|Meetings and discussions this week with those I sponsor were about how trust goes out the window when alcoholism and addiction are front and center. It seems that addictive behavior means having to say "I am sorry" over and over, until finally, those words are no longer meaningful to those who have been repeatedly hurt by believing them.|
Addiction is often said to be a disease of denial, but it is also a disease of regret. As the disease progresses, the emptiness of what has been lost is filled with regrets, "if-only"s and "could-have-been"s.
There are lots of casualties that occur with addictive behavior. The truth is probably the first thing to be cast aside and squandered. Not only does the alcoholic/addict deny the truth to himself, but as the disease progresses, lying becomes a habit. Most who are active in their disease are practiced at lying in all matters related to the defense and preservation of the addiction. Evasion, deception, manipulation, and other techniques for avoiding or distorting the truth are necessary parts of the addictive process. The fundamentally insane and unsupportable thinking and behavior of the alcoholic/addict must be justified and rationalized so that the addiction can continue and progress.
I have heard and read a lot of sharings by alcoholics. It seems that the disease protects and strengthens itself through being "terminally unique". I also hear this in Al-Anon as well, from those who are convinced that their situation is different and worse than others. Being able to reconcile behavior due to special considerations provides an explanation for the preservation of the disease. The thinking may go something like this:
The behavior of being "terminally unique" is not believed after a while by anyone. The same old song and dance over and over strains relationships. It doesn't take long to reach the conclusion that the alcoholic/addict isn't to be believed in matters pertaining to his addiction. I heard a lot of times that "this is the last drink". It may be well-intentioned at the time but eventually the old behavior would return, the "terminal uniqueness" would take hold, and the excuses and alibis for continuing to drink would come up.
This behavior repeated over and over does a lot of damage in relationships. At the time, the promises seem sincere and probably are. But as the promises are broken time and again, the hope and joy gives way to bitter disillusion. I think that Lois W. explains this well in her book about how she lost hope and was bitterly disappointed by Bill W.'s relapses.
How many times do family members ask: "If you really love and care about me, why don't you stop what you are doing?" And most of the time the answer back is another promise to do better, or as the disease progresses, the alcoholic will point out the faults of those who are nagging him to stop. This is the "the best defense is a good offense" maneuver. The alcoholic thinks of himself as the victim of the unfairness of the family who are nagging about his drinking.
The family may start to feel crazy with feelings of self-pity, resentment and fear. Relationships totally collapse in the downward spiral of mistrust. Those who keep trying to preserve a relationship with individuals who are in the throes of progressive addiction come to feel as if they are not as important as the bottle. The "less than" feeling takes hold because the family begins to feel that the addiction is more important than they are. And at the time, they are right.
Questions, discussions, presentations of facts, confrontations, pleas, threats, ultimatums and arguments are all part of dealing with alcoholism. Sometimes these ultimatums work at getting all parties into recovery. Or the pleas will fall on deaf ears. And the delusions continue that "no one is being harmed by drinking"; "I can stop at any time"; "drinking is necessary to deal with the crappy circumstances of life". Those who express concern are to be avoided and are often criticized.
Sadly, those who care about the alcoholic the most begin to feel crazy as the disease progresses. Emotional and social withdrawal, secrecy, fear and shame are just some of the feelings of those who live with active addiction. Fear, anger, confusion and depression often result. None of this is pretty. There are times that I need to remind myself just how fortunate I am to have gotten help before I became a casualty of alcoholism.