Alcoholism

Shame About Alcohol Use May Increase The Likelihood Of Relapse

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia, shows that behavioral displays of shame strongly predicted whether recovering alcoholics would relapse in the future.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130204114246.htm

Denial Ain’t Just A River In Africa

When we get into recovery, regardless of the path we take, it won't be long until someone tells that us we are in denial about something. In fact, the chances are good that we heard that a number of times before we even thought about recovery. But what is denial?

Actually, denial is an important part of coping with day to day living. If we accepted as fact everything unpleasant that someone said about us, we wouldn’t be able to function very well, if at all. If we weren’t able to put aside the tragic reality of a death in the family and tend to business, we’d never be able to get through it. Denial helps us overlook the rough spots in life so that the immediate impact is lessened, and we can deal with the issues gradually. However, it becomes a problem when we use it to help us ignore important issues.

Denial is of interest to addicts (and therapists) when it gets in the way of our recognition of behavioral problems. We alcoholics and other addicts use denial to smooth the path of our addictions, help us ignore the cold, hard facts, and continue doing what our instincts tell us we have to do. It becomes automatic. In order to recover we need to be able to recognize denial, become able to see the effect it is having on our recovery, and adjust our thinking. As the old 12-step saying goes,

Lying to others is rude, but lying to ourselves is often fatal.

There are many forms of denial, and all sorts of names to describe them. We’ve listed some of the common ones, with examples of how we use them to protect our addictive behavior. There are dozens of other examples and names, but denial generally falls into the following categories.

Normalizing: “Everyone has a few drinks on a weekend” (their birthday, to celebrate, during the game, etc.) “A couple of beers never hurt anyone.” (See minimizing)

Minimizing: “I only had a couple! (Of 6-packs). “I only drink socially.” (Five nights a week) “I might have had a couple more than I should have.” (I couldn’t stand up.)

Rationalizing: “I don’t have a problem, I’ve quit for months at a time. I just don’t feel like stopping right now.” “I have to socialize with people, it’s part of my job!” “It’s a prescription drug; my doctor knows what he’s doing.”  “I deserve it!”

Comparing: “Joe’s been married three times, in jail twice, lost his license and has to go to those meetings. That’s what happens when you drink too much. I’m doing fine.”

Uniqueness: “You don’t understand.” “If I go to treatment now, the business will fall apart and fifty people will lose their jobs.” “My family has an exceptional capacity for alcohol. I never get drunk.”

Deflecting is making jokes, changing the subject, angry outbursts that intimidate the opponent, threats, “important” phone calls, blowups when confronted and similar ways to take the focus off the issue.

Omitting: Leaving out information, or telling just enough of the story to satisfy the other person while leaving out the part that will get you in more trouble. “The doc said my health is great!” (Except if I don’t stop drinking I’ll be dead in five years.) Simply ignoring the other person’s remarks falls under this category as well.

Blaming: “If you had to put up with (my wife, boss, kids).” “I was doing just fine until I found George doing lines in the bathroom.” “The doctor keeps giving me prescriptions!”

Intellectualizing: This is coming up with all sorts of explanations that “obviously” anyone who thinks about the matter has to agree with, in an attempt to make questioners feel off base and uninformed. “The latest studies show that a couple of drinks a day are good for you.” It’s also a good way to fool ourselves.

Poor Me: “I’ve tried and I just can’t quit. I can’t do it no matter how hard I try.” “I give up, I’m just going to die drunk.” “My life’s in the toilet, I might as well….”

Manipulating is using power, lies, money, sex, or guilt to defuse the issue. “Remember who you’re talking to here!” “Don’t talk that way to your mother!” “Would I ever say something like that to you?” “Mommy doesn’t need to know about this. Here’s some money. Go shopping”

Compartmentalizing is doing things that you keep separate from other parts of your life. If you find yourself thinking something like “If he only knew,” or “If anyone ever found out,” then you’re compartmentalizing.

If we're honest with ourselves, it probably won't take us long to recognize some of our old — and perhaps not so old — tricks.  And maybe, just maybe, we ought to pay attention to the next person who accuses us of denial.

 

Compulsion

I was thinking about ways to explain addiction to someone the other day.  I spent quite a while thinking about the various characteristics of us addicts, and the one thing that I came up with that seemed to cover us all is compulsion: as applied to addicts, a strong, usually irresistible impulse to do things that are not in our best interest.

I was actively addicted to other drugs and behavior as well, but the one that brought me to recovery was alcohol.  Something else would have, but I drank the longest and booze got to me first.  I remember the compulsion so clearly.

Originally, I didn't notice it.  I drank and drugged when it wasn't an especially good idea for quite a while, and eventually all the time, but I made excuses why it was okay.  I needed to sleep, and a drink or a pill (or both) would help. Those people were such a pain that I needed a drink to mellow out before going to that dinner party.  When I got there, it would have been rude not to have a drink (or a line) when offered.  And of course, after the first couple, the rest seemed like a very good idea indeed.

As the old saying goes, “denial ain't just a river in Africa.”  A good solid dose of that commodity enabled me to justify the things I was compelled to do, and to overlook that fact that they weren’t in my best interest and that I had to do them.

Toward the end, though, it wasn't that way.  Some months before I got clean and sober, the excuses ran out.  The other drug use, which mainly supported my drinking, may or may not have been out of control, but I was obviously powerless when it came to booze.  The times when I tried not to drink, or not drink more and failed, were countless.  I felt ashamed.  I felt hopeless.  I felt as though I was no longer in control of my life — and I wasn't.

I would come home from work determined to have a couple of beers, and kill a six-pack and half a bottle of vodka or rum.  I have absolutely no idea how much I drank or how many drugs I used on my days off.  Knowing that I couldn’t drink on the job (although I eventually did that too), I took pills provided by a helpful doctor to deal with the urge for the eight hours until I could get to a bottle.  I’d tell myself that I wasn’t going to drink — that I couldn’t drink — and yet I always did.  I never got to the point of withdrawal.  I didn't drink or use because I was sick, I did it because I could, and because I had to.  With alcohol and other drugs in my system, I was powerless.  I was unable to stop doing something that I knew was not only not in my best interest, but that I knew was killing me.

Eventually I reached the point of giving up.  I knew I had to drink, had no idea that I could actually quit, and figured I’d end up dying drunk.  Over time — a short time — it became clear that it wouldn’t take much longer.  I carried a gun for a living, and I knew exactly how to use it.

Well, I got lucky and an intervention brought me to treatment and  sobriety.   When I got sober I found that I was no longer powerless over some of my addictions (as long as I didn't use), but that there were other compulsions that needed attention.  Although I was clean of alcohol and other drugs, I still smoked, and I decided that I couldn’t go around calling myself clean and sober unless I finished the job.  It took me three years to kick the most dangerous addiction of all, but a couple of weeks ago I had twenty years smoke-free as well.  Yay me!  And I mean that.  It was harder than getting sober.  I couldn’t have done it without my program of recovery.  Quitting’s not for sissies.

I remember those compulsions.  Do I ever!  The need for a drink.  The need for nicotine.  The need for another pill.  I remember the lies I told myself: that one more wouldn’t hurt; that I’d quit as soon as (insert excuse) was over and I could relax a little.  That I'd cut down. That the next one wouldn’t kill me.  I remember.  It scares me to death.  I like my life too much to take the chance of encouraging those compulsions to return, so I don’t use.  Chemicals controlled my life: where I could go, who I could go with, what I could do, and when.

I like freedom.

The 10 Best Addiction Novels

There are numerous examples of classic fiction—from Burroughs to Selby and Thompson—that focus on addiction. Here are our top 10 contemporary favorites that are (somewhat) off the beaten path.

The 10 Best Addiction Novels — From “The Fix”

What is the Choice Model of Addiction?

In simple terms, the choice model of addiction contradicts the “disease” approach employed in 12 step treatment by stating that each individual is able to choose whether he or she uses drugs. Whilst some advocates of the 12 step approach will concede that drug use is initially a choice which then develops into a brain disease, supporters of the choice model refuse to accept that a disease has anything to do with addiction at all. They believe that choices were made to start using drugs, and therefore that choices can be made to stop. The debate between these two camps has raged for decades, and shows no signs of abating.

Read more at Everything Addiction – What is the Choice Model of Addiction?

NOTE: Sunrise Detox supports the disease model, but believes the important thing is recovery, not arguments.

Trusting Your Gut

Every now and again, we hear someone in recovery say, “Trust your gut.”  They're right.

There is nothing mystical about hunches, intuition, and trusting your gut. We are, each of us, the sum total of billions of experiences, and we remember many of them on some level. We are well-equipped to let our subconscious minds help us out with problems, armed as they are with that wealth of experience, but we often force ourselves to ignore those gut feelings — the feeling that something is just sort of “icky.”

We want to do something, say something, buy something, to fill that empty place inside, and we think up all sorts of ways to justify our wants to ourselves and ignore the message that our subconscious mind is sending loud and clear. Then we go on with the self-deception and make up ways to justify whatever it is to others – our partner, our business associates, our sponsors, our friends – but, ultimately, to ourselves again.

Healthy ideas seldom need justification. Feeling a need to explain, to justify, should tell us that something’s wrong somewhere. It may simply be a neurotic need on our part to assure ourselves and everyone else that we’re really OK, but there’s also an excellent possibility that we’re about to venture where we ought to fear to tread, guided by the child inside who is telling us it’s OK because I Want, I Want, I Want.

In either case, there are two possible clues: the urge to hide whatever it is, or the urge to justify it. Both should set off our alarms.  Learn to trust your gut instead, and live accordingly. A happier life is guaranteed.

Beginners’, Gender-Specific and Specialty Meetings

There are a variety of 12-step meetings, in addition to those discussed previously, that are designed to meet the needs of specific populations and purposes.

Beginners’ (Newcomers’) Meetings

Typically held before “regular” 12-step meetings, and often of shorter duration, beginner’s meetings usually concentrate on the first three steps, or on other issues especially affecting beginners.  The effectiveness of these meetings is largely dependent upon the skills and attention brought to bear by the leader(s). Outside speakers are often brought in to talk about their early recovery or other more specific issues. On occasion, a panel of “old-timers” may be convened to answer the newcomers’ questions.

Beginners’ meetings are an excellent resource for newcomers, and are also a wonderful way to become acquainted with others in the group.

Gender-Specific Meetings

The subjects of mixed-gender sponsorship, “13th-Stepping”, newcomers in relationships and other issues of poorly-focused recovery are best left for another time. Suffice it to say that it has been found inadvisable to do too much gender mixing, especially in early recovery. People who don’t know how to have relationships with themselves  have no business in relationships involving lust, sex and whatever they imagine passes for “love.”

There are a number of axioms in NA and AA regarding separation of gender groups in recovery, perhaps best summed up in the popular one used by our women members, “Women will save your butt. Men will just pat it.”  For this and simple reasons of common issues and answers, we have men’s meetings, women’s meetings, gay meetings and trans-gender meetings. Obviously, in most cases, each is limited to people of that gender or gender preference.

“Specialty” 12-Step Meetings

There is a fairly broad range of meetings that need a bit of explanation. Although they generally fall into the category of “discussion” meetings, they have aspects that set them a bit apart.

As Bill Sees It meetings are similar in format to Big Book meetings, but are based on the book of the same name, a collection of Bill Wilson’s writings from various sources. This format lends itself to broad topics that are indexed in the back of the book.

Living Sober­ meetings are also based on a book of the same name. This paperback book, official AA literature, contains 30 short articles on various aspects of the sober life and how to deal with them. The format is generally the same as the other literature study meetings.

Grapevine meetings are based on the AA Grapevine, a monthly magazine published by AA The magazine contains a variety of articles and letters that make excellent topics for discussion, including at least three each issue that are intended to be used that way.

Old Timers’ meetings usually involve a panel of members with a good deal of sobriety under their belts. (No one has actually ever defined “old-timer” specifically. It’s generally accepted that if you have 20 years of continuous sobriety, you are one, and if you have 5 years you probably aren’t. Clearly, there’s a wide gray area.) In any case, these folks answer questions posed by members from the floor.

Askit Basket meetings are similar to Old-Timers’ meetings. Members write questions on pieces of paper, which are placed in a collection basket or someone’s hat. A panel of experienced members answers questions drawn at random, after which there is a general discussion. This format allows shy people to ask  questions anonymously, and is usually quite popular.

Meditation meetings, also called Eleventh Step Meetings, follow a variety of formats, generally centered on a reading or short discussion of a particular idea, and then guided or unguided meditation on the subject. Often there is a period of discussion after the meditation period, as well.

Business and Group Conscience Meetings

Business meetings are for discussing the everyday operation of the group: who will chair meetings, who will find speakers, who will be the General Services Representative, and so forth. Secretaries and Treasurers are elected at these meetings. The twelve-step groups do not have presidents, etc. “Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”

Group conscience meetings are called when needed to resolve non-business issues. They are often held before or after business meetings in order to arrive at a consensus regarding a problem or potential problem that may have arisen within the group. This could, for example, involve whether or not to move the location of meetings, or how to deal with subjects such as discussing other drugs at AA meetings.

It is extremely important that we attend these meetings. They are the primary means by which we may let our ideas about our home groups affect their operation. If we do not attend group conscience and business meetings, we have no right to complain about the way our groups are being run.