Breaking addiction, finding joy

Chelsea Jones | 10/18/2013, 9:08 a.m.
Family members and friends may wonder, “Why can’t they just stop?” While a number of individuals may be thinking, “Just ...
Tim Cowlishaw and Laurie Dhue

She commented that she decided to get sober after her therapist refused to keep seeing her due to her persistent denial of being an addict. Dhue started working with an addiction specialist, enrolled in a 12-step program, and has been free of alcohol and drugs for the past six-and-a-half years.

However, she admitted that sometimes she still thinks about drinking. Nevertheless, she remarked that she would not consume another drink, describing that if she did so it would it take away her new found happiness.

Both speakers explained that they decided to be public about their experiences in order to raise awareness about alcoholism and also to help prevent them from sliding back into their own habits of addiction.

On another note, visitors had the opportunity to attend a series of workshops. One workshop entitled “Can I ask you about my friend?” consisted of a panel of four licensed counselors and one medical doctor who spoke about the advice they give to alcoholics, as well as the advice they give to those who want to help alcoholics.

First, they defined alcohol addiction as the habitual use of alcohol that tremendously impacts a person’s life. They agreed that alcoholism could result from and/or coexist with depression, anxiety or PTSD. They also discussed a person’s genetic predisposition to alcoholism, pointing out that alcoholism tends to run in families.

Furthermore, the panelists explained that alcoholics generally harbor a low self-image of being unworthy and inadequate and are ashamed of their addiction.

“They look out into the world, and they see everybody else doing just fine. But somehow at the very core of who they are, they believe that they’re defective. Their belief is that there is absolutely nothing they can do to change that,” one panelist said.

In fact, the panelists mentioned that a crucial part of recovery is convincing alcoholics that they are worthy human beings who can beat their addiction.

“What I try to tell folks is that there is no shame in recovery. The disease is no different than diabetes, high blood pressure [or] cancer. We’re going to try and fix it,” another panelist said.

All panelists articulated that alcoholics – not their family members or friends – have to make the choice to stop drinking in order to fully recover. One panelist expressed that recovery therapy is ineffective if an alcoholic is unwilling to change. He also stated that each alcoholic will have to reach his or her own breaking point before he or she is ready to make a commitment towards sobriety.

A way to prevent alcoholism, the panelists noted, is learning how to effectively cope with emotional pain. Instead of self-medicating with alcohol and drugs to alleviate the pain, the panelists recommended that a person seek professional therapy, join a support group, or perhaps look to family and friends for encouragement and comfort.

During another session entitled “Families in Trouble,” a marriage and family therapist talked about family-based therapy used to combat alcoholism. This therapy is structured on the belief that alcoholism is a disease that is enabled by family systems, and involves the whole family in working towards an alcoholic’s recovery.