it’s a sign of strength to seek help. for an anonymous mental health or alcohol assessment try www.militarymentalhealth.org.
i’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year, this time determined to do all i can to make it to the 50,000 word count. so my blog posts may be sporadic, or short and sweet, or both. like this one. only it’s not sweet.
at a walmart in lethbridge, told by a friend:
a drunk native fellow ahead of me was buying 10 bottles of alcohol-containing hair treatment. i asked for the manager and asked him whether he was going to let that sale go through. he said there was nothing they could do. i checked the shelves and saw that this product was vastly overstocked compared to the non-ethanol products. i called the cops. they just took my name and address.
the week before a bunch of guys had been sitting on the bench in front of walmart drinking hair product. walmart restocks the shelves according to the rate of product sales.
they should be arrested.
not the native guys.
the following was a comment on my blog post alcohol and art. i really enjoyed the insights, and with the commenter’s (lew’s) permission, i am sharing the gift of his reflections here.
it’s hard to know what’s real anymore. on the one hand i know that alcohol hinders me, certainly in my social life, but in my writing too. on the other hand, i feel like i’ve learnt a lot over the course of our coupling, and i continue to learn things. it is mostly about myself, but to know about others, it helps to know of yourself. and this has certainly helped my writing in a profound way. but where it has helped my writing in an important way, it has hindered it structurally. in the way that a tidy room can make for a tidy mind, a tidy mind can make for a tidy novel. and a mind, and often a room, is rarely tidy under the extreme conditions of alcoholic relapse. of two novels i’ve completed (unpublished as of yet), one was written in abstinence immediately upon discharge from hospital, and one was written very much in the middle of relapse. the first is very readable, i’m informed, and it seems to have a quality that some people need in a book, the second is not as readable.
without art, i could see abstinence and sobriety as a rich necessity to the comfort of my life, yes. but i am not without art, and this allows for a creative mind. alcoholism is a mind game, and, of course, an addiction. an artist makes a myth as much as a romantic historian, it is embedded somehow. but then perhaps the answer is in this mind game of a problem. perhaps i need to find a creative way to divorce drink.
i should add that i’ve made sweeping generalisations here that i am not qualified to make. and this is only part of my addiction. a part that nevertheless convolutes and contorts my attachment to escapism. for that is what it truly boils down to. escapism. even for an artist whose concern is getting at the truth, and probably uncovering horrors along the way, the work is escapism. perhaps one of the connections between artists and alcohol, is the need to escape. of course, all of us need to escape, but there is a depth achieved in art where we can lose ourselves (perhaps it is the same for anyone who works hard and deeply cares about what they do, creativity exists in most professions). and then to drink can be seen as to escape from escape, but i don’t feel it is. it is a continuation.
there is a contradiction between this and my first comment, but i’ve recognised over the course of this comment that i lied in the first (and using the word ‘truth’ too, but that’s another topic) – to myself as much as anyone. i never drink to wind down. quite the opposite. i drink to wind-up. after writing, i feel it is alright to drink. especially if i’ve had a good session. in fact, it is pretty much the only time i feel it is alright to drink.
i shall stop now, i’ve meandered a little. this is the first day i’ve gone without a drink in while. i can’t visualise a period of abstinence, there is too much ahead in the next two months. but i shall try to break from it for a day or two. lock myself away and ignore the knocking at the door or the phone calls. perhaps october.
in the last few weeks, a radio interview and two articles have encouraged me to again look at the nature of addiction. one of them is a discussion we are having on this blog here about alcohol use and art, with contributions by danish composer skovgaard danielsen and zen practitioner and painter eden maxwell. another was an article by trisha gura about chocolate addiction. the radio interview was with dr. gabor mate, well known for his work in our inner city, vancouver’s downtown eastside, as well as on stress and ADD.
so let’s look at some definitions of addiction.
cynthia jane collins in her book the recovery spiral has an interesting definition:
if we habitually or compulsively – with or without awareness or intention – use any activity, substance or person[s] to move us away from our true selves, we are practicing addictive behaviours.
gerald g. may proposes that
addiction is any compulsive, habitual behaviour that limits the freedom of human desire.
ben furman and tapani ahola, two scandinavian therapists known the world over for their imaginative work with therapeutic conversations once playfully gave addictions a name: “the muluttaja”. it derives from fascist times in finland and personifies the idea of “oppression and tyranny.”
virginia satir, one of north america’s foremost “elder” in family therapy, and another of my favourite models for therapy, talks of addiction as a coping mechanism for a rule that says, “i can’t feel what i feel.”
aviel goodman of the minnesota institute of psychiatry, who writes quite a bit about sexual addictions says that
addiction designates a process whereby a behavior, that can function both to produce pleasure and to provide escape from internal discomfort, is employed in a pattern characterized by (1) recurrent failure to control the behaviour (powerlessness) and (2) continuation of the behaviour despite significant negative consequences (unmanageability).
finally, gabor mate, whose absolutely fantastic book, in the realm of hungry ghosts: close encounters with addiction has this to say:
in the english language, addiction has two overlapping but distinct meanings. in our day, it most commonly refers to
a dysfunctional dependence on drugs or on behaviours such as gambling or sex or eating.
surprisingly, that meaning is only about a hundred years old. for centuries before then … addiction referred simply to an activity that one was passionate about …
in the words of a consensus statement by addiction experts in 2001, addiction is a “chronic neurobiological disease … characterized by behaviours that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving” …
the issue is not the quantity or even the frequency but the impact …
he then gives his own definition:
1. compulsive engagement with the behaviour, a preoccupation with it;
2. impaired control over the behaviour;
3. persistence or relapse despite evidence of harm; and
4. dissatisfaction, irritability or intense craving when the object – be it a drug, activity or other goal – is not immediately available.
he concludes his chapter, “what is addiction?” by saying
we need to avoid the trap of believing that addiction can be reduced to the action of brain chemicals or nerve circuits or any other kind of neurobiological, psychological or sociological data … addiction is a complex condition … we need to view it simultaneously from many different angles … to get anywhere near a complete picture we must keep shaking the kaleidoscope to see what other patterns emerge.
now my question to you – those of you who have experience with addiction, either personally, through friends or family, or professionally: what do you think of these definitions? do they define addiction? or do you have another definition that works better for you?