Sunday, August 22, 2010

Anti-authoritarianism and Alcoholism

Alcoholism engenders 'anti authoritarianism'. This is a direct consequence of the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain. The frontal lobes which are associated with good judgement, the stuff of wisdom and sanity, appears to be inhibited to some degree as a result of the disinhibition caused by alcohol and drugs on the Amygdala or feeling centers of the brain. Dopamine transmission is altered by drugs and alcohol. Not only that glucose utilization and even DNA expression have been altered by alcohol.

What character or personality or feelings preceded the continued abuse by alcohol and drugs may be a mot point. The drugs and alcohol are like brain damage in this regard. Mostly reversible brain damage but brain damage nonetheless.

So studies show that alcoholics at least are immature on formal testing. But the question remains whether they were before since clearly alcoholism causes regression. Part of the work of AA and the steps of AA is the resocialization and psychological training that mere 'abstinence' and 'harm reduction' programs simply don't address. The expression that captures this well in AA is that " if you only sober up a horse thief you'll get a better horse thief." Abstinence may address the characterological and cognitive and emotional disturbances in time but socialization and maturation aren't necessarily going to magically appear. The program of AA as opposed to the fellowship of AA aims to expedite the process of maturation.

It's here that anti authoritarianism becomes an issue. Drunks don't" take guff from anyone nohow." They are particularly 'proud' of their independence. Indeed some drunks and addicts living under the bridge celebrate their 'freedom' though they're slaves to alcohol and singing the 'hobo existence' is mostly making a 'virtue of necessity.'

Given the extent of post traumatic stress disorder associated with alcoholism it's extremely common to have drunks really have some person in authority really do them wrong. Women are raped, men are stolen from and battered and sometimes raped ,as women are stolen from and battered as well. Studies of alcoholism and drug abuse show that this population is weighted with betrayal disillusionment and abuse. That most of this occurs after the development of the disease of alcoholism and addiction doesn't account for that which seems to precede the addiction.

Given that underlying all addiction and alcoholism there is an anxiety disorder which responds to the anti anxiety effects of drugs and alcohol, the increased anxiety is a product of the increased environmental threats or hypersensitivity that precedes the development of alcoholism. With alcoholism there is at most a 50% contribution of genetics and this is not even shown in drug abuse. The consequence is that most of addiction and alcoholism is a response to environment. Toxic settings beget toxicity.

There is a well used expression in the program of AA called "pitiful incomprehensible demoralization." The psychic change or spiritual awakening that has been said to need to precede real change from alcoholism is the realization that the whole course of one's life has been going awry. The authority in the life of alcoholism and addiction has been the drugs and alcohol and all the supports that have been given to the life of alcoholism and addiction. The enablers and the philosophies and even the theologies and politics that appeared to support the drunken life now no longer hold the sway they once did.

For some alcoholics this starts first with the realization that the police are not the enemy. Sober and functioning as positive contributing citizens, able to obey laws because the erraticism of alcoholism is gone, there is no longer conflict with the law. No longer drinking and driving the alcoholic no longer has to 'fear' the police. Indeed the police are often the greatest fans and support of recovery. Partly this is because many of the members of the police have developed alcoholism themselves and are in recovery. Alcoholism and addiction respect no social class. Indeed the higher one rises in society and status with the money and freedom that comes the greater the risk and opportunity for the development of alcoholism and addiction. A day doesn't go by that a politician, judge, doctor, engineer, pilot, senior bureaucrat, isn't enterring a program of recovery to address their addiction. The original founders of AA were indeed upper and middle class men, surgeons and lawyers and businessmen.

The disease of alcoholism is said to be 'cunning, baffling, and powerful'. In recovery it becomes apparent how ubiquitous its influence was. Voting for the political party that wanted the bars to stay open later was just one of many things that became apparent. Alcoholics were like kids who ate foods full of sugar. If an event allowed the liberal flow of alcohol then it was a great event.

So much of civil libertarianism is attractive to the alcoholic or addict that the question recently asked was "would Shambala exist without the drugs and alcohol." Certainly Woodstock might have happened but the whole movement of the day was quickly hijacked by the drugs and alcoholism much as soccer games are increasingly being hijacked by the drunk and stoned elements in the audience.

The alcoholic in the Big Book of AA is described as the great 'critic'. So much of the thinking of alcoholism and addiction, the actual brain disease which is associated with suicide and depression, is negative. The regression of alcoholism is best seen in the pot smokers who never leave the couch follow the news and criticize ad infinitum all the actions expressed in the media. Alcoholics and addicts and 'big shots' and such "legends in their minds" and so full of false promises and 'superman beliefs' that they commonly believe they can do whatever the booze and drugs make them 'feel' they can do. A well honed AA slogan addresses this peculiarity. "If you talk the talk, walk the walk!"

In this regard alcoholics and addicts in recovery will often still be criticizing politicians and priests, leaders of business and professionals. Naturally the 'alcoholic' knows better. Their most common refrain is 'I could do that too if I wanted to". So naturally in AA people who are living in their heads are repeatedly told "Show me, don't tell me."

The anti authoritarianism of alcoholism seems even worse with addiction. Part of this is that today so many of the addicts have begun their careers of drug abuse prior to any socialization. Many alcoholics, especially those referred to in the early years of the Big Book of AA, were well established in their lives before their relative wealth and freedom and success allowed them to indulge their alcoholism. The difference with addiction is that so many of the addicts missed the socialization of stable homes, schools and work dropping out and living on the streets and developing anti social and criminal ways as the 'only' way of life because their addiction took them down in their teens. Drugs are said to 'bring people to their knees' earlier. Addiction is more commonly showing up now in the teens and twenties where as it used to be encountered most in 30s, 40s and 50 year olds.

Much of the anti authoritarianism in alcoholics and addicts is merely 'adolescent'. The disease of alcoholism and addiction has kept them aways from the normal avenues of socialization and character maturation. Alcoholism and addiction makes non joiners and isolators and loners of individuals as a direct part of the disease itself. Addicts and alcoholics especially those who relapse and especially those who keep relapsing must keep themselves free for the call of their master so they stop drinking and drugging but maintain a lot of 'free time' on their hands. They remain 'anti social' and insist that this is just the way they are. Often they are actually 'pouting' like adolescents while the rest of society is inviting them in. But the disease of addiction has taken over this aspect of their thinking and they remain 'aloof' mostly as a means of being ready to relapse, free to respond to the 'craving'. Indeed anti social behaviour, isolation, per se, is a form of 'craving equivalent'. Addiction and alcoholism are 'parallel play' activities and there is no need for 'commitment' to relationships or groups or societies or families or other individuals. The only commitment needs to be to the drug or alcohol. That is the God that is being worshipped and a crack house even more than a bar shows that same almost sacred participation in alienation. Even the love making of addiction is more 'mutual masturbation' than true love. This is the reason the sex addict despite the number of partners or players is caught in the prison of masturbation without the joining that comes with relationship. The sensational overrides the relational.

It's with these thoughts that anti authoritarianism must be considered. The Big Book of AA cautions the alcoholic against even 'righteous anger'. Addicts select from their environment all the negatives that government for instance does and repeats them. This may indeed be a 'craving equivalent' as well because it's tied to the self pity that justifies drug and alcohol abuse and relapse. Ultimately if everything is so wrong, if all those people in charge are fools, 'why not drink?"

That said, human rights and civil liberties and political action are all a very important part of community involvement. Eventually the alcoholic or addict in recovery moves into a world of decision making that involves criticizing positions of ones' government. At this point it seems important to remember that alcoholism and addiction present as diseases of 'immaturity'. It's been said that 'children break things and adults fix them." To this end alcoholics and addicts who are very good at breaking things and putting down and criticizing and belittling are asked "what would you do better." RAther than allowing addicts and alcoholics to wax poetic about the problem they are derailed early and asked 'what is the solution". What would you do differently from the President or Prime Minister? How would you solve the problem of terrorism? How would you get the votes to build a child centre? The specific feature dominant in the critic is that they dare not propose their own ideas because they lack the courage to face the kind of criticism they themselves so readily dish out. In AA people are told "if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen." "Too many cooks spoil the broth." The critics are mostly commonly the ones that are interfering with things being done unless they actually are apart of solutions.

Indeed it is in community involvement that addicts and alcoholics eventually move. The 'business meeting' of AA with it's disagreements and confusion is a place where people learn to controll their tempers and work with others to a common goal. The rallies and round ups of AA are major community projects where people learn to put on events and address all the grievances and expectations associated with these. The alcoholics in AA cheer the leaders and organizers of these and eventually see that the same 'feelings' are what normal people feel for the leaders of society and all their organizations. The tendency of addiction is to see the cup half empty whereas one political leader versus another in the Western world is more often not the paranoid position of the childish alcoholic and addict, black and white but rather shades of grey.

Clinton, Bush and Reagan, are all A students but clearly the Aplus is preferred to the A minus. Mulroney and Chretien, Harper and Ignatieff are A students as well. The political question is which one is A plus versus A minus. None of these individuals are satanic, evil, losers or any other description that the anti authority alcoholic might give them. The Pope is like wise not terribly machiavellian. Surely the whole system is at fault because it doesn't place the 'critics' as the billionaires and move the car washers into the big chairs smoking cigars. But that's childish thinking. It's destructive and doesn't have a solution beyond revolution that would get the critic off the couch and into the real work of society. The organizers of AA event, those too often thankless, are appreciated as leaders should be. It's said though that those most criticized in AA are those that do the most.

But all who stand up make themselves a target. Studies of monkey behaviour show that the bleachers are always full and that few are ready to do the work and take the risks but all want the rewards. This may be a part of the animal we are. Alcoholism and addiction may only bring this worst side of human character to the fore.

It's with thoughts like these that I personally like to temper my tendency to criticize my political leadership. Government and taxes aren't necessarily popular. Yet addicts and alcoholics have a tendency to project their own past negative experiences associated with drugs and alcohol onto whatever authority that presents today. This anti authoritarianism needs be balanced against the overall good that organizations do whereas the addiction flourishes in chaos so the call of the addiction will always be in the back ground.

Anti authoritarianism is part of the disease of addiction and alcoholism. To be an exemplary leader you must first be an exemplary follower. Recovery is about being of service in recovery. Service doesn't start at the top and service isn't usually being a critic. Anyone in organizations knows that the 'talkers' are a dime a dozen where the "doers" are few and far between.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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