“But you’re so young…”
This short sentence, these four miniscule words, are like a punch in the gut every single time I hear them.
Though I know most of the general population does not fully understand the nature and progression of this disease, it still feels like the slice of a knife for so many reasons.
During my active drinking days, I would constantly reassure myself, like a classic mother in denial, saying things like “But I’m so young… this is just a phase, my drinking will calm down eventually.”
It didn’t. My disease worsened by the day as I dug myself into deeper and deeper pits of denial with a duffle bag of other means of justification on tow.
The fact of the matter is that there is no right or wrong age to figure out that you have a serious problem. I so wish that I had been able to truly understand and grasp the severity of what would become my life as I continued down the path that I did. But I just couldn’t connect the dots.
I didn’t realize that my colds would last for weeks or months on end because I refused to stop drinking, smoking, and snorting everything I could get my hands on. I didn’t understand that my DUIs were caused by my drinking, and not strokes of bad luck. It didn’t even cross my mind that people didn’t like me because of the obnoxious drunk scenes I would make at EVERY SINGLE function I attended. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with refusing to take my antibiotic because it would make me violently ill when mixed with alcohol…
I could truly go on endlessly about all of the dots I didn’t connect. I am still connecting more each and every day that I stay sober, and it blows my mind each and every time I find a new one.
The second reason that I cant stand hearing this forbidden phrase, is that I didn’t live a normal childhood. To be completely honest, I never had a childhood. I grew up with an alcoholic step-father and a mother who had absorbed all of the unhealthy behaviors that characterize this disease. I was not allowed to do anything. Without exaggeration, I was grounded for a minimum of SIX YEARS. From age eight to 14 or 15 I was not allowed to do anything. I went to school and when I came home watched TV or played The Sims by myself until bedtime. I had absolutely no idea how to interact with people as a functioning human, or how normal lives were lived. Real life was non-existent to me. Then suddenly my step-dad, Dan, moved to Maryland and my entire world changed.
Fast Forward to age 16
I now have my own apartment with my 21 year old boyfriend, and I’m drinking every night, many mornings going to school still hammered because I hadn’t stopped until around 4:00 am. At this time my parents relationship is crumbling faster and faster and my mother has drained every single bank account to her name including mine and my brothers college funds to pay off Dan and get him out of the house. Being the drunk that he is, he spent just about every cent in a matter of weeks and moved into a shithole one bedroom shared apartment on Alison Hill (For those of you that don’t know the Harrisburg area, it is the most dangerous and impoverished part of town).
My mother soon left our family home and moved in to Dan’s apartment leaving me with the immediate responsibility to take care of my 11 year old brother.
I realized quickly that I wouldn’t have enough money to pay for my apartment AND all the bills for the family home while still in high school, so I decided it was in the best interest of everyone if I dropped out.
Thankfully, the man I was in a relationship helped me so incredibly much. As I was working 13 hour days as a grill cook, he would help my brother with his homework and make him dinner every night. Thank god, for his help.
This experience went on for some time until my mother finally came home. Though I am happy that I was able to help make my brothers life better than my own, it saddens me deeply that I had to take on such responsibility at such a young age. I was thrust so quickly into an adult role that I was never truly able to go back to the delightfully immature state of others my age.
I think these moments only plunged me deeper into my disease, for I no longer was living the life of a child. I was spending time with people who led similar lives; as in people who were out of school, paying their own bills, raising kids, working full time, and consequently, drinking leisurely because they were of age.
Though I know when someone says “but you’re so young” in reference to my sober lifestyle they don’t mean it in a hurtful way. But I just can’t help but take it personal. It feels as if they are belittling what I’ve experienced. It feels like I need to defend my choice, and if I were in a bad state of my recovery, it could easily be the phrase that catapults me back in to denial.
But my recovery is not up to them. It is not something I need to explain or defend.
What I hear is so staggeringly far from what they actually have said. I am a being that perceives things according to my history. And though it may sometimes give me an edge of enlightenment, it also gets me into a mental battle that is unfitting for the occasion.
Over the next 24 hours I need to monitor my responses to outward stimuli, because nothing is as appears to be in my eyes. I need to be aware that I operate overly defensively, I assume an oncoming attack at all times. But 99% of the time, it is not an attack. It is only my disease working in amazingly cunning ways to make me feel less than.
But today that is the farthest thing from the truth. Today I am whole, and it is because of Alcoholics Anonymous. Today I will ignore the words that feel like snakes venom, and know that I have made the right decision, I am in the right place, and most importantly, I will thank god, for letting me see my disease as early as I did.