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Dealing With The Stigma Of Being An Alcoholic – The Label Of Alcoholic Shouldn’t Bother You

Posted Nov 13 2009 10:02pm

Part of the denial process for an alcoholic or problem drinker is wrapping their head around the fact that they may actually be an alcoholic. Up to this point in your life, an alcoholic might be the person you see sleeping off on a park bench with a newspaper blanket. Alcoholics are those people who are destitute and sick, stumbling around uncontrolled, making fools of themselves in public. No way could a person of your stature be an alcoholic.


Social standing, profession and pay scale has little to do with whether or not you are an alcoholic. Admitting that you are an alcoholic is the first and most critical step in a person’s eventual recovery and sobriety.


So then, why is it so hard to admit this to yourself and others?


The problem rests with the way alcoholics are perceived in society, and this perception is one reason why treatment is so often delayed. It is said that one of the most difficult things an A.A. member must do is stand up in front of others and say the words “My name is —- and I’m an alcoholic.


Many will not say the words. They will call themselves an addict, say they think they may have a problem with alcohol, they might even say I don’t need to be here but I want to listen anyway. All this in an effort to avoid the label of “alcoholic”. How silly to delay or avoid getting the real help you need simply because of a word that describes an addictive condition.


When you admit to being an alcoholic there is an immediate feeling of relief mixed with some shame and guilt just to make the healing process interesting. Embarrassment is probably the biggest reason many will not admit to being an alcoholic. “What will my friends and family think? I can’t let anyone know I’m an alcoholic! My life will never be the same”.


Your life was never going to be the same again after you started losing control of your drinking. You can call yourself whatever you want or don’t call yourself anything at all – it matters little to the bigger picture of regaining control of your life from alcohol. Others will still make assumptions about you and alcohol and it really won’t matter as much to them as you may think it does. Undoubtedly, your life will be different after admitting to yourself and others that you are an alcoholic but what does it matter if you are able to manage your life once again?


Once you are sober for a while and feeling more comfortable in your recovery, you will know when you are making progress when it starts to matter little what others think of your “label”. When recovery is still a new experience for you, the shame and guilt associated with alcoholism and abusive drinking make everything related to the experience seem of surreal importance. Make no mistake though, it is a critical struggle, and one you can’t afford to lose, just try to keep things in perspective.


Given the importance of the situation you find yourself in, ask yourself if it really matters what others think of you. Do you really care what a few people overall will think now that you have admitted to being an alcoholic and have decided to get help for your affliction? These are the same people you may want to avoid in your sobriety in any case.


Why would you want to associate with shallow people who seem more concerned about the “alcoholic stigma” rather than the fact you chose to get help for your problem?


It does make it easier to accept the challenge of treatment and recovery if you admit you have a problem with alcohol even if that means admitting to yourself and others who matter that you are, in fact, an alcoholic and you need help. The strength and courage it takes to admit you are an alcoholic should far outweigh the nervous embarrassment and shame associated with a name or label. In the larger scheme of things who really cares what others think as long as you are getting well?


Years into your recovery the early remorse, shame and guilt will be replaced with a strong sense of gratitude and a tempered satisfaction born from your successful yet ongoing battle with alcoholism.


To set up an appointment with Michael Pearlman, M.D.,
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For further information about Michael Pearlman, M.D.’s proven treatment program
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