I was quiet about my addiction for many years except among close friends and family. Then a couple of years ago I realized it was like so many things, that those with courage needed to bring it out of the closet so it would no longer have the stigmatism of all dark, shadowy, hidden, terrible diseases, which seems to go hand-in-hand with misinformation. My topic today will be on some of that misinformation. I am not a doctor, but a highly informed SOBER addict — MANY years sober.
What prompted my choice for “A” (besides being able to write this in my sleep) is a family member writing to me about a miracle cure, a drug that you can give alcoholics to cure their disease. I am the go-to gal in our family about addiction, having stayed sober for almost half my life now and being willing to talk about. Having just buried my brother, who died of alcoholism, also helps, in that it is a hot topic in our family.
1) THERE ARE NO DRUGS WHICH CURE ADDICTION BY THEMSELVES. Alcoholism is a disease that involves a HIGHLY addictive substance and a diseased mind with a propensity to become addicted. There are drugs which may help you stop drinking (temporarily) and this may clear the brain fog to allow helpful information to enter. But there is no drug which cures addiction.
2) The 12 STEP PROGRAM WORKS, AND IS NOT ABOUT G-O-D. It is why Alcoholic Anonymous is superior to rehab clinics. It is about busting the alcoholic ego down to size, which is why you need to turn it over to a higher authority. For many that is God. But for the sake of the program, it can be finding a good sponsor and doing what they tell you to do. Trust is important, and so, picking a good sponsor to work the program is also.
Alcoholic egos are driven by their belief in their ability to make all things happen — they have the power, the control in their lives. When things go wrong it is never their fault, but someone else’s fault. Many live in the past, blaming people from years gone by for events which are happening now. Adult sober people don’t do this. They don’t blame the way they were raised for their marriage falling apart at 50-years-old. Yes, everything in life contributes for who you are, but a sober adult gets help when things are going wrong.
Even if those around them can see how their pushing the river the same old way isn’t getting them anywhere fast, and booze is taking them out, they can’t see it. Alcohol somehow bolsters the alcoholic logic, masks the mechanism in the mind for clarity, soothes the pain and tricks them into believing they are okay as they are walking firmly into certain death. They need to see how they don’t have the control, how life happens, which is frightening. This is said very simplistically, but it is what’s so about the boozy mind.
I have asked those I sponsored to look for one incident everyday and write it down, whereby they were given a gift or something nice happened and they did nothing to create that happening. For some, the first thing they spoke to me about was someone saving their life by knocking on their door when they were dying of pills or alcohol. But it can be a warm phone call at the right time, flowers given freely, or “buy-you-a-cup-of-coffee?” The point is that the nice event happened without the addict orchestrating it. When an addict begins to see these daily, it is another way for them to let go of having to control everything.
If you are in a big city, it is easier to find meetings which are for atheists, or Buddhists (where the g-o-d word is not as predominate), or even goddess or nature oriented meetings. In a small community it may be hard to impossible to find such meetings, but if you stand up at a meeting and ask for a sponsor that can discuss the 12-step program without the g-o-d word you should find someone. I have sponsored such folks successfully without mentioning Buddhism or God, but finding out their language and speaking the words they needed to relate to while giving up control.
3) IT TAKES A VILLAGE. I have tried unsuccessfully to help a family member out who was drowning in his addiction, and I am adept. You alone can’t do an intervention. It takes everyone in the family, and many good friends, to band together so the addict is hearing this from everyone. Even then it may not work (see #4 below.) No one should agree to the addicts lies, everyone should tell them how her/his drinking is effecting them personally when asked, no one should drink with them. Call the cops if the alcoholic is leaving drunk and you can’t hide the keys. (Otherwise you are culpable for the drunk driving.) A DUI is a big deal, but then, maiming someone (one of my nephews was hit by a drunk) or killing someone is a much bigger deal. DUI’s can be wake-up calls. The caller won’t be popular. If you want to help someone stop drinking be prepared not to be popular with the addict.
I recommend everyone go to an open meeting of AA (where non-alcoholics can visit) to see first hand what AA is all about.
4) BOTTOMING OUT is different for everyone. I was lucky — or a bit more conscious — and had a shrink that knew a good bit about addiction and told me I was an accident waiting to happen. I had years of meditation under my belt, so could “hear” my mind running its number. I saw the warning signs as I was stepping into it. For most, it is a DUI (with their family/friends truthful support), divorce, losing custody due to drugs/booze, causing bodily harm, killing someone or a near death themselves. Again, it takes a village to not let them cop out during a time of bottoming out. Learn about co-dependency and enabling (which I will write about on “E.”)
5) Do not let someone who drinks a great deal detox outside a facility. Heroin and Cocaine may make you want to kill yourself during detox, but coming clean off a great deal of booze can kill you dead. I can’t speak to why — ask a doctor — but it has to do with blood sugar and liver. Detoxing from a case of beer a day can kill you. Continuing to drink a case of beer a day will give you esophageal cancer. Think about it.
6) IF THEY ARE WORKING THE PROGRAM AND COME TO YOU TO DO STEP FOUR: Set aside time and LISTEN. Don’t brush them off as if it doesn’t matter. Let them tell you what they remember doing to you and give them forgiveness when they ask for it or when they are done. This is the time to clear the deck of past wrongdoings. Be compassionate, but be truthful. Speak in terms of how it hurt you or embarrassed you and try to stay away from being mad. NOT ONE OF MY FAMILY MEMBERS OR FRIENDS LET ME DO THIS. Shy, uncomfortable? Whatever. I did mine with my sponsor.
BTW, of those that didn’t listen to my apology and truth, or brushed it off as unimportant, most bear grudges to this day and/or are alcoholics themselves. Most have not forgotten what I did and bring it up when they are mad. There is a wonderful cleansing in being truthful about what you did and allowing another to do the same, in asking for forgiveness and in giving it. It is a special kind of cleansing.
I plan on writing a few times on various aspects of addiction in this A-to-Z challenge. Check back!
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