FYI, I’m going to use the “n-word” lower in this post. And by “use the ‘n-word'” I mean I’m going to use the actual word that “n-word” represents. If this bothers you, don’t continue reading.
I’ve been to a fair number of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings over the last couple of weeks. Although I have been uncomfortable at times with the religiosity, I’ve finally come to terms with the label of “alcoholic”. I’ve become comfortable announcing myself as an alcoholic to whatever motley crue I’m interacting with. Given my prior apprehensions, what, you may wonder, has spurred this change in me? It was the realization that the only one judging me for using the label was myself. No one in the meetings were judgemental about whatever label anyone wanted to use: addict, grateful alcoholic, former dipsomaniac, someone who used to drink too much, and a few others. I had to finally accept that the only condemnations were coming from the voices in my head.
I also started to recognize that “alcoholic” was shorthand for “brother” or “sister” in much the same way that nigger can mean the exact same thing among certain communities. And I think this is an important parallel: calling someone nigger depends ENTIRELY on the context in which it is used. I wouldn’t dream of using the term to refer to anyone in general (or particular) because the context of a white man calling someone nigger is almost certainly going to be offensive (yes, certain contexts may make it acceptable among close friends, but those must be tread lightly). As such, I’m OK with calling myself an alcoholic within the context of those who also identify that way, because they probably fully understand the nuances of context in which I’m using it. I would not, however, introduce myself in any other context as an alcoholic, nor will I decline the offer of a drink with “No thanks, I’m an alcoholic”. I also would be uncomfortable with anyone outside of those meetings calling me an alcoholic because I wouldn’t be sure that the word means to them what it means to me, just like nigger can have a million different meanings, dependent on context, tone and intent.
This realization and acceptance has made going to meetings much easier for me. I almost enjoy them now. I haven’t quite developed fondness for a particular meeting group yet, but I can understand how that attachment can start to grow. I’ll continue to go, hoping to continue to progress in my recovery.