Becoming alcoholic : Alcoholics Anonymous and the reality of alcoholism

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No Joke: The Truth About Alcoholism

For example, most people who enter have not had blackouts, which are more typical of long-term alcoholics than of the younger drinkers now flooding into treatment and A. When newcomers to A. If it fogs your brain now after not drinking for a few days it must have fogged your brain before.

See, you must have had blackouts then. When Dwight Gooden entered the alcoholism-andcocaine program at the Smithers Alcoholism Center, he described being assailed by his fellow residents there during the constant group-therapy sessions. I cried a lot before I went to bed at night. After he left the Betty Ford Center, Chevy Chase reported that he had often been angry at the counselors, who heckled the residents mercilessly, constantly denigrating them and claiming they had been living worthless lives.

Does all this sound like good therapy technique? It is simple common sense that belief in your personal value and your own strength is superior to having these things denigrated for getting your life under control. It stigmatizes people for life. The disease model puts a label on you that you can never outgrow. Once diseased, always diseased. It brutalizes and brainwashes the young. The largest single age group of people undergoing hospital treatment today for chemical dependency, eating disorders, depression, and so forth is adolescents.

Alcohol Recovery Information

Nonetheless, virtually none of these young people meet clinical standards of alcoholism or drug addiction. Indeed, numerous cases have been identified in which young people have been hospitalized for smoking marijuana or even for being suspected of using drugs.

Meanwhile, A. What is the impact of treatment that forces teenagers to take on the identity of addicts or alcoholics or children of alcoholics? Young people are warned that their substance abuse is a permanent trait, even though we have seen that a large majority will outgrow substance-abuse problems as they mature.

The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous - The Atlantic

Presenting this message to the young can only prolong or exacerbate their substance abuse, since it denies their own capacity for change and forces them to believe that any substance use for the rest of their lives will lead them back to excess, addiction, and drunkenness. These programs fairly frequently involve emotional abuse. Certainly, it is crucial to prevent children from harming themselves, and it can be worthwhile to remove children from a problem home, whether through a residential program or a visit to a sympathetic relative.

But brainwashing, emotional blackmail, denigration, and psychological torture never work, except to make people so unsure of who they are or what they value that they will temporarily consent to the demands of those in charge. It presents the alcoholic or addict as someone to emulate.


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Prominent graduates of treatment programs, like Drew Barrymore, Betty Ford, Kitty Dukakis, and a host of athletes now lecture to others about chemical dependency. If alcoholics and drug abusers suffer from a disease and are now recovering, then they can educate others about the disease and even about how young people should live and behave. If, on the other hand, we think of them as people who are tremendously poor at self-management, then it is indeed stupid for the rest of us, who have not been seriously addicted, to ask them for advice and information. Someone like former football star Bob Hayes explains that he took and sold drugs as a result of an inherited disease.

Alcoholics and addicts like Hayes regularly come into schools to relay their tortured drinking experiences and to reiterate that alcohol is a dangerous drug. But nearly every child in these schools will drink. In all types of twelve-step groups, the most severely debilitated person tends to become the leader and model for others, so that the most out-of-control shopping addict tells others about the nature of their problems. Who should be counseling whom? In the case of drug abuse, a number of reviews have found that informational and scare lectures by recovering addicts produce the worst results of all prevention programs.

These programs have never yet been found to reduce drug use; on the contrary, several studies have found increased drug use in their aftermath. But by adopting the disease identity as her protection through the rest of her life, the youthful convert guarantees that she cannot grow beyond the limitations of her adolescent family life. Can people hope for more than this? Ignoring dynamics like these leaves the drinker unable to cope with the things that led him or her to need to drink—such as doubts about self-worth, a difficult relationship with a spouse, roles such as homosexuality that create conflict for the person, and so on.

If the labeling of alcoholism as a disease provides welcome relief from the shame of overdrinking. It traps people in a world inhabited by fellow disease-sufferers. This is a frequent hang-up for recovering alcoholics who attend A. One of us has treated a number of A. One man, who was regularly asked to head his local A. Unfortunately, all of these relationships had ended in bitterness and mutual recriminations. But when he tried to date outside the group, he discovered that nonalcoholic women found him overbearing and compulsive.

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The Role of Acceptance in Recovery From Alcohol Addiction

It excludes other approaches, many of which are more successful. Even if one accepts that many A. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence NCADD [ 24 ] frequently announces statistics about the continually rising costs of alcoholism and the increasing number of alcoholics in our society. But, then, the NCADD is capable only of calling for more of the standard approach to treating alcoholism that has accompanied these increases, while discouraging all alternative approaches. Why should things improve all of a sudden if we simply do more of the same? Meanwhile, greater numbers of Americans are being forced to enter private treatment centers and A.

Despite the almost universal belief that compelling people to attend standard treatment programs is helpful, these programs regularly demonstrate they are no more effective than self-initiated programs for curing addictions. Nonetheless, most American treatment personnel seem hell-bent on eliminating any other treatment for alcoholism besides twelve-step programs. This issue is important because the United States spends more money on health care than any other country—and the percentage of our gross national product that we spend on health care is growing faster than that in any other country.

The fastest-growing component of the health-care system is substance abuse and related mental-health treatments. This is one reason so many companies are being forced to cut insurance benefits or are asking employees to pay a greater share. What if your insurance rates were raised to pay for a fellow employee who was undergoing a repeat treatment for cocaine addiction, since he had relapsed one or more times? How would you feel about sharing the bill for a colleague who entered an expensive hospital eating-disorders clinic?

Alcoholic Thinking: Language, Culture, and Belief in Alcoholics Anonymous

Do you think that smokers who want to quit should enter treatment programs and be excused from work, with pay, while they concentrate on quitting? And, especially, how would you react if you had quit smoking on your own? It is morally and economically necessary for us to evaluate the effectiveness of alcoholism and other addiction treatments. For we are wasting limited health-care resources to place people in expensive treatments—treatments that have not shown they do more than inexpensive, straightforward skills counseling or than people accomplish on their own—often more reliably!

Kitty Dukakis became the paradigm of the addicted person of the s. Dukakis seemingly has been either addicted or in treatment throughout her adult life. Shortly before she joined her husband in his presidential campaign, she revealed that she had been treated for a twenty-six-year reliance on diet pills, which she began before she married Michael Dukakis.

That treatment did not succeed.

Never Before Has Our Approach to Drugs Improved So Much, So Fast

Dukakis only began getting drunk after the election, for which she first entered the Edgehill Newport hospital. But soon after this treatment experience, she began having explosive relapses in which she drank rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, hair spray, and other commercial products containing alcohol. Moreover, she discovered during the course of writing her book that she suffers from another disease— manic-depressive disorder—and as a result she ends the book with the revelation that she is receiving lithium treatment. Previously, Mrs. Dukakis had been prescribed Prozac, a drug featured on the cover of Newsweek in as a new miracle in the treatment of depression, to no avail.

Dukakis appears, in the book and on television, a forlorn being. Indeed, syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman, who had known Mrs. Goodman wondered aloud how labeling oneself as sick and without hope is helpful. Today, Kitty Dukakis describes herself by diagnosis. Drug addict. Goodman ended her column by wishing that Kitty Dukakis might see the brighter qualities that others have seen in her, and which seem entirely to have disappeared thanks to her various diagnoses and cures.


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  • It seems clear that excessive drinking is only the tip of Mrs. Reviewers have commented about how insensitive and unaware of her problems Michael Dukakis appeared to be, yet Kitty never reflects on the limitations of her spouse or their relationship. Somehow, her never-ending disease-oriented treatment fails to raise crucial issues for Mrs.

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