Maybe we’ve been looking at this all wrong. Maybe by shrouding in shame people who become addicted to the soothing properties of alcohol, we are stifling potential and ignoring the greatness hiding in plain sight. Maybe as we look away in disgust and disapproval, we are emboldening the stigma. As alcoholics, maybe our own behavior – like tucking our tails between our legs and slinking into a church basement – maybe that keeps us buried under the crushing weight of an embarrassing diagnosis.
Maybe we’ve got it all backwards. Misunderstandings happen, you know.
Do you realize how many wildly successful dyslexics there are in the big, bad world? Google it – you might be amazed. But why does this information shock us? It’s quite logical, really. If, as a child, you overcome a neurological challenge that makes reading difficult, as an adult, you are predisposed to overcoming challenges. While the rest of us complain about the first hardships we face as grown-ups, dyslexics are already solving problems and leaving us in their dust.
Maybe the truth is just as obvious with us alcoholics.
I know a lot of people who are trying to climb out of addiction. Like me, many of them are simply not satisfied with the status quo. We seek answers to the challenges of the human condition with a fierce tenacity unequaled by our non-addicted peers. In our SHOUT Sobriety program alone, we have dozens of success stories in industry, medicine, education, business, public policy and technology. These are people with drive and ambition, and brains that work overtime. They blow past success and dwell on failure, always trying to solve the riddles that their experiences only complicate.
And guess what we’ve all discovered. There is an antidote to the restlessness of our never-satisfied brains. It’s exhausting to be one of us, and we seek relief. We have chaotic mind syndrome, and alcohol soothes the chaos.
Of course, given the insidious nature of our go-to poison, alcohol also makes the chaotic mind syndrome come raging back. And once we figure that out (or years or decades later), we realize we have to quit drinking to end the destructive cycle. The point is, maybe that tenacious brain function is the ignored brilliance hidden by our bafoonish outward behavior.
Maybe alcoholism is really an indicator of greatness.
Maybe this latest theory just gives this arrogant jackass a chance to brag about his self-inflated smarts, you might be thinking about now. Maybe, but maybe not. I try to be humble, so I am really hanging it out here. Isn’t that vulnerability worth a read all the way to the end?
The greatness can’t be ignored. Bradley Cooper, Elton John, Robert Downey Jr., Demi Lovato, Ben Affleck, Jamie Lee Curtis, Keith Urban, Rob Lowe and about a thousand other celebrities are sober alcoholics. These are A-listers. They have reached the pinnacle in music or acting because of their tenacity and talent, and they used to use alcohol as their off-switch.
Greatness isn’t the only reason people fall victim to the damaging effects of alcohol. It is one of the world’s most highly addictive substances, after all. It doesn’t discriminate. The cranially supercharged and intellectually challenged alike find comfort in the bottle. Don’t ask the guy who just fell off his barstool for help with your math homework. Addiction and overachieving potential are not a direct correlation. A lot of brilliant people are not alcoholics, and a lot of alcoholics aren’t all that smart.
But just like arson is one unignorable cause of house fires, alcoholism can be a sign of greatness. That is, if we stop shaming and dismissing the afflicted long enough to get to know how their minds work.
I can’t keep up with the relentless thought processing and voracious researching of some of the alcoholics in discovery I know. They keep pushing and growing and understanding and searching for answers. They inspire me. These people that others dismiss as weak, or low on will power, have the tenacity of hungry raptors.
And once they summit the peak of addiction, and harness the power of their chaotic thinkers, they are quite formidable. Like the dyslexics that learned to overcome while we were sucking our thumbs, these are formerly alcohol-addicted survivors who are now unstoppable. I’m sure glad Brene Brown kept going, and didn’t let her alcohol addiction stop her. Aren’t you?
So let’s stop castigating the never satisfied while they try to tame the stallions in their skulls. Drinking too much is an indicator of something, alright. But that something isn’t always immorality and weakness. Sometimes, it’s an effervescence that can’t be contained. The real struggle might not be with the demon in a bottle. Sometimes, the battle is to keep the cranial train on the tracks. Or to build new tracks fast enough to give the train access to the places it needs to go.
Robin Williams didn’t die of suicide. He died because he couldn’t figure out how to harness the power of his gift before he simply ran out of tracks.
I’m no Robin Williams. Nor am I Bradley Cooper or Elton John. I don’t have that kind of greatness to corral. But my chaotic mind puts in enough overtime that I understand the challenge, and it doesn’t involve weakness.
Is alcoholism an indicator of greatness? Some coincidences are hard to explain. Especially after centuries of ignoring the evidence all around us.
If your relentless mind is hard to silence, and you’ve found temporary relief from drinking alcohol, we invite you to join us in SHOUT Sobriety. It might be one the the greatest decisions of your life.