Alcohol & Addiction
I have specialised for many years in addiction issues; this includes substances like alcohol, as well as behavioural compulsions like shopping.
I worked as a mental health and addiction therapist within an NHS-funded alcohol treatment service for six years, and I also have comprehensive experience of 12-step based treatment in a number of private treatment settings.
Addiction is a complicated area that often leads to really negative outcomes. Working in front-line addiction services, together with a specialist MSc in Addiction Psychology, has given me much insight into how to help people suffering from addiction issues. Please contact me if you want to talk about your particular situation.
I have split this page into two distinct sections. Firstly I want to address those struggling with the issues of ongoing abstinence, recovering addicts who are sober but, in one way or another, a little bit stuck.
The second part deals with people who are struggling with an active drinking problem.
Sober but struggling:
When people move into long-term sobriety, life often becomes quite a lot easier. With abstinence comes an end to the chaos that is present in the lives of alcoholics who still drink. There are no longer verbal conflicts, humiliating experiences, or dimly-remembered arguments from the night before. Waking up with the fear of "What did I do last night?" will have gradually diminished to nothing.
However, even those alcoholics who have worked through AA's 12 steps and are engaging in regular service and fellowship in meetings often find that they are stuck and unhappy.
Here are some of the most common issues I see in my clinical practice from clients who have been successfully abstinent for some time, often for many years:
- An inability to have fun or feel pleasure in life
- Difficulty in relationships both romantic and social
- Unfulfilling work lives or careers with a seeming inability to succeed
- A general feeling of free-floating anxiety
- Specific intense social anxiety and a failure to join in with life
- Assertiveness issues: the feeling of being walked over by family, friends, and colleagues
In my experience, these are all common phenomena for those in recovery from addiction.
After years of working with these symptoms in sober people, I have come to see that the above issues have a profound anxiety at their core, rooted in self-doubt. Associated with the most severe issues listed above is the lack of a firm and stable sense of identity. I would argue that it is hard to enjoy long-term sobriety when you don't know who you are.
I am happy to talk to you about such issues and the kind of process that can help you with them.
Alcohol-use disorders are hard to deal with for many reasons, not least of which is that, from the outside, the sufferer looks like they must be insane to keep drinking. Friends, family and colleagues can see that alcohol is a part of the problem.
However, from the inside, alcohol often feels like it is a big part of the solution. It can provide relief from pressure, worry and anxiety; it offers a break from feeling that life is miserable and spinning out of control. Boredom and depression can be halted for a while.
Drinking can give the anxious person a brief respite from his or her ever-present fear. Alcohol can help the person to overcome the sense of unease long enough to get the practical things of life done.
In short, drinking can feel like a practical solution for dealing with day-to-day life.
I've never yet met a stupid alcoholic. It is not a lack of common sense that leads to the continued use of a substance. It is not only friends but also the sufferers themselves who can see that drinking has a destructive side. On the one hand they feel less depressed for the moment when they drink; on the other hand, they feel demoralised and defeated when they wake the next day.
This situation when a person inhabits contradictory spaces is called being in a state of ambivalence. Resolving this ambivalent state is key to the process for alcoholics and addicts to move on with their lives.
We can have a set of conversations that are designed to help you identify your ambivalence and come to your own decision about what you want to do and how to go about doing it.
If you want to discuss this more, please contact me.