Whether you’re new to alcohol and addiction recovery, and feeling….raw.
Or, even if you’re a stalwart at local meetings and have been in recovery for 40 years.
Alcohol came into your life for a reason.
You fell off life’s bike at one point. And now, you’re relearning how to find that balance.
Sometimes, with the training wheels on. That’s ok.
For me, alcohol recovery came in fits and starts. I initially spoke about rehab with Edinburgh Rehab Centre and went into treatment.
Initially – joyous celebration, and a sense of the euphoric, when I came across one of life’s obstacles, and realised I could in fact overcome it without drunken excess. (No-one was more surprised than me).
It was only a long time after, when I had the calm and presence of mind to review things in retrospect, I began to truly learn what the experience had to teach me.
Learning From The Past
In this later stage of recovery, the real rewards come. You have the peace and awareness to work through, many of the old issues, at a calm pace, and with much more support around.
A friend used to say, where we have an extreme event in life, something that actually threatens our life, it’s God’s way of nudging us toward balance again.
In some way, that we can’t consciously perceive, we’ve gone off one end of the spectrum in our life, to such an extreme, that in desperation to hold on to the status quo, and fear of what might come out if we don’t – we hold on to one way to deal with it – at all costs.
And maybe God perceives, that the only way to move someone in that position on, is to give them an extreme experience – an experience that will move them towards change – and growth.
It’s not until we’ve stopped drinking for some time, that the real issues begin to surface. It’s only after the alcohol is out of our system, that we have the emotional clarity to see what it is we’ve been trying to avoid for so long.
And in the light of day, and with a lot of support, the fear can begin to melt away.
My recovery therapist at Abbeycare highlighted to me the concept that we must embrace powerlessness – to once again become powerful.
It brought to the surface all the events from the past where I felt powerless.
But, the thing is, when I *really* look at them…..the powerlessness was made up – by me.
It’s just not there, in the outside world. It’s not a part of the event. I thought it was, but it’s not.
All this time, it’s been me.
It All Takes…Time
Accept up front that not all you needed to learn from alcoholism, you’ll get upfront.
Much of it comes only with time, and dedicated self-work and help from others.
For me, I was conditioned from a young age to associate alcohol with life’s relaxation, life’s pressure outlet, the way to feel ok again after emotional and physical excesses.
Once I realised that the conditioning was wrong – that it didn’t make sense – that it was a conclusion I had arrived at, instead of one that was there in the outside world – then thing sbegan to change. Slowly.
I had decoupled the fear from the early experiences alcohol had been a part of. I had learned that it wasn’t the alcohol itself that caused a problem – but what I thought the alcohol meant – the meaning I had attached to it.
Making these distinctions is hard work of course. And not for the faint of heart.
But in my life, more often than not, when I strip away the situation I’m so scared of, and look at it in good perspective, there is nothing there. And no reason for me to use alcohol to cope.
Is it possible your patterns with alcohol are similar?
There’s always an excuse. There’s always a reason we can fall back on, as to why we can’t stop drinking *now*. It’s never the right time.
Later, sure. That’s fine. But not now.
– I have too many mental health issues to cope with, without alcohol
– My doctor says it’s too dangerous
– I have to care for someone else, who will look after them if I can’t
– I’m too nervous or anxious to look at my problems properly
– It runs in the family, I would be outcast if I stopped
…and on and on it goes.
Excuses are fine, as long as we know they’re excuses, and not genuine reasons. Most alcoholics don’t.
The emotional boulder addicts are running from, even after drug & alcohol detox, usually only gets bigger with time. And as the binges continue, life becomes more chaotic. And the only way to deal with the chaos, is of course, more alcohol.
But there’s a fine distinction in timing, as to when excuses occur.
– An excuse when an alcoholic is deep in the throes of the addiction, is just that – an excuse. No one pretends there are any good intentions underneath this.
– But an excuse in the midst of trying to get help is different – once someone has committed enough, to *want* to get help, then an excuse at that point, is the addicted part of the individual, the denial, trying to go backwards, and reclaim access to the coping mechanism it’s about to lose.
This second example is much more dangerous as it threatens to spoil a perfectly good attempt at recovery from addiction, as we’ve been retriggered maybe by something unexpected, or some element of the way we react to the world – has been threatened. Help to address denial is available via treatment, a friend attended this Scottish alcoholism treatment centre, and speaks very highly of the care she received; she entered treatment initially still in some denial.
I think what I’m trying to say here, is…there’s an additional vulnerability that someone has, who has admitted they have a problem with alcohol, and is genuinely seeking help, as opposed to someone still in the throes of an active addiction, with zero intention of getting better, at that point.
Here at Cedar we’re focussed on assisting with alcoholism rehabilitation in central Scotland, and recognising these differences in denial, in ourselves and others, can make a difference. Specifically, it can either reduce, or extend, the number of times we go round in the circle/cycle of addiction and chaotic behaviour, before finally admitting we need help.
Addiction denial is baffling. That’s the truth. Likely, we’ll never truly understand it fully.
Resistance toward help for addiction – no matter what form an offer of help takes, it will be met with resistance.
Whether this is a gentle conversation nudging in the right direction, or a more serious threat of removal of support;
Any offer of help becomes a threat to the alcoholics only means of survival – alcohol.
This may seem like an exaggeration – but alcohol is literally their only way to cope at this point.
So any suggestion that might take that away – even the best treatment in the world – an alcoholic perceives even this can’t make up for the overwhelming emotional deficits they feel beneath the surface.
During Treatment & Ongoing Recovery
Denial surfaces again during treatment.
This could be during alcohol detoxification itself, or actually doing therapy work on the psychological components that lie beneath the behaviour of addiction.
Inevitably this will involve changing behaviours, changing social circles, learning new ways to react to old triggers, that previously resulted in alcohol use.
Whenever a part of a new behaviour we’re trying to integrate, goes against the grain of the old alcoholic patterns in our lives, we will find denial surfacing once more.
Whenever a part of our recovery, that we’re being told is required, contradicts an old behaviour, an old way of being, an old routine – and will therefore cause emotional pain to break – is when denial will surface again.
Because denial, means, that there are enough parts of us left, still attached to the old alcoholic behaviour patterns, to believe that it serves some means to cope.
This pattern will repeat itself throughout our entire recovery journey, until we’ve fully integrated all the aspects of change that we need to embrace, in order to become a fully functioning individual again.
It’s the age old case of, what we resist, persists.
But the end result, can only be, an individual who, through the help and support of others, and through taking responsibility for their own life, has now adapted all the old behaviours, into behaviours that function, that serve the individual no matter what stressors arise in life.
A person that is better rounded, more whole, and who has grown immeasurably since first admitting the addiction issue they have.
Into Recovery & Beyond – Integrating New Behaviours And Coping Mechanisms
Once the most obvious elements of our behavioural patterns of alcoholism have been dealt with, possibly at one of the nhs drug rehabilitation centres uk, and new resources and behaviours are put in their place, we then need to maintain these.
But this doesn’t necessarily protect us from feeling retriggered.
In some cases, e.g. where trauma has led to the initial alcoholism, an aspect of the trauma can be re-triggered later, in a way that hasn’t come up until that point. In a way which we weren’t able to address properly before.
Maybe we coped with that old trauma with alcohol, and thus, the old excuses come back.
At these times, it’s more important than ever to have a variety of new supports already in place, to turn to, when unexpected events come up. I myself turned to the guys at Edinburgh Rehab Centre when I needed help: https://www.edinburghrehab.co.uk.
Denial is powerful, at all stages of addiction, but with the right support and tools, and a willingness to pick up 100% personal responsibility, we can overcome it.
How much of my addiction is addiction, and how much is mental health issues?
It’s a tricky one.
Especially in those diagnosed with complex MH issues. Usually, you’re taking your meds, minding your own business. And it’s helping manage the symptoms.
But how much of the addiction is being ‘held down’ by the mental health medication required?
How much are the underlying issues of the addictive pattern in your life being suppressed, because the bipolar, or borderline personality, or Schizophrenia, need to be managed, just to function each day?
I think the truth is, we never really know, until we’re in treatment.
We never really know, until we’re off the meds (within reasonable limits and with supervision of course)….in a controlled setting.
That’s when the real reasons for the addiction surface – the reasons why we turned to the (insert your poison) in the first place.
And, it’s a scary prospect. Do we even remember what life was like without the meds? Who we were?
The idea of getting up in front of people to admit….to face the shame….
Both the meds and the addiction layer on top of each other. At least that’s how it felt to me.
And hid who I really was. And the reasons I was addicted.
But with the right help, some gentle nudging in the right direction, and lessons that we need to learn, it IS possible. And help is available. There’s a number of alcohol services for the community, throughout Scotland and the UK.
We just have to want it sometimes. Not even all the time. But if there’s enough of the part of us left, that wants the help (that knows it needs the help) but is crippled by the fear underneath……well then sometimes that’s enough.