The Fanatic in the Attic

When I first came into recovery the thing that really killed me was realising that my thinking was haywire – that I was generally wrong about everything.

My ego was devastated by this newly apparent reality.

I had long prided myself in always being the smartest guy in the room often dismissing other people’s views on things. Generally I always thought I was right about practically everything and what I did know was hardly worth knowing.

I found out my dismissiveness was linked to my insecure attachment. I ended up being intolerant, arrogant and dismissive of others. It kept others at arm’s reach because I didn’t trust them.

The echos of childhood can reverberate for decades afterwards.

So finding out I was often completely wrong about stuff was devastating?

How could I be so wrong about stuff?

Especially I had built up over a life this façade always being right?

My counsellor asked me once “Would you rather be right or happy?

“Right of course” I replied.

I was rarely right about anything in the first months of recovery.

I could not grasp why I was so often wrong, how I kept completely misperceiving events or mistinterpreting people, their facial expressions, their tone of voice.

I would recount something to my sponsor,  he would listen and then give the version of events that actually occurred.

I despaired that I had turned into a cretin somehow?

When at wit’s end, this former intellectual genius was illuminated one day.

One day after group therapy in treatment – where 10 complete strangers take  seeming delight in telling you who are really as opposed to who you think you are – I was walking in a local park when I suddenly had this revelation that my thoughts were always leading me to a place of emotional pain.

It was as if my thoughts were out to get me, had sort of stopped  working for me and had decided to work against me instead.

My thought seemed to blame me for everything as if they were trying to get me to go ”to hell with it, let’s have a drink!”

The thoughts seemed to be the voice of a really negative self schema, mixed with my alcoholic voice that just wanted out of this strange alien world of sobriety and thought it would hassle me until I succumbed.  A world full of people who scared me, whom I did not trust.

I did not know how the hell to cope with this world sober and it scared the hell outta me.

The thoughts were fraught, negative, self loathing, they seemed to contain fragments of the reasons why I drank in the first place and the reasons why I drank years after.

There was a maelstrom of unresolved issues and negative ideas of self mixed up in a strange brew with the motivation voice of my addiction which just wanted to drink.

It was no wonder I drank, with this discordant cacophony of mangled thoughts and harsh voices blaring way.

When I rang my sponsor, with news of this revelation , he was so delighted for me.

At how I had managed to disassociate me from these thoughts. He said these are the thoughts of your illness.

I imagined these voices coming from an alcoholic on a park bench who alone and skint with no means of getting more alcohol. Whinging and criticising, desperate and self loathing, life hating…

This had been my illness constantly jibbering away,  trying to demoralize me..

He told me the 12 steps would help deal with these thoughts although they never go away completely.

It was such a breakthrough in early recovery. It is one of the main reasons I am alive today.

I had realised there was this addicted me, living upstairs like a fanatic in the attic, which was distinct from the new, recovering me that would have to try my best to ignore it.

This has become easier as recovery has progressed.

My illness and it’s lies, it’s quite convincing chatter lives in ME, the parts of my brain that deal with self, especially motivational parts of the brain.

Hence I have to be careful of wanting or desiring stuff as the thoughts and the chatter get turned on again. If I turn my will, my thoughts over to my HP then serenity prevails.

I have to be aware of Me. Me. Me.

I have to be aware of thoughts which have me, mine, or I in them.

If my thoughts have me, mine or I in them then I am lending my ear to my illness again.

This stuff is a difficult thing to come to terms with – it is similar to egodystonic thoughts in OCD sufferers –  thoughts in conflict with a person’s ideal self-image – but when you do grasp this you are well on your way to recovery!

 

 

 

 

About Us

“When we came into recovery we felt that our life was over but it had barely begun. 

Your very best years are ahead of you. Things do and continue to get better, and better.” 

A bit about us and what we hope to achieve in this blogsite.

Paul Henry, principal blogger and researcher, has contributed to various other addiction based websites such as  Addictionland , Klen + Sobr and  Recovery SI

This blog is written for active and recovering alcoholics (and those suffering and recovering from substance and behaviour addiction) and those who love and live with them, by alcoholics and addicts in recovery.

This blog started off as a blogsite that mixed ancedotal, experiential knowledge of being an alcoholic/addict in recovery with the very latest neuropsychological research into addiction and recovery.

It sought to mix experimental evidence with the evidence of lived experience.

As time progressed over the past year, the head started taking over the heart and the blog became more research based and less experienced based.

Now we have decided to make this blog solely about the experience of addiction and recovery.

It will not be from the head but will use the language of the heart instead to pass on what we have learnt about this illness and recovery from it.

We believe that sharing stories is one of the most profound ways to pass on knowledge and it has been since time immemorial.

Sharing our stories of illness and recovery are intrinsic to 12 step groups also and to getting well.

Stories can literally transform lives. Hopefully our stories will touch your heart too.

Recovery was a journey from our deluded heads to our hearts. But it starts with the heart saying I have had enough, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!

We will still mention research in passing but not in detail and we do also refer you to  sister blog if you would like to study or read the lastest neuro-scientific and neuro psychologcal research into this disease and disorder of addictive behaviors.

There are also various pages on this blog which talk in detail about the neuropsychology of addiction and recovery, so please have a look around as there is a library of information and research on this blogsite if you care to look around.

The real aim of this blog is that you identify with what is being written about and that it hopefully spurs you on in your recovery from addictive behaviours.

We hope to carry a message of hope, that you can recover for addictive behaviours.

Addictive behaviours are potentially fatal.

Recovery is the best thing we have ever done in our lives and we hope you can join us in recovery.

Life has been transformed and is so much better and fulfilling than any of us could have imagined – when we came into recovery we felt that our life was over but it had barely begun.

Your best years are ahead of you.

Our sister blog looks at the neuroscience of addiction and recovery in a more academic  style, setting out a conceptual framework which puts emotional processing and regulation deficits at the heart of addiction.

http://insidethealcoholicbrain.com/

 

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Filling that “Hole in the Soul”

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.

Who Wants to be an Alcoholic?

The social stigma of being an alcoholic prevents many from coming into recovery and treating their illness. And it is an illness but it takes time to realise that – a physiological, psychological, emotional, cognitive, behavioural and spiritual disease. It is as profound an illness as one can have.

It is the only illness that actively tells you that you do not have it!

How cunning, baffling and powerful is that!?  

In fact stigma, particular prevalent in the UK as compared to the US, helps kill alcoholics.

We all have ideas of tramp on park benches supping on bottles of alcohol when we think of alcoholics.

I know I did. When I went to my first meeting I thought I would be greeted by park tramps with strings holding their trousers up with food encrusted beards, no teeth and hygiene problems.

I wasn’t greeted by anyone like this.

I was greeted by a teacher, a lawyer, a counsellor, a business man, a builder, a nurse, an actress, among others.  Alcoholism effects every area of life, no strata of life is immune, there are recovering alcoholics everywhere.  The second man to have stepped on the moon is in recovery for alcoholism!

These shiny AA people were not drinking and some had not drank for decades!

Imagine not drinking for ten years and more? I could not imagine ten minutes…but now I am coming up to my tenth birthday in AA.

 

“Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows” (1)

Neuroscience has demonstrated repeatedly how the brain is taken over by the actions of alcohol and other substances which leave the brain severely restricted in it’s choice of behaviours. Self will has become so compromised we barely have any!?

We become so comprised in our own ability to make decisions that we are often “without mental defence against” drinking.

Alcohol via the alterations in stress and reward (survival) systems in the brain means our illness has literally taken over our brain and calls the shots, does the thinking which leads to the drinking.

We have a thinking disease as well as drinking one by the time we get into recovery.

It is the thinking of this illness, which we mistake for our own, quite understandably, as these thoughts are happening in our own head, that tells us we do not have an alcoholic problem, we do not need to go to an AA meeting, or when we have gone, that we do not need to stay, that we are different to the people at the meeting – that they need this recovery thing not me. I can work this out myself.

Why does it do this?

Why is it constantly chittering away between our ears. It has to be us, surely? Our thoughts can’t have been taken over like some 1960s episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk and crew are struck down by some thought virus??

If you are new to recovery don’t bend your head over this stuff!

All you have to do is twofold. Get to a meeting and see if your experience of drinking tallies with those there and two, watch out for that motivational voice of alcoholism trying to get you far away from these people.

This is my test to see if you are alcoholic.

This voice of the illness is similar to the voice of OCD and other anxiety disorders which talk to us in thoughts which are contrary to our well being and health. Why?

Because our survival networks in the brain have gone so haywire that these conditions think they are helping us survive by suggesting certain actions which we previously used to reduce distress, i.e.compulsive behaviours, but which take us increasingly into even greater emotional distress and unhealthy behaviours.

They are like an Olympic coach training us to get chronically unwell.

They persist because they have ingrained in our brains unfortunately, possible forever. They are the torturous whispers of our neural ghosts!

They refuse to die but in time these voices become more manageable, the volume on them can be turned down or ignored altogether.

Turning down the distress signal that feeds them is at the key.

You are not alone – “Every natural instinct cries out against the idea of personal  powerlessness.” (2)

This powerlessness led me to surrendering. Paradoxically to win this war we must first surrender.

Surrendering to the idea that I may, possibly, be an alcoholic.

Acceptance of this possibility is the first step.

 

References

 

  1.  Alcoholics Anonymous. (2001). Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition. New York: A.A. World Services.
  2. Twelve steps and twelve traditions. (1989). New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.

 

A New Sense of Belonging!

Like many others in recovery from alcoholism and addictive behaviours I grew up with this really uneasy feeling of “not being part of”, “never belonging anywhere”.

I felt like I did not belong or did not fit in. In fact it was only when I got to AA that I had my first sense of belonging, of being amongst my own kind.

I had found my own recovery family and had this feeling of having gone home in some strange way.

I grew up in a house with three older sisters so thought I did not fit in completely with them because I was a different gender and had my own bedroom.

I also felt warily distinct or different from my parents too. I was always wary of my parents because I never completely trusted them.

Their violent arguments had lead to many traumatic incidents in my early childhood which still scar my psyche to this day. In fact I still suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) today as do about 40 % of alcoholics.

So I felt I never completely trusted and hence never completely attached to my parents, especially my mother. I loved them deeply but there was always this invisible almost unconscious wedge between me and them.

I also grew up in the “troubles” of Northern Ireland. I grew up in the highly usual scenario of being a Catholic in a very predominantly Protestant neighourhood.

This was also traumatic at times so I never attached with the society and culture beyond my home. I also got trouble from Catholic kids at school for coming from this Protestant area. I was always having fights to defend myself. So it was a fairly traumatic upbringing inside and outside the home.

Looking back I had more than enough reasons to feel not part of.

It wasn’t until I came to AA that I found a whole bunch of people who had also felt the way I did – they also felt they never belonged.

I was suddenly struck with a choice – either I felt I never belonged because of various circumstantial factors (which quite frankly did not help) to do with my upbringing or because I was an alcoholic?

As I feel completely at home with other alcoholics this seemed to be the reason I felt that I had never belonged.

If you feel that you do not belong it may be because, like me, you haven’t found your society of like minded people.

People just like you. People who do not fit in naturally with the so-called “normal” world?

In fact when I look back on my early drinking at about 14 or 15 years old I remember alcohol giving me that warm euphoric glow which felt like someone had poured “love chemicals” into my blood.

I had a “spirit awakening” if you like, whereby I felt so much more comfortable in my own skin, relaxed, expansive, acting spontaneously without fear, connected more with other people, felt the warmth and camaraderie of my fellow human beings.

Alcohol allowed me to more fully join the human race.

I allowed myself via alcohol to belong temporarily, to attach to the warmth of others.

Then in cold sobriety these feelings would shrink and recede – until the next time.

But was the illusion.

For me the so-called euphoric recall contains that feeling of belonging, or not being desolately alone. But connected. In fact the spirituality of 12 step groups is about the connection with others in the same boat as yourself..

In later years when asked by my wife why I drank, I would answer “to get away from myself”;  to escape me!

I found a surrogate home in AA, a learnt attachment. Like my own family it can be far from perfect at times, but it is here I belong ultimately, with my own.

Accepted completely for who I am.

Where I am free to be me.

You are Not Alone!

In the final months of my active alcoholism I was living in the attic room of my house.

I drank about 6 bottles of cheap Spanish wine plus a dozen cans of strong German beer every day.

The alcohol had little effect on me by this stage. I only drank to dampen the delirium tremens, the violent shakes. I often could not control my hand enough to get alcohol into my mouth, holding my wrist steady with my other hand to raise the drink to my mouth.

Usually  cracking the bottle or tin can against my teeth.

I was no longer getting drunk anymore.

You know you are fully addicted to alcohol when it does nothing intoxicating any more.

I slept in 5-10 minute fits and busts. I did not eat for months. The television told me to kill myself and voices not belonging to me talked insistently in my head.

Alcohol-related Psychosis it is called.

No one told me this would happen when I bought my first alcoholic drink when I was fourteen years old. There was no health or warning label saying “Could lead to Psychosis and Premature Death!”

Maybe there should be.  Or at least alcohol can be addictive for some.

Anyway there is more to alcoholism than alcohol.

In the depths of this alcohol induced madness, I rarely saw my wife, who could not bring herself to look at me and what I had become.

If I could have got it together I might have killed myself.

But I couldn’t get it together. Psychosis is all involving, doesn’t leave much time for planning anything.

 

 

So I staggered on. When I say staggered, I could not actually walk more than a few yards or climb more than a few stairs.

By  the time I reached my first AA meeting

1. the alcohol had stopped “working”.

2. I had surrendered.

Regardless of these two factors, I could not admit I was alcoholic. My pride and it’s best friend shame were still talking away to me.

I was willing to admit I was addicted to alcohol and that I was about to die from it.

But alcoholic?

We often wonder why some people don’t accept their alcoholism?

How did I start my journey to acceptance?

My wife came to my first meeting of AA, she practically carried me in!

The Chair of the meeting was a person I had drank with before – I though how come he is here?

I spilled more drink than he ever drank?

Then it dawned on me that maybe I should have come here before?

Especially when he shared that he had been trying to get sober and recovered for ten years!?

I then listened to the other alcoholics sharing their stories.

The stories mentioned the progression of the alcoholism, which I obviously identified with.

They also mentioned how they, even now in recovery, struggled with their emotions and anxieties, how they found living life difficult.

They talked about issues which had bedevilled them and me since childhood, this  spiritual malady they talked of was like the emotional disease I had  suffered from all my life, whether it was depression, panic attacks, anxiety disorders, PTSD, etc.

They had used alcohol to self medicate these conditions, especially as alcohol for them had felt like an elixir for them as it had for me.  We all had all dealt with our negative emotions since adolescence in the same way.

Now a new way had to be found.

When we left the meeting my wife had a psychic change similar to the one I had.

She said these people are just like you. They can help you, I can’t.

A week before I had heard a voice in my heart, through the psychosis, saying  to go down stairs to my wife and ask her for help. I asked her for help in that round about alcoholic way of “do you think I look a bit jaundice (I actually looked like Homer Simpson with a heavy sun tan!)?

The help I asked for was not to come directly from my wife but she led me to where I could get it. In a room, full of people just like me, suffering the same illness as me.

I will be forever eternally grateful for it being there for me. For them being there.

We will be there for you too!

Why?

This blog is written for alcoholics and those who love and live with them, by alcoholics in recovery.

 

For those who know what it is like to live with alcoholism but would also like to know why alcoholism affects the alcoholic and those around him in the way it does.

 

We write this blog to help us and you understand how the alcoholic brain works and why they sometimes do the things they do, why they act the way they do?

 

Why is it sometimes that everything is going great and suddenly the alcoholic in your life overreacts and acts in an emotionally immature way, which can often cause hurt to others around them?

 

Why do they suddenly cut off their emotions so profoundly it leaves your emotions in limbo, confused and upset.?

We hope to explain this disease state and behavioral disorder, which alcoholics themselves call an “emotional disease” , a “parasite that feeds on the emotions” or quite simply “a fear based illness”.

It appears that alcoholics in recovery are aware to a large extent of what they suffer from so why do they do what they do sometimes if they know what is going on? Are there times when they cannot help themselves?

Why do alcoholics, even in recovery, sometimes engage in endless  self defeating resentments?

Why do they project into future scenarios and then get emotionally paralyzed by doing so, get stuck in a cycle of catastrophic thinking?

Why do we run through the list of cognitive distortions on a daily basis?

This is not to condemn but to understand. Knowledge we believe is power. It aids understanding and compassion of another person’s suffering.

We as recovering alcoholics still, after several years of recovery, can still engage in such behaviours. We do not wish to hurt anyone, especially not our loved ones, but sometimes do.

We sometimes get wrapped up in ourselves and act in a selfish, immature and inconsiderate manner.

We need help with this, at times, distressing condition. That is what it is.

Distressing, based on a emotion and stress dysregulation, even in recovery, hence we have to manage it.

On a daily basis. It does not return to normal. To balance. To equilibrium. We have to take certain actions to restore emotional equilibrium.

Hence it can be hard work, hence we sometimes we come up short and emotionally overreact.

We have a distress based condition which has to be managed.

We also have to give ourselves a break, don’t distress ourselves further with perfectionist ideas of “should” – just do your best! That is usually good enough for most people. Why not us?

We are not saints, progress not perfection!

Or as progress not perfectionist!

Recovery changes the brains of alcoholics for the better.

As we are personally well aware, self knowledge does not bring recovery – only action does.

This action could be helping others, praying, meditating, going to meetings, talking to someone who knows what you are going through etc. Connecting with others, in the same boat as you.

It does work, if you work it. It removes the distress that feeds alcoholism and addiction.

The distress that makes us catastrophic thinkers, to having intolerance of uncertainty about the future, struggle with our emotional natures, etc

Recovery helps us deal with negative emotions and anxiety in a rational manner via the help of others.

We become different people in recovery. More considerate of others, more emotionally mature and emotionally sober.

We learn to deal with situations which used to baffle us! In dealing with these we deal with our alcoholism because we solve the problems that used to make us drink or use in the first place.

We have moved Theme!?

As you can see The Alcoholics Guide to Alcoholism has moved to a new blog theme!

This blog theme will hopefully be more easy to read and more in keeping with my intention to keep blogs below 600 words and to be more about recovery from addiction rather than the disease/disorder of addictive behaviour.

However some readers may have an issue with reading on top of a visual image/photograph?

Let me know if you find it kinda difficult reading this new blog?

A TIP – scroll the words as you read  up to the top of the page where it is uniformly grey and easy to read.

That’s what I do anyway.

I liked and picked  it because it catches that desperate loneliness of walking the beach in the rain at the end of my alcoholism.

Trying to work out your future when it felt so bleak and devoid of hope. Reminds me of when I was so confused about what the hell had happened to me and why my life had turned out so miserably?

I remember this beach walks very well indeed.

I live 5-10  minutes from the beach. I would escape there in the rain because I knew there would no one there.

I could be alone in my desperation.

By this stage I felt no one knew what I was going through or no one could help. I was beyond human aid, but in a way I had not comprehended yet.

You know you are in a desperate place when you can get no enjoyment out of walking on a beach.

Being on a beach with my wife, friends, family or with my dogs made me more acutely aware than anywhere else of my utter desolation, my absolute disconnection with all the good things in life.

In the last 9 months of my active alcoholism I walked the beach while in alcoholic psychosis, until the hallucinations got too severe and  me too fearfully paranoid resorted to living in the attic room in our house.

 

Inside the alcoholic brain has moved into The Alcoholics Guide to Alcholism’s old theme as   I felt the old theme for Inside the Alcoholic Brain was way too wordy and off putting for potential readers.

I have also lost one of the three columns on the blog page in order to make the blog site easier to read. I hope you agree?

Please drop me a comment to let me know if you think the changes I have made to this blog help it or hinder it,  have improved the readability and accessibility of this blog or not?

If you are still walking that beach please get in touch?

There is a solution to your problem.

The Power of Identification!!

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!

Self Diagnosing Alcoholism

For those reading who feel they may a problem with alcoholism I will attempt to help you self diagnose.

I personally came into recovery via AA after my local doctor/GP, stated quite unequivocally that he thought I was an alcoholic. I was with my wife at the time.  The scales fell from our respective eyes.

Oh that’s it!? It wasn’t my troubled childhood, the premature death of my parents, my various difficulties with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, etc etc. It was because I was an alcoholic!

I have no doubt that the above factors contributed to the severity of my alcoholism but the other psychiatric issues I now consider to have been substance induced disorders which have either dissipated in recovery or have been treated in some way by a 12 step recovery?

Regardless of GP’s diagnosis of alcoholism I still need to self diagnosis.  I could not recover from alcoholism based on someone else’s diagnosis, however helpful. I had to identify myself as an alcoholic. Acceptance of this condition was the first step in recovery for me and countless others.

In the early days acceptance is based on acceptance of a destructive relationship with alcohol.

How do we define this relationship, this alcoholism?

There are various definitions of alcoholism mainly centring on  continued use of alcohol despite negative consequences. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymmous (1) simply states  “If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic.  “.

This useful useful article (2) discusses the “loss of control over drinking” concept, which academic studies have failed to prove or disprove in laboratory settings.

I believe this loss of control can occur spontaneously or over several drinking episodes. It is not an all or nothing phenomenon like the “allergy” concept of the Doctor’s Opinion in the Big Book. It is variable.

The return to uncontrolled drinking can take one drinking session for some or a number of drinking sessions for others.

“The loss-of-control phenomenon is the essence of any addiction and certainly of AD.

This refers to the inability of the AD person to predict with any degree of certainty how much he or she will imbibe from one drinking episode to the next.

Clinically, once the drinking episode starts, the AD person will be unable to stop in the middle of the episode without a very great struggle. Useful questions at interview include asking 1) whether patients feel compelled to continue drinking or find it very hard to stop drinking; 2) once they start, whether they find themselves drinking more than they wanted to or had planned to; and 3) whether they make rules to attempt to control their drinking through external means.

It is important to distinguish the loss-of-control phenomenon from craving. The former has to do with the inability to stop drinking once started.

The loss-of-control phenomenon occurs within a drinking episode. Forms of craving occur between drinking episodes. The loss-of-control phenomenon continues to be a scientific puzzle.

Despite ongoing research inquiry over many years, neuroscience has yet to define the CNS changes underlying the loss-of-control phenomenon that characterizes dependence.

Clinically, however, longitudinal studies of abstinence make it clear that once the control of drinking behavior departs, it does not return in most cases (3).

It cannot be relearned or reconstituted. In this sense, a diagnosis of dependence signals a permanent condition—including a permanent risk of uncontrolled drinking. “

 

 

  1. Alcoholics Anonymous. (2001). Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition. New York: A.A. World Services.
  2. Beresford, T. P. (2007). What is addiction, what is alcoholism?. Liver Transplantation13(S2), S55-S58.
  3. Vaillant GE. The Natural History of Alcoholism, Revisited. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1995.