A friend of mine recently lost a 53-year-old family member. She died from cirrhosis of the liver brought about by heavy drinking. My friend was aware of her drinking and had spoken to her about it at least once. No one knew she had cirrhosis though. She leaves behind two young-adult sons.
Now I didn’t know this person at all, but the story hits home with me because of my past. You have to be drinking at least two drinks per day for a period of ten years or more to develop cirrhosis. Women are more prone to it because – guess what! – we tend to drink more than men. And I would venture to guess that’s because a lot of us drink alone. I can tell you that, in my darkest drinking days, I was drinking at least twice that amount of alcohol on a very regular basis – mostly when I was by myself.
My friend, as she was telling me about this death, said she wanted to share it with me because she felt I had chosen a completely different path to deal with my pain than her family member had. I quit drinking when my life blew up, and her family member apparently started drinking more heavily. She had a hard time getting over a divorce and the remarriage of her ex-husband – who, by the way, met his current wife well after the divorce (since we’re comparing stories). It’s taken me a while, but I’m no longer angry at my former husband, and if he marries his affair partner? Well, best of luck to them.
I’m no super-human. I’m no hero. I’m a person who used to drink way too much and decided to stop doing that. I’m a person who went through extraordinary heartbreak and managed to get through it to the other side. I’m a person who forgives others when I can and who forgives myself when forgiveness of others eludes me. I’m a person who thinks about having a cocktail or glass of champagne every now and then but who has learned how to function without it. I’m a person who – today and probably tomorrow – does not drink alcohol.
As my friend relayed this story to me, I felt great sympathy for her family member. She probably carried a great deal of pain, anger, and sadness. She likely had no better way of coping with those heavy emotions than trying to drink them away. I can tell you from experience that no amount of alcohol (or drugs, or gambling, or sex, or insert-your-favorite-addictive-behavior-here) can numb you enough to remove your heavy feelings. The only thing that does that is facing them head-on, looking at them one by one, acknowledging them, and finally letting them go. Easier said than done, I know, but definitely not impossible.
I was lucky enough to be able to quit and have lived a sober existence for almost 6 years now. My friend’s family member wasn’t so lucky. If you think you might be drinking too much, please know you’re not alone. Find a trusted friend, family member, doctor, or therapist to talk to about it. If you feel shame or guilt surrounding your drinking, please understand that’s normal, and there are many people who have been there, who are there. Look up your local AA meetings and go check one out – they’re anonymous, you know. But please, please don’t continue to drink too much, too often.
Your life is precious. Please don’t let alcohol take it from you.