A Change in Perception
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
The month of March has come and gone. It was the month I ended my forty-seventh year on earth and began my forty-eighth. It is also the month that nineteen years ago I said “NO” to drugs one last time. It would take me another eleven years to figure out that not only was I an addict, I was also an alcoholic too. In fact, drugs and alcohol were not my problem at all. My problem was right in between my ears. It was my brain and how I think about drugs and alcohol. In fact, its just how I think altogether.
My brain is hard-wired differently so it took me longer than some to figure out that I had a problem to begin with. I didn’t understand the disease. I didn’t know I suffered from it. In fact, I didn’t know that I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. It was crazy. It all seemed so normal to me. No one ever said, “Hey Tami, I think maybe you might have a problem with your drinking.” I don’t recall one person close to me ever saying anything to me about my drinking. I know they knew. I just don’t understand why they never said anything. Was I that bad of a drunk that they feared my response? Did they just lose hope for me after all? Or did they really just not know themselves?
Either way, no one ever said anything to me. Through the years, I have asked why no one ever said something about the way I drank. I got mixed responses. Some honestly did not know I had a problem. They just thought I liked the night life. Others said that they tried in various ways to tell me to stop from pouring out my alcohol, to begging me not to go to the bar again. But no one ever came straight out and said it.
When I contemplated this through the years, I always wondered if I thought I needed that. I’m almost certain that it wouldn’t have mattered if they did, but I’ll never know. My sponsor has told me that she can say it’s a safe bet that I wouldn’t have heard it if anyone ever had said something. I was in complete denial myself.
I remember the first time that I locked myself away from others. I voluntarily decided that I needed a break because I honestly believed I was depressed. I was assessed and admitted. Much to my surprise and the doctor’s too, I answered their questions honestly. I was that deep into my denial. When they finally approached me with a course of action they said that they believed I could benefit from the twenty-eight-day treatment they had next door.
I thought to myself, “I must really be depressed if they want to keep me that long.” I told them that I didn’t think my job would let me, even if a break sounded great. They said I should seriously consider it because they think that my problem wasn’t depression. I asked them what they thought it was if it wasn’t depression.
The nurse nervously replied, “We think you may have a problem with drinking.” I was appalled. I was in shock. How dare she. What the hell was their problem? Clearly I was depressed. Couldn’t they see all the crap that was happening in my life. So I had a few drinks at night. If they had my life they’d drink too. I was not an alcoholic. I had beat drugs. So I emphatically dismissed the nurse and her insulting idea and went about getting rehabbed for depression.
I was so oblivious to my condition that even when the mirror was finally turned on me, I did exactly what I have been told I would’ve done if it had been said by anyone else at any other time. I ignored it. But crazy enough, a seed was planted that day. I couldn’t get what that nurse had accused me of being, out of my head. I was so upset with her and the doctors. But still, I would sit up late at night and ask myself why they would even suggest that.
It would take a couple more months after that exchange of words with the nurse and quite a few more bottles underneath me before the bottom would finally rise to meet me square in the face. There was no profound turning point for me. I hadn’t had any original devastating moment to make me grasp the reality I was living. It was a God thing purely.
One day I ended up on auto pilot and landed my butt in a chair in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and admitted for the first time ever that I was an alcoholic. I have not had to have a drink or a drug since that day nearly seven years ago.
Its crazy how well we can lie to ourselves. The disease is a master manipulator. I thought that when I left Las Vegas and the drugs behind that it was over. I couldn’t have missed that mark any further. No matter where I go, there I am. I proved that point when I left home to start a new life here. I was still me. Until I understood the nature of who I was, I could never see the truth. I was an addict and an alcoholic.
Today, as I close up the third month of this year I get to reflect not only on the last three months of this year, but the last forty-eight of my life and the last nineteen without drugs. This month was a month of milestones. As I am coming to realize as I go deeper into this year and into myself, every day is a milestone and an accomplishment deserving of recognition. Its how we see ourselves that is the most important part. I once could not see that I was an alcoholic. Once I was able to see the truth, I could begin to recover. Today I am beginning to see the whole truth of who I am. My perception is continuing to change and come fully into my recovery.
~ Tami Harper Winn ~
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