What comes to your mind when you think of an alcoholic and drug addict? Do you immediately envision a person on the side of the street, begging for change and holding a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag? Do you envision a person in a crack house shooting up drugs and sleeping under a bridge? If these are the images that first pop in your head, then you have been watching far too much television. There are over 21 million people in the United States who have alcohol and/or drug addictions. The majority of these people are not the stereotypical image of the homeless, unemployed alcoholic and drug addict. These alcoholics and addicts are your next door neighbor, your doctor, your church director, your best friend and even a member of your family…you just don’t know it.

Alcoholics and drug addicts are often master manipulators, liars who function in society. I know this from first-hand experience. I grew up with a raging alcoholic father who was highly functioning at work and always provided well for our family. From an outsiders point of view our family appeared “normal”…they had no inkling of the alcoholic dysfunction that prevailed inside. Not only did I learn the fundamentals of alcoholism from my father, but I followed in his footsteps and became exactly what I swore I would never become…I became just like him.

In my early twenties, I earned a college degree, a graduate degree, landed a promising new career and was a full-blown alcoholic and drug addict with a serious rage problem…just like my father. When I was admitted to rehab at 25 years old, my parents, family and many of my friends were shocked…it didn’t surprise me.
I must admit, before rehab I envisioned the horrible picture of the alcoholic living on the street and drug addicts shooting up in alleys. I had to rid myself of the old school image of the alcoholic and addict. I learned the truth that alcoholics and addicts are everywhere…and sometimes it’s the person you least expect. We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, bankers, police officers, and all other professions. Alcoholism and drug addiction does not discriminate based on race, religious affiliation, sexual preference or gender. It is an equal opportunity killer.

The American Medical Association classifies alcoholism as a disease. It is a disease of mental and physical obsession intertwined with a denial to prevent many from seeking help. Alcoholism may be the only disease where people who are near death from drinking are told they are alcoholics and they completely deny the possibility. It can be anything else like diabetes, ulcers, stress related problems, but as their bodies are deteriorating they deny any chance of having an alcohol problem. Denial is a key problem with not only the alcoholic, but also with families and friends. It is difficult to admit a loved one has a mental and physical obsession over alcohol and it controls their life.

The only answer is to get help and ask questions. Many first consult with their physicians or addiction counselors. This is a step in the right direction because the physical issues and emotional conditions must be addressed immediately.

There are also many recovery groups who consist of others who are fighting alcoholism and addiction. These organizations are based on a 12 Step Program and can be found everywhere. Many places have meetings several times a day including the evenings. If the alcoholic or addict wants help it is available. Examples of these programs include: AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), CA (Cocaine Anonymous) and Al-Anon for the families of alcoholics and addicts. These recovery groups can be found on the Internet, phone book and by asking others. You will be surprised how many of your friends and acquaintances are involved or familiar with the program.

I was once an alcoholic and drug addict in complete denial of my disease. I had been drinking and drugging for many years and thought it was “normal.” I was not ready for help until I completely hit an emotional and physical bottom where I could not go on anymore. I could not continue feeling the darkness I felt inside and living the life I was living on the outside. Finally I asked for help and was immediately put in treatment where I was introduced to a 12 Step Program that guided me to a new and happier way of living alcohol and drug free. I learned recovery is a process and it takes time to heal from the past and learn to function in the present. My new recovery friends held my hand the entire way (and still do) and always believed in me, even when I didn’t.

Millions of people have recovered from alcoholism and drug addiction using the 12 Step Program. Of course, not everyone succeeds when they enter the doors, but I believe if millions of other drunks and druggies can give up booze and drugs then you or your loved one can too. Today, I have faith in others when they don’t have it in themselves…just like when others believed in me when I felt hopeless.

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Author's Bio: 

Amy Jo Crowell AKA "AJ" is a Best Selling Author of the book "Loved Back to Life." Her book offers everything everyone needs to know about alcoholism, addiction and recovery. AJ has been in long term recovery since 1988 and has been alcohol and drug free ever since. Her first hand experiences contine to give her insight into helping others suffering from alcoholism and addiction. www.lovedbacktolife.com