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alcoholism, addiction, forgivenessDrinking took me to places that a woman like me — white, middle-class, college-educated — never thought she’d be. Renter’s court. Criminal court. You know, THOSE kinds of places. At the time I thought that the world was against me. And so, to combat the world, I drank more. It’s what alcoholics do.

I almost lost everything. EVERYTHING. I am still, over four years later, putting many of the pieces of my shattered life back together. A few of them I just swept up and tossed in the trash, like the “friends” I used to drink with and the bars I used to frequent. Those pieces, the ones that don’t matter, the ones that never should have mattered, were easily discarded.

The relationships that do matter, that should have mattered more, those fractures are not so easily fixed. Cobbling them back together may take a lifetime. Regaining the trust that the people closest to me lost while I was lost in whatever bottle I could get my hands on, that’s the trickier part of recovery.

I had no idea that the actual act of giving up alcohol would be the easier part of the healing process.  That the hard part would be the aftermath is not something they focus on in rehab. In rehab they tell you to put yourself first. I found this advice to be counterproductive. Because, really, that’s what addicts do, have always done — put themselves first. In order to get healthy, I needed to start putting other people first.

I needed, first and foremost, to stop feeling resentful. Instead, I needed to be grateful — to actually FEEL grateful. Grateful to the people who stood by me. Grateful for having done no irreparable physical harm to anyone other than myself. Grateful for being given the second chance that many addicts never are. Grateful just to be.

There is still not a day that goes by that I am not smacked in the face with the realization that I can NEVER have another drink. Not one single day. I don’t know if this ever ends. I don’t know that it should. I know that I must acknowledge this feeling and then I must move on from it before it incapacitates me. It’s really all I can do. There’s no magic to it. It’s just what my life is.

That’s the bad. Forgiveness is the good. Whether through words or deeds, I have managed to receive forgiveness from the people who my drinking affected most adversely. My husband. My child. They are truly special people.

And friends. The good ones. The kind ones. The generous ones. The funny ones. They persevered. They saw me through. They, too, have forgiven me.

My life is far better and infinitely richer because I am able, every day, to accept their gifts of forgiveness. And, because they have, every last one of them, given this gift so freely, I do my part by making every attempt to be a humble and grateful recipient.

Jackie can be found blogging at Ambling & Rambling.

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