Alcoholism is a strange condition.
June 24, 2017 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Tanya Gold is a British freelance journalist. Alcoholism continues long after you stop drinking': my 15 years sober.
Thirteen years ago she discribed her horror of Group therapy: I still howl at the memory'.
posted by adamvasco (25 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Kind of overdramatic, in my opinion. I am just a little over one year sober (yay!). My brain-worm is silent. Sobriety is normal and not a struggle.

I say this not to brag, but to encourage. A year ago, I could not have imagined myself in the safe, sane, sober place I am now. But here I am. Perhaps Tanya, if she doesn't give in to all this rage that obviously still lives inside her, will come to her safe place as well.
posted by SPrintF at 7:06 PM on June 24 [23 favorites]


Thanks for the post. A good read of familiar territory.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 7:17 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Interesting. I wonder if her alcoholism is fueled by depression, and if she's assuming all alcoholics have the same experience, which seems unlikely to me.
posted by bunderful at 7:25 PM on June 24 [14 favorites]


Kind of overdramatic, in my opinion.

Well, it reminds me of other people I have known, who identify primarily as alcoholics, and who tend to assimilate all their issues into the concept of alcoholism.
posted by thelonius at 7:28 PM on June 24 [15 favorites]


43 years sober myself, and though I felt that way in the beginning I haven't for several decades. Still experience the vagrant desire to drink, but fortunately it's an ingrained habit not to bother acting on it. I still consider myself an alcoholic too. I've seen too many people crash and burn who drank when they thought they had a handle on things.
posted by Peach at 7:35 PM on June 24 [8 favorites]


The smart money does seem to be on not deciding you're cured and it's OK to drink now.....
posted by thelonius at 7:37 PM on June 24 [9 favorites]


I gave up alcohol when it made me behave like an ass to my ex-wife at a party once and had started obviously making me more of a jerk, and honestly, that hasn't been an issue at all for me since.

I drink casually every now and then now but don't crave it or enjoy it all that much. Not sure why, but usually when I'm done with something like that I'm just done. Had a similar experience with prescription painkillers years ago. Just stopped wanting it because it made me feel bad. Wish it were so easy to kick nicotine because that's got its hooks back in me more than ever lately, and that sucks because I don't even really get any pleasure out of it, it just makes my ADHD unbearably severe when I try to work through the withdrawal, which I'm not in a good life situation to deal with right now. Can't afford to be that badly handicapped when I'm basically struggling to just not end up homeless and let my kids down too much right now.

I think everybody's experience with addiction is different though. I'm almost 100% certain some cases of alcoholism are more social in origin, and rooted in unhealthy peer pressure than physical dependence, but then, I've known people, too, who I have no doubt were more susceptible to it on a baseline physical level.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:47 PM on June 24 [11 favorites]


I find it interesting that group therapy is pretty invariably portrayed as grim and tedious — even more so than individual, which gets some pretty positive depictions these days. It can be depressing when you're in a group with people who don't want to be there, and maybe that's most people's experience of it. But I've also been in good groups that were life-changing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:51 PM on June 24 [6 favorites]


I wonder if her alcoholism is fueled by depression, and if she's assuming all alcoholics have the same experience, which seems unlikely to me.

Anything with the word "all" in it seems unlikely to me, but "most" wouldn't seem like a stretch.

I think everybody's experience with addiction is different though. I'm almost 100% certain some cases of alcoholism are more social in origin, and rooted in unhealthy peer pressure than physical dependence,

Those are called "people who drink too much for a while".
Some people just do something often enough that it's hard to stop. Many people will get physically dependent, but can get past it. Most addicts are not these people, because most people don't keep doing something so destructive when it's obvious that it's hurting more than helping. The physical addiction is not the biggest problem, not even close.
posted by bongo_x at 7:58 PM on June 24 [7 favorites]


Well, what I really mean is sometimes little unhealthy social cliques form around drinking and they can become almost cultlike in the pressure they put on people in them to keep drinking. And that can look like a kind of alcoholism. But I generally agree with all your points.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:04 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman - I wasn't being snarky, that's just my resting state.
posted by bongo_x at 8:17 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


You aren't wrong, saulgoodman. When I was in my recovery program, I met a few people for whom the biggest challenge was going to be turning away from their social network, friends with whom they went drinking or clubbing or whatever. I'm "lucky" in that I did my drinking alone, so it cost me nothing socially to give it up. But for some people, more gregarious than I, it can cost their social network and their sense of identity to turn away from the "scene."
posted by SPrintF at 9:16 PM on June 24 [7 favorites]


It's strange that there's no mention of anything twelve-steppy in this. One of my closest friends is in the early stages of recovery and the pressure to make that all-consuming in her process is really overwhelming for her. Is the AA model not as much of a thing in the UK?
posted by padraigin at 9:30 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


My understanding is that no, aa is not as big of a thing outside of the states, nor is the disease model of alcaholism.
posted by hatchetjack at 9:59 PM on June 24


Sober five years and change, which is more than twice as long as I made it without AA. If someone can manage OK without it and they're happy with that, great. If someone does it with naltrexone and that suits them, also great. I do it by going to one meeting a week and talking with a group of mostly-nice people, and that suits me down to the ground. And, yes, one of our many, many sayings is that the disease is 10% drinking and 90% thinking (bad shit). Something that helps is being in an area where you can try out different meetings and groups, which can vary quite a bit in tone.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:09 PM on June 24 [7 favorites]


Saw a lot of my father in this article. It wasn't a fun way to grow up, and I hope she finds some good coping methods that bring her some more peace as her son gets older and more aware.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:25 PM on June 24 [5 favorites]


I feel this is probably a safe place to chime in, sober for 4 years. It was nasty at first, and as someone who struggled with staying stopped but not stopping, getting past the point of repeated relapse was hard. Sometime between 8 months to 1 year sober it stopped being a fight and I started to accepted that the sober me was the real me. After a couple of years the sober me felt normal; now nobody would know I'm an alcoholic unless I tell them. I'm not cagey about it, but I do choose who I tell.

Suffice to say, when I stopped I realised how angry I was. With time that changed and now I'm mostly happy, accepting of the downs and to all intents and purposes normal I just choose not to drink any more. My alcoholism was killing me, now it's become something positive. I'm also an AA goer, a meeting a week is healthy for me, and I stay in touch with people outside of the meetings. AA is supposed to be a bridge to normal living. You can't live in it.

Anyway, this could turn into an essay or a discussion of what an alcoholic is, so I'll stop here.
posted by diziet at 2:57 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


To reply to padraig and hatchetjack. AA is big enough in the UK, where I'm based, and is certainly the plan of choice at many rehabs. I'd made my decision to do it the AA way before going into rehab as everything else I'd tried had failed. AA was anathema to me because of the dreaded god word. As for the disease model, I must admit I don't like calling it a disease. From my experience being sober calling it a mental illness works well for me.
Anyway to address the lack of AA in the article, there's some sayings/phrases in there that seem very AA centered to me so it's entirely possible that she's actually adhering to one of the AA traditions:

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we
need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and
films.


Many don't some do.
posted by diziet at 3:03 AM on June 25 [4 favorites]


My brain-worm is silent

That was part of the article also and when *I* hear people claim voices I wonder if there is not some other condition like schizophrenia VS DARPA project to beam sound. Court cases involving 30 year olds who drank themselves to 2nd stage liver failure and other corpses with comments about 'drinking makes the voices stop' and those people having diagnoses from medically certified people of schizophrenia admittedly influence my thinking.

There are those who claim Ayuasca with ONE treatment will 'provide a cure' and claim for them it was enough to turn their back on cocaine. But I remember reading such claims for LSD from the last century and your individual chemistry and wiring will effect outcomes. I can see an appeal to try it - one day of vomiting and you no longer lust for fruitcakes.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:56 AM on June 25


I really sympathize with her portrayal if addiction in partnership with depression. Her account of rehab speaks to the relationship between the two and the ugly response it can garner, even from other addicts.

I just came out my of a dual-diagnosis program where the group therapy was fantastic (barring the usual school room issues that arise when folks get bored or needy). Taking it as read that addiction almost always comes from or leads to psych and behavioral issues is useful, I think.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:12 AM on June 25


I did about 7 months in AA. I met some nice people and learned a few things, but I decided ultimately that full-time sobriety wasn't for me. But whatever works, God bless.
posted by jonmc at 10:33 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Wish it were so easy to kick nicotine because that's got its hooks back in me more than ever lately, and that sucks because I don't even really get any pleasure out of it, it just makes my ADHD unbearably severe when I try to work through the withdrawal, which I'm not in a good life situation to deal with right now.

saulgoodman, sorry for your present situation. If it helps, I "got over" my nicotine addiction (in my case, smoking about two packs a day for about 20 years, and trying everything else under the sun to get off the smokes) by employing harm reduction in the form of Swedish snus. It's still tobacco, but about a hundred thousand times better than cigarettes, and I used it to quit smoking, successfully, more or less instantly. PM me if you're at all interested in any details.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:57 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


SPrintF, thanks for that, it was encouraging. I'm three weeks in and feeling healthy, but a little blah. The good thing is the reflexive "I should drink" "I should go buy alcohol" thoughts have dropped from an everyday thing down to once in two or three days. That's progress.

The other good thing I've noticed is that 4 weeks ago, when still drinking daily, the idea of quitting alcohol completely and forever seemed unattractive. Now it seems like a good idea. I can count a lot of objective positives over the last weeks: new hobbies and projects, more energy, on a bit more of an even keel emotionally.

The tough bit at the moment is some of my long-term issues are a bit more present. Anxiety is low, but I've noticed a thought pattern that's probably behind some of the drinking: "I spent almost a decade working through shit from when I was a kid and trying to get my life in order, then all of that progress was reversed by events completely outside my control. Why bother?" I'm not quite sure what the answer to that is. More coffee, maybe.

(rough ashlar, I interpreted My brain-worm is silent as the bullshit thinking that says "the way to deal with this is to have a drink" rather than a malfunctioning part of the brain's auditory processing gear and/or schizophrenia. I think in the author's case too it's just self-critical thoughts that are not helpful, rather than literally hearing voices.)
posted by iffthen at 12:34 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]


"I spent almost a decade working through shit from when I was a kid and trying to get my life in order, then all of that progress was reversed by events completely outside my control. Why bother?"

OK, on reflection, that was an overstatement, and yeah depression and stuff. But if anyone has succeeded in starting to care again after dealing with trauma, and feeling inadequate after fighting to prevent a situation going bad then having it go bad on you anyway... I'm all ears.
posted by iffthen at 12:58 AM on June 26


(I will second @turbid dahlia's snus rec for helping to quit smoking, but make sure it's the real Swedish stuff and not the American tobacco companies' version.)
posted by old_growler at 10:55 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


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