A fair chunk of us in recovery—whether warranted or not—hear alcoholism, and yet think of addiction. Granted, they are the same disease under different monikers, but the nuances are enough to make a distinction.
Addiction gets most of the attention based on the wide range on indicators and rapid change in appearance and/or behavior. While there is some justification for that, it does not negate the necessity to treat matters of alcoholism either.
Frequently, the argument comes up that, “drugs are worse than alcohol.” Most of this is based on those symptoms listed above. What rarely comes into consideration, though, is that heroin or meth (for example) have little appeal to someone who exclusively drinks. In that case, the heroin or meth is no more dangerous than flour, concrete, or any other benign powder if there is no drive to use it. The alcohol, on the other hand, could be wreaking the devastation that it ultimately does under prolonged, alcoholic use.
Further, and although I might sound like a broken record after saying this so many times: “Less bad is not the same as not bad.” Sure, “less bad” is better than “extremely bad,” but that is assuming you have to choose an option that is some level of “bad;” and we do not. We always have the options of “good,” or “not good or bad.”
Seems like a rudimentary and sort of stupid distinction to make, but it does make a significant difference. Death by sword and death by a million paper cuts both lead to the same place—it is just a matter of how that end is reached. In that sense, the longer decline is deceptive, as it gives a false sense of security.
Alcoholism is a subtle foe, too. All too often, we have friends and family of an addict come in, and when we start asking questions regarding the drinking of those friends or family, suddenly grievous offense is taken. Apparently, the addict is the problem—they “only” drink.
It then devolves from there. As per our program, we ask if the loved ones will quit drinking and/or using during the time the addict is being treated. Suddenly those friends or family members no longer want to be a part of the process. Even after we explain that putting a newly sober addict or alcoholic into the same environment as before is a plan for disaster, many still refuse.
“Hold the phone; so, you would rather the addict/alcoholic die before giving up your own drinking or using—even temporarily?”
We never label someone an addict or alcoholic, but that is not a line of reasoning that most people with a “normal” relationship with alcohol have. In a matter of life or death of a loved one, a normal drinker would respond to a temporary cessation of drinking without thought. “Absolutely. You got it. Anything I can do to help.”
What you would not expect is flat-out refusal, hostility, evading the question, or any other wide range of techniques we have seen.
In the end, though, alcoholism is a killer. The speed at which one kills makes little difference.
Have you had similar experiences to this? How did it work out? Let us know in the comments!