Monday, January 25, 2010

GUEST POST: An Alcoholic's Perspective


[image:http://www.key-alcoholism-info.com/young-man-in-pain-about-his-alcoholic-life.jpg]

The following is a Guest Post written by my friend R, the subject of a prior post on alcoholism. I think it speaks for itself.

An Alcoholic's Perspective

I am R.

Jack invited me to read and contribute to this article a few days ago. When I finally read it, I was extremely touched and also awakened. I guess the main message I would like to communicate here is that a disease such as alcoholism--as with any other infliction--is extremely difficult to truly understand unless one experiences it first-hand. I know I'm a great person...as was mentioned by Jack, successful, traveled, educated, all of that. But I have this evil little devil sitting on my shoulder at all times. I hate this part of my life and wish there was a way to just hit the "off" switch. But through personal experience and extensive research, I've learned that there is no easy fix. It takes time, determination, support and constant adherence to daily goals.

To draw an analogy: it is like trying to convince yourself to not drink water...you get thirsty, then thirstier, then even worse...and you finally convince yourself that you need to drink water in order to survive. Well, granted, water is in fact necessary for survival, and alcohol is not, but in the mind of an alcoholic it is.

Another thing about this condition is that alcoholics often don't even realize what is happening when they are drunk. They don't comprehend reality in the same fashion as others. Hence they make irrational decisions, such as prolonged drinking. Sometimes when I am drinking, I find myself having a dialogue in my head, "I don't want to drink, but I will anyway. Why? I don't need to. I know it is destructive. There is absolutely no reason for me to drink. But I will anyway."

This is an example of irrational thought that pervades my mind. So in an effort to combat this, I set little daily goals and stick to them. For example, I will not allow myself to have a drink before X time of day. I will limit myself to X number of drinks. I've found that I cannot go without alcohol completely, but if I set little goals like this and regulate my drinking, I am OK from day to day.

And also here I must mention my indescribable appreciation for Jack and his selfless graciousness. He hauled my butt to the hospital more than once when nobody else was around. Who knows what might have happened if he hadn't. Not only has he done this, but, through conversations (a kind of informal counseling), he has extended a whole world of insight and compassion for me to embrace. On the surface, it's friendly dialogue between two friends about a problem. Deeper, it has had a profound effect on me and my outlook on life. Thank you for this Jack -- it is appreciated more than you will ever know.

In closing, I guess I would just like to extend this entire blog post and responses to others who suffer from the same infliction. Just remember that life is too beautiful to let oneself slip to such lows. And, as one poster here mentioned, sometimes it is necessary to hit rock bottom before recovery. I feel like I'm pretty much there currently, so I'm looking forward to a big rebound. I have many great things in my life right now, and I look forward to getting back to enjoying them.

42 comments:

Jonna (aka mom) said...

To: R

Controlling the drinking is a part of the illness. It's only another symptom.

If you are truly and alcoholic AND you are still drinking, you are not in recovery.

Alcoholism has been said to be the 'feelings disease'. Much pain dwells within the addicted.

Only other alcoholics can truly understand and share your pain. I sincerely urge you to seek them out. You can find them in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

There is much to learn in the journey to understanding one's self and the affliction. Education and support are the beginning. It is said that no one can do it alone.

With much compassion, I send you my regards. I send my hopes that you can escape the denial of the disease and enter into recovery and the good things that could come into your life.

Jonna
(daughter of an alcoholic,
mother of an alcoholic,
ex-wife to 2 alcoholics)
The road is long.

Mimi said...

Hi R,
It's good to hear from you. There are many ways to help yourself... and it sounds like you're looking to break the cycle. Many find relief in the program of AA, others take a break from drinking and are able to see other ways when looking at it with a clear head, still others find something they love more than drinking... I guess what I wanted to say is that there is more than one way to choose life. If one way doesn't work, try another... don't give up on yourself. You can truly live and be free. I've been there. You can do it. :)

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Thank you so much for your honesty and humility in talking about this. Your willingness to so honestly share your story will undoubtedly help others!

Also, if you're looking for a little inspiration, just yesterday I finished Lit by Mary Karr, and it's fantastic. It covers in detail the story of her gradual descent into alcoholism and her (at first very reluctant) steps towards turning her life around.

Thanks again for the great post!

Heather's Moving Castle said...

That's so neat that you shared that, R! It is appreciated and I know you can reach your goals, big and little ones....baby steps! :O)

~Heather

Heather's Moving Castle said...

I just wanted to add that I know the alcohol is just a small part of the problem. When people use things to numb their pain or problems or pressures it only causes more problems. I wish you much inner peace and healing on your journey to sobriety.

LAS said...

I wish I could feel more compassion for you, but I have trouble with this. That being said, I concededly don't suffer from addiction, although I have been affected by it.

And from my perspective, it seems so incredibly selfish. Look at how much time and effort you've taken from "Jack," in what I'm assuming is the fairly short time you've known him. How many others are there? How many other people have you taken and taken from before they finally gave you up to save themselves?

There isn't one mention of the probable effect you've had on others in your post. It's all about you, how great you are except for your persnickety little devil, your hopes for the future. I think you're far from where you need to be.

I know this sounds cold - I'm sure it's more politically correct to at least feign some compassion for you, but it would be a lie. And a liar I'm not.

inconsequentia said...

whether or not complete abstinence is the only way for an alcoholic is actually very much debated.

notwithstanding this, i agree with heather'smovingcastle in that often this sort of affliction is more a process of self-medication.

you might like to read "dry" by augusten burroughs, if you have not already.

best wishes.

peace

Anonymous said...

The kind of guilt that LAS would like to lay on you is just not productive. Guilt is toxic stuff. You can't go back and change the past. Move forward.

It sounds like LAS is saying she was codependent with someone with an addiction... those types always like to blame others for the choices they make. Don't buy into it. She has choices too. We all do.

Move forward. Keep positive. :)

Anonymous said...

LAS most likely suffers a Martyr complex indicated by key phrases in the post. It is said to be one of the most destructive behaviors. They not only will often attach themselves to those suffering, they will often sabotage recovery.

Anonymous said...

R.

It takes courage to acknowledge your demons.

You have my respect for that and my best wishes.

Todd N. Temple

Jack said...

@Jonna,

Wow, sounds like you have been affected quite a bit by alcoholism. Am I to assume that alcoholism had something to do with the end of your two marriages?

@Mimi,

I'm sure R appreciates this.

@Jennifer,

I might actually check that out myself.

Jack said...

@Heather,

I would think so as well.

@Heather,

"When people use things to numb their pain or problems or pressures it only causes more problems."

Well said.

@LAS,

"I know this sounds cold - I'm sure it's more politically correct to at least feign some compassion for you, but it would be a lie. And a liar I'm not."

Believe me, there are plenty of people who feel like this. It's definitely not cold, just a realist take on the problem

Jack said...

@Inconsequentia,

Interesting suggestion. But yes, self-medication seems to be at the heart of what R is confronting.

@Anonymous,

Moving forward is sort of my own mantra. Can't speak for LAS, but I have a feeling she would agree.

@Anonymous,

I know R would appreciate that.

dyang said...

I'm a bit shocked at the response to LAS's post. For an accepting and supportive group- some of you seem to pounce really quickly on someone that doesn't share your opinion-and worse-go on the attack. As R should keep an open mind-perhaps some commenters should as well. Although I may not agree with LAS- I can see the point she is trying to make.

Change-the real change R seems to want to make does not happen until there is so much discomfort about oneself to move that person to change-even when we are discussing a disease such as alcohol. R seems uncomfortable-but not enough-as he's made comments that seem a bit light about his regard for his disease. I'm sure R laments the lives he's negatively affected personally and did not feel the need to pour his heart out to an open and public forum-but this consideration of others may be what pushes him to that AA meeting some of you have suggested. It does take courage to acknowledge your demons-but it takes something more to push you into action to change them. Calling LAS names doesn't really help R really. He SHOULD feel badly. Not badly so he mopes and wallows in depression- but badly enough to motivate him to (hopefully) act.

I'm not a licensed psychiatrist- so please take this all with a grain of salt-and R-perhaps therapy is another avenue to explore-so you can explore the deeper issues that drive you to drink in privacy... (And perhaps not be deterred by fear of a public forum -where people can see you).

Jack-you seem like an amazing guy-and your comments to the comments makes me believe you would be a truly great friend to have-especially for someone like R who might need friends with the ability to accept with no judgment. Just an ernest desire to help. Bravo you.

P.S. This is the first time I'm reading this blog. Definitely not the last.

Jonna (aka mom) said...

Yep. I'd say it was. Like I said... the road is long.

P said...

@Jonna

Right, trying to control drinking is one symptom. Denial is another. Other alcoholics do understand (some of them). I understand. I am an alcoholic. Sober since May 10, 1988. I started drinking at 14 or 15. Was introduced to AA at 18 (while in an inpatient center). Finally got sober for the last time at age 26 after 4 or 5 DUI's, 15 arrests (all for drinking related behaviour or driving drunk) Not all alcoholics will get arrested or ticketed. But if an alcoholic continues to drink there are three possible outcomes: Death, Jail, or Mental Institution. That is fact. I'm not religious. But the only thing that allowed me to quit drinking and stay sober was AA. Don't drink today, go to a meeting, shut your mouth and listen. Keep doing that every day for a few months and you might have a chance R. Good luck ... don't let your Ego sabatage your chances by thinking you can do it alone.

_paul ... 21 years sober. No hangovers, no arrests in 21 years. No death, no instituion, no jail.

:-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all of your support, be it positive or critical. It is healthy for me to hear it all. I'm doing much better lately, granted it's only been a short time since my last relapse. It's really nice to be able to feel open in talking about this (with complete strangers at that), because it is what I believe might be one of the first steps to liberation. For the record, this is the first time in my 10-year time as an alcoholic to be so open and honest. It's a good feeling to discuss this and get a diverse array of feedback. It means a lot to me. Thank you to you all.
R

Jack said...

@Todd,

That's how I feel.

@Dyang,

And I hope you keep contributing. I think you are adding a valuable perspective in this forum.

@Jonna,

Sorry to hear that. That must have sucked.

Anonymous said...

R,

Thanks for sharing with us. I am worried about you, so sad about your pain, and deeply concerned about the fact that you are still drinking. In addition to AA, have you considered going to an in-patient facility so that you can try going "cold turkey"? If you are not ready for that step, how about seeing a counselor? I am rooting for you to find a better quality of life. You deserve better. Please know that.

Anonymous said...

I wish this post had gone a little further in analyzing the effects on you and others, but I'm not sure that's what you were trying to do here.

That said, I am glad you wrote this. I have a friend who has what is to many of us an obvious drinking problem. It's hard to tell how obvious it is to him. But when we talk about what we can do to help him, ultimately our conclusion is "not much." The realization and solution need to come from him, not from us. However, we do know that we can let him know that we're here for him, and support him as a human being. He's a great guy with a problem. I want him to know that we see him that way, rather than as a single label that doesn't capture all of who he is.

Jonna (aka mom) said...

to P:
keep up the good work. it's nice to hear of your new life.

Jails, institutions and death... funny, I had just said that to a couple of my kids around the holidays. It's true. I hate watching it unfold. Hope they find their way someday, I miss those kids.

Jack: Oh yesssss. It sucked. I still ask myself 'how could i be so naive?' But I tend to be that way at times. Still, sometimes I wonder why I'm so slow to figure out what's going on around me.

R: Admission is the first step. In AA people can learn about the 12-step program...as they say: rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. (I think I got that line right... it is sooo true though!)
Again, wishing you good things 'R'.

L. M. O'Neal said...

What is the measure of you if you choose not to measure your self? You have made greater progress than you realize. You have identified and confronted the demon within. With the Demon identified, it will redouble its efforts to keep you in its possession. I am not a minister, but, "May Gods blessing and wisdom be upon you."

Anonymous said...

I understood everything you said as I am both an alcoholic in recovery (AA) and an adult child of an alcoholic. I hope you'll try a 12 step program--it's the only way I know of that really works--for me.
Alcoholics in recovery are some of the finest people I have ever met. This is a disease and when you have it, you can't not choose to drink. You just don't have that ability. Good luck and happy sobriety. YOU CAN do it.

Confessions of a Mother, Lawyer & Crazy Woman said...

R- Keep moving forward ... I wish you luck in your recovery!

Jack said...

@Paul,

Congratulations on your sobriety. I think it's really impressive that you were able to leave such a deep addiction and stay sober for so long. Have you ever worked as a counselor to other addicts?

@R,

Thanks for responding to the comments. I'm sure everyone appreciates your follow-up.

@Anonymous,

I can't speak for R, but that is definitely a viable alternative to AA. From what I know, it might be the only way for certain addicts to choose life over death.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

“I wish this post had gone a little further in analyzing the effects on you and others, but I'm not sure that's what you were trying to do here.”

Yeah, not sure R had that focus when he wrote this post. And probably the most profound comment to day is the fact that “The realization and solution need to come from him, not from us.”

@Jonna,

All well said.

@L. M. O'Neil,

“You have identified and confronted the demon within. With the Demon identified, it will redouble its efforts to keep you in its possession.”

I sure hope you are wrong, but have a feeling you are right.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

Did you try the cold turkey institutional approach someone suggested above? Just wondering if that's ever helpful with so many people swearing by AA.

@Confessions of a...,

I can tell you that he is doing much better. And he appreciates your words.

Anonymous said...

Hey R,

I appreciated this response you wrote: "... For the record, this is the first time in my 10-year time as an alcoholic to be so open and honest. It's a good feeling to discuss this and get a diverse array of feedback. ..."

AA has a bad rap on many aspects because a lot of people wrongly associate it with skid row. The fact is that it's filled with vibrant professionals from all walks of life. There a lots of different groups, and even many secret groups amongst lawyers, doctors, health professionals, teachers, etc.

You just don't hear about them because it's ANONYMOUS!

And everyone (usually) tries to keep the anonymity thing going strong. But the sharing you're doing here is just a very small part of what you'll here at AA meetings. the stories really do get to be hilarious, too.

I was reading a story by one alcoholic; he had been driving drunk and had two accidents but talked his way out of them. He was working part time after dropping out of school and living with other guys who sat around drinking most of the day.

Ultimately he was afraid to go to an AA meeting because he didn't want people to think he was an alcoholic! Surely no one thought that anyway?

The fact is that many alcoholics are usually quite functional. I've never been arrested, never had to talk with judges, never had finance problems due to alcohol or substance abuse, never missed work, never ended up on a hospital due to alcohol or substance abuse; no accidents, no shakes and tremors, etc, etc.

But I've had hangovers, believe me, and I don't like them anymore. I've self medicated, and frankly why bother? And on top of it I'm prideful arrogant and always want to live on an island like I'm the king of the heap, because I can do it all, all by myself. At least that's how I feel when I drink. Which is rarely these days.

But I went to AA for a time, and I learned so much from it. To be honest, I do drink from time to time. Sometimes just one, sometimes just a few. It's hardly anything to get me drunk. Then days, weeks, months of nothing. Every now and again a rip roaring old time with a hangover that follows which is just stunning in it's impact. Who needs it?

Perhaps my alcoholism is mild compared to some, but ultimately it's not. I'm on the fence just like you are, I just have more knowledge and information.

One thing about AA is that it's ultimately about simplicity. "Keep it simple" is a main motto.

I hope you go and find out more.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous (post 12:10pm Jan 31)

I really appreciate your comments here. Sounds like you are at a good place in life with the infliction and I endeavor to reach that point myself. Right now I am pretty young in life and still have a lot to learn and experience.

I have tried AA before and, quite frankly, it freaked me out a bit. To me it seemed like a cult organization that I had a hard time identifying with. I'm not opposed to joining a help group, but AA in particular seemed really uncomfortable for me.

My current support network consists of friends. I have a few friends here who are close to me, such as Jack, who have made an epic difference in my life lately.
Another difficulty is that I am currently living pretty far from home.

For right now I'm doing pretty well, at least much better than I was a few weeks ago.
Of course, other things in life aggravate the alcoholism –- general stress, financial issues, relationship issues. And I know good and well that drinking only makes these things worse, but the mind of an alcoholic, it's really challenging to keep that perspective sometimes.

I have many positive things happening in my life now, however, and it will be these things that add necessary structure in my life and this keep me occupied and devoid of too much idle time.
I'm the type who likes to stay really busy so as to keep my mind engaged. When I have too much free time, it inevitably leads to drinking.

At any rate, thank you so much for your feedback here, it is really great to have the support and wisdom of other perspectives. Take care.

R

Kerri said...

I'm late in responding, but R's story has never been far from my mind. I don't have much to add to the wellspring of advice, encouragement and support.

My husband got sober at 23 after accidentally stumbling into an AA meeting while in the military.

Other friends who are recovering alcoholics did so without AA.

You will find your own path.

My husband says that reality is the best high he's ever experienced. I wish the very same for you, R.

Rhiannon said...

R.

Watching my parents kill themselves with drink has been one of the single most important event in my life. From it, I've been able to learn to control myself even in life's worst moments. The one's where I'd just really rather not be present.

And now seeing my mom in continual recovery leads me to believe it can be done. And as soon as you're ready, you'll do it! Until then, know you are loved!

Anonymous said...

I apologize if this redundant:

Obviously my comment from 2/5 did not pass muster. Whatever, I am not trying to sell a thing. The link I sent to Wendi Friesen's Ustream show was only intended to show your friend where I started. Friesen's program was not a complete solution for me, but over the course of a year I went from "hiding" a fifth a day habit, to a beer once in a while kind of guy.

I believe the she is starting another addiction series on Monday at noon PST. I really do not care if you if post this or not, (actually I'd prefer it if you didn't), but you might want to forward on to R, he may think more of the idea than you do.

Like I said Friesen's program was not a complete solution for me. A strong meditation practice was my key. Anyway best of luck to your friend.

rex

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

Hope you appreciated R's response to your comment.

@R,

Thanks for the follow up. I think everyone is happy when you can give your own two cents on a regular basis.

@Kerri,

Having almost no experience on this issue, I just can't say that "you will find your own way" will ultimately work. But I can see how people who do not find AA helpful have basically no choice but to try other alternatives.

Jack said...

@Rhiannon,

That was a really sweet comment.

@Anonymous,

I think there has been some sort of mis-communication. I can't remember the last time I rejected a comment. Are you sure you submitted it properly? Feel free to post the link in a follow-up comment.

Coyote said...

Ok, I'll give this another shot: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/wendi.tv

The link is to Wendi Friesen's Ustream channel. This is going to sound hokey as shit, but here goes: Friesen is a hypnotherapist and she has an alcohol treatment program. She makes some really good points about the flaws in many treatment programs and it is where I started.

Like R I used to do the goal thing: “I'll only have one, or I will only drink after dinner, or I'll never drink at work, or I'll never drink at dusk because that is when the little green men come out.” Goal setting does not work. Being healthy is not a goal, it is a process. A healthy person would never wake up in the morning and think, “My goal today is not to pee my pants.” A healthy person would simply find a bathroom when he needed one.

After twenty years of setting goals, I was a bourbon in my morning coffee kinda guy, with few really ugly incidents under my belt too. But I really could not handle the AA thing either. It is a great organization, and even a better organizational structure, but I really had no desire to hang out with a bunch of drunks, or surrender myself self-esteem to a chemical. I had some previous experience with hypnosis so I took a swing with it and alcohol abuse.

It was a year long effort, but I got to where I am as happy as I want to be. I have to be more careful around alcohol than most, but do not fear it anymore. As I said earlier, Friesen's program was not a complete solution for me, it gave me insight into the nature of my problem, and when I reconnected with yoga and began a strong meditation practice it all came together to for me.

I could run on for pages about neuroplasticity, alpha-theta wave treatments, and slew of other topics, but is not the focus of your blog. I have followed your blog with some interest, you continue grow, which is nice to see. (If R is interested, he can scroll back a few weeks and see Wendi's last shows on addiction, and I believe she is starting a new series on Monday.) Like I said, I have no interest in this program, it was simply where I started.

rex

PS: Another good resource is at the soberrecovery.com forums. It helped me too.

Pops said...

Hi, just wandering through and thought I'd write.

I was an alcoholic since around the time one of my ancestors first stumbled on a rotten grape. I went to rehab before it was cool, threw quite a few dollar bills in the "coffee" can at the meetings and all that but it never really stuck.

Not that there weren't consequences, it's just that they weren't bad enough to make a good story at the meetings, high functioning alcoholic or some such...

Until last year when I wound up in the ICU with chronic pancreatitis and type I diabetes. I now take insulin injections several times a day to stay alive.

I've found it puts a little perspective on things to worry about things like amputations, dialysis, blindness.

Good Luck

Anonymous said...

come on, you can make it! And then enjoy all the wonderful things in your life:)

Anonymous said...

why is it that "strangers" often make the best friends?!?

R-even though it as been a short time, congratulations! one day at a time!
or....one hour/minute at a time!

be well, my friend.

L

Jack said...

@Coyote,

Cool. Thanks for the link and the other suggestions towards the end. Best line in these set of comments:

“Goal setting does not work. Being healthy is not a goal, it is a process.”

@Pops,

Wow, mind-opening experience indeed. Other than the injections, are you ok at this point?

@Anonymous,

That's how I see it. I hope R is reading this.

Jack said...

@L,

I know, it's weird.

Pops said...

"Other than the injections, are you ok at this point?"

Yea, I'm doing good, thanks.

The whole series of events is actually kind of funny. April last year the tax on cigs was set to rise so I decided, for the umpteenth time, to quit smoking. Well, if I'm going to quit cigs I gotta quit booze and coffee at least for a while.

About 6 years ago, in our late 40s, we jumped off the capitalist merry go round, bought a small farm and prepared to live out our years in a simple, frugal fashion - which is the reason your blog title stopped me. The biggest problem we faced became one of living "frugally" with a 2 pack plus the average 3 6-pack/day habit!

So I eased off on the coffee for a few days and quit the smokes and cheap beer on April fools day 2009. Things went as can be expected for a couple of weeks as I kept a low profile (I work at home) then as the physical part passed I felt like I was over the hump.

Let me say here that I have lots of experience quitting both alcohol and nicotine and I'm pretty good at quitting, it's the not smoking and drinking where I've always had trouble!

So anyway around 3 weeks after April fools day I'm thinking it's time I should be feeling better but I was beginning to have all sorts of nasty symptoms. I won't gross you out by describing them all but I'll just say they were all over, top to bottom.

I also need to say my step daughter developed type I diabetes at age 4 and passed away just a couple of years ago so the classic symptoms of thirst and urination are not unknown to us. I guess the myriad other bugaboos I took for (or wishfully thought of ) as simply the side effects of cold turkey abstinence.

So anyway by the first part of May I was in bad shape, and the doc, when I finally agreed to go to the ER, said I didn't have another day in me. So now I can say quitting nearly killed me! LOL!


In review, I don't like the way my last post ended with the bit about "perspective". I haven't really put this into words myself so hang with me.

In order to prevent all the nasty symptoms I experienced when my pancreas first gave up (not to mention many other, much worse things) I need to not only monitor my blood sugar and adjust my insulin several times a day, but also to think about what I'm doing, how much or how little exercise, where I'm going, how I'm feeling, both mentally and physically and a whole raft of things that never crossed my mind before.

I always said I'd be a crappy diabetic because I had such poor willpower, seemed to have an addictive personality generally and hated keeping to a set schedule.

Turns out, at least to this point, that being a diabetic has given me the motivation to stay on the wagon and I guess the many ways I abused my bod in the past makes me want to at least make it to 53!

Anyway, best to R. and thanks Jack for letting me share, at least you don't have an expectant coffee can!

Jack said...

@Pops,

The irony is not lost on me. It took all of that to find the willpower to want to live again. Maybe that's what it takes to make so many changes in our lives: a real crisis.