No one is unaffected. This is an equal-opportunity disease. Nobody is too smart, too rich, too religious, or too cool to be immune. Addictions are in every neighborhood, every church, every profession, and in most families.
Addiction/alcoholism is a disease. It is not a weakness any more than diabetes or heart disease. There is a genetic link that runs in families. This has been shown in identical twin studies where they were raised in different families. Like all diseases, it is marked by identifiable symptoms and has a predictable course.
The earliest signs of a genetic predisposition to alcoholism are high tolerance and blackouts. When you hear people bragging about how much they can drink or how they got so wasted that they don’t remember, you are looking at probable alcoholism. Later signs include financial, legal, vocational, relational problems, physical withdrawal signs, and continuing to drink in spite of all these problems.
Alcoholics and addicts drink and use drugs for the same reasons as everyone else: to change how they feel. Later they use the substances to prevent withdrawal because they are physically sick, and to get temporary relief from the shame and guilt.
Regular and prolonged use of mood changing chemicals actually changes the brain. Any chemical that changes how we feel manipulates our neurochemistry. When used repeatedly, our brains shut down receptor sites and stop making our own natural neurochemicals thus, withdrawal and craving. It takes years for the brain to return to normal.
Treatment works. There are a wide variety of treatment programs. Everything a person needs is readily available. Many people find what they need in AA or one of the 40 different 12-step programs modeled after AA. There are outpatient programs, in-patient programs, short and long-term recovery homes, detox, etc. Like all chronic diseases, relapse is a constant danger. Ask any smoker.
It is not true that you have to wait for someone to ask for help. The earlier the intervention the better and there are lots of ways to do an intervention, not just the way you’ve seen on TV. Addictions are very serious. They lead to death and cause total havoc to the alcoholic and everyone around them.
The stigma about having alcoholism is the biggest barrier to getting help. The widespread belief that addicts are weak, sinful, immoral, and deserve our scorn causes people to deny that there is a problem. The average alcoholic drinks for 7 years before anyone in the family talks about it and 3 more years go by before anyone takes action. Hope is not an effective strategy. Action is required.
Some people have an addiction in addition to problems like depression, ADD, mood disorders, or another mental illness. When this occurs, the addiction and the other problem needs to be treated or nothing will work. In these cases, it’s all or nothing.
Addictions are progressive, powerful, baffling, cunning, and patient. This is way beyond the experience of non-addicted people and can be scarcely imagined. Addictions have the power to take control of someone’s life, cause them to violate their values, and keep doing it in spite of the consequences.
Recovery is not obtained, it is maintained. Call me today to schedule a meeting with a certified, professional, and experienced counselor.
Powerlessness is picking up another drink when every instinct in your heart, mind and body begs you to stop. Powerlessness is drinking again and again and again and again until you pass out. Powerlessness is then waking up to repeat the insanity. Powerlessness is acknowledging to your family and friends that you have a disease that may kill you and may kill someone else but you cannot stop. It’s a force that controls who you’re with, where you go and what you do.
Powerlessness is waking up and not knowing what happened the night before. It’s lying to yourself. It’s lying to other people. It’s a continual, gnawing, mind numbing fear day after day as you second guess yourself, check yourself and worry about whether someone knows. Do my eyes look okay? Does my breath smell okay? Does this person know? Does that person know? Does everyone think I’m okay?
Powerlessness is the dry heaves as you stare down into a vomit filled commode and hope you see no blood. It’s shaking with delirium tremens until you can’t sign your name or lift a fork to your mouth. And you hope no one notices. Powerlessness is an awkward look of coworkers as they turn away when you shuffle into the room. You worry about time you’ve been gone, work left behind and fear a call from the front office. Then the phone rings.
Powerlessness is the blue lights of a police cruiser flashing again in a rearview mirror and you know what is to come. It’s an officer pushing your head downward as you’re placed in the backseat while staring motorists glide past on the highway. Powerlessness is a heavy, dull clang of a jailhouse door locking again behind you in a crowded cell as you search for a place to sit. The lights are always on, someone’s screaming and cursing and you don’t know when you’ll eat or sleep again. Powerlessness is drinking out of a water faucet and taking a shit in front of strangers as you worry about begging again for someone to bail you out. It’s being guarded by people who hate you and a few who want to hurt you. And they know they can get away with it if they’re careful.
Powerlessness is standing again in front of a judge and knowing that all of your second chances are gone. It is being broken and bankrupt with a desperate, shameful guilt. You’re too scared to live and too afraid to die and all you want is one more drink.
This is what powerlessness is all about.
Content copyright 2014. Scott Dunbar. All rights reserved.
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