Do you Drink or Drug too much and not Know It?
He was so worried about what happened at work. He had too much to drink. I struggled with him to keep him from going out with the car. I was so afraid he would have an accident. He wasn’t sleeping well either. Neither of us got any sleep this past week. I couldn’t get him to eat. In fact, my appetite wasn’t too good either. The kids tried to be good, but any little thing would set me off, then Junior stayed out all night! Everything went downhill from there and I knew we had to get some help. We don’t have a preacher or anything like that. My husband won’t set foot in a church, so I came to you. But I don’t think my husband will consent to come.
This lady’s concerns are compounded by lots of stress from multiple factors. The husband’s experiences at work, his loss of sleep and appetite, and his drinking are stressful both for him and for her. The children are stressed and acting out, causing even more stress on the parents. Her own stress responses create still more stress for her and for her family. Here is a woman who cares deeply and is willing to take the responsibility to seek help.
Many factors contribute to this very stressful, not uncommon, family situation. Likewise, many factors contribute to our own mental and physical weaknesses and strengths. At the same time, our weaknesses and strengths affect our abilities to cope with our daily problems and stresses.
Twelve interrelated factors or facets affect a person’s situation at any moment in time. You see almost all of them in the above example. They fall generally into two groups: those which are primarily physical predispositions or primarily social pre-dispositions. A factor may be mixed, with both physical and social predispositions. Because of the wholeness and interconnectedness of our being, interaction occurs between all these factors.
The twelve interrelated factors are Genetic, Physical, Habitual, Stress, Emotional, Trust, Defense Mechanisms, Coping Skills, “Others”, Personal History, Society, and Spirituality. The first two factors–genetic and physical–have definite physical components and affect mental, emotional, social, and spiritual states.
Habits have both physical and social components, and they affect physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health at the same time. Both stress and emotional factors have strong physical pre-dispositions as well as strong social predispositions and affect all realms.
The remaining seven factors have strong social predispositions and social effects. Trust, defense mechanisms, and coping skills are rooted deeply in personal history and societal experience.
All the factors interrelate with Spirituality.
Alcoholism as an Example
Alcoholism is an example of the inter-relationship of many factors and their effects in the disease process. Alcoholism has a genetic component, but does not depend entirely upon genetic factors. Alcohol use ranges in severity from abstinence or occasional use to social use, to “gotta have it daily,” to drop-over, dead drunk, memory loss, brain and liver damage physical disease with profound psychological and sociological complications and spiritual ramifications.
Unfortunately, alcohol users often do not realize they have begun to abuse the substance. They just want to feel better and do not realize that it is also a depressant. Binge drinking is particularly dangerous and leaves too many participants dead. If not dead, chronic alcohol use can cause serious complications. The most serious is technically called “delerium tremens” or “DTs.” For more about DTs see:
Treatment for DTs should be with medical supervision in a medical facility.
For people who are not acquainted with the symptoms of progressive alcohol dependence, Ruth Maxwell’s book “The Booze Battle” is an eye-opener that helps you understand what is going on and what to do about it. It is very highly recommended for family members.
To complicate matters more, many people do not know what they are feeling and find it hard to put feelings into words. I find five basic words to be helpful…good, bad, mad, sad, glad and afraid and
have developed a chart of high, medium and low intensity words for each category that you’ll find on a separate page.
Do a search for “feeling words with faces” or go to this website to help you learn basic words for feelings.
Personal history, habits, defense mechanisms, coping skills, “others” in their lives, stress, physical health, and society all enter into the process of developing alcoholism and in becoming well.
Mental and behavioral habits tend to be passed from generation to generation in families with a history of alcoholic members, whether or not alcohol is used by the individual.
Many of the habits are maladaptive, not helpful, in coping with life. Members of these families have many “personality features,” predominantly “habits of behavior,” in common.
Terence T. Gorski has analyzed these habits for signs of relapse and then developed methods of prevention. See Herald House/Independence Press for materials that are useful in helping oneself or one’s family to cope with and overcome alcoholism and its negative impacts.
To leave the old life and enter a new life we must interrupt the old habit patterns and learn new ones. To become “whole,” we learn new coping skills, develop positive thought habits that produce positive emotions, form satisfying interpersonal relationships, use new ways of communicating, and incorporate spiritual resources into everyday living.
The book “Non-Violent Communications by Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist, is helpful. He describes a progressive four steps of communication. I am using my basic feeling words to amplify the process. This is another way to confront and can be done in a loving, gentle way if you so choose…listen to your tone of voice. It is best to choose a time when things are relatively calm if possible.
1. When I see/ hear (what happens or what you do)
2. then I feel (some degree of mad, sad, glad, good, bad, afraid).
3. I need to (see or hear_____)and
4. I want you to______.
“I don’t know how I got this way! I can’t believe I’ve done all this stuff! I don’t remember half of it. Listen, I’ve tried. I’ve tried. If she wasn’t such a devil sometimes, I’d…”
“Hey, buddy. Tell me about it. I was the same way. Things are different now. Stick around. We’re here for you. Turn yourself over to God. Get with the program. He’ll help. We’ll help.”
Fortunately, as reported The Atlantic’s April 2015 article by Gabrielle Glaser, “The False Gospel of Alcoholics Anonymous,” there now are medications to help reduce the cravings for alcohol and the psychic effects. She describes her experiment with naltrexone taken an hour before drinking wine at dinner. After 10 days, the pleasure was gone and she no longer looked forward to that first glass. Another medication is antibuse which has more severe reactions to drinking alcohol. She reports that patients on naltrexone or its alternative nalmefene mention several benefits besides drinking less. “They sleep better, have more energy and less guilt. They feel proud. They’re able to read or watch movies or play with their children during the time they would have been drinking.”
Glaser reports that the Hazelden Center for rehabilitation from alcohol addiction began using naltrexone and acamprosate along with its AA treatment in 2003. Naltrexone is now generic and relatively inexpensive and has been found to be helpful in limiting alcohol use among college students. Other drugs that have been useful are varenicline, used also to reduce smoking, topirimate used in some seizures, and baclofen used as a muscle relaxant. Between 1935 when Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Bill Wilson and 1994 when naltrexone was approved for treatment of alcohol abuse AA was either the only or a standard part of treatment.
We can thank the medical and social scientists who have continued searching for ways to help people regardless of the stage of alcoholism. Early interventions by friends or family can help a person realize the need for help. You do not have to wait until a person “hits bottom” or accidentally drinks a lethal dose and is taken to the hospital.
I recommend the article for additional information. Both medication and counseling can help a person live a more fulfilling life and avoid some or possibly most of the damaging effects of alcohol on the body if used soon enough and long enough. Nevertheless, for many people there is still an empty spot deep in the soul.
Drink and Drugs do not fill the deep, dark, hole in the soul.
When use of alcohol is in the “disease stage,” many come to wellness only through the help of God. They have tried their best, with or without treatment, over and over again, and found their resources were inadequate. Then turning to God, often with the support of Alcoholics Anonymous groups (www.aa.org), they have remained free of alcohol and created a new life.
GOD is the Spirit, Power, and Presence who gives us life and purpose, and upon whom all life depends. God is independent and able to help. If you are willing, God will be present with you personally. Whatever problem you may be facing, God can strengthen you, so that you can begin a whole, new life.
God does not impose wholeness on an individual. You, however, can invite God into your life. Talk to God. Listen to God. Talking and listening to God is called “Prayer.” We communicate with God. Ask God to take away the power of negative and destructive thoughts, and fill you with whatever good God has for you. Meditate on, think about, the good thoughts that come when you listen to God. Read what Jesus teaches us about God in the Bible’s New Testament. Think on those things and how they apply to you. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for God’s direction and assistance. Ask for God’s presence and the power to change.
Throw yourself on God’s Mercy.
You may not have the problems of the family mentioned at the beginning of this section. You may consider yourself already whole, already well. If you have not heard of God, and not accepted what God offers you, you have much more potential than you realize. Those who have God in their lives find new levels of wellness and wholeness, and help when they fail.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;