Alcoholism — Is it a Disease?

Kelly Brogan, MD, ABIHM
27
1338

Do you struggle with your relationship to alcohol?

Have you been told you’re an addict?

My family is rife with “alcoholics,” most of whom are “recovered.” The dominant narrative is that alcohol made them sick and sobriety has offered them their lives back. To my eyes, however, there’s something important missing from this all-or-nothing approach that, for some, leaves The Drink ever dancing in their peripheral vision. Is taking alcohol out of the equation enough? Is abstinence always necessary? To what end?

I didn’t drink alcohol through college and medical school. Not one drink. I was a straight-edge control freak, and I went dancing and partied sober, and enjoyed every minute of it. I owned it, but the notion of my genetic inheritance certainly weighed heavy on my mind — that long line of genetic codes spelling out ADDICT potential. But somehow I also knew that there was more to the story.

Recently, I received an email from a colleague in the field of sobriety support. She wanted to know how it is that I drink on social occasions while criticizing pharmaceuticals. Aren’t they all drugs? Here’s what I said:

Thanks so much for your support and your words. I think we may have a different perspective on this issue, and perspectives evolve, so I’m just speaking now from my current purview. I don’t believe alcoholism to be a disease any more than I believe depression is. I believe that, over the course of history, alcohol has been regarded as a ritual, a sacrament, and an informational complement to many foods. It is a fermented beverage that is recognized molecularly by the body as are hallucinogenic mushrooms, cannabis, and plant medicines like ayahuasca. To compare it to a pharmaceutical is reductionist, in my opinion. But we have strayed from the Continuum, and alcohol has, for some, become the symptom of our soul disconnection. For some. For some it has come to represent a tool of self-invalidation, distraction, and mindlessness. As I’ve written here, research has proven that healing the deeper wounds can eliminate this so called “problem”. Therefore, the context is everything.

To learn about one’s personal context requires a reset. I’m not sure if you’ve done my program, but if you have, you would know that I ask for total cessation of alcohol for the month. If there is a choice to reintroduce it, then the participant would learn about THEIR relationship to alcohol. This is enlightening and empowering for many women as they begin to understand where they have unknowingly given their power. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of the book MindBody Code but Martinez speaks to the critical importance of this concept as well.

I know what works for me because I have traveled this path. I have tremendous joy, abundance, and a growing contact with deep feminine power in my life. I have fun, I work hard. I am hoping to light this path for others to join me. But my path is not their path, necessarily. And that’s where the reset becomes a tool for self-exploration. Only through this deep inner process – which you admit rarely has been positioned before pharmaceutical initiation in these women struggling with alcohol and other substances – can we align with our highest consciousness and power. Only then will women be truly dispossessed of dogma and alienating judgment of one another.

Hope this helps,

Kelly

Let’s break this down a bit.

Is alcoholism (or any substance abuse, or behavioral addiction, or eating disorder) a disease?

We are told a story about illness, and that story serves a mindset that underlies the darkness that we feel all around us and within us. The mindset is that we are flesh robots, floating on a dead rock, in the middle of nowhere. Since everything is random and purposeless, and since it is a survivorship game of every man for himself, then thank goodness we have science and technology to help deal with the cards we’ve been dealt. Help to fix things, make them easier.

The dark underbelly of this belief system is that you are powerless to heal yourself. What you eat doesn’t matter, never mind the fluoride in the water, and the Roundup on your potatoes. McDonald’s never really hurt anyone, and gluten free is a fad. The only thing that really matters is your genes. This is why women remove their female parts. Why we believe that diabetes is an inevitability. And why we relinquish ourselves to a lifetime of mental illness.

But we are in the midst of a paradigm shift. We are learning that beliefs, cultural conditioning, and our interaction with our environments are the true determinants of health and illness. And, in fact, genes are merely a suggested template.

The trouble is that we are in deep pain.

We are struggling and we are suffering. Our irritability, righteousness, and even fatigue belie a deep reservoir of sadness and of grief. Part of the reason is that we have strayed from the Continuum. Our very births send a signal of danger to our systems. A signal of missingness. And set us on a lifelong path of running from the pain.

The pain is the wound that addictive and compulsive behaviors attempt to distract us from, bandage up, and temporarily ease.

The pain is the diagnosis and we must ask, why the pain? as Dr. Gabor Mate has invited us to do.

From addict to psych patient

Dual diagnosis is what we call them.

This is the label slapped on the labels slapped on the human struggling with what is perceived to be the separate problems of addiction and mood disorders. Of course, we can put many hats on this multi-headed dragon, but we still haven’t even begun to engage the process of taming it, slaying it, or befriending it. And everyone’s dragons are different.

If we look at addiction as a genetically driven disease, then it makes sense that alcohol is the problem. It also makes sense that the residual struggles — the untended wound — would then be labeled neatly as a discrete and separate mental illness. And since mental illnesses are chronic problems that reflect inherited chemical imbalances, well, then we are back to the magic pill solution!

Where in this rubrik have we even attempted to address the root cause driver of pain and trauma?

Instead we are inviting patients to continue to externalize their struggles, label them impersonal illnesses, and we are — quite literally — addicting them to the most habit forming chemicals on the planet.

These chemicals retain the same power over their consciousness that alcohol once did. It is a divorce from self and a suppression of the soul.

This is why, in his banned Ted Talk, Graham Hancock speaks to the sociocultural support and tolerance of substances such as alcohol and psychotropics that foster a level of consciousness supportive of the world destroying machine, and our current state of soul-less affairs.

How can you learn what alcohol is to you?

Dr. Martinez writes about the difference between ritual, routine, and habit. A primary distinction is in the application of mindfulness. He references centenarians who drink and smoke cigars every day, but he notes that they do so with a level of ritualistic care and awareness of the role of these so called substances in their daily experience of life and its available joy.

We are in a time where self-learning and self-exploration brings you closer to others. It’s N of 1 medicine practiced in a community setting. Where we find ourselves and we merge with others and the planet in the process. Where there are highly personal “rules” to our own self-alignment.

It’s my belief that there is a simple formula for getting clear enough to begin to read yourself. A simple take home assignment that brings you one giant leap closer to identifying and healing your wounds.

I ask that you remove addictive consumptions from your life — alcohol, coffee, sugar, wheat, dairy — so that you can quiet reward pathways, silence inflammatory alarm responses, and eat more informationally dense foods. While you’re doing that, I ask that you meditate once a day, every day. I ask that you detox. And I ask that you tap into your faith that there is something incredible waiting for you.

Then, after that month, you can choose to learn specifically what kind of effect these agents have on your consciousness, your body, and your general experience of yourself. When you shed these externalities, the lightness and expansion you feel is yours alone.

Over time, and over your healing journey, you may find that your wound closes, and that the places you empowered with your pain — including alcohol — may have a very different alchemical effect or none at all.

What heals addiction?

I love the Rat Park study. Here are the details:

In the 70s, Bruce Alexander conducted the famous Rat Park experiments (thanks to Will Hall for sharing this vital science with me!) where he rips the foundation out from under the drug war, the chemical addiction model, and the notion of the addict as mentally and physically disordered. His elegant experiments play on the presumption that rats in an isolated cage with one water and one cocaine dispenser go onto addict and eventually kill themselves. This seemingly demonstrates that chemical nature of the addictive process.

He then went on to conduct subsequent experiments in a “rat park” where the rats had a social network, space, and an enriching environment, in which they no longer chose to consume the cocaine and would even detox themselves voluntarily if they entered the space previously addicted. Watch a short sketch of the data here!

What this tells us is that, even in animals, community is the prevention and the treatment for self-abuse. Many argue this is why and how 12 Step programs enjoy the persistent success that they do. They offer community.

But the problem with them is that they still make the substance the enemy.

When there is an enemy at all, we are divided, and we empower the very dynamic of warfare that we were hoping to resolve through our efforts.

Spirituality heals this divide. It delivers to you the exact medicine you need, and it teaches you how to be with your pain. How to even love it as a part of the wholeness of you.

Stop running from yourself

Spirituality also involves radical responsibility. You make choices. Your genes don’t. This is the nature of mindful living. When you stop running, distracting yourself, and making excuses, then you look at all of it and you engage with open eyes.

Hands down, the mantra of my practice, my online program, and my personal journey is this:

I am coming home to myself.

Over and over and over again, I hear this phrase. I am becoming more and more myself. I am being liberated into my own truth and beingness. And in doing so, we come home to each other, and to Mother earth, and to the fabric of our connectedness.

Only you can divine the path of self-realization, and you’ll know when you’re on it because you will feel the terrible pain and the glorious beauty of this life all at once, and you will feel, finally feel, free.

Support MIA

Enjoyed what you just read? Consider a donation to help us continue to produce content, provide up-to-date research news, offer continuing education courses, and continue building a community for exploring alternatives to the current paradigm of mental health. All donations are tax deductible.

$
Select Payment Method
Loading...
Personal Info

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.

Donation Total: $20.00

27 COMMENTS

  1. “But the problem with them is that they still make the substance the enemy.”

    Is the Devil/Satan a real physical object? as an enemy.
    Or as a ally , was God really a burning bush appearing to Moses?

    For people to have successful lives I think they can blame the physical substance. (correctly)

    ____
    “You make choices. Your genes don’t”
    Sometime people make the wrong or bad choices. As no one is perfect.

    During physical and mental withdrawal people hear the “devil” temp them to drink/use drugs again, and people naturally do fall to temptation.

    How do you forgive yourself for your mistakes? Some can’t forgive so keep using the drug to cope, to feel better. (with their physical health declining from the poisonous effects of a foreign substance)

    Blaming a substance is legitimate , as the person is not their true selves when their mind has been altered by the substance, or the damage to their cognitive ability.
    _____
    If a licensed doctor prescribed to a patient a substance that alters the patients mind in a wrong way (instead of the intended “right” way), who is responsible?
    When I asked my psychiatrist this question-idea she called me “dangerous”.

  2. Rat park “What this tells us is that, even in animals, community is the prevention and the treatment for self-abuse. Many argue this is why and how 12 Step programs enjoy the persistent success that they do. They offer community.”

    That is 100% spot on. I always said the reason AA helped me was it got me around people and a part of something.

  3. From addict to psych patient: Dual diagnosis is what we call them.

    I always say I went from the frying pan of excessive drinking to the raging fire of psychiatric drugs.

    How and where do I even start writing a comment about that insidious beast dual diagnosis ?

    The first thing they do in almost every treatment center is shuffle everyone off to the doctor to be labelled and drugged long before withdrawals are even over. PAWS.

    Anxiety and insomnia are the number one complaints of newly sober people but after that comes the complaint “nothing is fun sober” but that does not stop them from drugging people into zombie oblivion for so called bipolar disorder. Then when you get tired of being “sober” on the brain disabling drugs tired and dulled out all the time and decide to drink or get high just to feel something, to try and overcome the chemical lobotomy, they use it as proof your mentally ill and need more drugging. They never ask did you decide to drink or get high cause you felt dull and bored (anhedonia) from our drugs.

    And what are they thinking anyway “we know statistically 80% of you are going to start drinking again after treatment so lets fill you up with pills for you to drink on top of”, is that what they are thinking ?

    The last doctor at my last treatment years ago tryed getting me to take Zoloft and Abilify but I finally learned the truth about psychiatry and told that incompetent to F off.

    Albert Einstein Quotes. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

    WTF is was psychiatry itself that turned me into a raging alcoholic and pill addict, now after all I have been through you say Zoloft and Abilify ? Get the hell away from me with that zone you out dumb you down akathisia zombie trash. Something to sleep as needed then leave me alone.

    All that crap is years behind me now, I even drink once in a wile and nothing bad happens so much for my “disease” cause it never came back.

    This post is getting long, all I can say is Dual diagnosis is an atrocity.

  4. Hi Kelly, thanks for your thoughtful article.

    My wife has d.i.d. and we got so lucky that, somehow, I naturally began to use attachment theory principles with her. Only later did I discover that someone had given it a name. But I would think attachment and ‘community’ are one and the same. My wife has side-stepped so many things commonly associated with people who have d.i.d. and I give all the credit to the deep, ‘secure attachment’ I have with each of the girls in her system. It’s too bad that even though the West gives lip service to attachment theory, they still attack it with their insistence on boundaries, abhorrence over co-dependence and enmeshment and a host of other concepts that they pathologize in their obsession to maintain their ‘independence’. Sure, any of those concepts in the extreme can be unhealthy, but when done in a healthy manner it enabled me to heal my wife’s ptsd issues, her trauma, and also begin the process of connecting the 8 girls in the system. We never had any acting out because the girls adore me (as I do them) and unlike the sad United States of Tara series, I welcomed each girl into the family and worked hard to ‘adopt’ them (securely attached). So what reason would they have to sabotage the family that welcomed them and gave them full rights and privileges unlike on that show and with the many real life cases I know who don’t welcome the ‘alters’ fully and unreservedly?

    Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts. I’m so glad I ‘fell’ into attachment principles and it has made all the difference in her/our healing journey. Sadly our culture would rather a ‘fast-food’ pill to fix the people in pain than to come along beside them and walk the healing journey together.
    Sam

  5. Addictions is one are in which the neuroscientists do have something to say. All drugs that lead to compulsive use to release dopamine from the ventral tegmental area into the Nucleus Accumbens. Kent Berridge and others have clarified the function of dopamine. It’s all about motivation and not about pleasure. Addictive drugs capture the individual’s motivation system such that the behavior is compelled. The affective consequences of consuming the chemical are irrelevant. It’s not about seeking pleasure or seeking relief, its about having no choice. The support for this point of view can be found on the articles I’ve published on this topic which are available through scholarworks or in my book, Neuroscience for Psychologists and Other Mental Health Professionals.

    With regard to whether addiction is a disease, I think George Vaillant had it right. We really don’t have a scientific definition of disease. In fact, according to Vaillant, doctors don’t agree on whether hypertension is a disease. Any discussion about whether a phenomenon is a disease or not, is more about politics and not about logical thought. The term disease carries connotations, but again its about politics and not science.

    • Jill

      You said: “Addictive drugs capture the individual’s motivation system such that the behavior is compelled. The affective consequences of consuming the chemical are irrelevant. It’s not about seeking pleasure or seeking relief, its about having no choice.”

      This above statement is one sided and leads to an unscientific understanding of addiction that actually reinforces Biological Psychiatry’s and the medical establishment’s “disease” propaganda regarding the nature of addiction.

      In fact, it is this view which uses words like “capture” or “hijacking” the brain as one of the main arguments of those “mental health” opinion leaders who push the whole concept of addiction as a disease. They consistently call addiction a genetic based, chronic, and progressive brain “disease” which requires “treatment” and quite often, replacement drugs and/or psychiatric drugs to manage for one’s lifetime.

      Yes, on going heavy use of certain drugs can impair and diminish (while using) the frontal lobes and more rational thinking parts of the brain that clearly impair judgement. “Capture” and/or “hijack” are misleading concepts that are refuted by literally millions of examples of human experience where people have broken major addictions (most often) with no formal “treatment” of any kind.

      BTW, I’m not using AA or NA as the example for those people recovering without “treatment.” For the actual record of success for the 12 Step groups is quite low (about 10%) according to the Cochran Institute.

      The whole famous rat experiment cited above refutes your concept of “capture” mentioned above and its applied misleading beliefs in the direction of “disease” thinking. It also cuts against the whole concept of neuroplasticity which is one explanation for why people can recover from major addictions.

      Jill, I suggest you read Dr Carl Hart, neuroscientist, and Dr. Lance Dodes (The Sober Truth) to get a better scientific perspective on these issues so you are not unknowingly promoting “disease” based thinking and faulty science.

      Richard

      • Richard
        I have read Carl Hart. I think he is correct about some people. I have, however, known many well adjusted people, with happy childhoods, who nevertheless were captured by the drug. What convinced me on the dopamine story is that after treatment with dopamine agonists, many persons with Parkinson’s disease get addicted to something (sex, gambling, etc.).

        With regard to the disease label, I think its politics. People object because of the denotations of the term. When I discuss this issue in classes I teach, I always ask for a definition of disease. I never get a logical answer.

        I have seen many addicts quit using. I think one can get addicted to recovery. It takes work, but that’s what people do. See George Vaillant’s book.

        • I object to the labels because they are not scientific, as not a one of them defines a group that can be accurately and objectively distinguished from a group not having the “disorder” in question. That’s not a political objection, it’s a scientific one. If you can’t establish a reasonable amount of variable control, you can’t do science. You can’t do studies on heterogeneous groups and expect to learn anything. It’s about that simple.

          — Steve

    • Psychology’s neuroscience is pure pseudoscience; it contradicts the most basic principle of every science that informs it. Psychology’s neuroscience contradicts the most fundamental tenet of biology, physiology, natural science and general science theory; it also contradicts the most fundamental principle of the philosophy of science.

      Psychology’s neuroscience uses neuroscience research to support the status quo, but the foundation of the research is all pseudoscience. Thereafter, they are comfortable describing how addictive drugs can “capture the individual’s motivation system” but cannot explain what the hell it means to “capture” a motivation system?

    • Jill, this simply can’t be true. There are many, many people who experience similar disruptions in their dopamine system temporarily and yet don’t become addicted. It is claimed that this difference proves a biological underpinning, but I don’t think there is much evidence that that is true, because it should be very evident from both research and a casual survey of the addicted population that there is an ENORMOUS disproportion of people who have been severely traumatized in their childhoods or later on who then become addicts. While it is possible that there is a subset of addicts who simply “can’t stop” for biological reasons, this subgroup has never been identified, as is usual for all psychiatric “disorders,” simply because the profession is comfortable sorting people into boxes based solely on behavior and have never bothered to try and make any kind of distinction between the reasons that people become addicted. It is both more convenient and more financially remunerative to dismiss the importance of causes, but it doesn’t serve the addicted person very well at all. As a result, neuroscience can tell us a lot about what happens to a brain after it’s soaked in dopamine for long periods of time with some accuracy, but it can tell us essentially nothing at all about why some people choose to so bathe their brains while others choose not to.

      — Steve

  6. Hi Dr Kelly,
    A friend of mine told me his seven year old son once asked him why he didn’t go out to the pub like other people to have a few beers. So he explained to his son that once he started drinking he sometimes didn’t look after all the other things he should be looking after. His son then advised him, that it might be better if he stayed out of the pub.

  7. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) gives a definition of addiction that is often applied reductionistically as a pure medical model of addiction. But we are not our brains (as Jeffery Schwartz said in his book, “You Are not Your Brain”) or flesh robots. The definition on the NIDA web page is the following: “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works.” I think a failure to see humans as more than just molecules and nerve cells is the problem. We are brains and minds. Addiction is as much a “disease” of the immaterial soul/mind as it is the brain.

    There is an effect in the pleasure center of the brain, namely the mesolimbic dopamine pathway area. But there is also an effect on the prefrontal cortex, where decision making and judgments are made. Here is where we exercise self control and evaluate whether or not we should do something, including whether or not to drink or use drugs.

    The individual who needs a couple of drinks before they get on the dance floor has alcohol working in both areas of their brain: the high or euphoria in the pleasure center and the relaxation of the judgement in their prefrontal cortex saying they should not go on the dance floor because they will look ridiculous. This is not addiction, but it is how alcohol can work on any human brain. At some point in drug or alcohol “misuse,” damage or dysregulation can occur in the pleasure center of the brain. Here is where compulsive drug seeking or drinking comes in. I think this is fair summary of how Carleton Erickson described drug dependence in his book, “The Science of Addiction.”

    The prefrontal cortex of our brains distinguishes human cognitive functioning from other animals, including rats, so I don’t think the rat park experiments tell us a whole lot about the human addiction experience. It may illustrate effects on the pleasure pathway, but rats just don’t have the prefrontal lobes humans do. I always thought the reports of soldiers coming back from Vietnam who used heroin in Nam was a better illustration of the limits of a purely medical addiction model. Some soldiers stopped when they returned to the States and others didn’t. Dysregulation differences in the brain could have played a role on the difference along with social, psychological and environmental factors. But I don’t think brain dysregulation would have accounted for all the differences. If addiction is mind and brain disease, it’s never simply an an account of what happened physiologically when using.

    The concept of powerlessness in addiction originates with the First Step in AA: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our live had become unmanageable.” Yet I don’t think even the early AAs thought they were powerless to heal themselves—why form a fellowship to help ”the still suffering alcoholic” if they were powerless to heal themselves? If you keep the concept of powerlessness focused on neurological dysregulation or the neurological explanation of habit formation, I think it can be helpful. But never to say you are powerless to heal yourself.

    I’ve talked with an individual whose experience as he drove to a liquor store was to cry, because part of him didn’t want to drink; and yet he did drink, knowing it would lead again to pancreatitis. That was an experience of powerlessness. He’s sober today, so even that level of powerlessness didn’t doom him. The initial group of individuals who formed AA were all alcohol dependent; they had the emotional center dysregulation and compulsion to drink. But they broke the neurological habit patterns formed over the years as they drank through the change process they practiced in their fellowship. I think we could say they “rewired” their prefrontal neural pathways to support abstinence. And as long as they stayed away from reactivating the pleasure center dysregulation by drinking again, they would be sober and in that sense, healed. We are not flesh robots, but we can develop some faulty neurological circuits if we’re not careful.

    • I hope I’m not confusing the discussion!

      “Somebody” told me that if a person has a drinking problem and stops drinking and can then get on with their lives then the AA mightn’t be for them.

      This person told me that the AA might be for a person that stops drinking and finds that they have problems in lots of different areas.

      But this person seemed to take it for granted that anybody could “stop” drinking.

      • Hey, Fiachra! Long time no see!….
        My first AA meeting was 1980, at 21yrs. old, after 10 years of increasingly heavy drinking. (I was put on psych drugs at 15, in 10th grade, but I’ll leave that part out here, to focus on AA & alcoholism.) I’ve been 100% sober since 1991. Gone to 1000’s of AA meetings, and worked the 12 Steps (and 12 Traditions) HARD, and several cycles working through the steps. Had a sponsor years ago who actually met with “Bill W”(Wilson), one of AA’s 2 founders. I’m not bragging here, just giving my brief “credentials”….
        AA is NOT for people who *need* it, but for people who WANT it. (Or at least *want* to *want* it!) The whole point of AA meetings is to help work the steps in a social setting. You’d get better results at sobriety and recovery working the 12 Steps with no meetings, than going to meetings without working the 12 Steps. Both “Big Book”, and “Step” meetings are sorta “group workshops” for doing the Steps in groups.
        When AA first started publicizing the “disease concept” for alcoholism, in the 1930’s, it was because before, alcoholism was seen as a “character flaw”, or that alcoholics were just “bad people”. Too much toxic guilt and shame in that view!
        If a person is really not sure whether or not they are alcoholic, they probably aren’t. ANYBODY can get in trouble drinking too much for too long, whether they’re alcoholic or not!
        I’ve known people that had “a drinking problem”, went to AA for a while, then could drink again safely. Maybe they really weren’t alcoholics, after all. Who knows? Who cares? If you get a copy of the “Big Book” – titled “Alcoholics Anonymous”, and start with Chapter 5, “How It Works”, which tells how the 12 Steps work, and how to work them, you’ll be glad you did. The 12 Steps *can* help anybody who works them, but that still doesn’t mean alcoholism is actually a literal “disease”. AA says alcoholism is *LIKE* a disease, – the “disease concept”, – but AA does NOT say “alcoholism *is* a disease”. Do you see the subtle but important distinction?
        Hope this helps! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.
        (Personally, I think once you get the first 3 Steps down, the most important Step is the 12th Step. AA is a SPIRITUAL program, but it is NOT “religious”….)….

  8. My step mum is a sick in the head drunk.

    I’m pretty mad at her (though in one of those confused, I’m sorry for her, she had a hard life, I don’t want to make her life worse, how much did I deserve all her abusive comments and being the victim of her soap opera of a life, way).

    Does she have a disease? Only in a metaphorical way:

    O Rose thou art sick.
    The invisible worm,
    That flies in the night
    In the howling storm:

    Has found out thy bed
    Of crimson joy:
    And his dark secret love
    Does thy life destroy.

    William Blake – Sick Rose – init?

    • @John Hoggett:
      Please see my reply to Fiachra, above. Get yourself a copy of the “Big Book”, titled “Alcoholics Anonymous”, and start with Chapter 5, titled “How It Works”. I suggest you also look for “Al-Anon” literature and meetings.
      AA is for alcoholics themselves, and Al-Anon is for everybody else. Both programs use exactly the same 12 Steps, with only minor word changes to account for the drinking/drinker, and the “sober” folks…. Whether or not your step mum is, or is not alcoholic, or does or doesn’t get into AA, the 12 Steps and program can still be of great help to you. Like they say in AA meetings, “It only works if you work it, so work it, – you’re worth it!”….

  9. Kelly, I must disagree with you on Major Depression neither being a disease nor having a biological/genetic/psychological component. I began experiencing horrible, suicidal Recurrent Major Depressive Episodes at age 17 and was not placed on medication until my third episode in my 20s where I spent 4 months sleeping approx. 10-20 hrs/day in a State Hospital because MY BODY JUST SHUT DOWN. After trying many antidepressants, one finally brought me out of it and I was thank God, functional again in the 5th month, went home and slowly rebuilt my life. I remained on the antidepressant for several years, when a ‘hypomanic episode’ was triggered. Thus, I now needed a “mood stabilizer”, and they threw in another antidepressant, plus I had a new label “Bipolar II”. Major Depression runs on both sides of my family (paternal grandmother, mother, sisters, brother) but no Bipolar. This I never believed. I tried 3 times to get off the meds through the years: once with a Chinese herbalist/acupuncturist, once with a Nutritionist and once with a Psychiatrist and a guidebook by Dr. Peter Breggin. All 3 times not only failed, but had disastrous consequences to my life (lost employment, lost relationships, lost housing, spending too much money due to severe instability, etc., etc.). The last time I attempted to get off the meds was the worst. So I reluctantly accept them now. I have to be on them the rest of my life; my life is stable. But I still struggle sometimes. Not nearly as much as before I ever was on meds though. If I have 3 or more major stressors in my life at once, my body chemistry will backfire into a depression. It’s that simple. For some, it’s their heart, others their blood sugar, and others some other biological vulnerability. If you have ever been crippled by depression, you would probably agree. Have you? The body/mind literally shuts down. You cannot tell me there is no genetic/psychological predisposition. I read Will Hall’s experiment and I found it very interesting, however, I don’t believe you can compare rats and humans socially or biologically in terms of addiction. We are far more complicated beings than rats. And as far as Alcoholism, I believe the same as for drugs: there is most definitely a genetic/psyhjological predisposition. Some people can drink heavily without becoming addicts; others cannot. Just like some people can wean off psychiatric meds, some cannot. Who knows why? Maybe someday we will have answers. I sure hope so.

  10. I did extensive reading on antidepressant withdrawal prior to my attempt to wean off my meds, but nothing prepared me for what happened. I experienced a “serotonergic reaction”, which consists of extreme mood instability to the point of psychosis and delusions at times. If you try to discuss this with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional, they will simply write it off as “due to your medication withdrawal, you began getting sick again”. However, my depressions never consisted of psychosis or extreme mood swings. I also have met other people through the years who stated they had also similar experiences upon withdrawal, one of whom told me about “serotonergic reaction” and that the pharmaceutical companies know that weaning off antidepressants is a big risk.

    • I believe it. When I was going through acute withdrawal from Paxil, I had several psychiatrists tell me that my withdrawal symptoms must have been the return of my “preexisting conditions,” even though I had never before in my life had any problems eating or sleeping. That period of acute withdrawal was so dark and torturous that I still get flashbacks from it.