Everybody knows the answer to that question. – It’s something that other people have.
Diagnosing it in ourselves is difficult because we don’t see ourselves very well. The basic psychopathology of alcoholism is denial. The disease (dis-ease) ‘tells’ us that we haven’t got it.
We believe that the world has problems and we have the solutions. In time – sometimes a long and painful time – we come to see that we got this the wrong way round. WE have the problem.
Sadly, we only learn this through pain. It is therefore vital that we should not be protected from the damaging consequences of our addictive behaviour. When families tidy up the messes that we get ourselves into – and when they believe our promises to stop drinking – the situation gets worse. Family members, friends and colleagues at work need to be helped to understand that their best intentions may be very damaging.
We have to find our own way along the confusing and frightening path to recovery. But we don’t have to do it alone.
My function, as a specialist in treating depression and any form of addictive or compulsive behaviour, is to guide patients gently along the path that I went down 30 years ago. I learned from others like me. I trusted them – because they knew instinctively what it felt like to be me.
In time I made helping people suffering from alcoholism and other addictions – and their families – my full time profession. It still is.
I have come to understand that alcoholism and other addictive behaviours are an illness of the human spirit and that this is what needs to be treated – giving patients a sense of hope.
I believe alcoholism has 3 causes. The antecedent cause – coming before anything else – is probably genetic. Addiction of various kinds runs in families.
The contributory cause is trauma of one kind or another. This stimulates the need for mood-alteration.
The precipitant cause is exposure. We can’t become alcoholic if we don’t drink.
These three causes have to be countered in reverse order.
The first essential – however much we may kick and scream against it – is abstinence. The capacity for sensible drinking is a privilege granted to other people but not to us.
The long-term effects of trauma are best treated with psychological processes such as EMDR (Eye movement desensitising and reprocessing). This technique enables the thinking brain to talk to the feeling brain and reassure it that there is no longer a clear and present danger. I have made a particular specialty of this work, using sound and touch and muscular movement, in addition to eye movement, so that 4 inputs speed up the process and make it more effective.
The genetic cause cannot be wished or drugged away – or treated surgically or through deterrence. As with the treatment of any chronic illness, we have to learn how to accommodate it on a daily basis so that it no longer has the power to destroy us.
What has worked successfully for me for the last 30 years is now the principal resource that I bring to helping others. It takes one to catch one and guide one.