The main reason I am alive today, sober and have recovered from a seemingly hopeless condition of alcoholism is simple!
Or rather the first step can be simple.
The first step on my recovery journey was to identify with the life stories of other recovering alcoholics.
Not necessarily with where they grew up, or the damage alcoholism had inflicted on their lives. Although many alcoholics talk themselves, or their illness talks them, out of the possibility of recovery by saying I am not as bad as that guy, or that woman.
You may not be as bad “YET!” – the “yets” are often talked about in AA – you may not have done the damage others have, yet? Keep drinking and you are bound to. You, like them, will have no choice.
Alcoholism increasingly takes away choice.
It takes over your self will.
Your self will, your self regulation, is a combination of your emotional, attentional, memory and reward/survival/motivation networks.
Alcoholism takes over these networks, progressively, over time.
Neuroscience has shown this, over the last twenty odd years.
A superb longitudinal study, “The Natural History of Alcoholism” by George Vaillant clearly showed this progression in six hundred alcoholics over a 60 year period!
In my own research and in articles, with two highly respected Professors at a UK University, I have shown how the alcoholic brain progressively “collapses inwards” to subcortical responding.
In other words, we end up with a near constant “fight or flight” reaction to the world, with alcoholism causing distress based compulsion at the endpoint of this addiction.
All the above neural circuits become governed by a region of the brain which deals with automatic, compulsive behaviour. All the self regulation parts of the brain progress to an automatic compulsive behaviour called alcoholism and we are then often without mental defence against the next drink!
I identified with this one simple fact – the progression of this neurobiological, emotional, and spiritual disease state called alcoholism. I saw it in my own life, this progression over years of drinking.
The “invisible line” that is crossed, according to AA members, can be viewed on a brain image, I believe.
Can you see it in your life?
Like these recovering alcoholics I had not taken my first drink hoping to end up an alcoholic
It was something that had happened to me, happened despite my very strong will not because my will is weak. I am as wilful a person as you would hope to me. How come I became an alcoholic then?
I did also relate to other things these people shared.
I identified with the damage caused by alcoholism in their lives and the lives of their family. How this illness affects everyone in the immediate and even extended family.
I had never considered the effect on others, apart from me?
I listened and identified with how they talked about a “hole in the soul”, how they never felt part of, felt different from others, detached. I related to this. That was me too.
Alcohol made me feel more me! I became attached to it and grew to love it like someone would love another person, more so perhaps? Alcohol came first, loved ones second.
Alcoholism takes away all the good things in life and then your life too.
All of this was the case with me too.
I identified with all this.
I identified too with their solution.
I identified with and wanted what these now happy people in recovery had.
I decided to take the same steps as they had towards this happiness.
There is a solution.
We do recover!
I am sober 9 years, and sobered up at about 40. My Dad on the other hand died at 90, after having been an alcoholic for 60 years, although last 5 years of his life did not drink due to lack of availability. But the rest of his behaviours were text-book alcoholic , and yes, he worsened over the years… progressed in his alcoholism.
While I feel on the other hand I was given a chance to arrest the damage, and actually recover (re-gain ground) what I had lost and damaged. I am not boastful about this, it is simply a comparison I see and hold in gratitude.
This comparison is far from scientific, but it does align with what you express in your post.
I agree, this is a progressive condition. We do get worse if we keep active in our alcoholism.
thanks for this excellent comment Chaz – I have been in recovery a similar time as you. I have an uncle like your father who has been alcoholic for 50 years or more – while his sister, my aunt died in her late fifties from alcoholism. I came into recovery in my late thirties close to death’s door so the progression was evidently there and the fact I progressed more rapidly I suspect was spurred on by a variety of other factors like trauma and other chronic drug use. Like you I am immensely grateful for this opportunity to recover, an opportunity I did not think existed when I was near death. We can and do recover, that is the great news we have to share with others.
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