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The Journey of Transformation

The pain of alcoholism–Part 2

March 26th, 2012 at 9:37
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The pain of alcoholism--Part 2

Beer, alcohol, drinking

It is dif­fi­cult for me to see how accepted alco­hol abuse is in our cul­ture. Drink­ing is per­va­sive and over-​drinking is tolerated.

I hear of young women and men who are close to los­ing their chil­dren due to neglect or out­right abuse. Their drug of choice may be mar­i­juana or metham­phet­a­mines, but what leads them back to these drugs is the drug alco­hol, because they and the world see it as harm­less. Friends and fam­ily say, “It is just a few drinks, that isn’t so bad.” They risk los­ing their kids so they do not have to give up the “plea­sure” of alco­hol and drug use.

I had a friend, a charm­ing South­ern woman, raised in grace and wealth. She was hos­pi­tal­ized in her fourth relapse, for drink­ing per­fume. She had used alco­hol all through her life to man­age lone­li­ness, inse­cu­rity and fear, and was encour­aged to drink to “calm your nerves.” She con­tin­ued to do just that, in what­ever form she could find, in spite of los­ing every­thing to her drinking.

I see a man who has had treat­ments since age 20, has destroyed his liver with alco­hol and now, in his late 50’s he relapses every few months. He has war­rants out for his arrest in three states, got his wife put in jail one night, is get­ting evicted for fre­quent police calls and blames every­one else for his prob­lems. His doc­tors tell him he will die if he drinks again, and yet he does drink again and again. Answer­ing a ques­tion of what prompted him to start again this time, he said, “I just wanted a beer while I watched the ball­game.” Just like a hun­dred thou­sand other guys on a Sun­day after­noon. How many of them will face liver dis­ease, divorce, DWI’s, job loss or worse? One in ten.

One in ten peo­ple who drink becomes alco­holic. It is the rare per­son who never tries alco­hol, because our soci­ety val­ues drink­ing, so almost every­one is at risk for alco­holism. Our cul­ture tends to see alco­hol as a nec­es­sary and wel­come part of life; with­out which, life would not be as reward­ing. Some peo­ple hold this belief, even when their fam­i­lies have been dev­as­tated by alco­holism. Because they don’t seem to have “alco­holic” strug­gles they take alco­hol use lightly. This frame­work tends to set up those per­sons who will have alco­holic struggles.

Over-​use of alco­hol is tol­er­ated, even accepted. By the time it is clear that a per­son can­not han­dle it like oth­ers, much dam­age is already done. Then, often that per­son is judged when the prob­lems mount and they can’t seem to drink like oth­ers do.

But maybe some of those peo­ple who take alco­hol use lightly are hav­ing more strug­gles than they are will­ing to admit. There is a wide range of symp­toms and results of alco­holism — from the obvi­ous late stage symp­toms (chronic, fre­quent overuse, mul­ti­ple prob­lems and con­se­quences, numer­ous losses, con­cern of oth­ers) to the less obvi­ous early to mid­dle stages, where alco­hol use is reg­u­lar, occa­sional prob­lems occur, rela­tion­ally, med­ically, legally or voca­tion­ally. There may be efforts at cut­ting back or quit­ting, but alco­hol use always returns; some­times worse than before. These per­sons (or some­one that loves them) may have con­cerns they are drink­ing too much, but they quickly jus­tify it and explain away the con­cerns, so they don’t have to feel uncom­fort­able about their drinking.

I often say to peo­ple that one sim­ple way to judge your rela­tion­ship with alco­hol is to ask: “Is my drink­ing the way I would like it to be, and if not, do my efforts to make it that way work?” In other words, if you wish and intend to not get drunk, does that work or do you still get drunk? Do you make promises to drink less but fail at it? Do you have remorse and fear about your drink­ing but con­tinue to drink any­way? Do you find your­self explain­ing to your­self or oth­ers why your drink­ing isn’t a prob­lem? Impor­tant ques­tions to ask, given 10% of drinkers become alcoholic.

It is widely believed that the only viable route for an alco­holic to take to get bet­ter is to abstain from alco­hol. I have seen this proven to be true over and over again.

Mak­ing a choice not to drink is not easy. It means giv­ing up the quick­est way to feel bet­ter. It means feel­ing acutely, life’s pain. It often means exclu­sion. It means the cul­ture is not sup­port­ive of what you are try­ing to do and sees it as abnor­mal. It fre­quently means a major life style overhaul.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_352” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”]AA, recovery, sobriety 1 Year AA Sobri­ety Chip[/caption]

I learned early in AA: “Recov­ery isn’t com­pli­cated; you just have to do one thing — CHANGE YOUR WHOLE LIFE.” Wouldn’t it be great if friends, fam­ily and neigh­bors were will­ing to change just a lit­tle bit of their lives to sup­port alco­holics change theirs by hav­ing some alcohol-​free events?

Beer, alcohol, drinking

It is difficult for me to see how accepted alcohol abuse is in our culture. Drinking is pervasive and over-drinking is tolerated.

I hear of young women and men who are close to losing their children due to neglect or outright abuse. Their drug of choice may be marijuana or methamphetamines, but what leads them back to these drugs is the drug alcohol, because they and the world see it as harmless. Friends and family say, “It is just a few drinks, that isn’t so bad.” They risk losing their kids so they do not have to give up the “pleasure” of alcohol and drug use.

I had a friend, a charming Southern woman, raised in grace and wealth. She was hospitalized in her fourth relapse, for drinking perfume. She had used alcohol all through her life to manage loneliness, insecurity and fear, and was encouraged to drink to “calm your nerves.” She continued to do just that, in whatever form she could find, in spite of losing everything to her drinking.

I see a man who has had treatments since age 20, has destroyed his liver with alcohol and now, in his late 50’s he relapses every few months. He has warrants out for his arrest in three states, got his wife put in jail one night, is getting evicted for frequent police calls and blames everyone else for his problems. His doctors tell him he will die if he drinks again, and yet he does drink again and again. Answering a question of what prompted him to start again this time, he said, “I just wanted a beer while I watched the ballgame.” Just like a hundred thousand other guys on a Sunday afternoon. How many of them will face liver disease, divorce, DWI’s, job loss or worse? One in ten.

One in ten people who drink becomes alcoholic. It is the rare person who never tries alcohol, because our society values drinking, so almost everyone is at risk for alcoholism. Our culture tends to see alcohol as a necessary and welcome part of life; without which, life would not be as rewarding. Some people hold this belief, even when their families have been devastated by alcoholism. Because they don’t seem to have “alcoholic” struggles they take alcohol use lightly. This framework tends to set up those persons who will have alcoholic struggles.

Over-use of alcohol is tolerated, even accepted. By the time it is clear that a person cannot handle it like others, much damage is already done. Then, often that person is judged when the problems mount and they can’t seem to drink like others do.

But maybe some of those people who take alcohol use lightly are having more struggles than they are willing to admit. There is a wide range of symptoms and results of alcoholism—from the obvious late stage symptoms (chronic, frequent overuse, multiple problems and consequences, numerous losses, concern of others) to the less obvious early to middle stages, where alcohol use is regular, occasional problems occur, relationally, medically, legally or vocationally. There may be efforts at cutting back or quitting, but alcohol use always returns; sometimes worse than before. These persons (or someone that loves them) may have concerns they are drinking too much, but they quickly justify it and explain away the concerns, so they don’t have to feel uncomfortable about their drinking.

 I often say to people that one simple way to judge your relationship with alcohol is to ask: “Is my drinking the way I would like it to be, and if not, do my efforts to make it that way work?” In other words, if you wish and intend to not get drunk, does that work or do you still get drunk? Do you make promises to drink less but fail at it? Do you have remorse and fear about your drinking but continue to drink anyway? Do you find yourself explaining to yourself or others why your drinking isn’t a problem? Important questions to ask, given 10% of drinkers become alcoholic.

It is widely believed that the only viable route for an alcoholic to take to get better is to abstain from alcohol. I have seen this proven to be true over and over again.

Making a choice not to drink is not easy. It means giving up the quickest way to feel better. It means feeling acutely, life’s pain. It often means exclusion. It means the culture is not supportive of what you are trying to do and sees it as abnormal. It frequently means a major life style overhaul.

AA, recovery, sobriety

1 Year AA Sobriety Chip

I learned early in AA: “Recovery isn’t complicated; you just have to do one thing—CHANGE YOUR WHOLE LIFE.” Wouldn’t it be great if friends, family and neighbors were willing to change just a little bit of their lives to support alcoholics change theirs by having some alcohol-free events?

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