Last week we wrote about attempting to get an accurate assessment of your alcohol related problems. Now it’s time to dispel a couple of myths that interfere with you fixing these problems.
Multiple myths refer to “alcoholism” as a “progressive disease” – meaning that, like cancer, it inexorably develops to a fatal end.
First myth is that it’s a “disease” – when, almost always, it’s a choice.
Second myth is that it’s “progressive” when, actually, it’s more apt to be regressive or stable.
This latter point is especially important and it’s also something you know from personal experience. We doubt that there is anyone, anywhere, who doesn’t know people whose alcohol abuse just went away – which is a far more common outcome than having it “progress” to “rock bottom.”
So what happened?
Typically, people change their drinking patterns when they get out of college, get married, become a parent, move away from home, get divorced, retire, hit menopause, get a DUI, and/or any of a number of events that are significant to them.
Some of these, divorce, menopause, retirement, empty nest, etc., may well result in a temporary increase in alcohol use which may well go away within a year or two as life re-stabilizes.
Others, geographic relocation, graduation, military discharge, a DUI, and so on, often result in a decrease in alcohol use.
Neither of these are hard to understand. Under stress and duress and with too much free time, alcohol use will expand to fill the available space.
Change locations, habit patterns, your self-image, and day-to-day circumstances and your alcohol use may cease to be socially, recreationally, or professionally encouraged and your consumption drops to the level of your new environment and expectations.
Finally, for most people, their alcohol use actually stays stable. It may be at healthy levels, abusive levels, or dependent levels, but regardless of the level, stability is the rule, not the exception.
Why is this important?
If you are going to make an informed decision with regard to your drinking, you need to consider your alcohol use as a symptom which you can trace to an actual problem (loneliness, boredom, anxiety, etc.) and which you can address with a variety of considerations which is what we help you figure out, address, and incorporate.
No, it’s not rocket science, just good science, also known as:
Early intervention (on yourself, please)?
A medical model that does make some sense is the idea of intervening early in correcting your alcohol abuse.
No, that doesn’t mean others should, or that they should become the “alcohol police” – that almost always turns out badly.
What it does mean is that the fewer of the DSM-5 problems you have, and the shorter their duration, the easier they are to fix, and the greater the number of outcome options you have.
Again – you know this stuff if you can set aside the 12 Step brainwashing.
If your problems are of recent onset, and you have a lengthy history of not abusing alcohol, then it’s easier for you to return to previous well established behavior patterns than it is for someone who has always used alcohol inappropriately and for all of their adult life.
Another fast test?
How many years have you accumulated when alcohol wasn’t a problem, whether you drank or not?
And you count them all, beginning with birth.
That’s the number that counts. Not the bogus “years of sobriety” AA loves and which are meaningless for the most part – unless you’re a ten year old who’s still collecting stickers and gold stars..
Intelligence, Strengths, Interests, and Abilities, skillfully patterned into a new life mosaic –
one we piece together with you.