You mean to tell me they get their court papers signed at the bar? (Rebuilding trust, part 4 – the ugly part)

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You can lead a drunk to an AA meeting, but you can’t make him sober.  Alcoholics are master manipulators. Even those who “don’t seem that bad” are well-schooled in the lies and secrecy which allow them to drink the way they wish. We see many “paper-hangers” in the rooms – those who are court-ordered to attend meetings following a DUI or similar charge. Many of them will ultimately get the message and begin working the program. Until then, you’ll see them sitting in the back of the room, watching the clock, counting ceiling tiles, doing whatever they can to just pass the time. And these are the ones who actually come in the rooms! I’ve heard stories of some people going to Spanish-speaking meetings (when they don’t understand a word of Spanish) or simply having some random person, like a fellow bar patron, sign off on their court paper. Then they’ll come home telling all about their great meeting and reeking of booze.

The simple truth is this: if an alcoholic wants to get sober, nothing can stop him from doing it; but if he doesn’t, then nothing can make him. So, which is the case for your alcoholic? There is only one way to tell: Matthew 7:15-20. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” You cannot judge an alcoholic by his words, but his actions will speak the truth. It may take a while to sort out the true from the false, but sooner or later he’s either going to get better or worse. Here, again, I can’t stress enough the importance of educating yourself on the disease and finding people who can help you learn to deal with the situation. The best way I know to do this is get a Big Book and get yourself to an Al-Anon meeting.

It is rather difficult to gather accurate statistics on alcoholics because there are so many variables at play. One site I found cited that only 13% of alcoholics ever seek treatment. Then, of those who do, only 20% will still be sober after 90 days and only 5% of those people will still be sober at 2 years. Those who manage to make it to four years, though, have a very good chance that they will never drink again. Happy news in my household as we both turn five this year. I believe numbers are slightly better than are generally stated simply because I don’t usually see them taking retreads into account – those people who have had a relapse or twelve, only to finally get it years later. I would like to see a study follow which follows up on a group of drunks after ten years and twenty years. I’ve heard too many stories from people saying “I had my first meeting in the 80’s, but it took me twenty more years of drinking before I finally listened.”

I’ve been talking to you mainly about people who are actively working toward sobriety. Chances are, though, that your alcoholic does not fall into that category. The number we normally throw around the rooms is 3% success. And for addicts it’s even lower than that. I’ve got nothing but empathy for those of you who love an alcoholic who isn’t trying to get sober. When faced with that situation myself, I was unable to deal with life at all until I was able to picture the worst case scenario. I had to picture him not dying, but living forever like a zombie – that terrible death of the spirit, living in constant fear, isolation and hopelessness. I had to come to terms with the fact that this was the most likely scenario for him. Though it was sad as hell, once I came to peace that I was powerless to change it, I was able to move on and live my life the way I needed to.

My name is Laurie and I am an alcoholic. Every day I count myself as infinitely blessed to be one of the ones to “get it” and that I am no longer a slave to addiction – either my own or someone else’s.

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