Pam Corkery: Here's to a bit more sympathy for sober alcoholics

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The disease is still incurable and is fatal. Photo / Thinkstock
The disease is still incurable and is fatal. Photo / Thinkstock

A fair dose of irony accompanied my first social rejection on the grounds of sobriety.

It was only a few months earlier that many people started banning me from their homes because I was the reverse of sober - as reverse as a newt.

So it was weird. I was at work, it was busy, and suddenly everyone was gone. More than a dozen people staggered a quiet retreat to the pub for a mate's farewell.

It turned out that the aim of the snub was from a place of support but the target was well off. My bosses were worried that easy access to alcohol would be too tempting for me.

If that were the case, I wouldn't be able to supermarket shop.

Access isn't my problem. When I was an active alcoholic I would always be able to get alcohol. After peaking too early one Christmas Day, I as good as stood over an elderly neighbour for her opened bottle of horrible dessert wine.

It is more than four years since I had my last drink-up. I mercifully stopped craving liquor about four weeks into recovery.

But I can never be complacent about what I am. I am an alcoholic, an addict. I personify the legend, one is too many and a thousand is never enough. I stay sober one day at a time, waking with a plea for another day alcohol-free, and finish it grateful that I have had that respite yet again.

To ensure that I don't lapse I perform certain self-care tasks each day. They include reading literature about the disease of alcoholism and addiction generally, spending some time with at least one other addict, and being in a state of readiness to provide help to another alcoholic - as others are prepared to help me.

While my disease has stopped progressing, it is still incurable and it is fatal.

The rewards of being alcohol-free are great and getting better all the time. The negativity, the loneliness, the shame and the guilt that comes with active addiction is abating. I have gained tools that let me look at my past but not stare at it. Better still, my loved ones have recovered with me and can rely on me again.

They also tease me for constant use of the words serenity and gratitude.

So my alcoholism isn't a call for sympathy but it is a call for some understanding and for the social rejection, the stigma, to ease up. Please.

Other drinkers resent us because they know that one alcoholic will always recognise another.

Here's a tip. We don't care about anyone else's drinking because we are too busy repairing the ripple effect of our own.

But if you ask any one of us for help, we will be there. We get it.

- NZ Herald

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