My month-long celebration of 20 years without a drop continues…
Every few years they come out with news that they’ve invented a new pill that will “cure” alcoholics. Every few years, on the release of that news I roll my eyes to the sky and chuckle (as do most in the circles I run), “we’ll see about that”. They’ve all amounted to snake oil. Here’s why…
Only about ten percent of Americans are alcoholic as far as I’ve heard. So that means 90% either have no idea what it’s like or have only seen the waste and destruction it leaves in its wake… While there is no doubt that those who have to live with a practicing alcoholic deserve a medal, seeing it and living through it are two very different things. And the really sad part: I’ve heard that the recovery rate (those who get and stay sober for 5 or more) is about 3% of that 10%. In other words, that’s a lot of mayhem and destruction. So on that note, if you happen to be the family member of a spun out (or currently spinning out) drunk there is help out there. Find it and use it. You don’t have to face that train wreck alone. To the mothers of young alcoholics, my heart aches for you. I put my mother through hell, but at least she got her redemption… There is hope, and remember: The best thing to come out of the 70’s (rehashed again in the ’90’s and 00’s) was Tough Love.
So what does it mean to cure drunk? At first alcohol was not only the answer to every problem, it was the answer to every question. I’ve written extensively about the “committee” in my head that kicks around ideas, and usually offers unbalanced advice and criticism… Often this is depicted by showing a little devil on one shoulder and a small angel on the other, whispering their ideas of what you should do. In my case, I wish it were only two – mine is a whole freaking group known simply as “the committee”. In one form or another, I’m sure most people can relate to this, especially the popular angel and devil depiction, but there’s a difference in we alcoholics. If we take our committee, and add alcohol, the competing voices of the committee cease competing. They become a chorus.
As an easy example, using my own experience, say back in the day I was out grocery shopping (sober) and I saw a woman who I wanted to meet. My committee would chime in with the standard, “you’re not good enough for her”, “you don’t have a good enough job”, “Geez man, you’re a little skin-flint – look at her, what are you thinking”… You get the idea. Now, take that same situation, add alcohol and I get this: “Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim”… They call it liquid courage for a reason, but with a drunk it’s absolutely overpowering – and it works for everything, at least in the beginning. This is the “escape” that so many alcoholics crave, and why it’s so difficult to give up. Now imagine you’re a drug company trying to make a pill to cure alcoholism. It shouldn’t be very difficult, just mess with this receptor or that part of the DNA or tinker with some “unbalance” in the brain… But it never works, because only fixing the committee will offer relief and growth out of that dismal situation – and sorry folks, there’s no such drug that can A) do that and B) not addict the person who takes it.
Unfortunately, that’s only the half of it. Say you’re trying to create a pill to cure drunks – I certainly wish you’d hurry up because I’ve got about 20 years of drinking to catch up on! That’s the second half. I’ve known people who got lit while taking antabuse for God’s sake – knowing that they’d be wrenching their guts out shortly thereafter. The last thing you want to do when dealing with an alcoholic is remove one of the consequences (the getting hooked part). In short folks, there is no “touchy-feely” way to recover. I wish there were, so I could abuse the hell out of it.
If you’ve been paying attention, the fact that I like cycling so much should start to make sense – and this is why so many recovering people turn to athletics and endurance sports… First, you get the endorphin rush – which brings about the feeling that everything is ok… Coupled with the escape from the committee, if only for a short time (1-6 hours). When you’ve got a program of recovery that effectively nullifies the committee (or at least keeps it at bay), then add the escape and the good feelings – you get everything that alcohol was with no side effects, no jail time, no pills – and you get fit in the process.
And that’s why they can’t come up with a pill to cure a drunk.