drank to erase your problems and saw them multiply
- You drank to shut out the voices and ended up behind enemy lines
- You drank to cope with life and invited
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.