Permanent. Progressive. Fatal. Disease.
When someone has a permanent, progressive, fatal disease we follow God’s word and help them.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4 (RSV)
If I had cancer, people would all rally around me. They’d drive me to chemotherapy. They’d create FundMe pages to raise money for my treatments. They would encourage me.
If I had a heart attack, people would pray for me. They’d bring casseroles for our dinner. They’d offer to help with my children. They would support me.
If I was diagnosed with my mother’s hereditary degenerative nerve disease, people would do my grocery shopping. They’d offer to hang our Christmas lights. They would move the furniture in my home to make the pathways to accommodate my walker. They would help me.
Alcoholism is a disease. It is Permanent. It is Progressive. It is Fatal.
But where is the support for the alcoholic in their journey of recovery? Where are the healthy casseroles to nourish the body while the alcoholic detoxes? Where are the offers to drive carpool allowing the alcoholic to get to the meeting that will keep them alive? Where are the prayers offered by friends and loved ones that will bolster the alcoholic’s spirit through God’s love?
The casseroles, rides, and prayers do not come because, as alcoholics, we live in anonymous secret. Society still does not view alcoholism as the Permanent, Progressive Fatal Disease that it truly is. Society still sees alcoholism as a shameful, self inflicted, addiction that could have been avoided if the alcoholic just did not drink so much.
Where is the daily, public encouragement, support, and help for the alcoholic? At the present, it is hidden in the people gathering in the basement of the church down the street. At present it is found in the treatment center we secretly check into to focus on our recovery. At present, it is found in the Big Book and resources of AA.
What if it were everywhere?
What if the alcoholic received prayers from church members who do not know them because it was announced on Sunday that they are on the path to recovery? What if the alcoholic could attend Book Club or the community social, knowing they won’t be pressured to drink, because everyone knows of their disease? What if the alcoholic did not have to hide behind excuses of why they are not drinking and instead could live in the truth of their disease?
Alcoholism is a lonely disease. But what if it were not?
Like many other alcoholics, I drank alone, at home, in the evenings. If I drank in public it was just one glass until I got home, then I could not stop. Very few people in my life know that for nearly 10 years, I passed out most nights from too many glasses of wine. In a recent Meeting, I listened to myself, and others, talk about the isolation of alcoholism. People shared how they drank alone, and are now alone in their recovery. People talked about attending 1, 2, maybe 3 meetings a day to get the support and encouragement needed to stay sober.
What if, in addition to AA, we got that support and encouragement simply by living our daily life where people know what is going on with us and they reach out, just as if we had any other disease?
I heard someone describe themselves as a “chronic slipper”, one who can string together days, weeks, even months of not drinking until the voice of the disease says –
“You’ve got this! You can have that beer to celebrate today.”
“You’ve got this! You can toast the newly married couple with a glass of champagne.”
“You’ve got this! It’s been a tough week, pour that glass of wine while you make dinner.”
I know, because that was the voice I heard in my head over the years. I still hear that voice, but I am learning to silence it with my reliance on God and the human support network I am building. It is a small network of trusted family and friends, but what if I were public? What if others knew?
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12 (ESV)
God does not want us to live in isolation. The only way we will succeed in living our life, while having this Permament, Progressive, Fatal Disease, is if we have the support of others. The only way we can get that support is to become public, beyond AA, and beyond our closest family and friends, in our battle.
Society is slowly awakening to the understanding that Alcoholics are victims of their disease, just as cancer patients, and heart patients, and others. I pray that in my lifetime we will see the same God inspired, open love and support for all people battling the disease of addiction that we see for those battling cancer, and other illnesses.