To make the discussion process a bit more open, I've created a bulletin board for those interested in posting their own experiences and discussing them. The webboard is a beta, that means it might move somewhere else if we get enough response, and intended as a companion product, not a replacement to this weblog.
If you are interested in creating your own forum, send me an email, and I'll add it for you, as long as it's even slightly related to the topic :)
The DNS might be not fully propagated at this point, so if you get a "host not found" message, try it a few times more, some of the DNS servers already carry the assignment.
Mon, 26 Jan 2004, 06:39
I knew a woman in AA, well... NA actually. I don't draw a hard line between the two. If you have a problem with alcohol you're welcome either place. Alcohol is a drug and if you quit drinking but substitute another intoxicant then one might wonder regarding your progress. I'm reminded of the time I tried to quit smoking cigarettes by substituting a joint whenever I wanted a cigarette, but that's another story.
The serenity prayer speaks of "the things I cannot change." Largely, for me, this means the past. There it is, the path I've traveled, my footsteps through some wonderful places and some dark and awful ones too.
This woman in NA used to talk about "the yets." "The yets" helped her stay clean and sober. They helped her to focus on not drinking when she wanted a drink, because while she could remember some pretty dismal times drunk, she felt fortunate that there were plenty of "yets" out there.
She hadn't been to prison. Yet.
She hadn't contracted HIV. Yet.
She hadn't lost custody of her daughter. Yet.
There were lots of other "yets."
She was a woman with "the courage to change," and by reflecting on the "yets," the possible consequences of NOT changing, she was helped along the path to sobriety.
You know, you are drinking too much, maybe you even fear or know you are addicted to alcohol? This is a weblog, a personal journal kept by a few individuals who are in the process of quitting alcohol, or have in the past. While we are always willing to help, there are local organizations right around the corner from you, who might be a better first step.
If you know someone, who is addicted, and would like to know what you can do, to help, read on down, I have some resources for you, too.
If you want to quit - do yourself, and your body a favor: See your doctor. Your primary physician is a great resource. And here's why:
- Your doctor is obligated to keep quiet. No gossip, no rumors. Just you, and him/her.
- Your doctor knows you. He can help you right now, right there. He can also help you, once you kicked the habit, to rebuild what is lost.
- Believe it, or not :), but you're not the only one who has this problem. Your doctor knows the resources that are available in the area, has heard good and bad stories about them, and will help you find the best, fastest, least resistance, way out.
If you don't have a primary care physician, you should get one. Who else will tell you, how much healthier you are, in a few weeks? :) If you've seen a doctor, find a group of people. The biggest, and best known, self-help organization is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). I've assembled a few links below. AA is a faith-based organization, which might not be your cup of tea. If that is the case, ask your doctor for a local secular self-help group or recovery program.
Please understand, that we assembled this list as an initial step for you. Things on the Internet may change, or organizations may close or move. We're not experts in alcohol recovery, we're just someone like you, ready to kick the habit or hoping a loved one, will.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the best known Alcohol Rehabilitation and Recovery organization. There is an AA in virtually every town, so it's a very easily accessible program. AA is usually free (donations accepted), protects your privacy and openly welcomes new members. AA is a faith based recovery program, which does not (and can not) prescribe medications. It is also run by volunteer laymen, not professional counselors.
Friends and families of Alcoholics may find help and resources at the local Al-Anon/Alateen chapter. Like AA, both are free of charge (donations accepted), and use the AA twelve-step program. Alateen is also helping teenage alcoholics with tools and sessions designed for younger addicts. Al-Anon meetings are held in 115 countries. There are over 24,000 Al-Anon and over 2,300 Alateen groups worldwide.
Alcoholics Victorious is a Christian faith-based organization. AV uses the twelve steps like AA, but in a Christian, not spiritual, context.
A.R.T.S is a twelve-step (faith-based) program for artists.
JACS is the Jewish equivalent to AV.
DRA is a twelve-step program, but it also offers psychological disorder treatments. Psychological or psychiatric disorders are not seldom causes or supporting causes of alcohol addiction.
Preface: My personal vote for the "Quote of the Week": "[...] it's a lot easier to identify your demons and deal with them when you are lucid and by yourself than when you're drunk." - Joi Ito.
In the "more food for thought" group, let's take a quick look at the root causes (or "demons") for someone's dependence on substances, This is actually a very important topic, one that is addressed in all recovery programs I have looked at, even though each approach uses a different method, depending on its understanding of the root causes.
Quite often, when we discuss dependence, we are confronted with labels, such as "addictive personality" or "peer pressure". But what, exactly, does this mean?
An "addictive personality" can be explained in multiple ways. For some, becoming addicted or dependent, is a moral dysfunction, not quite like but similar to, say, lying, stealing, or being lazy. Others take a more secular approach, and try psychological explanations of the cause, all of which, in the end, wind up being summarized under "addictive personality".
FWIW, I don't viciously believe in addictive personalities per se. Using a substance to the point, where dependence develops, can have numerous causes, however, and I am willing to concede, that there might be such a thing.
Let's quickly go over the various schools of thought, addiction is associated with:
Addiction and Dependence as a Moral Dysfunction
This school of thought recognizes addictive tendencies and addiction as a "weakness" in any individuals moral system. One of the oldest schools of thought, it strives for recovery by implementing moral guidelines, support, and tries to foster a non-addictive lifestyle by re-organizing value systems and belief structures.
The School of Physiological Dysfunctions
When medical professionals first encountered the psychiatric effects of Syphilis on patients, a new school of thought, Physiological Psychology, was born. This school understands addictions as a result of actual physiological and somatic factors, such as imbalances in an individual's brain chemistry and metabolism. Physiological psychologists also spearheaded the research into self-medicating dependencies, in which an individual's addiction becomes an attempt to overcome another dysfunction. PP scholars suggest medical treatment and habit-reorientation as recovery strategies.
Physiological Psychology acknowledges the existence of certain somatic deviations, such as a hormonal imbalance, which can lead to earlier dependency and, ultimately, to addiction, if remaining untreated. Along these lines, another phenomenon, called "self medication" is worth examining. In a recent study (Harbert et al., 2002), a joint French-American research team concluded, that over forty percent of the surveyed individuals with a known dependence on alcohol, also suffered from mild to medium imbalances in hormonal levels in the brain, as opposed to only nine percent in a similarly sized control group. The two most prevalent disorders found are subsets of obsessive compulsive disorders and attention deficit disorders.
How does this fit into dependence? Simple - your metabolism has an amazingly accurate memory. Deficits are noted and remedies are learned from very early ages on. Once learned, remedies are sought out (or "craved") through somatic and psychological means. One example, quite widely known, are the cravings women develop during their pregnancies. The changing metabolism, as well as the need to satisfy new and developing requirements in the mother's body, trigger the cravings based on learned events.
A person suffering from mild ADD or OCPD may not be aware of the imbalances in its brain. Some of the great thinkers and developers of pretty much every century we have enough data to make a wild guess on, seem to have suffered from slight personality disorders, Einstein, for example, would today be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.
Once a substance, which may remedy or - in the brain's eye - positively influence such an imbalance, is introduced, the same effect we discussed with food above, comes into play. But that might not be all. Some might also witness external changes. The shy boy who finally manages to approach a girl and even flirt, for example, might trigger a proxy reaction in the brain, which notices the reward - positive feelings, "butterflies" - and associates the changed state - intoxication.
This is all not to say, that every drinker, and even most of the heavily dependent ones, are somehow afflicted with a personality disorder. It is, however, a possibility.
Society can be hardly held to a standard at which the inner workings of the brain are known and immediately apparent to the casual observer. It has, thusly, based on observation and trial, developed its own labels, such as the "addictive personality". In the end, it is important, how a remedy works, if it does, to paraphrase Hippocrates.
For those about to quit (we salute you), it is however important to understand the reasons one became dependant in the first pace. Sheer will-power, spiritualism, a regiment of living sober and staying away from the substance, can be very effective, yet it might lead to the development of substitute dependencies if the underlying cause remains untreated.
It is also important to understand the dependency cut-over, most addicts will experience. Once a dependency cut-over has happened, consuming the substance is no longer a means to self-medicate, it is entirely focused towards managing the status quo, not to improve it.
For the shy boy, maybe it's all better now. He's graduated from college, has a wife and a kid, and a very satisfying job. He still gets butterflies every once in a while, and his success serves as a powerful generator of all those brain chemistry changes he wants. For him, all would be well, if he could break that habit.
For others, attempting to recover from an addiction, may unveil the root causes again, leading to substitute habituation, such as a new addiction or dysfunction, if the root cause for the original dependency is not discovered and properly treated.
Technically, I am not quitting. I quit on New Years Day 2000, and haven't had as much as a sip of alcohol since then. Not-so-technically, I am quitting, of course. Not to drink is a very active decision, and a good one, at that. Just for example, here are some things, that will happen if you quit:
- Your sleeping habits will return to pre-drinking days. Think you're sleeping great, today? Try to remember your deep and very satisfying slumbers, when you were a child. That's what's in store for you.
- The bacterial layer in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach will regenerate, helping you to faster process food, and indirectly in weight-loss.
- Speaking about weight-loss - not drinking alcohol is a great way to lose some pounds and keep 'em off.
- Your brain will quickly (within six to ten weeks) readapt. Quicker thinking is an immediate benefit, but you will also be less prone to mood changes, anger, and your memory will improve. Not to mention, you will be more alert, less irritable, and always that notch above the competition when you need it.
- Your organs will recover from a state of (in-)frequent intoxication. Your biggest organ, your skin, will look healthier in no time flat. Makes for great compliments, when you add the lost pounds.
And that's just a few of the gazillions of benefits, not drinking has on you, and your body. I could go for hours, without even mentioning the toll, alcoholic beverages take on your liver, kidneys, and heart.
Of course, sometimes we need a little help quitting. Keeping a diary is one of the things, that can help. So can talking to others, seeking and finding support, and making sure everyone knows, you're now an ex-drinker. And, if there has ever been a great way to do this, it's the modern world of micro-content publishing. There are lots of professional help groups and offers, if you want the additional advantage. Have a look at AlcoholMD, which - despite its less than convincing HTML design job (Any freelancers out there? Maybe you should make them an offer...?) - has a great collection of Alcohol related resources for both professionals and individuals. There is a free registration required, if you want to see the "professionals" section, and I am happy to report that since I signed up on the site quite some time ago, they never abused or even used my email address or other data.
Welcome to you new, improved, alcohol free life. You'll like it over here, I promise.