I get this question about drinking in moderation almost every day. As a private practice psychotherapist specializing in addiction in downtown Delray Beach, I see my share of folks that have fallen under the spell of alcohol and felt it’s destructive power over families and loved ones. Just yesterday, I learned of the tragic suicide of a former patient of one of my colleagues who’d tried heroically to pull back from alcohol and cocaine. I supervised the primary therapist briefly on the case. He was an Ivy League grad, with way too much to live for. He had an adoring partner, he was a star in his firm and had a family who loved him. I suspect that he couldn’t “drown’ the pain and silence the voices of addiction in his mind. In spite of the efforts of a community surrounding him, and refusing to accept guidance offered him, he took his own life. I pray for his soul and for those who were hurt so much by his passing.
Many people who are now addicted to drugs and alcohol, started in college. As long as young adults have sought higher education, there’s been broad encouragement in that unique “fraternal” culture to drink and experiment with drugs. Especially for men, it can often amount to a demonstration of manhood to drink and drug excessively with impunity. I confess, I was no “puritan” at the University of Georgia. I have lived to regret much of those wasteful years and the extensive personal psychological repair I’ve worked at since that time. I now spend many of my current professional hours evaluating and helping those who seek a more serene and healthier path. And there are many paths.
Most important is to find a trusting group of peers with whom to share the journey. I know of no better foundation than the 12 Steps and Alcoholics Anonymous, and it’s many derivations, including Refuge Recovery and Smart Recovery. Finding an experienced, licensed and worthy therapist is also critical. A person who can help one understand and process the roots of pain that have given rise to the addictions, and caused a recreational habit to become deadly and corrosive.
Addiction to alcohol and drugs can cause our bodies and minds to change in profoundly unhealthy ways, sometimes irrevocably. With heavy alcohol abuse, a person can arrive at a point beyond which it’s impossible to return to a “normal” life of moderate drinking. It is a medical reality that some are physically unable to resist drinking and drugging, and sadly, die trying. I regard this condition as addiction, and frequently advise that such a person pitch their tents close to their AA central house and commit to lifelong involvement in support meetings and complete abstention. But research has also shown us examples of people who’ve quit on their own, developed full and rewarding lives with discipline and conscientiousness, and surrounded themselves with family who now are able to consume minor amounts of alcohol without harm. Going it alone, without a restrictive treatment environment is, at best, a risky bet, but one worth careful consideration. Some of my patients have pulled it off. There is no “one size fits all” recovery.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, call me at 561-213-8030. I’m a short walk from downtown Delray. Find out more at www.JohnDavisCounseling.com.