New Recovery: Acid and Alcohol Don’t Mix – TBS

everything-you-wantFor this week’s Throwback Sunday Post, ignore the reference to acid. I selected it because it speaks to the dangers of a couple of recent developments:

  • the spectrum approach to substance use disorders
  • the recurring references to 23 million Americans being in recovery

The danger of these developments is that they blur the lines between those with relatively mild AOD problems and those with severe, chronic problems. In my experience, it’s important for people to not use their experience with AOD to understand the experience of addicts. Uncle Joe, who drank too much while in the Navy and decided to quit when his kids were born, probably does not have the same problem as Cousin Sam who has been in treatment 3 times and has lost jobs and a marriage due to his drinking. Their experiences with alcohol are apples and oranges.

This was originally posted in 2006.

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This post about the recently published paper on the history of LSD treatment for alcoholism does a great job of summarizing the positive points from another post on the subject by Nick Johnstone.

I posted info on the paper last week and thought hard about posting a link to Nick Johnstone’s comments. I decided not to. Not because of his negative comments about AA. Rather, it was this:

…The cure for alcoholism isn’t group meetings or drugs: it’s for the alcoholic to genuinely want to stop drinking. That’s why George Best is dead and I’m still here. Nobody and nothing can stop an alcoholic from drinking except the resolute decision of the individual.

I didn’t stop when family, friends, girlfriends, work colleagues, psychiatrists and counselors pleaded with me to get help. I didn’t stop when I started spitting up blood, having to leave work early because of the previous night’s drinking, when my hands trembled at breakfast, when I started having blackouts or when I started regularly vomiting blood.

No, I stopped when I vomited a scary amount of blood, started hallucinating flocks of blue birds flying around my bedroom after a day and a half without a drink, was shaking head to toe and couldn’t stand up because I was so sick. I stopped when I was admitted into A&E at the age of 24 with internal bleeding. I stopped when I found myself lying in a hospital bed, terrified that I was going to die.

Erika Dyck should forget about LSD or any other quick-fix “cures”. If an alcoholic doesn’t want to stop drinking, then it’s a lost cause.

It’s my experience that this attitude is common among the general public, pundits, even professional helpers. Worst of all, I hear it frequently from recovering people themselves.

This reasoning suggests that all it takes to recover is a decision. And that when recovery doesn’t take root, it’s because the decision to quit was never made. By this circular reasoning every addict or alcoholic who continues to use or dies of their addiction, did so only because they did not decide that they’d suffered enough. It inevitably leads to the conclusion that they lack the character to choose to quit.

The reality is that most addicts and alcoholics make genuine decisions to quit regularly. If subjected to a polygraph, they’d pass with flying colors while saying that they want to quit forever. The problem is that, in this area, their will is impaired.

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If this reasoning held water, recovering alcoholics could drink this weekend and just make a decision to quit again on Monday.

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One response to “New Recovery: Acid and Alcohol Don’t Mix – TBS

  1. The opportunity to quit drinking happens all the time for an alcoholic. When that opportunity presents itself the person must act then or the moment passes and you have to wait for the next one. The desire to quit at these moments is real but the expectation is that it will end in failure.

    I think many alcoholics have such a high expectation of failure that many feel they are conditioned to fail.

    I know one other thing; I did not quit because I knew alcohol was horrible for me. I quit because I finally felt alcohol was bad for me.