Understanding The Primary Disorder Called Alcoholism
We suffer not from the events in our lives. But from our judgement about them! – Epictetus
Lost In the Wilderness of Addiction
“The alcoholic suffers from an obsession of the mind that condemns him to drink against his will” – Dr William Silkworth
Alcoholism Part One – The Mental Obsession
I have this internal condition that condemns me to seek approval from others every day of my life. It is a never ending internal dialogue of desperate need to be accepted, liked and loved for who I am. Yet I have no idea who I am. My addiction to others approval of me is blatant and yet my thoughts deny this fact. Despite this I am terrified the world will find out who I really am and if the world knew the truth about me, I would be rejected and cast out by the very ones I seek approval from. This is my big secret to keep from the world. I come to realize that my thoughts and actions towards others are bizarre. Although I desperately seek to be accepted for who I am, I keep the truth of who I am hidden from the world. In other words I want you to love me for the person I am but I will make sure you never know the real me. You are to accurately read me as the lovable and like able person that I am think I am without discovering the truth about me. This internal condition I suffer from is strangely insane and yet my confused state of mind assures me that my behaviour is perfectly valid. This alcoholic way of thinking becomes the only normal way of life for me as after a while of living in this frightened state of existence, I cannot see the truth from the false.
The problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind.
As long as I can remember I have always felt that I am not enough and therefore not liked and loved. A feeling of incompleteness and separation from other people dominate my thoughts and behaviour. This is my approach towards anyone who enters the arena of my life. Although I always feel less than others, I will mentally dissect those around me through my judgement and opinion of them just to feel like I am on the same playing field. Yet when I am alone I retreat back into my state of desolation and separation from world. As a result of this I always feel awful about myself.
The truth of my reality is that I have an obsession of the mind that I have no control over. This obsession demands of me that I seek refuge from the mental onslaught of never feeling enough. It condemns me to seek ease and comfort from my feelings of incompleteness and always being aware that I am less than everyone and everything. It is like an internal itch that always needs to be scratched, and the more I scratch the quicker it spreads.
My very first alcoholic beverage instantly converted my feelings of incompleteness into a euphoric sense of ease and comfort. After consuming a few beers nothing mattered, I did not care anymore about my perceived own inadequacies or what people thought of me. The alcohol quietened down the constant self loathing chatter in my mind. It granted me freedom from my feelings of separation and isolation from others. It silenced the fear that had owned me all my life. The effect produced by alcohol was like divine intervention of blissful calm over the troubled waters of my ever busy mind. It made me feel like I was finally enough. Good enough for anyone or any situation I would have to face in life. The effect was magical. Who in their right mind would not want to feel like this? It was a feeling of ultimate power within me and control of all of those around me. This was my kingdom now where I could rule my universe and nothing else mattered.
This is the exact point where the alcoholic or addict falls prey to the tragedy of his/her own obsession of the mind. The obsession has finally been silenced with the effect of ease and comfort delivered by alcohol and for a while it appears to vanish under the temporary shadow of mild or severe intoxication. This is usually the point of no return for the alcoholic. This was my point of no return 38 years ago and I had no idea of what was happening to me let alone the darkness of addiction that was yet to come.
After my first encounter with alcohol I find myself thinking extremely fond thoughts of getting drunk again soon, of consuming that powerful effect so potent, nothing can harm me when I am full of this magical power delivered by alcohol. I feel a sense of profound excitement every time I think of drinking again. It is like my whole existence has taken on a new meaning, it felt like I had finally arrived at a place within myself I could call completeness and peace, a place that I could call my home. I finally felt like I belonged (although I had no idea what I belonged to), and the only fear I had was that my next drunk may be a bit too far away for me to cope with.
Every time I thought of my next drunk, a sense of ease and comfort overcame me, and for a short period of time I felt at peace with the world and others around me. I had never felt like this before. I was the guy who always felt like the fly in the ointment or the disharmony in the choir. I preferred to lurk in the shadows of life where others seemed to love their exposure to their groups. I always felt like the outcast of my tribe, and yet when I drank I felt like their king. For many years in the exile of my drinking did I consider this way of thinking and behaving abnormal in any kind of way. By default this behaviour became the only ordinary way of life for me, a life of self torment commuting from the dark shadows of self loathing to the bright lights of my egocentric alcoholic Disney World. Fantasy and lies ruled my mind for many years.
At this point it is not hard to see that I was in fact suffering from a delusion so insipid, it could make a Hyena blush and cower from its kill. This delusion convinced me every day of my life for 21 years that I had full control of my drinking throttles and that drinking was indeed very good for me despite the overwhelming evidence that drinking was really a very bad idea. Phew! Glad I got that off my chest!
The delusion that I suffered from was so powerful, had it not been for the intervention on me and my drinking, I would have faithfully followed my delusion to the alcoholic graveyard.
To sum it up in simple terms, an alcoholic drinks essentially for the effect delivered by alcohol. This effect is an almost euphoric sense of ease and comfort, a deep feeling that all is good. Therefore alcohol was just a symptom and the effect of ease and comfort becomes the alcoholic’s solution to a life he fears to face all alone. Alcohol is the alcoholic’s medication that treats his internal problem of incompleteness and separation from others. Alcohol appears to put a broken and shattered life back together again. This is the great betrayal that alcohol sells the alcoholic. Unfortunately for every alcoholic or addict the fact is that one day without warning the effect of ease and comfort disappears and the more chemical that is consumed the more loneliness and fear becomes the effect that is delivered. Slowly but surely the addict endures this loneliness to a point where he starts to wish for the end. Long gone are the glory days of infectious and exciting intoxication, only to be replaced with the black abyss of terror and bewilderment. A constant feeling of impending doom is the awakening thought and all hopes and dreams of a peaceful and productive life are shattered by the agony of knowing there is something dreadfully wrong. It is like an unnamed emotion that feels like death itself.
The real terror is born out of the hideous realization that there is no way out of the dark deep hole of incomprehensible despair. This is a place of ultimate suffering and humiliation that only an addict can know – the place of “No way out”.
It is the day that arrives for every addict where he realizes that drinking or drugging is no longer working for him and not drinking or drugging is not working for him, and there is absolutely no friendly direction at hand. All he can think of doing is checking out of his misery.
Paul Nobes – Author and Addictions Specialist
Paul is the founder/owner of GHOL (Get High On Life) Recovery From Addictions Services