(Taken in part from ‘Overcoming Addictions’ © 1997 by Deepak
Chopra, M.D., ‘Learning to Live Again’ © 1991 by Jill Smith and
Brian Smith, ‘Stop Drinking and Start Living’ © 1989 by Stephen E.
Schlesinger, Ph.D. and John J. Gillick, Ph.D., ‘Understanding
Co-Dependency’ © 1990 Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse and Joseph R.
Alcoholism is a term that is frequently used in
connection with the abuse of alcohol and its detrimental effects on
people’s emotional and physical health. However, it has not been
defined in such a way that we can point to a group of specific
behaviors and symptoms and say, “This is alcoholism.”
ways, the serious study of alcoholism is still in its infancy. We
know only a little bit about the many drinking problems that are
variously lumped together and called alcoholism. We would like to be
able, for example, to explain why some people develop alcohol
problems and other people don’t. Unfortunately, we do not really
Fear of the past, fear of the future, fear of using the
present moment for experiencing real joy—so many fears haunt the
ways in which we have become immersed in addictive behaviors. Fear
is also a part of many treatment programs for addiction. Yet a
fear-based approach cannot be successful for the majority of people
over an extended period of time.
The addict is a person in
quest of pleasure, perhaps even a kind of transcendent experience;
this kind of seeking is extremely positive. The addict is looking in
the wrong places, but he is going after something very important,
and we cannot afford to ignore the meaning of his search. At least
initially, the addict hopes to experience something wonderful,
something that transcends an unsatisfactory or even an intolerable
everyday reality. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in this impulse.
On the contrary, it provides a foundation for true hope and real
Fully developed alcoholism—that is, alcohol
addiction—can be defined more specifically than alcohol dependence,
and it can be identified through a limited number of well-documented
traits and characteristics:
Prioritizing, Increased Tolerance,
Withdrawal Symptoms, Craving, Internal Conflict, External
In the first stage of using alcohol, the subject
experiences dramatically reduced stress and lowered levels of
tension. Over a period of six months to two years, the alcoholic
begins to drink almost every day in order to achieve this experience
of relaxation. Typically, he or she has a higher tolerance for
alcohol than the average person.
When blackouts or memory
losses suddenly begin to appear, the second stage of alcoholism has
been reached. The blackouts usually involve intermediate memory,
such as activities or conversations that took place during a period
of drinking on the previous day. Memories of events both before and
after the blackout remain unaffected. During this stage, the subject
begins to realize that his or her drinking has reached a new level,
and tension or guilt becomes associated with the activity. Drinking
may begin to take place in secret.
The third stage is when
the drinker moves from more of less controlled intention to
out-of-control behavior. The addict now immediately and reflexively
responds to tension by drinking, and may even cause or fabricate
incidents to justify drinking. Often, the addict begins each day
with a drink and spends the evening becoming seriously intoxicated.
This state may continue for many years, during which the addict
remains able to hold a job and function socially, although close
relationships become deeply strained.
The fourth stage is the
chronic phase of alcohol addiction, and it is marked by prolonged
periods of intoxication. There are serious problems involving
physical and mental health, personal and professional relationships,
and the police. Even brief withdrawal from alcohol produces
unpleasant and frightening symptoms, and the addict drinks in order
to avoid them. Tolerance for alcohol abruptly diminishes, and even
small amounts of liquor now cause drunkenness.
In this fourth
stage, as these people ‘hit bottom’ and feel themselves caught up in
total despair, they quite unexpectedly experience a new spiritual
awareness. They begin to call upon a higher power to life them out
of the depths to which they have sunk. A small percentage of
alcoholics even experience a moment of dramatic revelation, similar
to a religious conversion, in which they recognize that they are in
the hands of some supreme destiny. In other words, they experience a
sort of ecstasy. This transcendent phenomenon is as equally well
documented as the other stages of the alcoholic disease. Perhaps the
disease itself could even be interpreted as a deluded attempt to
reach this point—a descent into hell that must precede the vision of
Alcohol Dependence describes a drinking pattern
that is more serious than Alcohol Abuse. Two categories of criteria
apply to this diagnosis. The first category contains nine items,
three of which must apply to the person:
The person drinks
more, or over a longer period of time, than he intended.
person has a persistent desire, or he has made one or more
unsuccessful attempts, to cut down or control the drinking.
person spends a great deal of time getting his beverage, drinking,
or recovering from the effects of drinking.
The person is
frequently intoxicated or suffering from withdrawal symptoms when
expected to fulfill important obligations at work, home, or school
or when drinking is physically hazardous (e.g., drinking and
The drinker gives up or curtails important social,
occupational, or recreational activities because of his
The person drinks continually despite knowing he has a
persistent or recurrent social, occupational, psychological, or
physical problem that is caused or made worse by the
The person needs markedly increased amounts of alcohol
to get drunk or to get the desired effect, or he experiences less
and less effect after continually drinking the same amount.
person experiences characteristic withdrawal effects, such as
uncontrollable shaking; nausea or vomiting; excessive sweating;
racing heartbeat; increased blood pressure; headache; inability to
sleep; weakness; seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not
actually there; unrealistic thoughts, such as being pursued by
others; or seizure.
The person often drinks to relieve or avoid
the withdrawal symptoms described above.
Prompt treatment minimizes the degree to which alcohol
damages the body. Prolonged heavy drinking has very definite
negative effects on the drinker’s health.
reduces the amount of social disruption and emotional trauma the
drinker and his family suffer. Loss of jobs, financial debts,
domestic violence, and child abuse all accompany
If you decide to seek help, the next questions
are “Where?” and “How do I find out what I need?” Generally, these
questions can be answered best if you can talk with someone who can
help you evaluate the seriousness of your problem. This person may
be your family physician. It may also be someone at a local alcohol
There is no “average” treatment. People
should take care to select the types of treatment which best suit
them and their drinking problems. This means that people must learn
to choose alcoholism treatment services in the same discriminating
way they choose their clothes and other products. The general goal
of treatment for alcohol problems is for you to learn how to get
along comfortably in life without needing to use alcohol.
first thing that will probably happen when you seek help is that
someone will take what is generally called a “drinking history.” It
is a necessary first step in treatment because it helps you and the
interviewer understand your problems past and present, and decide
together on the best course of treatment. The “drinking history” can
be collected by questionnaire, generally consisting of several types
of questions such as:
What is your chief complaint right
What do you usually drink? (Beer, vodka, wine, etc.)
much do you drink on an average day?
How long have you been
drinking that amount?
When did you have your last drink?
did you start drinking?
When did your drinking become a
How has your drinking caused problems in your life (at
home, work, etc.)?
Have you experienced physical symptoms as a
result of your drinking? (Pains, shakes, memory lapses, seizures or
convulsions, injuries, etc.; has your mind played tricks on
Have you been treated by a physician or at a hospital in
the past few years?
Have you been treated for an alcohol problem
Why have you come for treatment at this time?
medical problems do you have at this time?
After the drinking
history is completed, a decision can be made about the most
appropriate type and sequence of treatment for you. For some people
the next step in treatment is detoxification. The best
detoxification tool is time. The only way to get alcohol out of the
body is to give the liver time to take it out of the blood and break
it down. This process might be uncomfortable for you because you
could have to put up with some unpleasant effects of withdrawal from
alcohol. If the process of withdrawal is merely uncomfortable,
detoxification can be accomplished safely in a non-medical setting.
Some places have sobering-up stations that help people “dry out”
without the aid of medication, and this can be a safe and very
effective way to sober up. But for some, the process of
detoxification is more complicated. Some people have consumed too
much alcohol for too long and experience some serious side effects
when they stop drinking. For them, medical supervision of their
detoxification is a good idea.
Detoxification deals with the
alcohol actually present in the body; rehabilitation deals with
drinking behavior. It most often focuses on helping people accept
the fact that they have a drinking problem, helping them gain
insight into the reasons behind their drinking, and offering them
forms of treatment that help them cope with life without
Heavy drinkers do not continue their drinking
because they enjoy it. They continue drinking because they need it
to function. Yes, they ‘need’ it. Drinking is one of a number of
alternative solutions to problems of living. Perhaps some questions
might be helpful. Try asking yourself these:
What would be
difficult for me in my life if I never drank again, starting right
What would my life be like if it weren’t for my
What would I have to learn (or change) about myself in
order to stop drinking and stay sober?
What would I have to learn
to do differently in my life in order to stay sober?
situations will really test my decision to stay sober?
obstacles will stand between me and sobriety after I have “dried
People constantly face stress in our modern, complex
world. But not all people react in the same manner to the situations
in which they find themselves. Some cope quite well; others do not.
Some of those who do not may develop psychological problems in
response to the stress. Others may learn to cope by drinking. Those
who have learned to cope by drinking—and you may be among them—can
also learn to cope in more effective and less damaging ways. Do not
underestimate your capacity to understand and change the
relationship of your drinking to the rest of your life.
grant me the Serenity to accept the people I cannot change; Courage
to change the person I can; and the Wisdom to know it’s
Health Organizations regard alcoholism and addiction as
a disease, however, that isn’t enough to remove the guilt,
embarrassment, and shame for some of us. These confused feelings
have hampered us from getting straight in the past and can get in
the way again. It is a fact that addiction is not a matter of wear
character or lack of willpower. Our disease has affected us
physically, mentally, and spiritually, and so we’ve become genuinely
Although addiction is a treatable illness, there isn’t a
cure for it. It can be arrested, though. Arresting the disease means
“to stop its progress,” and it is the only way to figh this terminal
illness. Although our disease is progressive and terminal, it can be
arrested no matter how long it has been active. If we have to have a
terminal disease, this is one we can live with because we can stop
its deadly progress.
You cannot arrest the disease of addiction
by yourself. To look at this disease in a half-believing, foggy
manner will only send you back to the hell you thought you’d left
behind. Begin to check out some local meetings of Alcoholics
Anonymous. Try both “open discussion” and “speaker” meetings to help
you to understand which meetings are best for your recovery
For a few meetings, just sit back and listen to the
other addicts who’ve been clean and sober for months or years. As
they share their relatively contented lives with each other, and
discuss their daily problems, try to identify with them. Comparing
yourself with others, with thoughts like “I’m not like that person
in any way at all,” is being closed-minded. All addicts are alike in
one way or another. If nothing else, we are all defiant and
rebellious; the word “stubborn” sums it up. Try the way millions of
other recovering people are finding solutions; notice how they
depend upon each other’s knowledge.
statements are promises that will be kept—guarantees—if you keep
going to meetings:
You will be clean, sober, and
Your guilt over the past will leave.
forgive yourself and others.
You will find peace and
You will work well with other suffering
Your “poor me’s” of self-pity will leave.
will learn to find yourself by forgetting yourself. Your fears and
loneliness will disappear.
You will develop a good, positive
attitude and outlook on life, filled with gratitude and
You will realize the love and beauty of your Higher
Power, and find the strength you’re always sought.
light at the end of the tunnel: an addict can’t ‘think’ his or her
way into a good living; he or she must ‘live’ a certain way into
IN CLOSING, HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE
SUFFERING FROM CO-DEPENDENCY (co-existing dependencies)? The signs,
symptoms and complications of the disease are described as follows
in the following groups of self-assessment
CHARACTERISTICS OF DENIAL:
avoid reflecting on unpleasant thoughts?
Are you a Pollyanna
Do you withdraw into reveries to fulfill
Do you exhibit magical thinking or superstitious
Are you minimally introspective with a barren inner
Do you fabricate events to bolster self-illusions?
you are not introspective, do you internalize experiences
Do you minimize?
Do you see things as they are or the
way you wished they were?
Are you irritated by others’ assessment
of you or the manner in which you behave?
Are you frequently very
confused by what’s happening in your life?
Do you have trouble showing your feelings?
you phlegmatic and lacking in spontaneity?
Do you procrastinate
and put things off?
Do you appear lethargic and lacking in
Are you emotionally impassive or unaffectionate?
you cold and humorless but edgy?
Do you have mood shifts from
dejection to anger to apathy?
Are you unable to experience
pleasure in depth?
Do you restrain warmth and affection?
you vacillate between being anguished and numb?
Do you try to
keep emotions under tight control?
Do you seem attracted to risk, danger and
Do you maintain a regulated and highly organized
Are you excessively devoted to
Do you suffer from eating disorders?
suffer from nicotine addiction?
Do you suffer from sexual
preoccupation and/or acting out/
Do you suffer from exercise
Do you suffer from gambling and/or spending
Do you have chronic feelings of emptiness or
Do you actively seek attention and solicit
Are you competitive and power-oriented?
Do you sustain
Do you insist others do things your
Do you constantly seek recognition and
CHARACTERISTICS OF LOW SELF-WORTH:
volunteer to do unpleasant tasks to gain approval?
anxiously anticipate ridicule/humiliation?
Have you made suicidal
threats or attempts?
Do you undermine your own good
Do you place yourself in inferior or demeaning
Do you act arrogantly self-assured and super
Do you fail to complete tasks beneficial to
Do you feel dejected or guilty after positive
Are you compliant, submissive and placating?
you uninterested in people who treat you well?
Do you appear
indifferent to praise or criticism?
Do you engage in
self-sacrifice and martyrdom?
Do you feel helpless or
uncomfortable when alone?
Do you chase after people who treat you
CHARACTERISTICS OF RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS:
you seem socially aloof and remote?
Do you have difficulty doing
things on your own?
Do you tend to socially isolate?
control interpersonal relationships?
Are you relationship
Do you go to great lengths to avoid being alone?
you provoke rejection, then feel hurt or humiliated?
devastated with close relationships end?
Are you fearful of loss
Are you drawn to relationships in which you will
Do you have close friends or intimates?
Do you stay in
problem relationships fearing abandonment?
Do you have a pattern
of unstable and intense relationships?
Do you show little desire for sexual
Do you frequently worry about your heart, blood
pressure or having cancer?
Are you preoccupied about the shape or
appearance of your body?
Do you visit a physician frequently for
Do you have high blood pressure or heart
Do you have numerous stomach, bowel and bladder
Do you have numerous headaches, insomnia or
Have you had actual organ damage—heart attack, ulcers
If you find that many of these characteristics
apply to you and are uncomfortable or painful in your life but not
disabling, then it might serve you well to speak to someone who can
help. Your physician may be able to help you and/or refer you to a
treatment program and/or therapist.
ABUSE - CHILD ABUSE
YOU MAY BECOME A VICTIM OF ABUSE IF
Feel you cannot live
Stop seeing other friends or family members, or give
up activities you enjoy because he doesn’t like them.
you have to walk on “eggshells” to keep him from getting
Feel afraid to tell him your worries and feelings about
Stop expressing opinions if he doesn’t agree
Feel that you are the only one who can help him and
that you should try to change him.
Stay because you feel that he
will kill himself if you leave.
Believe that his jealousy is a
sign of love.
Believe the critical things that are said to make
you feel bad about yourself.
Believe that there is something
wrong with you if you don’t enjoy the sexual things he makes you
Believe in rigid roles for men and women where a power
imbalance may exist.
Remain silent out of fear that you will not
be heard or believed.
Feel that you cannot tell anyone about what
he is doing to you.
Feel that no one will take you seriously or
YOUR PARTNER MAY BE ABUSIVE IF:
are not allowed to be friends with others; jealousy is
You are criticized for what you wear and what you
Activities like driving fast or doing reckless things are
used to scare you.
You must explain where you are and whom you
are with at all times.
Others are told about things you did or
said that embarrass you or make you feel stupid.
You get hurt or
scared when things get “carried away” during horseplay.
held down until you give in or feel humiliated.
expressed about trivial things – like being late for a date or
wearing the “wrong” clothes.
Your friends or family are
criticized and you are asked to stop seeing them.
withdrawal are evident but feelings will not be
Modeling has come from an abusive home.
violence is heightened due to the use of alcohol or drugs.
are forced to do anything sexually that you don’t feel ready to do –
either by physical force or by putdowns, threats to leave or other
You are continually told that you are
stupid, lazy, fat, ugly, a “slut”, and so on.
Rigid beliefs about
what men and women should be and do are held.
about women are made or flirting with others is done to scare or
Threats are made to hit you, hurt your friends or
pets, or commit suicide if you don’t comply.
WHAT TO DO
IF YOU ARE INVOLVED IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP...
If you are
injured seek medical attention.
Take time away to think about
what has happened.
Assess whether you want to continue with
Talk to someone you trust who believes
violence is not acceptable in a relationship ie. teacher, school
counselor, minister, social
Act in ways that promote
your dignity and self-respect.
So long as you don't violate
other's rights in the process.
Say no when you want to,
without feeling guilty.
Experience and express your feelings
Respectful treatment is everyone's
Take time to slow down and think.
If you need
information, go ahead and ask for it.
View your mistakes as
allowable and opportunities to learn.
Expect to do less than
you are humanly capable at times.
No one can expect you to do
your best all the time.
Everyone is entitled to a change of
Seeking what you want is the human thing to
See yourself as a worthwhile
The following was written by Tara;
her feelings & emotions during her relationship with an abusive
My wounds are cut open,
Blood seeping through
The bandage that
will no longer hold.
The salt you pour is making it all
And all the painful things you say
Make the cut deeper
I sit there and watch
As you sit there and
You're happy to see that I'm dying
Your life is now
You feel as though you're better
else you meet.
You hurt me when I want you,
When I turn away
These head games you play
Make me want to run
Although I stay,
I know I'm slowly dying.
Hurt by you
so many times,
And I keep coming back.
You rely on my esteem
which I lack.
My wounds are slowly taking over
My body and my
It's gotten so that I'm completely blind.
don't see the pain,
I don't see the hurt,
I only see the
happiness you gain.
Which is enough to keep me coming
Enough to keep me here
At least for a little
Until I disappear.
I pray that one day you'll let me
You'll let me live again
However, until then,
stuck here with you
And the anguish, and the growing
Child abuse happens at all ages; we
must do what we can to stop it.
what else could have
would still want to
When i awake im all
with my bones nearly
with more bad words
his face has been
oh please god have
While i lay there