Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Deferring to medical opinion

I hadn't been prompted to think about it for a while. Too long, perhaps. My understanding of the nature of the disease whose effects I have witnessed all too closely. Addiction for me, is a disease. And it's sufferers and those around them get to experience dis-ease. 

I subscribe fully to the outline presented in 'The Doctor's Opinion', and have found no better explanation than that which Silkworth proposes:  it makes a lot of sense and carries with it significant currency having helped countless previously hopeless feeling individuals gain a solid understanding of the nature of their cunning opponent. 

We believe, and so suggested a few years ago, that the action of alcohol on these chronic alcoholics is a manifestation of an allergy; that the phenomenon of craving is limited to this class and never occurs in the average temperate drinker. These allergic types can never safely use alcohol in any form at all; and once having formed the habit and found they cannot break it, once having lost their self-confidence, their reliance upon things human, their problems pile up on them and become astonishingly difficult to solve.

Frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices. The message which can interest and hold these alcoholic people must have depth and weight. In nearly all cases, their ideals must be grounded in a power greater than themselves, if they are to re-create their lives...

Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks—drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.

On the other hand—and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand—once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.

It is a chronic and progressive condition that affects every aspect of an afflicted being's functioning. The biological aspects of the illness explain the dangerous phenomenon of craving which, if not kept in check, all too often precedes devastating relapse. In this respect, the disease whilst treatable is not curable. Those in recovery from its effects, must work to manage their reprieve, one day at a time.

Recovery involves something beyond physical health, as emotional and psychological well being in those who suffer from addictions and other compulsive behaviours is contingent upon the maintenance of a fit spiritual condition. I believe this is the only defence against the self absorption which often lies beneath many an addictive personality. Breaking free of the conjoined shackles of self absorption and self loathing are both of equal and urgent import to those who seek any meaningful or lasting serenity. 

It is a baffling and insidious illness. It presents countless challenges for those engaged and invested in its treatment, and contradictions that baffle and perplex even the brightest among us. And that's why I won't be hanging up my boots anytime soon. 

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