Friday, June 10, 2011

The Wrong Way To Think About Alcoholism: Paradoxical Fra La La ing.

I stumbled onto an alcoholicism-focused blog yesterday, as I tend to do at times, and an entire post--and I mean like a thousand word post here--was focused on how being an addict is a such a strong personality trait that it supersedes all others, and, indeed, results in high levels of delusional thinking, misdirected anger, and of course, heavy-duty substance abuse, almost irrespective of cost/consequences.

And I'll tell you this: I couldn't help but find myself repulsed.  Utterly repulsed.  Isn't it the hope of us addicts that living a sober life can change our fundamental condition, I thought--and the thought was one of those half-aggressive, half-speedy type thoughts that made my eye-lid twitch and heart stutter.  I mean,  the basic, old-school game revealed itself in all its glory: can we change ourselves, or, like, are we stuck?

My argument, and my post from yesterday (just scroll down a few inches), is really like this: we're stuck, but not for one carte blanche reason (We're/I'm [an] Addict(s))--no, no, no.  We are people.  People.  We've got a limbic system, an dinosaur era pleasure/reward/response sub-brain brain, AND we've got a smart ass rational reasoning neo-cortex.  Get it? I mean grey matter: have a look, from wikipedia:

  I.e.  Life is about base urges, that--let's not joke about this--drive a lot of what we do, and, Simultaneously, about the stories we tell to justify/demonize, and otherwise acquire, to make sense of, the feedback and instincts given to us from the lesser/baser emotional urges and from a more detached rational perspective.  In essence, we've got a bit of a feedback loop.  When it draws down really tight, and we can't separate out pleasure--and we justify all of our pleasure seeking, and we cannot control ourselves, and we do it in a patterned way--then we're addicts. We can't help ourselves.  We justify all our basic urges, and our brains are more susceptible to pleasure (we get more pleasure from booze, for instance), than other mere mortals.  We are powerful!  We love our drugs and booze!  And that's why it is so bad for us, because it is, we think, so delicious and wonderful and powerful.

But there's more!  The other part is this: Fairness.   We all buy it.  Why?  Well, the principal of fairness is the glue that keeps groups together.  It binds us collectively.  It makes us feel that certain things are "right" and others are not.  I'll say this, very quickly, as I'm out of time again.  Group status--both showing that we are inside of certain groups and outside of others--is important enough that I think half of the "fall" into alcoholism for a lot of folks happens at a point in their lives when they are striving desperately to figure out which group to get involved with--i.e. to figure out where they stand in the world.  Alcohol allows us to "show" who we "really" are to potential group members that we might associate with, more freely.  Kind of funny, right?  But you know about friendships, right?  I mean, they're like relationships--you show an idealized version of yourself for as long as you can (and let's face it, this is most paramount as we/you/I tell ourselves that we're being hyper organically politically correct and fully who.we.are--sounds like bullshit feels--slippery), until something happens.  Stress. A fight.  Something.  And then, either you become friends, closer, or you don't.....

The point is only this: we want to believe that we can change.  That we are fluid.  That we can become famous, and rich.  It is, paradoxically, those very thoughts of change that allow us to become initiated into certain groups over others, and to, you guessed it, justify our current behaviors as warranted.

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