Not even one day she said, he cannot go one day without a drink was her plaintive cry to me. I had no answer for her because we both knew the truth, he has a dependency on alcohol, without mincing words he is a drug addict for alcohol is a drug. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not a wowser, I certainly enjoy a drink or two on occasion but right at the moment nary a drop passes these lips, not good for ulcers. In fact I have given up two substances in the past fortnight, coffee and alcohol. To my surprise the coffee was not an issue (nor alcohol)!
If you had asked me I would have told you I was addicted to coffee, however there were none of the usual signs of withdrawal, and it is 9 days since I had a cup. I have been thinking on addiction over the last few weeks. I have a severe back pain issue that I have managed at times with some pretty strong drugs, synthetic opioid and some anti- inflammatory. The medication I have stopped because it had a direct and very unpleasant effect on my digestive system, turning me into Usain Bolt…. enough said about that. When I saw a Dr a few weeks ago he told me I would have a dependency on one of the drugs. At first I felt offended then I ran it through the critical literacy test and decided that he was probably wrong and then I engaged in a differential diagnosis. I stopped taking the drug, two days later no signs of withdrawal, but my body rebelling against the twice daily use of Brufen (slow release) and my sciatic pain beating down on me saw me take the drug again and well I will not say happily as I would love for them to try a surgical solution but another time for that. I was satisfied that I am not addicted.
Our health clinics are getting ready for an upsurge in people who are addicted to synthetic cannabis having to go cold turkey as their supplies have dried up. We already have a crisis in addiction counseling with many in need of help. I am strongly aware of addiction issues both through my work in the past and through my extended family. Many of whom have addiction issues. I have heard many times people say I can stop when I want to, I have heard them say to their partners/spouses I will cut down for you or i will stop. I have no truck with that narrative at all, I know that most people will not change their behaviour until the pain of change becomes less than the pain of living in their life.
I watched a young man, a good friend of mine with everything in the world to live for smoke his way to oblivion, losing his house, family, wife, employment and dignity. As far as I know he still smokes and last time I heard from him he was in jail with a meth habit. I had a brother who was an alcoholic who ended up taking his life in a drunken stupor one night, he put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. It is not raw these days but a tragic waste of life that wrecked my dad and mum in ways that were unimaginable. I have other close relatives whose addictions have killed them or are in the process of doing so, it saddens me deeply but I call a spade a spade these days and when asked I say it how it is.
I understand the effect of alcohol in moderation, a tongue looser, dropping inhibitions, a pleasant buzz but there is a fine line between that and a crutch that in fact permanently cripples someone rather than assists them. There are plenty of places where you can check to see if you or someone you care about have an issue with alcohol or other drugs here is one http://www.ncadd.org/index.php/learn-about-alcohol/alcohol-abuse-self-test. Apart from addiction issues there is hard evidence of the health effects of over indulging. It is widely accepted that drinking more than 5 units of alcohol per day will have adverse health effects (apart from the calories). Anything over 9 or so units of alcohol per day or 25 in a week then you are likely to be dependent, an alcoholic most definitely at high risk form other health problems caused by excess alcohol. Less than 2% of people who drink less than 5 units of alcohol or a total of under 15 on a weekly basis develop an alcohol use disorder
Now hold on a second while I adjust my halo, you see I know about addiction, my poison is food and recently I have started to address it again. I know its how it affects my body, just what it does to me and I am paying the price. I eat for a lot of the same reasons that people drink or drug. For me the the issue is clearly mind over matter and one that I have won in the past and continue to win now. I have taken control of my eating for myself, not for anyone else, I know that my narrative with food is unhealthy. I own it 100%, every time I put something in my mouth it is because I choose to, that is the same for drug addicts and alcoholics. Yes there is always a narrative that informs our addictions but in the end it is a matter of choice.
A final word if there is someone you know who has an issue with alcohol, drugs, food, whatever. Don’t enable them, don’t be a part of it, don’t drink with them or turn a convenient blind eye to that extra slice of pie, I can usually say no but can be difficult for some others. Likewise a word to the politicians, before you consider legalizing cannabis, how about talking to the people who have been the victims of cannabis addiction, I can hear the howls about alcohol being just as bad and I can agree with that in part and absolutely agree that there is huge harm caused by alcohol but the reality is that alcohol is here to stay. Cannabis may well be too but I do not want my children or grand children to be able to go into a dairy and buy it. If that makes me a wowser then so be it, I may resemble that remark.