Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So, am I ill or just an idiot?

That's a big ol' question up there in the title isn't it. If you have an opinion, please drop it in a comment.

I'm thinking thus, because there's not much to report from today. Another pretty routine (and thus successful and also unsuccessful one of sobriety).

Again, I went to the pub and saw my mates and that's where the question came up. But it's one that plays on the mind of anyone who's had a drink problem I should imagine, and it's also a BIG and IMPORTANT question because knowing the answer is vital to how drink problems (I'm avoiding the word alcoholism for the moment) is treated.

One of my pals has experience as a drugs counsellor and started off on a fairly strong and long-gestated attack on AA. Lots of people don't like AA because they see it as cult like and religious. I haven't yet been to a meeting, but I do plan to go and will reserve judgement till then - I also understand that each meeting is very individual. We were visited on the ward by members of AA who hold a meeting in the hospital and their main thrust was to play down anything to do with religion and Jesus. I know the organisation uses the term Higher Power rather than God and asks people to define that in their own way.

Anyhow, my purpose is not ill-informed pontificating on an organisation about which I yet know very little. But, it is the law that any alcohol blogger must ask the, is alcoholism an illness question at some point, and now is my turn, just from what I know of myself.

It matters enormously of course. It matters because it affects spending large amounts of public money and it matters to me enormously because if I accept the disease model that means I'm probably going to have to accept that I can never drink again; something I find hard to contemplate despite all I've been through because of drink. Put the question into Google and you'll see a huge amount written on the subject - much of what I've read is axe-grinding rubbish designed to sell books, or treatments or traduce other books and treatments.

There doesn't yet appear to be any concrete evidence either way, although from what I've read the idea of a genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse seems to have some support.

So, this is what I reckon. And, I really don't know where I'm going with this, it's just a ramble on what I think. By the way if you're a medical researcher and want to look at my brain I'd be only too pleased to help, I've always wanted electrodes on my brain.

One reason I think they're might be some merit in the predisposition concept is my own first experience of getting drunk. Charles Bukowski may have put it better: "With this, life was great, a man was perfect, nothing could touch him," but I absolutely recognise that thought. It was like a light going on and seeing the world in proper focus for the fist time, it fit, it was the real me this drunk person and straight away I knew I wanted to be like this as much as possible. I was 13. Now, it may be that everyone feels like that the first time they are intoxicated, but they simply learn to ration their pleasure. I also know there is some history of alcohol abuse in my family.

I find that very hard so powerful is that pull. I also recognise that I have a tendency to over-indulge with almost anything pleasurable and along the way I've had abusive relationships with almost every pleasure I've ever encountered from sweeties to porn to speed, acid, weed and coffee to sucking my thumb as a child.

On the other side in going through a therapeutic day programme that has really amounted to very simple, common sense guide to coping with life. And I can see in my love a drink a running away from that - from life, or anything unpleasant there within, from conflict of any kind to responsibility, getting up in morning and living to a budget. I've seen the so-called 'addictive personality' dismissed, it is in fact a narcissistic personality and when I'm not indulging in extreme self-hate there's a lot of that in me, a lot of self-regard, (just look at this blog, it's all me, me me) and the fact that the rest of the world does not bow down at my feet in supplication might indeed be a trigger for drinking. It's tough to take that is but I'm very glad that I've had my learning-to-live-classes and I'm really trying very hard to put what I learned into practice. Don't get me wrong; if you met me you would find me shy and self-effacing, much of my personality is hidden inside and only came out when the shutters were drunk into their open position, that's the only time I would have anything even approaching confidence - I need to try and find a healthy balance here somehow.

Self-medication. Another theory that I think has some merit. Narcissism taken, I was always very nervous and drink dealt with my anxiety and indeed my sadness, (narcissistic?) constant self-examination and self-admonishment. Of course, we all know that it's not a very good medication in the long run, but boy does it work at the moment of administration - instant confidence.

This, you see, could be dangerous temptation talking too. If I can learn to deal with life better, through counselling or what have you and if I get my depression and anxiety under control, through medication or what have you, then I can join those lovely lucky people like Mrs CD who have a glass of wine with their meal or a drink with friends on the way home from work without starting off on a three day bender. Wouldn't that be nice? But can I do that? I never have done, but then I've never grown up and accepted what life is all about in this society either.

This isn't getting to anywhere very conclusive at all. (I warned you). I can see merits in both sides of the argument, but not in the vituperative and self-serving nature of many of the arguees. Perhaps describing alcoholism as a disease does take responsibility away from the drinker but I also think it helps them - yes, it's easier on yourself to believe you ended up in a hideous mess as a result of some predetermined nasty gene over which you have no control, but it also might help you stop once you come to believe that you have an illness which means if you drink you will die. People with serious peanut allergies don't tend to try the odd Snickers bar for the thrill of it.

So, I don't know. I really don't and I'm tired now and in need of 300mg of Trazadone and some sleep - I'm sure I'll come back to it, we all do. But, if you've got a thought then I'd love to hear it, but, I think we'll both have to accept that whatever you say it will be a theory nothing more than that on the current state of evidence, so don't go getting all definitive on us.

1 comment:

Michael said...

On November 15, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that AA is indeed religious in nature.

An AA meeting is essentially a devotional service. The “higher power” receives worship; confession is heard; testimony is given; the group invokes the Serenity Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer. The 12th Step instructs AA members to go forth and Spread the Word.

Alcoholics Anonymous has never been all that successful in treatment per se–there is about a five percent success rate.

But, on the other hand, A.A. has been very successful in portraying itself as the ONLY means of overcoming alcoholism; and at pretending to be a “spiritual program” when in fact it is a full fledged religion.

For more on Alcoholics Anonymous: www.mywordlikefire.wordpress.com