We are complex beings. We have yet to be able to figure it out. The unique genetic makeup of each individual mystifies the scientific community and us. Sisters and brothers are so different from each other. For that matter, sisters and sisters are so different from one another. Heck, even identical twins are so different from one another.
Society, in general, and the mental health community have been trying to get their arms around the causes and effects of addiction since addicts first became addicts.
In one attempt to figure it out, Canadian psychologists dumped a bunch of rats into a caged condo complex, filled it with all the amenities a mouse would want, and then offered up unlimited amounts of mind-altering substance and drew conclusions covering the entire rodent universe. Indeed, it is an environmental thing, they determined. While much ongoing debate is centered on the analysis’s results and further experimentation, nobody asked the rat!
Look, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous was neither a scientist, psychologist, geneticist, physicist, or zoologist. Mr. Wilson was just a guy with a severe “Drinking Problem.” Bill and 99 others collaborated to pen their combined knowledge and experience with addiction onto the pages of a book titled Alcoholics Annonymous, which was first published in 1939AD.
No statistical data is released from the organization (AA), and though there is much speculation based on records from the medical community, essential information remains limited. We were tempted to insert some sampling group findings that would make AA's success rate attractive to somebody genuinely researching rehabilitation options. We will, in its place only provide our eyes witness analytics for your consideration.
We believe that there are many contributing factors to the alcoholic syndrome. Cause, Continuation, and lack of control are three areas that we will look at today.
Cause – the root source of alcoholism
Don’t we, individually and as a community, want to know the root cause of alcoholic tendencies? If we knew what caused it, couldn't we stop it? We think this is silly as “just stopping” greed, lust, wrath, gluttony, sloth, pride, and envy (Yes, those are the seven deadly sins). Oh, so are you saying that the alcoholic is a sin? Well, “yes: and “absolutely not” are our answers – Yes, as all humans magnate to some character flaw (sin) or another, but no, because we don't feel that these shortcomings are the only factor.
There are multiple potential contributors to the condition. Things like childhood trauma, genetics, biological factors, environmental factors, social factors, and psychological factors, to name a few. And where one of these factors or aspects may be ripe for one person, they could possess no influence and the second person. Remember, even identical twins are different.
So, where does that leave us? At the intersection of “some knowledge” and “curiosity,” as we have heard from thousands of Alcoholics and not one of them, or any doctor that we're aware of, in the world has determined the root cause of alcoholism though many in our community consider it to be a more of a spiritual malady than a molecular phenomenon, the spirit world is even more brutal to wrap and articulate.
We will explore this further in future podcasts and blog posts.
Continuation – What causes someone to become addicted
Why does one who suffers ill effects from drinking continue to do so once they have taken that first drink? Again, much science is out there that talks about brain function and chemical balance. We don't think we're dumbing the conversation down by suggesting that a particular doctor, Dr Robert Silkworth captured an efficient summary of alcoholic behavior.
Now, some feel that the doctor's opinion was not valid as he talked about an allergic reaction triggered when the alcoholic consumes any alcohol. The idea, published in 1939, captured the language of the era. The word “allergy” was meant to mean “abnormal reaction.” Many people get caught up in the phrase allergy, thinking that the body should respond negatively, but, as the doctor points out, there is an abnormal reaction that reacts positively to the experience.
Whether we believe in Dr Silkworth's science or choice of words, the point is that specific individual will consume more ethanol even as the negative consequences pile up.
Lack of control – Alcoholism is not a choice.
In our drinking days, we were surrounded by people who were dumbfounded that we just wouldn't quit this stuff. Indeed, it was a choice for us to continue to drink. The complex and actual fact is that we counted ourselves among those people.
This is where science and theory must come together for the common good of a cure.
Alcoholics in recovery believe, with all their hearts, that they have a choice today to pick up that first drink. Those educated on the topic and rooted in any recovery program and, with the support of the community, will make the right choice daily.
We can emphatically say that while we were actively using that, this choice did not exist. The reader of this post might see a disconnect between the sentences above, So we will try and say it a different way:
An alcoholic or drug addict in functional dependence has, in Dr. Silkworth's opinion (and we agree, from our own experience), zero defense against the second drink. That same alcoholic or drug addict must fight habit and mental obsession to win the battle of choice. In almost every case, self-will loses this battle.
That is why the spiritual-based program has, in our opinion, the best chance at positive recovery ratios. That mental fixation needs to be lifted, so we do not rely on self-will to defend our choice. There is no proven methodology, no perfect rat environment, that protects us from the pull of addiction. Complete and utter abstinence must be our choice, and if we can get help from an invisible superpower (insert any God reference here) - And we've seen this happen in hundreds of cases - To remove that preoccupation, then, and only then, is our daily choice even possible.
In conclusion, if you believe, that is all that matters.
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from sober.coffee podcast #98 PRO SOBRIETY! - AA Alternative(s) Part 4 -SMART Recovery The podcast dropped on 2/8/2023. Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.