Facing The Realities of Alcohol AddictionFeb 07, 2023
Facing The Realities of Alcohol Addiction
I’ve had the flu thrice.
All coincided with Saint Nick’s annual visit. The most recent attack came in December. I had bedridden aches running from my wrist to my head and back down to my gut, head pounding, my energy fucking off to join the French Foreign Legion. The only thing missing was puke.
Ah, good old puking into a bucket.
I could easily click the safety off and blow the head off that piece of nostalgia.
Here’s the thing.
While sinking deeper into my flu-ridden pit, I realised the last time I felt that shitty was not the last time I had flu.
It was the last time I had a hangover.
My hangovers were worse than the flu.
So, I have a reflection.
Why do we cross our flu-free fingers while spending our meagre earnings on a poison that generates the same booby prize?
This leads nicely to the first point I want to address in this address.
ChatGPT is all the rage lately.
If you were to ask Mr (or Mrs) Robot to describe the perfect alcohol addiction recovery plan, the first recommendation it spits out is this:
Understand the physical and psychological effects of alcohol addiction and the importance of detoxification.
Let’s Get Physical
I feel at war because alcohol is a giant in a world of pygmies, and I fit snugly into the pygmy role. While I prefer the death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach to alcohol recovery, in my experience, education on the physical harm of alcohol is like a pinprick. Now, if your Quack says you’ll drop dead if you have another swig of the elixir of life, maybe you’ll order a glass of Corporation Pop. But this is rarely the case. As Allen Carr impressed in his Easyway books, the human body is a remarkable machine. You can poison it for decades, and it still chugs away thinking it’s a Mercedes (if you’ve only ever experienced first gear, you likely don’t know there are other grooves to shift into).
I’m not saying the pain v pleasure paradigm puzzle is not princely because it is. But it doesn’t pack the punch of a Muhammed Bruce Lee.
Forget the other ills that alcohol addiction-dependency-whatever the vogue word is these days thrusts into your life; creating, enduring and repeating your hangover experience is more than enough evidence that turning to the physical pain that alcohol produces in your life is not going to be the supreme fighter you want standing in this ring.
There’s another angle to this ‘physical side of alcohol addiction’ thing that I want to explore, and I want to preface what I am about to write next with the caveat that I am not a medical professional (basically, please don’t believe a word that fires out of my fingertips). I am merely sharing my personal experience and a decade of helping others to become people who don’t drink alcohol and live more consciously.
Ok, that other side.
I have never met anyone physically addicted to alcohol.
Of course, these people exist, but they’re not making snow angels inside my globe, and focusing on this group as our panacea is not the intelligent thing to do because the root cause issues of alcohol addiction drive you headlong into the cultural and societal issues that are too slippery for the world’s governing bodies to handle with any confidence.
Here are a few examples.
Recently, a STRIVER struggling to string some alcohol-free (AF) days together joined a juice retreat for a week, and lo and behold, they didn’t touch a drop of the bad stuff.
I have a friend who couldn’t stop daily drinking until he secured a consultancy position in Saudi and didn’t drink for the 6-months duration (it’s illegal to drink alcohol in Saudi). He shared that being sober was easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, and he suffered no physical withdrawals.
Let me get straight to the point because Liza always tells me I waste too much air beating around the bush.
For the people who end up knocking on STRIVE’s pearly gates, alcohol addiction is a psychological problem. People are addicted to alcohol, not because of their genes or some crazy heroin-like physical compulsion, but because of the simple Seth Godin mantra - people like us do things like this.
People drink alcohol for the same reasons they eat, drink, sleep and fornicate.
It’s what we do (unless you live in Saudi).
The acorn is born with a blueprint to become a majestic oak. Everything it needs is within. It lives an inside-out life. However, external elements like fire, water, wind, earth and hungry squirrels can royally fuck with this process.
You were also born with a blueprint, not to become a majestic oak but a magical version of you. Everything you need is within you. You can choose to live an inside-out existence. However, like the acorn, you have to contend with external elements such as your mates calling you a pussy if you don’t take a swig from the potpourri of top-shelf poisons currently swilling around in that diet coke bottle you found in the bin.
Whilst addiction is a complicated beast (think genetics, environment, legacy burdens, generational trauma, and so on) if you can get your shit together long enough to transform your alcohol paradigm from:
“Hear Ye! Here Ye! Alcohol is the best thing since Mr Crapper invented the toilet, and if you don’t drink it, you’ll turn invisible.”
“Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Alcohol is a poison that kills 3.3m people yearly, fucks up your life, and provides you with ZERO value.”
Then knocking down the other pins is easier.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a head game, and it’s not as complicated as we believe.
Culture complicates addiction because, unlike smallpox, rinderpest and polio, the most intelligent people in the world have not found a cure for the disease known as Alcoholism (I’m borrowing the words of the world’s experts on this, not my own).
Back to That Juice Retreat
I want to end by touching upon the last slice of bread in that ChatGPT loaf - detoxification, and back to the STRIVER who spent the week in that juice retreat.
Was that money well spent?
Well, it depends on the goal of the STRIVER.
If the goal was to try and give the body a breather and to inject it with some of the good stuff, then hell yeah, it was worth every penny. But if it was part of a bigger plan to make a fundamental choice to be healthier, then it depends on what happens when the STRIVER returns to population alcohol.
I love juice retreats and rehabs because they accomplish something meaningful.
They create hope.
A new reality.
The opportunity for a new paradigm.
Oh shit, I can actually stop drinking for 7, 30, 60 or 90 days, and I won’t die (some people do, I am no expert, the previous caveat applies).
But then what happens?
In both the cited cases, those people returned to drinking after returning to ‘normal’ life.
So, what’s the answer?
I encourage physical detox, but it’s nowhere near the top of my list.
At STRIVE, I like to start people with detoxification of what the author and coach Jamie Smart calls ‘contaminated thinking.’
Then, move on to the soul.
Crack those two walnuts, and the body turns into a car valet.
How do you detoxify your thinking?
Here are the main ingredients:
Find someone who has traversed the A to Z of alcohol addiction and whom you vibe with, join that person’s tribe of like-minded people, work on increasing your self-awareness to a bat-like super-sonar level, stop drinking-drink-tweak-polish-stop drinking-drink-tweak-polish-stop drinking, use that heightened self-awareness to discern what parts of your personality are in charge and what that means to the cause and effect cycle of your drinking, love all of your parts, talk to yourself like you’re a madwoman (or mad man), laugh, love, live.
Or the shorter version.
Find people who see you, hear you, and make you feel like you matter enough to trudge up to the starting line.
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