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The Role Of Friendship And Mutual Aid In Overcoming Alcohol Addiction

I met Tanya in SMART recovery. Bookish and serious-looking, I gravitated towards her, honestly, at first, because of them glasses.

 

(I think people who wear glasses are serious and have authority. Been like that since my college days.)

Anyways, when I first approached her, I knew I desperately needed a new friend. None of my old connections are helping. Of course, I asked her if I could connect with her through social media first. (This is how you do new friendships in 2019.)

 

The day after the meeting, I followed her on Instagram. We became Facebook friends and chatted away on Messenger for a few days.

Like sober mum Clare Pooley (who I look up to), I am a sober mum trying to get a grip on my life and my relationships.

 

My husband and I are okay. We don’t argue (too much), but he has given me an urgent warning to sober up…or, “I don’t know what next,” he says.

 

We certainly aren’t talking about separation, or, gulp, divorce, though. We are at this point when the kids are young, but not too young (Harold is ten, and Ella is eight). I don’t really think he wants to break up with me, he just wants me to be better. Sober, better.

I am at this point in my life where I am fed up with my disease. It took many years away from me. I’ve acknowledged how it took control of my life, and I am already moving on.

In the early days of my sobriety I was in total denial. You heard a lot of, “NO. I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ALCOHOL” from me.

 

Right now, I am quite sober. I am actively recovering, but I am not perfect, and I will never be.
I am past the stage of self-pity and blaming my father for all the stress he caused me.

 

I am past that stage of blaming him for making me a drunk. I looked into various options for mutual aid in alcohol recovery.

I have attended three months worth of SMART Recovery meetings, and I am already in this state when… I don’t drink. Period.

SMART teaches us not to dwell on the past—you can’t change it. Instead, focus on the present and the future So, here am I.

Yesterday, I was out shopping with Robyn (my husband) and the kids. They were in the toy store (where else?) I went inside Marks and Spencer. I proceeded to go to the Wine section. I looked. Yes, I looked. I caressed the bottles. I reminisced. I fantasized.

Being in active recovery does not mean you don’t fantasize.

For a while there, I was going, “Gold Label Malbec, La Fortezza, Merlot Contino Rioja…talk to me.”

Then I stepped out of the store. I rubbed my eyes.

I don’t want this. Drinking makes me sick. I don’t want this. But it’s as if I was under a spell. I was in a moony-glassy-eyed state.

 

Wine, wine, wine wine. I wanted to buy. I wanted to taste that old taste of oblivion. I wanted my old, familiar friend.

Then it hit me. Friend.
Call…friend.
Tanya.
Drinking makes me sick, Drinking makes me sick, Drinking makes me sick.
STOP. Stop it, Giselle, you need help.
Call Tanya.
I can’t do this by myself.
Get the phone. Dial.
No, text, she might be busy.
“Hello Tanya. How was your PT (physical therapy) session? Hope it was ok. If you’re not busy, I need a friend right now. Hugs.”
I put down phone.
Moments later, she texts back.
“Sure, hon. Give me a buzz.”
I call. And all is better.

I read somewhere that something happens to the brains of people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. There is a sort or irreversible damage—even if they want to quit, their brain circuits have been changed and they can’t do it. I mean, they can, but they are fighting against the grain. It’s like their brains got short-circuited or something, and they need intervention to get it wired right again.

Case in point. Me, yours truly, Giselle M. Forty-five years of age, mum of two kids, married, trying-to-be Sober Mum.

Short-circuited brain.

In recovery circles, they hammer it over and over your head that “the opposite of addiction is connection.” It’s my mantra now, actually.

Tanya has been my friend for only those three months I’ve been trying to get sober. But she understands what I am going through. She does not judge, and she isn’t perfect too. She’s not my mentor or sponsor (we don’t have sponsors in SMART recovery).

 

In a simple way, she is truly just a concerned, overworked mum who gives a sh*t about me. Somebody who cares about my well-being apart from my sister, brother, husband, and to some degree, my colleagues.

The good thing about Tanya is, she does not see me as an alcoholic, she sees me as a struggling mum. Just like her.

Tanya has one kid, Meghan. She’s a teen. Tanya’s husband is ok, but he’s the typical bloke who doesn’t like talking about emotions and stuff-like-that-for-girls. The reason why Tanya like me so much is because we have so much in common. Like me, she’s a drunk (laugh), gets moony-eyed over wines in Marks and Spenser, and we’re both (a bit) dissatisfied with our husbands.

 

Unashamedly, I could say a lot of our initial conversations were husband-bashing sessions (more laughs).
Seriously, we do talk a lot about our children like good mums do.

And also, yes, recovery. Alcohol recovery.

So after that call yesterday, I was able to recover. I got my wits together. I was outside the store display when my kids and husband found me. Robyn didn’t even know what happened. Harold was pestering me to buy him a new Takara 4D (whatever the hell that was) for his Beyblade competition. And Ella wanted “Pink!” Ice cream. (Understand that it has to be pink.)

Childcare is so demanding. No wonder, I need to take the edge off.

Malbec is not the solution, Giselle, girl.

Call your girl-friend. If you mope about this with Robyn you will just get a dressing down.

Last week, our facilitator opened up the topic about asking “Why do people drink?” It boils down to four factors, really.
1.    Past Experience
2.    Impulsive Personality
3.    Stress
4.    Environment

 

This lesson made me think deep and hard. This was how I analysed it. Hmmm.
1.    Past experience – I loved drinking. It made me feel good. (Until it did not make me feel good.)
2.    Impulsive Personality – Am I impulsive? Well, yes I am. I can’t count how many choices I’ve made (and I am still making) without thinking the consequences through
3.    Stress – Okay. So when I’m stressed I looked forward to wine later on. It was my number one stress reliever.
4.    Environment – Mum, dad and my sister drank (they are not alcoholics, it was just a normal thing at home.

 

My friends at work drink socially, they are all normal (as far as I know…but you can’t tell, can’t you?). One is in a UK addiction treatment clinic.

So, logical person that I am, if I have to stop drinking, I need to address these motivational issues. I’ve already begun with number one, so the rest should be easy.

1.    Past experience – drinking made feel good. It doesn’t now. I can get past this motivation.
2.    Impulsive Personality – I am impulsive, but I can be less impulsive. A tad less impulsive. Well, I walked into Marks and Spencer’s wine section, didn’t I? That was impulsive. But I put on the breaks. I didn’t buy. I ogled and caressed a few bottles and looked like a total weirdo, but I did not buy. I guess I have to respect this part of me.

Impulsive – nay. I am spontaneous. From now on, I can say that. “Giselle is spontaneous. But responsibly spontaneous.”

3.    Stress – Parenting is stressful! But there is another way to get relief. I am just three months in, in terms of the recovery process. Give me some credit! For now, I will hold on to this: (Tanya’s advice).

 

4.    Environment – Change the environment, change the drinking. That means I will no longer hang out in Marks and Spencer Wine Sections. (Or any other wine section for the matter.) I can go to Waterstones or I can check out Clarks instead.

I’ll add something to this. “And If I hyperventilate and panic, I’ll call Tanya instead.”

Note to self: Get more friends. Pinot Noir is not a friend. Bouschet is not a friend, Shiraz is not a friend.

I think I did that analysis bit quite well. Can’t wait to share it to the SMART group. Next meeting is in four days. Can’t wait to jump in.

 

What Is The Etiology Of Addiction?

Is addiction something we inherit?

We’ll discuss here the neurological reasons why people get addicted to drugs or alcohol. It is our hope to demystify the process of how addiction comes about so you can have more compassion towards people in your life who may be struggling with this problem.

Is addiction inherited?
We inherit traits from our parents. These include not only physical traits but psychological traits as well. There is a common saying that goes:

With alcohol and drug issues, there is a hint of truth in the saying. This is because children of alcohol and drug addicts have a 50-60% chance of becoming alcohol and drug addicts themselves. Medical doctors and psychologists have attributed the following factors to this trend:

1.    Copying of behavior (we look up to and admire our parents; or as young people, we go along what other people do)
2.    There are certain genes that are specifically linked to addiction. If we are offspring of addicts, we could inherit these genes.
3.    There is an endophenotype (a measurable biological trait)for addiction. People who likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol display the following behavioral characteristics: impulsivity, sensation seeking, openness to new experiences, and being less law abiding.
Take some time to watch this video by Dr. Danielle Dick, Ph.D., professor of psychology and human and molecular genetics.

Examining the etiology of addiction, Dr. Dick shares how the first drink at age 12-14 is usually influenced by environmental factors, not genes. But as people age, the decision to drink is affected more by genetics. It’s easier to think of it this way:

We may drink or use drugs as an experiment at first. We may be encouraged by our environment, especially if we are surrounded by people who think using substances is the norm. But the decision to keep on using drugs and alcohol later on, even to the point of addiction, this is highly influenced by our genes.

What does the brain have to do with addiction?

This is illustration from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows why addicted people “can’t just quit”.

 

People who are addicted are wired differently in terms of neurology. In this sketch, we see that there is a broken line connecting control and drive.

In the normal brain, the saliency of things (the qualities that makes things memorable)is directly connected to the part of the brain that concerns memory. This makes sense. The more salient (noticeable) something is, the more we remember it.

This circuit goes back and forth (it is remarkable, we remember it. We remember it, it is remarkable). Further, saliency is connected to drive. We are driven to pursue something we see as memorable. Lastly, we have control over things that matter to us.

We combine our control and drive together to do something.

Let’s say that something is “avoiding drugs or alcohol”.

We remember that drugs cause us harm (saliency and memory working together), we are driven and have control over not using drugs or alcohol. This is how the normal brain works.

This is not the case for the addicted brain. For people who have addiction:
1.    The line that connects their drive and their control over drug use is broken. This means they feel no desire to stop using drugs. They do not feel a strong urge to quit.
2.    The lines connecting memory and saliency are thicker. This means they remember very sharply how good the drug is. They associate the drug with good vibes.
3.    The lines connecting saliency and drive are shorter and thicker. This means they are highly driven to pursue their drug habit.

 

These significant differences are at the level of the brain (They are neurological changes.) This malfunction disables addicted people to “just quit”.

 

This explains that even if it will bring them harm, addicts will continue to seek out drugs.

Even if they have been in rehab over and over, even if they are broke and they made their families broke, they will still seek out the drugs.

This PET scan clearly shows how different a normal brain is compared to a brain of a drug abuser.

 

Dopamine and Serotonin: Understanding the chemicals that govern addiction

When we experience pleasure, our brain is flooded with dopamine. This is something that is natural. However, it is different for people who use the following drugs:
•    Alcohol
•    Heroin
•    Cocaine
•    Methamphetamine
•    Marijuana
•    LSD
•    MDMA or Ecstasy
•    Benzodiazepines

What happens is their brain gets an unnatural high level of dopamine. Because people naturally seek pleasure, we are driven to repeat activities that give us pleasure.

Some people who use drugs become dependent on the drug that gave them the intense feeling of pleasure.

Because drugs and alcohol elicit a stronger level of pleasure than non-drug sources of pleasure, some people feel that they need that intensity over and over again.

In time, people who are drawn to use drugs and alcohol develop a tolerance for the substance. They need to have more of it to feel the intensity of pleasure that they are seeking.

They have developed drug tolerance. At the neurological level, their brains have adapted in such a way that if they do not use the drug, they do not feel normal anymore. They do not feel any kind of pleasure, and may even feel very low or depressed if deprived of the drug.

Medical experts say that once a person becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, their brain becomes irreparably changed. People recovering from drug abuse are prone to depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and memory impairment.

This is not their choice—their brain has been marked with damage. Their brain cannot go back to the way it was before they abused alcohol or drugs. Their injured brain also impedes their efforts to become sober. If they want to be rid of addiction, self-discipline and wilfulness are not enough. People who want to recover from alcohol and drug addiction need help.

Tim Spector, epidemiologist and professor at King’s College London has a bit to say about the etiology of addiction, “Various options are pencilled in by our genes, and our life experiences determine which get inked.” It is foolish to think that genes, environment, or bad experiences alone causes addiction.

There are many sides to the issue of addiction; every person we meet who is going through the struggle has a unique battle.

All Content Copyright © 2019 thefriendship-connection.com

hello@thefriendship-connection.com