Alcoholism or Humanism?

door lightI love to beat myself up over every little thing I don’t get quite right.

The words were thoughtless, the syntax confusing, the tone ambiguous, should have exercised, or shouldn’t have eaten that. I live with regret, despite that I am now taught otherwise.

Am I to not regret the drinking past or not regret last night’s blow up over the house rules? Geez, when do I finally get it right? When do the ducks line up? When’s the golden moment arriving when I cease this guilt over mistakes? Rather … when will the mistakes stop?

Initially, I was glad to not be hung-over, to remember, and to not have loved ones mad at me. For the briefest of moments, I felt I had arrived. It was short-lived. There was no homecoming parade for my sobriety. Despite my feeling I had accomplished Olympic type achievements, it would go unnoticed as time passed. Not because it wasn’t an achievement, but because it was what I was expected to do all along—be a responsible, contributing member of the family, society. There would be no reward for doing what was expected.

So why am I still regretting, even in sobriety? Shouldn’t this be gone by now? For me, the answer is a yes and a no.

First and foremost, I thought alcohol was my problem. Real recovery means that I see I am the problem, but here is where I have trouble closing the gap.

Where does my alcohol-ism end and my human-ism begin?

What I have learned:

Every problem I face (that is not directly related to my drinking) is a problem that every other human faces to some degree or scope. The challenges I face are not exclusive to me as a recovered alcoholic. They are challenges I face as a recovering human. I am human. I am imperfect in my human body. I make mistakes. I say the wrong thing, the wrong way, at the wrong time. I say nothing when I should have stood up for myself. I say yes when I could have said no. I say no when I could have said yes.

My ability to accept all of my blunders, exactly the way they happened, and grow from them is one of the main reasons I stay sober. If I continue to see that I am bad or damaged or wrong or inadequate I will be at the bar quickly, with little to no forethought on the matter of not drinking. I simply will no longer care because when I am drinking I can pretend I am alright.

There is no pretending in sobriety. Well, maybe a brief period, but the truth is relentless. It knocks until I answer. It gets bigger over time, not smaller. And this happens without a drink in my belly.

I can quit suffering from my alcoholism when I have sufficiently done the work to clear up my past and maintained my sobriety while doing so.

I can quit suffering from my alcoholism when I have made an honest effort to live a principled life.

I can quit suffering from my alcoholism when I can accept that it is part of my past and my past is part of me.

My alcoholism is a part of what got to me this moment right here—now. I am a more loving, more compassionate, more driven person for having traveled it. (Ask me that ten years ago and I would have denied it.) Today this is an irrefutable truth.

I am no longer suffering from alcoholism. I haven’t had a drink in over ten years. So why do I suffer?

  • I suffer because I do not know how to align with the truth of the situation.
  • I suffer because I lack clarity.
  • I suffer because I lack confidence.
  • I suffer because I refuse help.
  • I suffer because I want to see it my way and reject your way.

I suffer because (at some level) I don’t know how not to.

And then I am reminded by my alcoholism how lucky I am to have tools to help me navigate humanism.

I can forgive myself and choose again. My mistakes don’t define me.

The definitive mistake I do not allow myself to make is the mistake of thinking a drink is a good idea.

And the memory of my alcoholism keeps this in check—today.


43 Responses to “Alcoholism or Humanism?

  • Thank you–I really love your posts. I needed this today… HUGS from me to you, Lisa.

    • As do I yours. Your sincerity and willingness to inquire (on your blog) has long been an inspiration for me. You keep it real for me. For this I am grateful. Hugs back your way. Lisa

  • Ha! Funny you write this as I just hit my 3 years! No parades , no balloons few congrats. But it is what is expected of us and what we aimed for! I guess we think there should be more but more what?
    Life is good it is a gift each day given to us!
    I too will look for something new to conquer! Next for me is NY marathon! But for now I’m at peace!

    • October the 10th, yes? Happy anniversary. It is a huge achievement. The greatest thing about blogging and interacting with bloggers is that we get to celebrate among ourselves.

      Love that you’ve taken to the running and the challenges available. At three years sober I did a sprint-triathlon (no marathons for this girl-yet). It was such a shift in my mindset. I went from giving up alcohol to living—living and life. Not what I was giving up, what I was gaining.

      Much love from me to you. Lisa

  • Compelling story. I parallel with many of your thoughts especially lack of courage. That I am working on the hardest.

    John Barleycorn must die. Today is day 222 completely free of ethanol.

    Thanks for your help, Lisa.

    • Day 222. How incredible is that! And for what it’s worth, I work on all of those insecurities at different times during the day, month, year. I finally get it’s about the journey and I’m okay with that. (most of the time, at least) My blessings for your continued path. It’s (you are) worth the fight. Lisa

  • I am intrigued about the points that you listed Lisa. Could the key to resolving those issues lie in your childhood?

    On the surface they are relatively uncomplicated problems to overcome, especially for someone of your status. That is what made me think the root might be embedded in your early years.

    • I would agree with your perception on the “childhood issues.” The data suggests that our programming was primarily completed between 0-7 years of age. I think, for me, it’s more a matter of recognizing that I will always have room to grow into a wiser Lisa. I’m not done growing just because I have some solid sober time under my belt. In my eyes we are all equal. I don’t see my status as different from anyone else’s. What I do see is that I have been successful at working on reprogramming those early programs. But I don’t see myself “healed,” just doing pretty well compared to how I used to be. I will keep working on me, everyday. And friendships like we have here in the blogging world keep me humble. Glad to journey with you. Lisa

      • I used the word “status” to summarise your knowledge, intellect, wisdom, experience and ability to overcome problems etc. Status was probably not the best expression for me to use, but I see you as possessing various skills that are advantageous in problem resolution, therefor I see you as having a particular status. (Perhaps UK/USA English usage differs regarding that.)

        By the way Lisa, do you ever feel awkward or uncomfortable in any way when someone gives you a compliment?

        • Excellent, thank you for clarifying. In my opinion, ‘status’ is more a ranking in hierarchy. So from a Universal Principle perspective I see the ‘oneness’ rather than the separation in rank. I understand (now) however, what you wrote. As far as compliments go, it really depends on the day (or moment even). Overall, I feel comfortable in receiving them, when warranted, but it took me about 7 or so years into sobriety to finally begin to believe they were true. It really is amazing to me how long that self-doubt can hold on. It’s nice to know it is not the real me and I can simply say thank you.

          Are you good with compliments? Now I’m curious. Lisa

          • I asked you about receiving compliments with regard to you saying you suffer because you lack confidence. When I was working at the recovery hub, I was building up the confidence of my clients by giving appropriate compliments and praise. I always succeeded in obtaining a good result. I had a similar result with some people that I communicated with through blogging.

            Ironically, I had a problem with anyone complimenting me. I always immediately changed the subject because being complimented made me feel uncomfortable. This seemed to be one of the quirks I developed after serious head injuries a long time ago.

            When I started “rhubblog” I received various compliments which I enjoyed because it was in writing. Thanks for the compliments by the way Lisa. Even getting compliments on the phone I found difficult. It is something that seems to have been resolved since I was treated for PTSD.

            Anyway, it would probably do your confidence level some good to be reminded every now and then how good you are. I’ll make a note of that in my diary. 🙂

  • Your post captures well why I need to stay close to the program…even after 30 years. We are blessed to have the program and each other. Thank you for expressing it so well.

    • My hat goes off to those of you who walk before me and blaze the trail for me to follow. I am forever indebted to you women who made sobriety work. My seat was there because your seat was filled. From the bottom of my heart I send you thanks. Thanks for the lovely words. Lisa

  • catlinwellness
    10 years ago

    Thank you Lisa for another wonderful post. I know I am still a work in progress even with 30 years of recovery. We are blessed to have the program…and each other.

  • Belated hurray for your sobriety! It is also true that you are ‘only doing what is good and expected’ but to me that does not exclude a hurray. Belated hurray!

    With you being a coach I am not sure if any of what I write here will add anything but if not, please skip.

    When I hold on to something negative (and I become aware of that – which might take years…) I tend to question myself: what do I gain from holding on to this? And that is not meant to put even more blame on me, I find it a useful thought excersise.

    If that doesn’t give me an answer I try imagining how I would be without the negativity. Either one of these excersices mainly gives me a hint of the concept of my issue. For example:

    What do I gain from drinking?
    ‘I don’t have to feel.’

    What happens if I would not worry?
    ‘I would not know how to behave.’

    Funny answers but I found them very informative. Or have a conversation with parts of your body.
    ‘Feet, how do you feel about me worrying all the time?’
    ‘I don’t like it because it keeps you stuck and I want to walk and go places. Be tired at the end of the day and rest. That is my function.’
    ‘Knees, how do you feel about me worrying all the time?’
    ‘I don’t like it because you put your stress on me, that is why I hurt.’ Yes, really! It was a revelation. 🙂

    Hope it add something. And hope it is not too insane for you? 😉

    • Everything you wrote adds meaning. I know I am in good company because none of it seems insane.

      Your perception reminds me of Byron Katie’s ~ THE WORK. She delves deeply into questioning one’s own thinking. She has several amazing books. Loving What Is is one of my all time favorites. She sharea, in depth, the four questions she asks self and how they changed her life. You will love her work if you are not already familiar with her.

      You seem to do naturally what I struggled to learn to do … question my thinking. Bravo for finding the questions and for having the courage to answer them—honestly.

      Good, good thoughts, Lisa

      • 🙂 Thank you for your reply, always a bit scary to put ‘my crazy’ out there, even though I know how and that it works. Also thank you for the book tip, it is not easy to find good reads on subjects like these. 🙂 Not even sure what to Google on.

        • Yes, it is scary to do that because sometimes it’s not received as intended. I think it speaks volumes that you did it anyway. I have a lot of respect for people that can loving speak their mind. We have to put ourself out there if we are to find the support we need. (self included).

          Byron Katie is in a league of her own. Google her name and a host of books will show up. I suggest you start with her first works, Loving What Is. A Thousand Names for Joy is probably my favorite writing, thus far, but the former lays the groundwork for her technique.

          Also, you sound philosophically like you may enjoy A Course in Miracles which can be found through the Foundation For Inner Peace. It is not easy reading, but well worth the trudge. Marianne Williamson is one, if not the most famous author, and speaker on The Couse and her reading is wonderful. For her reading I would start with A Return to Love.

          Additionally, I have a private women’s group starting a 6 week online work shop. It’s a global community. I can send you details if interested. No commitment required. I function on the principle that you get out of anything what you put in.

          Sending love, Lisa

          • Thank you very much for your reply. It is very good to get an entry into reading. 🙂

            And, this is strange…. a few weeks ago I stopped as a second hand store to find an AA book that I KNEW for sure must be there. I have even done a post on it. I’ll spam it in here:

            I have misnumbered the guys that appeared in the post so it is getting a bit confusing now but guy A and guy B were in conversation over the book ‘A course in Miracles’. Guy A had it in its hands and guy B wanted to have it. I said ‘Shall I make it easy for you and take it?’ I had never heard of it but the whole book had this pull. But guy B did not let go.. Later guy B did hand me the AA book I was coming for and he handed me The Teachings of Don Juan, a book that was advised to me 1 day later…. That was a truly was a magical day. Not that it is of any practical use… but.. dunno, it is good to think that I have the ability/to have the ability to feel my way back into life. 🙂

            I would like to receive your work shop info.My e-mail equals my blogname at Gmail.

          • Coincidence … I think not!
            And if you are not following her blog, I suggest it, The Miracles is Around the Corner

            Will send workshop info via email.

  • I think acknowledging our alcoholism shows us that all suffering can be handled in similar ways.
    Define the problem and do what you can to fix it. Or let it go.
    Regrets don’t help any of us move forwards.

    • Beautifully stated. I am still working on transitioning between fixing and letting go … but I get better and better all the time. I remind myself that I am making progress. I’m still in the game. I’m still sober and I’m still trying to grow. Hooray for loving me right where I’m at. Super glad you came over and shined some of your light. Lisa

  • Lisa, I can’t tell you how much this strikes home. I reread this and wondered how you got into my head. These days, this is what I struggle with. What I have come to see recently is that my problems are not unique to me as a recovered alcoholic (and I love how you use the term “recovered” as well), but as a human…as you so eloquently stated. Emotions, fears, resentments, etc. are particular to humans. All of us. My wife, my kids, my co-workers, my friends…all have the same fears and issues I do. I just have to be a bit more vigilant and more self-aware to ensure that I am not at the bar, like you mentioned.

    “I suffer because I do not know how to align with the truth of the situation.
    I suffer because I lack clarity.
    I suffer because I lack confidence.
    I suffer because I refuse help.
    I suffer because I want to see it my way and reject your way.”

    Well, there it is. In black and white.

    What strikes me most on the list is the second and fourth ones. The fourth one almost killed me. I hated to look “weak” and seek help. I wanted (or my ego wanted) to rule the roost and be master of my own domain. But that puts a lot of us in graves. And even now, I still have that stubborn part of me that wants to do it all alone. Hey, God removed the obsession to drink and has guided and nudged me to a wonderful life…who needs Him now? lol. That’s my brain at work, isn’t it? So I just do my best to allow others to help and for me to give myself permission to ask for help.

    And clarity – that is all I desire. I balk at it sometimes, even when it’s right in front of me and don’t want to pull back that curtain (fear, ego, pride). But the more I seek and find clarity, the lighter I feel, or at least understand what it is I am resisting.

    Anyway, I could go on (I did a bit, in fact), but this is the most striking of your posts to me, Lisa. I am human. Trying my best. Often failing, and trying not to lash myself too much.

    You are a special person, Lisa.


    • I am appreciative of your comment. This post went through so many edits, it’s a miracle I hit publish. I see this struggle online now of days with not identifying (alcoholic) because it’s a stigma of sorts. I also see the other camp of identifying because it keeps us humble, “right sized” as it points out in the 12+12 (chapter 2). My personal principles allow me to see value and beauty in both camps without judging the other as right or wrong. What I can share is my path.

      I pray for clarity—constantly. I think I pray for clarity more than I pray for peace, which now that I am typing seems backwards (something to think on). Nevertheless, I come from that place of wanting answers so I can move forward. I use not having the ‘clear’ answer as a reason to stay stuck because I don’t want to screw up. Jumping into the peace of the situation means it doesn’t matter if I screw up or you screw up … we are human. This is so the opposite of what I was taught as a child. And like you, I can be too stubborn to ask for help.

      I think being okay with who we are—today—is tough for most in recovery because our foundation was built upon not trusting that the world was loving, truly loving. As for me, I am determined to learn, learn, learn.

      This can’t be all for not. I refuse to believe that. And my intuition tells me there is something glorious happening, even when I can’t see it. That’s the story I want to stick with—at least while I’m here on planet Earth.

      Big bright blessings, Lisa

  • Congratulations on your sobriety! Have just started on a similar topic if you have a moment to stop by xx

    • xx566819xx,
      I was over to your blog and just started to read. Thank you for the invite and introduction to your writing and journey. I look forward to your friendship. Blessings for another day alcohol free. Lisa

  • Hi Lisa,

    The first few paragraphs hit me.

    It reminded me of my divorce. I fell in love with someone else, about six months afterwards, and for the next 3-4 years it seemed to me as if I could do no right. If I was pleasing my new wife, I was upsetting the old, pleasing the old and I was upsetting the new, and you can imagine how the turmoil of a divorce made me feel about my parenting skills.

    Each time I screw up I know that in some way it’s a good thing. It means I have the chance to improve. But each one of those mistakes really hurts. If it’s not hurting me, then it’s hurting someone that I love.

    It’s no coincidence that during the aftermath of my divorce I drank. It was as if mistakes didn’t matter anymore. I had nobody to do this for anymore. I always thought I was quitting the booze for the sake of my marriage, but I was wrong. I was quitting for me. It was to make me a more rounded person.

    Drinking alcohol was a mistake.

    I don’t intend to make it again.

    And I know you won’t either.

    Much love


    • I love the point you make on why we quit drinking. We think it’s for the ‘realtionship’ or ‘them’, but like everything in else we must do it for self. Love the journey of sobriety with you. Lisa

  • Beautiful wisdom here, Lisa. In particular, this:

    “My ability to accept all of my blunders, exactly the way they happened, and grow from them is one of the main reasons I stay sober. If I continue to see that I am bad or damaged or wrong or inadequate I will be at the bar quickly, with little to no forethought on the matter of not drinking. I simply will no longer care because when I am drinking I can pretend I am alright.”

    • BBB,
      Thank you for the nice connect on this blog. I sometimes reread what I wrote and think how beautiful it is that I can read with the eyes and heart of a learner, especially my own stuff. You are one of the gems in my online community. Thank you, Lisa

  • Thank you so much. I totally identify with this……my thought for the day….’I am a recovering human’. What a gift you have with words. Miracles do happen. This past year I have felt myself drawing further away from a mainstream filled-with-people life and only allowing those in who I trust to support me. There are very few I am afraid. I hate it when I mess up… then I spiral down into self abuse….not a nice cycle. Thank you again and Namaste x

    • OMGoodness, I read this last week and just now realized I did not reply. Geez, forgive me. Thanks for the thought for the day. As much as I write this stuff, I still need to hear it on a regular basis. Reminder for me today … “I’m still a recovery human and so are my loved ones.” For what it’s worth, I think it’s good when I can separate from those that aren’t supportive of me. It’s not that they are wrong and I am right. It’s that I know what I need now and I’m willing to give that to myself instead of staying and suffering. It’s a spiral for all of us. Give yourself a big pat on the back, at least you see it. Sending lots of love, Lisa

  • Thanks for sharing – I can really relate to this post. I am always overthinking every decission I make. I think I drank in part to switch this part of my brain off. To finally stop all the endless questioning and regret and worries abour every decission I ever made. It’s oddly calming to know that these distructive thought pattern effect alot of people and not just me. Anyway thank you again – I have had a difficult week and reading this has made me feel stonger about facing the next one!

    • Thank you for your thoughts. You know, I’ve had many difficult days in sobriety, but I always find comfort when I seek it with my sober friends. We really do heal together. It doesn’t matter what day we are on. We need love and support everyday of our lives. And we need extra support when the days get challenging. Keep reaching out. Me or someone else will always reach back. much love, Lisa

  • Great post Lisa, as usual! I think it’s only us guys in recovery who spend so much time going over what we did, why we did it and how we can move on from it. It’s a real juggling act to make sure we don’t forget the past so much that we repeat past mistakes but don’t dwell too much in the past to miss what’s happening in the present.

    But, we’re always building on a great number of skills that help us get through even everyday events. I know my experience has made me stronger and a better person. I like your ‘Olympic’ achievements analogy – even if it’s sometimes just us who truly realise how hard we’ve had to work to get them!

    • Thank you James. That’s one of the things I love about you (your blog). You manage to keep things in perspective and you do it with a strong measure of humility. You are right on … we are our best advocates. While others love us and cheer for us, we must start from the inside out. Lisa

  • Hi Lisa! Oh I can’t believe I missed this. But no better time than right now to read it, cause I’ve been in my head! And you know how dangerous it can be in there! Lol! Love this post. So needed the reminder right this moment. Oh the humanism! I don’t know what else to say, but thank you! Thank you! Hugs!

    • You are so sweet. I, too, find that I read what I need to read at the exact moment it is in front of my eyes. I am going through an IRS audit right now and super behind on all my reading and work (for that matter) so I’ll be over to visit you soon. Lots of love, Me

  • This is my first time reading your blog and it’s wonderful. I am not an alcoholic, but my husband is. He has stopped drinking for two weeks, which is wonderful…. But it’s been years of him being drunk and I’m having a really hard time forgiving him for what he’s done to our family. He won’t go to rehab or even AA. He seems to think he can do it on his own. I wish he would go get professional help to talk to someone about his feelings and what’s going on in his head. Your blog is great even for nonalcoholics! I will continue to read them..

    • Tara, Thank you for the kind words. As a girl who has lived on both sides of the alcohol fence, I am happy that I am relate-able to both sides.

      Why we think we can go it alone is a mystery to me. Like any big life change it requires support. I will keep you and your family in my blessings. You keep you healthy. You change. It will have a profound effect on the family. I work on growing every day. It matters. Good for you for looking for solutions. We need more like you. My love, Lisa

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