The path towards recovery from alcoholism, as any sort of healing, is never easy. And it’s not supposed to be. A quick fix for this sort of problem, as anyone who had encountered addiction knows, never yields solid and durable results. It may even cause more damage than good – the addict and his surrounding faces yet another disappointment when the easy solution doesn’t hold water anymore, and his self-confidence drops, substantiated by examples of failure.
All the Hurdles on the Way to Recovery
Let us begin by stating it clearly – alcoholism can be healed. Even though many therapists insist on never calling an addict an “ex addict” (mostly for therapeutic reasons), the addiction can be cured. The reason is that alcoholism is an acquired habit, which feeds off of diverse physiological, social and psychological factors.
Alcohol is a substance with physiologically addictive characteristics, and the first step towards healing must be to cease alcohol intake. A year of sobriety may be needed before we declare that the physical addiction is defeated. To add to the difficulties of alcohol addiction treatment, there are usually passionate players in the life game of “Alcoholic” – the Persecutor, the Rescuer, and the Patsy. When the therapeutic process is initiated, the addict’s interpersonal transactions need to be analyzed, pathological patterns of interaction terminated, and ideally – his “co-players” will also be involved in his healing. Finally, the array of psychological factors that contribute to (or cause) alcohol addiction may be expected to reside in the Enemy, as Claude Steiner (2003) explains. The Enemy is a psychological phenomenon, a notion used in transactional analysis that consists of messages damaging for a person’s cognitive, emotional, social and introspective functioning. In therapy of alcoholism, the messages coming from the Enemy need to be confronted and neutralized, in order to liberate the individual’s capacities for love, self-respect, and a productive life.
The Right Way
We have merely outlined all the areas where obstacles for an alcoholic’s healing hide. As everyone who encounters the horror of an addiction knows (whether you are the one who is facing it, or it’s someone close to you), the web behind this problem is enormously intricate. Forcing it into any sort of categorization or simplistic explanation would be both offensive and untrue.
However, what is universal is that no one is born an alcoholic, and no one comes to this world determined to play games. Children are born princes and princesses, as Berne says. We could add that children are born authentic, with capacity for spontaneity, intimacy and awareness (Steiner, 2003). And it is their upbringing that puts them to different non-authentic roles, that builds the Enemy and prepares the stage for the life game (“Alcoholic” in this case). And luckily, if the proper support and guidance are provided to an addict, a life force that strives for healing will take over and repair most of the damage to body and soul made in the past.
In psychotherapy of alcoholism, the primary and necessary step is for the alcoholic to stop drinking. Only then do other mental health techniques and interventions from the side of an experienced and thoughtful therapist have effect. But even before this initiation into therapy, there are certain prerequisites without which none of the efforts would be successful.
As Steiner (2003) describes, intensive need, capacity for controlling one’s own behavior, and concentrated action are essential building blocks of healing process in one’s way out of alcoholism. Alcoholics often rather bravely resist their close ones’ struggles to talk them into therapy. The reason for this lies in the fact that for both themselves and their environment this is just a part of the game, as devastating it may be. Therefore, the initial authentic moment of conscious decision to truly fight off the addiction usually happens when the addict “hits the bottom”. This is the moment when physical, social, psychological and financial costs an alcoholic paid for the sake of his addiction become to grave for him to bare. And the rock bottom is a highly subjective place. However, that is the point in which all say: “That’s enough! I am changing my life”. It is the moment of intensive need to take back the power over one’s own actions. This is when an addict will be needing all of his ability to resist playing the game once the initial enthusiasm wares off, and the Adult in him will need to take over the control. And finally, needless to say that this sort of life endeavor is unlikely to be successful without a focused and well thought through action. Recovering from an addiction, as we already emphasized, is not an easy and quick adventure. And you don’t embark on a thousand-mile journey without a good plan and all the support you can get.
Steiner, C. (2003). Healing Alcoholism. Retrieved from http://www.emotional-literacy.com/healing.htm