i was intrigued by levy’s comment on the art and alcohol posting a few days ago and thought it would be worthwhile to dedicate a blog entry to it. here is what he says:
I can appreciate the turn around stories of artists and I get that there are lessons to be learned, but how did they do it? and what part did therapy play? How does what they did make a difference to me?
i think these are valid questions and it would take more than a few hundred words to do them justice. however, here are a few thoughts:
let me say something about the question of “how did they do it?” how did they overcome the darkness of alcoholism and come out the other end? i don’t know the exact stories of these particular people but when i think of people with similar stories, clients who i’ve dealt with, a few things come to mind:
the support of friends and family.
isolation is the friend of all mental dis-ease, including addiction (i see addiction mostly as a mental health issue). “demon alcohol” loves to tell the suffering alcoholic that nobody understands her, that she is better than everyone else and/or not worthy of anyone’s love or attention. the bottle becomes the best friend then. people who recover generally have or get a support system that will not let them fall too deeply into isolation.
most people with addictions are not nearly as much in denial as people around them believe. most alcoholics know quite well that drinking too much endangers them and others around them. they may not want to admit that to others; that can feel very shameful. but within themselves they usually know it.however, this knowledge is often experienced only at an intellectual level (“in the head”). once a person with an addiction really feels, at all levels of his existence – spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically – that continued drinking will inexorably take him further into the downward spiral, he can often reach a commitment to work on stopping his alcohol abuse.
for some people, therapy is very helpful. for one thing, it can help put in place the two aspects i just talked about – a support network and a true understanding of the destructive nature of alcoholism. therapy can take all kinds of forms. it can be one-on-one therapy or in a rehab group; it can be with a counsellor, social worker or clergy; it can be face-to-face or online.
self-help approaches like peer counselling or groups like alcoholics anonymous are also a form of therapeutic support. sometimes it’s helpful to use more than one approach, for example going to a 12-step group once a week and seeing a counsellor twice a month.
a 24/7 approach
it’s not enough to see a therapist once a week. those who are successful with overcoming addiction are usually people who find ways to deal with the very real, daily, often hourly temptations that they are facing. they build and use strategies that work at any time of the day. one client i had, for example, realized that her greatest danger zones were the bottle that was waiting for her after coming home from work, her friends at her local bar, and drinking beer while watching TV.
we put together a plan which included not having any alcohol in the house (not even for guests), and always having a case of her favourite juice in the car – just in case she might feel like visiting with her friends with whom she might be watching TV. that way, she would have something to drink “to hold on to”. she gave up hanging out with her buddies at the bar, and it turned out that one of them was relieved because he had wanted to cut down on the drinking himself. they now go hiking together.
another question that levy asked was, how does what they (i.e. the artists who recovered from alcohol abuse) did make a difference to me? i’ll come back to that in one of my next postings.
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