Friday, December 18, 2015

The Toll It Takes

I've hinted occasionally at my family history of addiction, but I have not really spoken about this.  Today I am daring to break the silence.  They call AA "Alcoholics Anonymous" for a reason, so to preserve my loved one's privacy, I want to discuss what it's like to be on the other side.  What it does to the family of the addict/ alcoholic (I will interchange these words throughout this post) and the impact that has had on my own personal journey towards fitness and health.

When I started this journey two years ago, I weighed 232 lbs. I was in pain 24 hours / day, 7 days / week.  I was depressed and physically I felt horrible.  
When the alcoholic in my life first started to battle with addiction, I didn't really recognize it for what it is.  I blamed this person for drinking too much, for being inappropriate, for the angry outbursts, for being unavailable.  There are a lot of things that happen in your relationship with the addict.  There is a perpetual feeling of walking on eggshells around the alcoholic.  You plead with them to stop, to get help, to go into recovery.  Getting them to admit they have a problem or to even acknowledge that their problem is an addiction can take years.  Getting them to enter treatment is impossible.  The addict needs to realize that s/he has a problem and that s/he can't deal with it on their own.  Nothing you do can convince the alcoholic to change.  This is probably the hardest part.  In fact, in my own case, everything I have done to convince the addict that s/he needs to change has only made them dig their heels in even harder, refusing to stop.

When you fight this battle long enough,. eventually love dies.  While you still care about your alcoholic, the feelings of love and affection you may have had for the person go away.  Holidays and special occasions are often dreaded because you really don't know what to expect from your alcoholic/addict loved one.  Will s/he be sober?  Hung over?  High/drunk?  Loud/obnoxious?  Inappropriate?  Will s/he even show up?  During times of sobriety, when the light is on and the addict is not drinking or drugging, you remember what s/he is like.  There is hope that s/he may actually change.  And then, something happens and the vacation is over.   It's a never ending cycle.

Being a Christian, I pray so much for my loved one to be released from the bondage and cycle of addiction.  I have hope.  But so often, hope is crushed.

In many cases, alcoholism and drug addiction occur as a result of self-medicating a mental illness.  It could be anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or something else.  The people I know are afraid of the stigma associated with mental illness, so they turn to that glass of wine or a quick "fix" to take the edge off.  The one glass (or fix) isn't enough after a while and the cycle grows to a problem, which becomes an addiction.  The cycle can become deadly.  According to the Center for Disease Control, "alcohol and drug abuse are second only to depression and other mood disorders as the most frequent risk factors for suicidal behavior."  I don't know about you, but this scares me.

I Need a Miracle
by Third Day

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, or with alcoholism or addiction, I implore you to not give up hope.  Whatever you are facing today, tomorrow is a new day.  You can work through your problems.  Turn to someone you care about, share with them what's going on, how you really feel.  If you don't have someone you trust, call a professional for help. The number for the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.  Put that number in your contacts.  Being a counselor, I have the local suicide hotline in my contacts and I often encourage my students or their parents to put it in their phone.  You can save a life with that number.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Psalm 34:18-19

If you are struggling with alcoholism, find out where the local AA / NA meetings are here:  Find Local A.A.  Find Local N.A.
Al-Anon / Alateen are groups for the loved ones of Alcoholics.  Many people find comfort in attending this meetings, by learning more about themselves and how they can function better with the alcoholic / addict.

When you love an alcoholic / addict, it often means dealing with unpredictable mood swings, angry outbursts and  erratic behavior.  There is a sense of "walking on eggshells" around this person.  The day before I did the Ride to Remember, I got an angry phone call from my loved one because I had not been attentive enough.  Honestly, I had been avoiding the person because I just didn't want to deal with it.  So when I got off the phone, I said to myself, "Let this call go.  Don't let it get in your head."
In looking at my own fitness journey, I look back at my own struggle with food.  Depression definitely played a significant  role in keeping me from doing anything about my weight and was a key factor in my inability to move forward.  It took me a long time, but eventually I was able to move forward enough to tip the scale in my favor (literally).  I still struggle with anxiety and depression.  My doctor tells me they are two sides of the same coin.  It can be debilitating at times, which is why it's important to acknowledge it for what it is, so it does not interfere with my ability to live a full and healthy life.  There is a stigma associated with alcoholism,  addiction and mental illness.  I am hoping that by talking about it openly here, I can help someone who may be struggling.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
Psalm 34:17

Life is precious.  Every moment.  Four years ago this month, my cousin took his own life, leaving a wake of devastation for everyone who cared about him.  Often, you can't know what someone is going through.  Make sure to tell the people  you care about how much they mean to you.  Smile at people on the street and wish them well.  If someone looks down, ask them if they are okay.  If they are down, ask them if they want to talk about it.  Tell them you care.  If you are concerned about someone's well being, if they seem really down, ask them, "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"  Don't be afraid to ask that question.  You could save their life.

In this video created by Mayo Clinic, teens describe common signs that a teen is considering suicide and provide encouragement for communicating directly and immediately for support and safety. It also Includes suggestions for what to say to a teen who may be at risk for suicide and ways to keep them safe. Things can get better.

This may sound cliche, but there is always hope.  Hope for a better life.  Hope in healing and restoration.  Hope that only Jesus can give.

Questions for you: 
(Answer in the comment section below.)
Do you or someone you love battle with alcoholism or addiction?  Do you need help?
If someone you love told you they were thinking about suicide, what would you say / do?

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