When The Music Stops
I'm fairly sure that no-one writes develop an addiction on their to-do list yet so many people do just that. I have heard the 'why?' question hundreds, maybe thousands, of times over the years and the answer is profoundly simplistic -
'Why? - Because it works'
Addictions often develop as a coping tool and this seems to be especially true of alcoholism. Society is more than accepting of people having a glass of wine to relax after work, toasting celebrations, lubricating social gatherings and enjoying a cold one at a summer barbeque. For most people this is both the beginning and the end of alcohol's enjoyable role in their life. Sadly however this is not true for everyone and, as with anything that can increase the senstaions of pleasure, alcohol has the potential for abuse.
Regardless of the specifics of your personal situation there are themes that run through the development of alcoholism and an escape from reality is one is one of the most common.
Stress, anxiety, fear, boredom, frustration, anger and panic are feelings we can all relate to. Drink has the capacity to alleviate stress, lessen anxiety, reduce fear, energize boredom, lubricate frustration, placate anger and soothe panic, and it does so with little or no consequence. Over time the amount of alcohol needed to attain that anaesthetising impact increases, the subtle buzz that two beers would have generated in the past doesn't show up and so you open a third, and then a fourth, fifth and six ... as the amount you consume increases so do the consequences and slowly your life begins to revolve more and more around the acquistion, consumption and recovery from alcohol. There are still only 24 hours in your day however so friends, family, leisure and work all start to take a back seat as you slide deeper and deeper into the bottle.
Spiralling down into the ever decreasing circle of addiction is often imperceptibly slow and passes by unnoticed for the longest time, and then you reach the tipping point, the moment where it becomes impossible to consume the level of alcohol needed to cope with your daily struggles and still function.
That heartbreaking Catch 22 where it feels like you can't live without it but carrying on will kill you.
This is the point for most people where there is a stark shift in the scales and the negatives far outweigh the positives; physical and emotional health really starts to suffer, family ultimatums get thrown into the mix and self-esteem plummets. The agony of listening to the strangulating cries of loved ones claiming that "if only you could stop drinking all your troubles would be over and life would fall back into place" can be almost too much to bear and the cold reality is that your life won't fall neatly back into place because alcohol was never your issue. Childhood traumas, work stresses, family strife, financial pressures, mental health ... these were the issues in your life you couldn't cope with, these are the reasons you started drinking to excess, these are the reasons that your drinking got out of hand and these are the reasons that will prevent you from maintaining your sobriety. The truth of the matter is that giving up drinking means reconnecting with all the problems you have been running away from without the only coping tool that was getting you through each day. Is it really any wonder that you have been caught in a quit and relapse loop for the longest time?
The answer to lifelong sobriety is not in the daily drudgery of the constant, demoralising denial of alcohol but in processing, changing and accepting the issues you were seeking to run from in the first place. That is when you can make a purely independent and motivated choice to abstain. Professional counselling is there to provide an accepting and non-judgemental space in which you can address the root causes of your addiction and simply put - dealing with the underlying issues of addiction will make turning away from a substance much easier and permanent recovery a realistic goal. Counselling can help you discover these issues and give you the cognitive tools to deal with them in a lasting way.