There is good news and there is bad news: alcoholism is an equal opportunity disease—it does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, nationality, income level, education or age. Anyone can be an alcoholic and alcoholism can strike at any point in a person’s life. It isn’t hard to see the “bad news” aspect of this truth. But how is this supposed to be good news?
If there were distinctions between who could and could not be an alcoholic, there would also be distinctions around who could and could not recover. People who struggled with alcoholism but didn’t “fit the mold” would have no way of defining and understanding their condition. They could be disqualified from recovery, and from life itself.
When you think of Alcoholics Anonymous and the people you imagine are a part of it, you may think of a big group of white guys on the far end of middle age. How could you become a part of this group? What would you have in common with other members? What would they think of you? Would it be possible to recover in that context?
If you are in your teens or early 20s and suspect that you have a drinking problem, you are in a highly privileged position. Many blossoming drunks don’t wake up to the fact until they have drowned many years and thousands of dollars in binge drinking. You have the opportunity to get well now instead of waiting and wasting years of your life.
The issue to consider is not how much you drink, but how this drinking affects you, your life, your education, and your relationships. Is your relationship with your parents strained because of your drinking? Do you lie and/or steal to maintain your dependence? How have your educational standing or opportunities been jeopardized by alcohol use? Does drinking consume your leisure time? Do you find yourself consistently drinking more than your peers? When you aren’t drinking, are you wishing you were? It is never too early to reflect honestly on the state of your drinking, to recognize a problem, to make the admission, and to begin to get the help that you need.
If you suspect you have a problem with alcohol, there is hope for you; if you are old enough to be an alcoholic (and anyone is), you are old enough to recover. The 12-Step Program is for individuals who want to recover from alcoholism. Everyone is welcomed there. We are all struggling with the business of being grown-ups, so you are in good company.
And you will find, upon entering the recovery community, that there are a lot more people like you than you would have imagined. Excessive drinking and alcoholic behaviors are continually manifesting earlier and earlier. Alcoholism is no longer a grown-up problem. Kids in their teens now find themselves in need of a recovery program that can save them from the ravages of alcoholism.
There is a principle of recovery that goes one step further in leveling the playing field. We learn to identify rather than compare, which is to say we look and listen for the commonalities we share with other members rather than the differences that could separate us. It doesn’t matter that some of your fellow members are old enough to have kids or even grandkids your age. They are drunks and you’re a drunk and that’s the similarity that trumps other minor differences. You will, in time, find some of these more mature members to be your greatest source of guidance, wisdom and friendship.
The Program requires nothing more than total honesty and a willingness to work. If you have these, you have all you need to recover. You will learn more about yourself and what it means to be a grown up than you would have imagined. You will make friends across all walks of life and you will learn the importance of giving service to others.
If you have the strength and courage to get well now, you are not only helping yourself, you are ensuring that many more young people in your situation may have the hope that you have found. You will be quick to recognize drinking problems in your peers and you will become a model for a life of promise and health in sober recovery. You will see that your alcoholism and your early discovery of it are blessings to you and a gift to countless others.