Devotion and Drink

The word addiction comes from the Latin addicto which means to devote. According to Roman history, soldiers were given slaves as a reward for fine battles fought. People who were slaves to anything were “addicts”. Alcoholism is perceived to be a physical addiction but this is a myth. Most alcoholics are not physically addicted. However, the psychological enslavement to such a fun and socially acceptable substance can be hard to break.

Dry January can be an interesting experiment and most alcoholics can white knuckle it for 4 to 6 weeks with effort but then the cravings can be overwhelming and hard to resist. When giving up, it’s important to avoid people, places and things that have associations with alcohol to break the habit. For most people in our culture, that presents significant challenges. Therapy can help get to the root of why this behavior has taken such a hold on the person but the fact remains that without a period without alcohol or drugs, it’s very difficult to make meaningful progress. This is because if you are constantly filling up the emptiness inside or pushing down difficult feelings with substances, it’s hard to be aware of what they are.

Some people can spend long periods contemplating making changes. They want to stop drinking or drink less with a part of them, but another part doesn’t want to give up the love affair with drink. Devotion to it has occupied such a large chunk of life. Implementing change can bring its own challenges. However, it can sometimes lead to initial euphoria. The relief of overthrowing of your enslavement can be profound.

Discovering new ways of living can be an exciting time and a challenging time. Shame can be crippling when addiction has taken a hold. Relationships have to be rebuilt and destructive behaviour be addressed. Maintenance of sobriety can be challenging and relapse a risk. Often people come into therapy when they have been sober for a while. Alcoholism arrests emotional development and support is needed to deal with feelings, relationships and the shame that lingers. It’s almost as if you are meeting yourself for the first time when you stop drinking and you may need help to find new coping skills. What will replace the substance and allow enough risk to feel alive? Allowing a life without it needs imagination. There is no doubt, to live without alcohol is a loss. Maybe nothing can replicate it but a satisfying life where you retain your integrity is possible.