Once An Alcoholic, Always An Alcoholic?


#1

Hello Friends: The reason for my post is just this. Do any of you have any experiences with the personality traits of alcoholics?, former ones or present ones? This has been on my heart lately, and how I may help them, or deal with them at all actually. There are several in my family, unfortunately. A few who have sobered up, thanks be to God, but the traits are still there, obsessive/compulsive disorder, and escape-ism or denial of reality, and an inability to see most things clearly. I’m afraid they’ll always be this way.

My boyfriend of long ago, before I married my H was one. He was on a perpetual rollar coaster of emotions, sober, or not. Even after he sobered up for years, he was so obsessive/compulsive with me I had to end it. He was a most successful attorney all the same, and gifted and passionate beyond belief.

Does anybody have any insight into this? As I have a few in my own life presently, that I would like to hear some wisdom about how to deal with them. What does it take to help a person such as this? We Catholics can share our Faith, but is there something else we can do to help them? One cousin, in particular is having a really hard time. She has been married 4 times and is currently living as a “kept” woman. She has kept sober for a long time, but I’m afraid her problems still are there. Even though she is “sober” she still is a mess. I’m her only cousin she ever calls and can count on, and I’ve run out of things to say to her. Any advice? She is Greek Orthodox, and as of late when we were discussing the Mass, she told me she has not gone for 1 year.


#2

I am a sober alcoholic. My sobriety date is May 4, 1992. Once an alcoholic always an alcoholic. I would suggest you get the book Alcoholics Anonymous, read it and then ask your questions. There are as many opinions about us as there are experts but essentially only another alcoholic truly will ever understand another alcoholic.The best way to sum it up is this…No matter how many times I try to explain to you why I drink (or drank) you will never understand. And that is ok, because quite frankly I will never understand why you do NOT drink the way I did…:slight_smile:


#3

Oh,and if you really want to help your cousin? Say this:

That’s nice, have you called your sponsor lately? No? Well, too bad…sounds like you should…so, how’s the weather there?


#4

[quote=LSK]The best way to sum it up is this…No matter how many times I try to explain to you why I drink (or drank) you will never understand. And that is ok, because quite frankly I will never understand why you do NOT drink the way I did…:slight_smile:
[/quote]

LSK,
That is so profound. I’ve always had a hard time understanding why someone would want to drink because I’m thinking it clearly messes up your life & who wants to feel crummy all the time? But you are right… I suppose alcoholics can’t comprend why I wouldn’t want it?

Congratuations on being sober! Praise God! :slight_smile:
CM


#5

My problem with accepting the once … always statement as universally true is that those who formulated it seem to have done so with little or no regard for biochemistry. Psychology, yes, but not biochemistry.

Whenever anyone drinks alcohol, the biochemistry happens, whether they can “hold their liquor” or not, or for whatever reason they take a drink. Not everyone I know who has had difficulties with alcohol had them because they were self-medicating, or drinking to escape, or anything else. They tried it, found it pleasant, and then the biochemistry stated kicking in.

The biochemistry can do permanent damage. Sometimes, the nature of the damage is severe and irreversible. Sometimes, it is minor, but leaves the person unable to deal with alcohol at all. These people cannot even tolerate medicines with an ethanol component. But others, where the damage has not been premanent, can, and do tolerate these medicines just as they did before they took their first drink.

The psychology industry can make lots of money from the notion that everyone who has ever had an alcohol problem needs their (sometimes rather expensive) ministrations in perpetuity. Some do, but as a life scientist, based on the people I’ve known with alcohol problems, and the diversity of their situations, I am skeptical, from a scientific perspective, that the sweeping generalization is valid.

I also know a number of folks who have had alcohol problems, stopped drinking with help, but (by their reckoning) not great difficulty, and have chosen to just leave it alone, because to run the experiment to see what happens if they start drinking again is simply not worth the risk, and they really don’t miss the stuff, which is simply no longer a part of their life. Is it fair to say they are “still alcoholics”?

Blessings,

Gerry


#6

Why thank you, CM! Not to toot my own horn (TOOT) but if you or Sparkle are interested, I give talks for AA all over the place. You can purchase CD(s) of me, and other AA speakers through a place called DICOBE. You can get them online (Dicobe.com). If you ask for talks by Leslie K. from Modesto, California they should be able to help you. Other good people to ask for:

Clancy I.
Peg M.
Penny P.
Sharon B.
Debbie D.

I personally love Debbie and Penny - Debbie is my sponsor and Penny is one of my best friends!


#7

It has become clear to me that when I find faults in others, I am usually seeing in them what I don’t like about myself-seriously and with all due respect. Usually what it takes to help others is compassion and understanding along with the appreciation that the only one you can change is yourself.


#8

Heck, I don’t miss ‘the stuff’ either - but then it wasn’t ‘the stuff’ that made me an alcoholic!

Again…you can get as many opinions as people…the reality is, only a real alcoholic knows how to talk to another alcoholic…and a hard drinker is not an alcoholic…trust us…we know…


#9

[quote=Gerry Hunter]My problem with accepting the once … always statement as universally true is that those who formulated it seem to have done so with little or no regard for biochemistry. Psychology, yes, but not biochemistry.
Whenever anyone drinks alcohol, the biochemistry happens, whether they can “hold their liquor” or not, or for whatever reason they take a drink. Not everyone I know who has had difficulties with alcohol had them because they were self-medicating, or drinking to escape, or anything else. They tried it, found it pleasant, and then the biochemistry stated kicking in.
The biochemistry can do permanent damage. Sometimes, the nature of the damage is severe and irreversible. Sometimes, it is minor, but leaves the person unable to deal with alcohol at all. These people cannot even tolerate medicines with an ethanol component. But others, where the damage has not been premanent, can, and do tolerate these medicines just as they did before they took their first drink.
The psychology industry can make lots of money from the notion that everyone who has ever had an alcohol problem needs their (sometimes rather expensive) ministrations in perpetuity. Some do, but as a life scientist, based on the people I’ve known with alcohol problems, and the diversity of their situations, I am skeptical, from a scientific perspective, that the sweeping generalization is valid.
I also know a number of folks who have had alcohol problems, stopped drinking with help, but (by their reckoning) not great difficulty, and have chosen to just leave it alone, because to run the experiment to see what happens if they start drinking again is simply not worth the risk, and they really don’t miss the stuff, which is simply no longer a part of their life. Is it fair to say they are “still alcoholics”?
Blessings,
Gerry
[/quote]

Hi Gerry: Your perspective re: the “biochemistry” is interesting. Thx for the input. Guess my question pertains more along the psychology side. I’m asking do you think even after an alcoholic is “sober” or on the wagon, that they still exhibit the traits by nature of an alcoholic? i.e., obsessive/compulsive disorder, tending to do things/or not do them to the extreme? Perhaps substituting one “crutch” for another one?, i.e., compulsive gambling or exercising? i.e., exhibiting an “addictive nature” to anything. Do you think bio-chemically, that people are born with this trait?
Thx~~


#10

[quote=sparkle]Hi Gerry: Your perspective re: the “biochemistry” is interesting. Thx for the input. Guess my question pertains more along the psychology side. I’m asking do you think even after an alcoholic is “sober” or on the wagon, that they still exhibit the traits by nature of an alcoholic? i.e., obsessive/compulsive disorder, tending to do things/or not do them to the extreme? Perhaps substituting one “crutch” for another one?, i.e., compulsive gambling or exercising? i.e., exhibiting an “addictive nature” to anything. Do you think bio-chemically, that people are born with this trait?
Thx~~
[/quote]

Oh and one very important thing I forgot to mention, that I would like to get some views on.
Do you think that Jesus Christ and having a strong faith can give a person all the power they need to overcome these types of things? I do.


#11

LSK,

This is something I’ve always wondered about… on TV & in movies, if a recovering alcoholic is feeling a strong urge to drink again they get themselves to an AA Meeting quickly & it seems like the “urge” goes away… at least for the moment? Is it really like that? Because I’m thinking… WOW… how powerful are those meetings if they are enough to get you over the hump? Also… I’m wondering why a sponsor is so helpful? Is that strong “urge” to drink really something that somebody who’s been there/done can talk you out of? How is talking to them more helpful than say, talking to a family member?

Do you think it’s unlikely that an alcoholic could stay sober without that group support?


#12

I think the best place for you to ask your questions is at an Al Anon meeting. The only requirement for membership is that there be the problem of alcohol in a family member or friend. It can be life altering (for the better, of course).

Now, I once heard someone make the analogy that the process of “becoming” an alcoholic is like a cucumber being put in a brine to “become” a pickle. It takes some time in the brine for the cucumber to become a pickle and it is difficult to exactly pinpoint the moment that the change from cucumber to pickle occurs. One thing is certain, however, and that is that once the cucumber becomes a pickle, it will never be a cucumber again. Likewise the alcoholic.

This is not to say that recovery is not possible. Quite the contrary. Recovery is possible for anyone who makes the effort to do so, however like a recovered gunshot victim (oh, those analogies!), one may be in recovery or even “recovered”, but this does not make one bullet proof, if you catch the drift.

I hope you think about attending some meetings. They can shed light on so many issues that seem intractible and you can learn about how others deal with the same ones you have. I recommend it highly!

Oh, and don’t forget to pray!


#13

Hello Sparkle,

As a social work student who is studying addictions and has worked with addicts (and even had a few in the family) I can provide a bit of insight.

Currently the reasons why individuals are alcoholics is kind of an issue of debate. Some say the reason is genetic, others say it’s sociological (their environment), some say it’s learned, and others say it’s an actually brain disease. So the “once an alcoholic always an alcoholic” cliche can only be supported or argued according to the addictions model you are working from.

From my experiences I find that it really depends on the individual. You have to look at why they substance abuse, their family, and also their health. The reasons can vary drastically, some individuals drink to deal with a hardship in their past or present, others drink to socially conform, some also drink to mask physical pain (just to name a few), So, in essence you must talk to the individual and see if they know why they are drinking, and therefore determine if it will require such a great change that sobriety is unlikely or if it will simply require the right resources…but the one thing I like to say is, if they want to change they can do it, it’s just a matter of recognizing their problem, seeking appropriate help, determination, and support.

As far as your family member’s problems go (in regards to the OCD and escapism etc.) these are all parts of the recovery process, When people are addicted they often trade one addiction for another, and it’s not un-common for problems like OCD to occur. The excapism is also common and will go away when they are fully recovered, but unfortunately it is an admittedly annoying aspect of alcoholism and the recovery from it for the substance abuser’s family.

Hope I helped. :slight_smile:


#14

[quote=MorgsMetalGirl]Hello Sparkle,

When people are addicted they often trade one addiction for another, and it’s not un-common for problems like OCD to occur. The excapism is also common and will go away when they are fully recovered, but unfortunately it is an admittedly annoying aspect of alcoholism and the recovery from it for the substance abuser’s family.
Hope I helped. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

Yes. Thank you. I can definately see in my relative, and others I know and have known, that after sobriety OCD is typical. I have always felt (or thought) this could be dealt with or overcome, with a stronger faith, or with faith in Jesus, period. Perhaps, but perhaps not.
God Bless~


#15

With faith, yes, but with some specific works as well.


#16

[quote=carol marie]LSK,

This is something I’ve always wondered about… on TV & in movies, if a recovering alcoholic is feeling a strong urge to drink again they get themselves to an AA Meeting quickly & it seems like the “urge” goes away… at least for the moment? Is it really like that? Because I’m thinking… WOW… how powerful are those meetings if they are enough to get you over the hump? Also… I’m wondering why a sponsor is so helpful? Is that strong “urge” to drink really something that somebody who’s been there/done can talk you out of? How is talking to them more helpful than say, talking to a family member?

Do you think it’s unlikely that an alcoholic could stay sober without that group support?
[/quote]

It has been my experience that the majority of alcoholics cannot stay sober without some sort of support from other sober alcoholics. Now, having said that, there are always exceptions to the rule. For instance, in AA there is a group knows as “Loners”. They are people who, for whatever reason (usually the type of work they do) are unable to get to meetings. They stay connected via computer, shortwave radio, letters etc. In the beginning of AA there were people who got “Book Sober” - i.e. they became sober by reading the book Alcoholics Anonymous, following the instructions in the book and then starting meetings later.

What I have found interesting is the role that Catholics have played in the development of AA. For instance, when Dr. Bob and Bill W. (the founders of AA) first decided to try their “one drunk talking to another” idea, Dr. Bob called down to the hospital he worked at and spoke to a little nun he worked with to see if there were any likely candidates for he and Bill to experiment on. Sister Ignatius found a man known in AA History as “The Man on the Bed” or AA #3, put him in a private room and Dr. Bob and Bill W. went to work on him. Sister Ignatius became the founder, along with Dr. Bob, of the first true ‘hospital ward’ in a public hospital. Up until then, unless it was a specific sanitarium for the treatment of alcoholism or drug addiction, people like me were pretty much put in the nut ward.

When the book Alcoholics Anonymous, was published a little Jesuit priest by the name of Father Ed Dowling read it. Father Ed was in St. Louis and his ministry was to work with drunks. He loved us. Just loved us. He read the book and was struck by the similarity between the 12 Steps and the retreat discipline of St Ignatius of Loyola. He decided to visit this Bill W. fellow. The night he showed up at the clubhouse in New York Bill was in a real funk and was very close to drinking, he was so depressed. He openned the door and here was this chubby little priest standing there, wanting to talk about St. Ignatius and the 12 Steps. Instead, Bill told him how down he was, how no one liked him and no one appreciated all he had done for alcoholics. “Father”, he asked, “Will I ever be appreciated for the work I have done to help alcoholics?”

“Not on this earth,” Father said, “Now, stop whining and let’s figure out how we can help more of these fellows”.

Bill W. and Father Ed stayed lifelong friends.


#17

What a remarkable and most interesting story! I know they also follow the “12-step plan”, (which I have heard is very good and most spiritual) for other groups, such as “Sexaholics Anon”, and others. I find it amazing that long ago as you stated: “people like me would have been put in the nut ward”. They also put women going through menopause often times with their emotional shifts in a “nut ward” too. Boy-----many today would be in such “nut houses” if it were still like this. One thing very positive about the times we live in, are there are numerous resources to help everyone, and IMO, I think it is very admirable when a person has the courage to seek out those resources.


#18

my family has so many alcoholics we have our own chapter of AA. yes, once an alcoholic always and alcoholic, like once a type 1 diabetic, always a type 1 diabetic. It is a metabolic disorder which leaves the individual susceptible to misuse of alcohol and cannot be cured in any way except abstinence from alcohol. The physical and psychological addiction are so strong that it requires constant vigilance and support, which is the reason AA’s 12-step program works. I helps the person stay away from alcohol, but does not cure the disorder, any more than watching his diet and taking insulin cures the diabetic. I recommend anyone struggling with this or any addiction to read the life of Matt Talbott, and also Getting Free by Bert Ghazzi.

OP asks about personality traits common to alcoholics. The most obvious trait of the alcoholic who is out of control (as of any addict) is lying about his condition, his drinking, and his general behavior, to himself, his loved ones, and everyone around him.


#19

#20

I agree that there is such as thing as an addictive personality type. Because addiction is a part of the personality, I believe that it is true “once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” I’ve been in relationships with addictive people, and if it is not alcohol, then it’s the Internet, or tennis, or work, or sex, or something else.


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