How do we talk about alcoholism and alcohol abuse without touching on sensitive issues? It’s a hard line to walk, and a thin one.
In such a small world, the chances are good that everyone at some point will be affected by alcohol abuse. It could be as minor as an awkward party moment, or as major as a life threatening tragedy.
Unfortunately, the life threatening part is universally prevalent and all too familiar. Normally, I prefer to support these conversations with documented evidence but I’m going to speak more candidly, and from an experienced point of view, about how alcohol abuse affects more than just the abuser.
I don’t want to focus on the emotional, physical, and social (etc.) parts that play into active abuse. At this point, I think active abuse is well understood. I also don’t want to assume anyone’s experience to be something it is not. We all have different experiences, either being abused by the alcoholic or being the abuser of the alcohol. Some of us have both. Others still have different varieties of combinations I probably couldn't even imagine.
We have to remember that this world is not fair. There is no balance. This concept couldn’t be more obvious than in the stale realm of alcoholism. It is a world unto it’s own. It is a beast untamable.
There is another factor that is often overlooked.
When you’re on the outside, the beast is predictable. You can watch the cycle and know what’s coming next if you’re paying attention.
It’s not so easy when you’re on the inside.
Inside the cycle of abuse there is chaos. Within the chaos is a conundrum, a paradox that never sees the polar ends of black or white. We call it love.
This is the point overlooked. It is what I like to call passive abuse. Neither the abuser, nor the abused, has a very easy time acknowledging or understanding it. Regardless, it is there.
Passive abuse is the deep emotion of tangled love that we feel for the alcoholic in our life. At times, the emotion is so masked and elusive we don’t even know it’s there. It’s been buried underneath a myriad of other emotions too vast to list and too blended to identify.
We long for the day when that person in our life is better. Fixed. Overcome. But what happens when that never happens? How should we feel about it?
The world tells us to be angry. To lash out. Take control of the situation. Hollywood tells us to point a gun or a finger and it will solve all our problems.
Has that worked for you?
Me neither. That tricky little thing called love just messes everything up.
Sometimes it’s love for the person you used to know. Or for the person you hoped they could have been. Those little snapshots of goodness that you prayed one day would just stick around and not fade.
But that person never stuck around.
Life isn’t fair. Alcoholism doesn’t take fair into consideration. And somehow, we are left to deal with that.
You know what? I’m glad life’s not fair.
You can think of unfair being another word for grace. Whether for you, me, the abuser, the good, the evil, the indifferent, it doesn’t matter. Grace is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration”. Unmerited means we do not deserve it.
Life is unfair. Alcoholism accentuates that. Being okay with it is not a form of indifference. It’s a form of grace. Being okay is being forgiving. And forgiveness will heal you. Forgiving people who have wronged you even if closure never comes, even if a conversation of repentance never happens, to forgive them in spite of their actions, is grace.