A number of years ago, I finally took the step to walk into a drug and alcohol counselor’s office. By the time I reached that office, it felt like I was gasping for air, drowning in a rowboat that reeled in 40-foot swells. I desperately needed a life preserver. I was exhausted and wanted to fix someone else’s drinking problem. I also wanted to get the knots out of my stomach and the fear out of my life. I had tried everything I could think of. I was pretty sure even then that it was a disease, not a poor moral choice. I didn’t like how this bear of a disease was affecting me. It was ripping apart everything good and hopeful in the script I had written for my life.
A few minutes into the session, the counselor asked me why I was there. I didn’t want to sound like I was completely uninformed about the disease of alcoholism. So, I answered by saying, “I want to figure out how to navigate better in the midst of active alcoholism.” I didn’t come right out and say I wanted to fix someone else, although it was true. Instead, I said that I wanted to fix me.
I remember the smile and compassion of that professional. I felt safe. I’m sure now as I look back that the person had probably heard others like me frame their reason for coming in a similar way. And then I heard what I had hoped to hear: “I am glad to see you, glad to help you, and to help you learn new thinking and actions so that you can begin to recover. I will also ask you to attend Al‑Anon.” So, I did that—I trusted and joined Al‑Anon—shaking and full of fear. I will be forever grateful.