Two women friends of mine have recently come up against the wall of hard knocks; alcohol turned on them in the very physical way that it does. One friend is in the hospital with liver failure, the other got away with having an alcohol induced seizure. I am grateful all over again, times two, that I’m sober. I remember not really “getting it” until I discovered how very physical the disease of alcoholism can be. I became willing to be sober when I found myself reaching for a gun to commit suicide.
Willingness is also relevant to mental illness. I wasn’t willing to medicate away mania but depression was another story. I hate depression and I was always frightened when I felt its heavy hand on my brain, blackening my heart.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t do away with the depression without killing the mania. I guess scientifically speaking I could have held on to mania but the lives I disrupted when manic made this part of my illness a living hell for those around me. When cognizant, I knew that both sides of the mood disorder needed to be reined in. But it wasn’t until I was willing to take care of myself and my family that I began to be medication compliant.
The same is for alcohol. I live near a college town and when I’m over there I can see, on most nights, young people downing drinks in bars; they have no clue as to how dangerous alcohol can be. If they take the bus home or drive with a sober friend they may believe they’re doing no harm. But they’re setting themselves up to take a huge fall later in life. To be older is to begin to see the physical side of the disease. We don’t usually see young people with cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis is considered a disease that hits after long term drinking. What an incredibly rude awakening it would be to realize that your social drinking, your solo drinking, is going to kill you down the road. The first yellow person I saw was when I was sent on a service call to visit a woman in the hospital. Her liver was screaming, she was jaundiced from alcohol. She came into AA for a few months, lost the yellow but “went out” again. I don’t know if she’s dead or alive. AA doesn’t run after you if you stop going to meetings; it’s understood that you have lost the willingness to take care of yourself, i.e. – to stop drinking alcohol.
I can tell you honestly that if I had not found the willingness to get help for the bipolar disorder that was shredding my life, I would be dead. I’m not being melodramatic: I’m speaking my truth. I was haunted, day and night, by thoughts of suicide; how I would do it, where I would do it, how to make arrangements to make sure no one was around before I did it. Today, because of treatment, I rarely think of suicide. I am no longer plagued by the scenarios running through my head. Back then, when I was drinking and suicidal, I couldn’t see a way out. Now, I don’t need a way out. I’m willing to live clean. I’m willing to be medication compliant. The restrictions on my life are easily dealt with because my horizons have expanded.
I pray you find willingness to do what you need to do, if you need to do it, and I pray that my friend can get a liver transplant because that’s the only way she’ll get better.