Bar Bulletin

October, 2004

LAWYER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
(410) 685-3993 | (410) 685-7878 | (800) 492-1964

Richard Vincent
Director, ext 3040
Carol P. Waldhauser
Assistant Director, ext 3041

THE LAP ZONE:
"The Face of Recovery - Part II of II"
By Anonymous (introduction by Carol P. Waldhauser)

Alcohol and other drug use can affect anyone, but those with certain risk factors, including a family history of alcohol and other drug-use disorders, are particularly vulnerable. This disorder affects not only the people who are in need of treatment but their family members as well. Clearly, the effects of helping one person achieve recovery from alcohol (or other drug) abuse can improve a multitude of lives. The following is the story of one individual who joined the voices of recovery, the second in a two-part series.

- Carol P. Waldhauser

Part II - The Face of Recovery

The old saying says that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. It is true. Having an alcoholic father, I unfortunately inherited many of his traits, the worst of them being my own alcoholism. But contrary to my father’s unchecked descent into the deepest throes of alcoholism, I chose to face my disease and start on a much more hopeful, albeit difficult path. And that path is recovery.

Recovery is many things to many people. It is a very personal thing that everyone experiences in their own way; hence, I only describe my experience. It is incredibly hard and incredibly painful. It is hope, it is joy – it is all these things and many, many more. The hardest part for me was acceptance – my acceptance – that I was, am and always will be an alcoholic. This is a fact of my life that I will have to bear each and every day. Denial….ah, denial is a cunning and powerful weapon that alcoholism wields with unforgiving force. Acceptance – or breaking the denial – was the hardest thing for me to accomplish. One would think that having an alcoholic parent recognition and acceptance would be easy; after all, I had seen alcoholism all my life. Wrong! Having an alcoholic parent made acceptance harder, not only because of having lived with alcoholism all my life but also because each and every day I was forced to deny what was right in front of me, what was happening to me on a daily basis. And what we live we learn and learn it well.

So, as I said, acceptance and the breaking down of the “denial barrier” was for me the hardest part of recovery. I also understand and acknowledge that my recovery is still in its infancy, that I have only just started down its path. And other things may prove even harder…or easier – at this time I can’t be certain. The only thing I do know is that I have accepted that I have this disease and that it will inevitably kill me, ruining everything that is good in my life. So I take my steps down this path called recovery. It is hard. It is good. It is life, or at least it is life that is worth living. This is only my vantage point, of course, but I would wager that those who have truly embraced recovery, those who have truly given themselves over to the effort and hard work that recovery requires, would agree at least in part with what I say.

For me, the act of acceptance and the breaking down of denial were the crucial first steps. They were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and opened a floodgate of other things that I had to address if I truly wanted to experience the promise of recovery. Without acceptance there is no recovery. Without breaking down that barrier of denial, there was nothing from which I needed to recover, and therefore I couldn’t see the promises and the potential joy and hope that would come with a commitment to recovery.

One thing that almost anyone in recovery will agree on is that sobriety in and of itself is not recovery. It is, of course, a necessary and indispensable part of recovery, but nonetheless only a part of it. Recovery encompasses so much more than merely not drinking or using drugs. It is an effort to radically change the way in which I see the world, the way in which I react to the things that are placed in my life’s path, the way in which I perceive things that happen to me. Recovery is about so much more than not drinking – it is about me. In many ways, stopping drinking was the easy part. The hardest parts are those that involve me: my responsibilities, my personality faults, my emotional and spiritual shortcomings. Acknowledging and dealing with those things is a critical part of recovery. And it is hard.

It is especially hard to analyze and seek change of those things without the artificial (but very powerful) coping aid that is alcohol itself. This is the key to recovery as I see it. Life will still be life, with all its problems, its joys, it petty annoyances, its major challenges. But coping with life on its own terms without alcohol is where recovery brings joy and hope. The ability to do that is, at least to me, the greatest promise of recovery. This is where the calming serenity of recovery is found; none of that comes from alcohol. Far from it: alcohol causes stress, self-hatred, isolation, a reality that is out of control. It renders one’s life unmanageable, as it is said in Alcoholics Anonymous. But recovery - the commitment to the acceptance and the ensuing work – brings hope, peace and manageability, and those are wonderful and beautiful things. I only wish that every poor soul out there that suffers from this insidious and powerfully relentless disease could experience the joy and hope that this alcoholic’s first, halting, hard, imperfect steps on the road of recovery have brought. Even those little steps have been an incredible gift to me. And so I keep working and struggling, trying to keep my feet moving on this new path, because it’s the only one I’ve got if I want to live – or, at least, to live a life worth living.

Join the Voices for Recovery Now!

If you or someone you know has a problem or you need additional information, contact the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program at (410) 685-7878 or (800) 492-1964, ext. 3041, or e-mail cwaldhauser@msba.org.

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