No, I’m Not an Alcoholic.
Strange admission, but it’s true. I am not an alcoholic.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt the need to clear this up though. Years back when I was just starting at a new firm, I was at an event with one of my new coworkers.
“Do you want anything from the bar?”
Before I could even respond though, she said, “Oh, never mind, that’s right, the Serenity Prayer.”
Confused by the exchange – “What?” was all I could muster out.
Flustered by my question, my new coworker fumbled through her explanation.
“Oh, no, well, I mean. We saw the Serenity Prayer in your cube, and well, we just figured…”
My mind reeled, oh my, not just one coworker, but several since I’d heard her use the word “we” (twice!) had been checking out my cube and putting together all the pieces of what they thought was my story. How very interesting… and super bizarre!
Let me help you connect the dots on this if you are confused.
The Serenity Prayer is a fabulous, and well-known prayer that goes like this…
“God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Thanks to a quick Wikipedia search, I know that this prayer was written by Reinhold Niebuhr and used in sermons as early as 1934. It was popular in his churches and was also adopted by, and became a mainstay, in the world of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other twelve-step programs.
I had a copy of a slightly longer version of the prayer printed, framed, and hanging on the beige wall of my cube. The prayer always calmed me down and brought real-life serenity when I felt anxious. I had one in my new cube, just like I have one hanging at home.
But the prayer was not on my wall because I was a recovering alcoholic. Nope, I choose iced tea over beer, wine or liquor, mostly because I just don’t like the taste. I also believe that I am not really a drinker because my dad, who is, in fact, a recovering alcoholic and has been for over 30 years, prayed really hard that I would never be drawn to the stuff.
I shared as much with my new coworker and told her to feel free to share with the others that I was not an alcoholic. But I am the adult child of an alcoholic, and that prayer has been in my life since I learned what recovery was all about.
The exchange made me laugh, and of course, made me wonder if I should start checking out everyone else’s cube walls to see what I could learn.
But mostly, it got me thinking about how we (yes, you and me) are so quick to assume we know someone’s story. We see a small glimpse into their world, their cube, their car, their home, or relationships, and we begin to connect dots that we assume must be there.
When in fact, we just can’t know the entire story. We can’t see all the dots.
I wasn’t offended in the slightest at my coworkers’ assumption that I might have a disease like alcoholism and was actually appreciative of her kindness in trying to take back her drink offer. I was surprised though by the quick assessment of who I was and what struggles I might be facing from one framed prayer.
Since then, I’ve tried to remind myself of this encounter and remember that there’s no way I can know someone else’s story, their life, their struggles until they share it with me. I can’t assume I know what anyone is dealing with on any given day, or what they are bringing with them from their past. I must get to know people on their terms and allow myself to remain open to all there is to learn.
So, no – I’m not an alcoholic, but I do pray for peace and serenity every single day. And I’ll pray for you and me, that we continue to leave assumptions behind, stop trying to connect dots that we cannot see, and be present with the people in our lives.
That will take courage, but we can do it, friends.
…ps…If you or someone you know does struggle with addiction, if and when you are ready, please seek help. There are people and programs prepared to welcome and support you through your own journey to recovery as the addict (look for programs like AA or other twelve-step programs) or as a person who loves or cares for an addict (look for programs like Al-Anon or Adult Children of Alcoholics).