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Addiction questions; part philosophical, part practical

TheCaterpillar posted 10/7/2018 21:23 PM

In this instance I'm thinking specifically about illegal drugs or alcohol addictions but since most addictions have common factors I'm making the discussion general. I welcome responses from recovered addicts, family/friends of addicts as well as anyone with professional experience.

Firstly, what makes something an addiction? My understanding/thinking (and please do correct me if I'm wrong here - I'm looking to learn) was that it becomes an addiction when the person can't say no, despite having practical reasons (finacial, social, work, health etc) to decline the behaviour/substance. So someone could be addicted without necessarily suffering from a chemical dependence or physical withdrawal symptoms etc and without yet having it impact their life. In the example of alcohol if someone is not getting blind drunk, but is unable to even contemplate not having a couple of drinks every single night (regardless of the situation), is that addiction? To be compelled to go and get something to drink, though not getting heavily drunk, but equally they don't buy it all in one go because they don't trust themself not to drink it all? It doesn't fit the stereotype of someone who is a 'drunk' but if they're not able to say no? To me it seemed very telling if someone goes and buys 2 drinks every day after work because they re not capable of buying a larger amount at the start and lasting the week, because they know it will go in one night

Secondly, what resources would you advise if your friend was worried about their spouse? WHere do they start in finding a way to confront about substance abuse without being dismissed for being too casual or overly alarmist? Are there support groups or online resources they could use to understand how to start?

Sorry if this is confusing or badly worded. I've been slammed and not been able to get my full sleep for a few nights! I'll correct/clarify anything so don't be shy if what I've written is gibberish!

Minnesota posted 10/7/2018 21:42 PM

Hey Caterpillar-

Are you looking to express concern to someone about their drinking? Drug use? Or is it for supporting a friend? Has the friend asked you for help or have they just expressed a concern?

I would say that there are a lot of variables and every situation is different, but generally, be honest and loving but firm. You're concerned for their well-being and the well-beings around them. If you're helping a friend who is concerned, have they asked you for help? If not, they may not want help. They might want just to vent. You could start by asking how you can support that friend. What does THAT person want? You can offer to inquire of the internet and give your friend options for resources you find from Google or SI or wherever you go for info. Are you in IC? I would ask your IC also. OR- (and I've done this kind of)- if you have a previous IC but are not seeing them now, you can call and leave a message asking for referrals for someone.

I think there are support groups everywhere. (well, I live in the land of 10,000 lakes and 10,000 treatment centers- so I may be skewed)- Google will be your friend here.

Good luck!

thatbpguy posted 10/7/2018 22:05 PM

An addiction can also be the propensity to do something. Ask an alcoholic who has been sober for years and they will tell you they're still an alcoholic. It's the weakness that can lead to the addiction reforming.

I recommend a 12-step program. They have pretty good success.

tushnurse posted 10/8/2018 07:31 AM

Addictions are exactly as you outlined, and often involve a need for the substance, be it gambling, food, sex, or booze.

The first thing to remember is the person who is addicted has to understand they are addicted. If they are going through steps to stop and it is just to appease others it won't work long term, if there is a true addiction.

However if they identify that there is an addiction they also have to identify that it is a problem in their life. 12 step programs tens to be the most effective method of ending the abuse of the substance, be it any of the above, or something completely different.

Addictions are not cured. It is a life long battle, and struggle for the abuser, unless they fix whatever deep seated issue it is in their person that led to it in the first place, sometimes this is easier than others. Sometimes one can identify it, fix it, and be good, but always still be susceptible to the addiction, and the mind being easily led into the addictive thought process.

If you are dealing with a person who is married to or a parent of or a child of an addict I strongly recommend Al Anon, a branch of AA that really allows the family member to understand what addiction is and accept that they cannot do the work for the addict, or change that person. It can be empowering.

TrustedHer posted 10/8/2018 09:07 AM

Your definition of addiction is pretty close to what I learned from some counseling sessions. Close enough, anyway.

There are organizations that help people who have addicts in their lives. Al-Anon and Narcotics Anonymous are examples. Avoid Narconon; that's just a front for the Scientology cult.

I spent a couple of years as a peer counselor to fellow parents of teenage addicts in an organization similar to AA and Al-Anon but not affiliated with them.

TheCaterpillar posted 10/8/2018 14:06 PM

Well the gentleman in question doesn't see it as an issue because he doesn't "get drunk" but he literally never goes a night without drinking anymore. WHen he asked his wife to pick up some beers (she was going out for milk) and she said no, he threw a tantrum, but she stood firm that it was just one evening, she didn't want to queue extra time to buy beer and get carded, she wanted to grab the milk and get gone. Plus she argued that they shouldn't be spending money on having it every night. Well, apparently he sulked but agreed. She had been home from getting the milk less than an hour before he decided he needed to go and buy himself "just one beer" grumbling about the extra petrol cost. She says this is a common occurance if he has stopped on the way home to buy beers each day. She said she doesn't feel like she can hold an intervention but everytime she asks him to just lay off a bit he won't. Her argument is he gets drunk with 'the guys' once or twice a week, so wouldn't it be good for his health to lay off when he's home? SHe's worrying about money and mostly just miffed that he refuses to see her concern.

Ordinarily I would see this as just a friend complaining their partner, as you say having a vent. Then she mentioned he also smokes weed (it is not legal where she lives). he started as when he was with his buddies. Then it was every weekend. Then every week night but just a little "to take the edge off". Now he's getting high before bed. I asked if she was worried about him driving (he works construction and leaves at 5am), because in al honesty if he's smoking every night his pee is going fail a drug test. That was the point she crie and told me she's worried that he's getting addicted ebcause she raised the issue from driving (she's adamant his job won't test, even though legally they could ask him to but would need to give him notice) and he flipped at her for "Always riding my ass about dumb shit".

To me, that's someone who isn't happy with a situation and doesn't know how to make changes. I was sympathetic and suggested perhaps she could reach out to her pastor (they are church goers) to talk about counselling, or support groups but she said only if it was anonymous. So I said Alcoholic anonymous (even though she sees the weed as the issue, not the drink because "he's not a drunk"). I'm not in a position to walk her through this, but I would like to be able to pass on the name of a reputable organisation or online information, and say that I'm here if she'd like to talk but that if she wants to never speak of it again that's her choice. Just resources that would help her at least understand a bit more then it's up to her whehter she wants to research more and make some changes or not.

tushnurse posted 10/8/2018 17:53 PM

Can she discuss with him at a higher level. Taking the whole stopping and addiction thing out of the conversation?
Discussing that someone who finds happiness I. altering their moods means they aren't happy at baseline. It is a form of self medicating. Perhaps he has ADHD or some other issue. Would he be willing to talk with his dr about it?
If he works construction and has a work accident in the US he would absolutely be tested. And if positive out of a job.

Could also express concern over his health and ask him to have basic lab work done to evaluate his liver function.
Then if he is still unwilling he absolutely has an issue and she needs to decide where her line in the sand is.

josiep posted 10/10/2018 07:29 AM

Quick thoughts, have to run cuz have a doc appt. but, in no particular order:

My XWH is an alcoholic. He hasn't had a drink in 38 yrs. but he's still an alcoholic and if he had a drink today, his body would respond as though he's still been drinking for the last 38 yrs. and he'd be down for the count in no time because he was very bad at the end of his drinking days. He went through a treatment facility for 30 days, I went into intensive AlAnon and an unaffiliated study group. How I wish I'd kept that up but I digress.....

My father was an alcoholic as well. And my son is but sporadically, more what we call a binge drinker. My DD might be or it might just be that she likes alcoholic men and drinks with them. I am not. Not even close. I don't like to drink and I don't like to feel buzzed.

There's a reason I say that. I wouldn't be any good at my need to control if I wasn't 100% completely sober. That's MY lifelong addiction and I do whatever I have to do to keep that part of me sharp and hypervigilant.

Anyway, all 3 of them are completely different types of drunks. But they didn't become alcoholics because they drank too much, they drank too much because they're alcoholics. The person having 2 drinks a day no matter what is definitely an alcoholic (addicted).

Just like people smoke because it makes them feel better, more human, more alive, sharper in their mind, whatever, that's what they're looking for when they have those 2 drinks. People don't drink to get drunk on a regular basis until they are way far down into addiction and it's not that they want to feel drunk, they want to feel normal but once they're that far along (with the way their bodies process it), they need more and more alcohol to get that good feeling and so they end up drunker than drunk.

(Alcohol has a half life. Will explain further if you like or you can google it).

It is not a moral failing and talking to one about it that way is insulting to them. It's like a diabetic - something inside them doesn't process alcohol like a normal person's system does. Shaming fat people has never worked and has been shown to make it worse; the fact is, their bodies process the food differently than a naturally thin person's does. I'm not saying they have an excuse but they have a reason and when a person has a reason, it is their duty to find out what to do about their situation to make themselves the best that they can be.

AlAnon is for the friends and family of alcoholics.

I don't think weed is addictive? I went to college in the 60's and all of my friends smoked it and none of them are addicted. They also drank like fish in college but just my XWH and one other guy became alcoholics. XWH and the other guy (who I'm still dear friends with) both came from alcoholic backgrounds. It's genetic.

My uncle drank 2 martinis every single day of his adult life. No more, no less. 2 of his brothers died of alcoholism; my Dad went into treatment at age 66 and lived to age 88 but he did suffer from dementia those last 20 years, probably because of the alcohol abuse. The other brother didn't drink at all because he'd watched his father and all his brothers suffer so much from it. Funny story: he did drink some wine at a retiree Christmas dinner when he was 89 and passed out right there at the table (he thought it was grape juice; his bod knew otherwise!). All 6 of those men were alcoholics because their father was. They all responded to the circumstances differently. But they all had to deal with it.

My hobby is genealogy and I've gotten very interested in the dna testing. I read the other day that after studying the dna tests of thousands of self-admitted alcoholics, the scientists believe maybe there was a virus back thousands of years ago that caused a mutation that leads to addiction. But there was something they could see that the alcoholics had different than non-alcoholics.

I hope this helps. Tell you friend to go to AlAnon or read it online or attend an online meeting or listen to the podcasts. Helpful philosophy no matter what's going on in your life. Basically tells you to take care of you and quit trying to control other people.

Gotta run - sorry it's jumpy and poor grammar. Maybe will fix later.

TheCaterpillar posted 10/10/2018 11:13 AM

Can she discuss with him at a higher level. Taking the whole stopping and addiction thing out of the conversation?

From the way she was tlking I believe when she's objected to him it's mostly been on the practical side of things. That his heavy drinking on the weekends ruins their 'couples time' as he stays home, sleeps early and the booze/weed kills his sex drive. During the week he doesn't get blitzed but she pointed out that even 'just a little' everyday adds up to a lot of money. The fact that none of these conversations are having impact is what makes her think he might have 'a problem'. The way I phrased it to her is that maybe she feels he's putting his own need to get high/drunk before her.

I don't understnad a lot about residual highs or hangovers but it can't be right to be in construction and still have those chemicals in your system. He has steady work but has a prison record so if he loses his job it's not necessarily going to be easy to find a new job. Add to that he can't apply somewhere that will teest him....if he's using weed everyday it's going to be a long time before his wee is clean. I (gently) made these points to my friend. Not to scare her but so she knows her fears are valid. SHe's not just the stereotype of a nagging wife spoiling the fun.


Perhaps he has ADHD or some other issue. Would he be willing to talk with his dr about it?

This is so interesting. My WH was diagnosed ADD as a young child a 3 years ago his Dr (diff doc, diff country) revisted this and started medicating him for adult ADHD. I had the immediate thought for my friend's partner but said nothing as I was concerned I was projecting issues from my own M onto their relationship. My H also as issues with impulse control, drinkng makes it worse. He's not an addict but he knows that once he has had a drink he doesn't know when to say no.

WRT the doctor she has recently started a new job and will shortly qualify for their insurance (which she described to me as 'big fat juicy coverage - lol). She told me she's due a check up but is waiting 2 or 3 weeks for the new coverage as she doesn't want to go to one doc now and then have to change, which I get. WH has a doc he trusts and is open with even when it's something he shouldn't have done or is bad for him. It has made such a difference to his healthcare to be able to be open

Josiep - Your way of explaining alcoholism is really helpful, thankyou for sharing oyur experiences. But I would have to disagree about weed not being addictive. One might not suffer physical dependency or withdrawal but anything can be addictive if there is a chemical reward in the brain> anything that produces a positive feeling can become behaviorally addictive (Gambling addiction is the best example I can think of or maybe Binge Eating Disorder)

I hadn't thought of AlAnon having podcasts. I think that might be a really useful way for her to gain some further information and insight. I don't want to outright tell her her partner is an addict but I think simply understanding more would help her decide what their situation is.

sisoon posted 10/10/2018 11:42 AM

I suggest reading about the Drama Triangle and how to get out of them.

Karpman identified the DT by observing alcoholics.

KatyaCA posted 10/10/2018 13:12 PM

Josiep gave you some great advice. I'd like to add to it a bit.

My father was an alcoholic, I started to turn that direction in my teens and got into AA and NA for several years and was able to stop. I know that I have an addictive personality though so I am very, very controlled about any alcohol I consume and I do so rarely. I smoke cigarettes and am addicted to them.

My mother was addicted to pot after having a horrible experience with alcohol she switched. While marijuana isn't physically addictive you can become addicted to it. She smoked pot until she died.

The alcohol, pot, drug or other addiction is not the main problem. It is a symptom of the larger need to escape your own reality. It then becomes the problem as you need it daily to cope.

Your friends husband is definitely an addict/alcoholic. Increasing his use with the pot is just further escapism to numb, avoid or dull whatever is inside him that he can't face.

josiep posted 10/10/2018 15:33 PM

My H also as issues with impulse control, drinkng makes it worse. He's not an addict but he knows that once he has had a drink he doesn't know when to say no.

One of my missions in life is to help take away the stigma of the word addict. I smoked cigarettes by buying a pack and leaving them in my desk at work and having one once in awhile. I became addicted. My friend smoked way more than me but she didn't become addicted.

Addiction is a a dreadful thing and no one but no one ever set out to become an addict. I'd guess that 99.9% of addicts swore up and down that they would never cross that line into addiction but guess what? Step 1 of the 12 Step programs: admitting that I am powerless over alcohol. Not powerless to quit but powerless in the sense that I can't control how my body processes the alcohol.

My husband only drank on the weekends for the first 11 yrs. of our marriage. But when he did drink, he kept drinking until he either passed out or went to sleep. That is actually one of the classic definitions of alcoholism.

But it's not a moral failing. It's how one person's body and system process the alcohol that makes the difference.

josiep posted 10/10/2018 15:41 PM

Josiep - Your way of explaining alcoholism is really helpful, thankyou for sharing oyur experiences. But I would have to disagree about weed not being addictive. One might not suffer physical dependency or withdrawal but anything can be addictive if there is a chemical reward in the brain> anything that produces a positive feeling can become behaviorally addictive (Gambling addiction is the best example I can think of or maybe Binge Eating Disorder)<<<

Well said and I guess there's more than one kind of addiction. There's the kind that the addict can't get through the day, or maybe even the next hour, without their "fix" and then there's the kind that they feel better when they do it, they get the chemical reward and they spend a lot of time planning when and where they'll get to do it again.

Anyway, I hope your friend finds some support.

Gottagetthrough posted 10/12/2018 19:19 PM

Speaking as the spouse of an addict- al-anon helped me realize that there’s nothing I can do to make him change. It was life altering to realize that.

I started to focus on me and what I can do for myself. It made me separate myself from his behavior.

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