When I first arrived in AA I was told by a big scary looking man that in AA you will get better.
That “we will help you by loving you back to health”.
I was quite alarmed by this situation to be honest “loved back to health”? Was this guy some relic from the hippy era?
What he said, was very threatening to me. It suggested unconditional love, a concept that I was only partially familiar with.
I had always knew my father loved my unconditionally but this was less the case with my mother. I knew she loved me in her vague, through a distant Valium haze but part of me was always reaching out, crying out for more. More love.
I found that love in liquid form in alcohol. Or so I felt. Alcohol was constant. It always delivered without fail, transported me to the person I would much rather be. Allowed me to escape the person I did not want to be.
I now accept my mother suffered from addiction just like me and I have immense compassion for her because of that, she did the best she could under the circumstances. I forgive her completely and love her completely.
She was not a bad person she as an ill person just like me.
Did this relationship with my primary care giver have any effect on my teenage drinking and later alcoholism?
Like many alcoholics I have spoken to over the years I too seemed to suffer from the “hole in the soul” they spoke of.
That not feeling whole, like something in you, some part of you was missing.
Having a curious mind, I always wondered what it could be? It must be something that can be discovered? I wasn’t happy to leave it was a vague spiritual condition.
It felt too emotional just to be a spiritual thing, although it is also that.
It felt like I was lacking in something, something in my make up was not there or in diluted measure?
Later I found out that this relationship with my mother was called an insecure attachment and that lots of people in recovery had this insecure attachment with their mothers or whoever reared them.
This insecure attachment they said often resulted in novelty seeking and hunting out some “secure attachment” elsewhere, in a bottle, syringe, sex, a poker machine, food or other addictive behaviours.
It is lonely recently that I found there is a brain chemical linked to this insecure attachment called oxytocin, the “love chemical” which effects all the neurochemical said to be involved in addiction.
Oxytocin is badly affected by the stress reaction to insecure attachment, abuse trauma and a tough upbringing. The oxytocin is then reduced which reduces the other chemicals too and we search for these at the bottom of a glass.
Unfortunately alcohol seems to give us cocktail of these chemicals in liquid form. But never enough.
For a while anyway, it gives us the illusion of attachment, of that fleeting feeling of being part, of being loved.
Through the years all these chemicals start running dry and the drink stops working.
We are then left with the problems we had before we put a glass to our mouths.
So when the drink stopped working and I had to go to AA – not one wants to go there, let’s face it, it’s because we have to!
So the big scary guy may have been right all along. I have found that he is right over the years of attending AA.
I have found a new, surrogate family in AA, a “learnt attachment” within the fellowship of others in the same boat as me, who have felt the same as me. I have found this attachment to others, by being looked after and trying to help others – my oxytocin, the “love chemical” the “cuddle chemical” has gone up dramatically while my stress has plummeted as I have bonded with others in recovery.
This connectedness is my spiritual solution to a neurobiological problem.
I now feel part of for the first time, I have filled the hole in the soul with love given and received.