“You got no chance, but use it” - movie title by Werner Herzog Alcoholism is not about the type of substance used, be it powder, pill, or liquid. It doesn’t matter how it’s done. The ism is about being a stranger to planet earth, ill equipped to care for the body given, ignorant to what anything means, and disconnected from everyone. In spite of intelligence, As well as talents, potential, assets and gifts, eventually freedom of choice is lost. Distorted perceptions keep him stuck and he turns into an old child. While experiences are not processed consciously and integrated properly, there is no progress to be had - no maturation and no empowerment. At the mercy of legal restrictions, translucent to authorities and institutions he regresses to parental control or the exploitation of a string of strangers. Addiction is a complex syndrome – to be understood beyond the lack of age-appropriate behaviors - on a plane above the physical. He suffers from a chronic condition, which requires ongoing treatment. He resists it, though, sick and tired of such suffering, routinely indignant and outraged and so… he needs some good dope to get him through the night and forget about the shame and guilt, and the price he is paying. Stuck in eternal “Groundhog Day” denial is indispensable and self-medication is a must. A healthy young man, he has reduced his mental world to the choice between prison and rehab, preferring rehab for its amenities (and pool). He has internalized the bars in his head, locking out the rest of the world. He is like an elephant born in captivity who had been chained to a pole and has given up trying to get rid of the shackle. It’s called learned helplessness – And it’s also a feature of the ism. He started out irritable, restless, and discontent… but take away his dope … and he crumbles – being left feeling vulnerable, insecure, needy, and lost – and this is why he keeps relapsing “for no apparent reason” – left to his own devices he finds life intolerable, he doesn’t really want to have to be there sober. He cannot stand it without some chemical buffer … and consequently his obstacles seemingly grow into insurmountable mountains If he could… understand the nature of the beast so as not to under-estimate it – he might come better equipped. Last time he was getting ready to fend off the grizzly bear By waving a plastic dinner fork... He lost. He lives in the realm of the hungry ghosts – perennial insatiable hunger for something outside of self. Feeling disconnected, he remains locked within his inner hell. He denies the existence of a Higher Power as though the world beyond his head had ceased to exist. And so he goes back to what he knows… Compulsively pursuing chemicals and behaviors – moving from alcohol to drugs or pills or sex or food or a combination – to fill the inner emptiness with that which MUST cause pain. Whatever he tries… it’s never enough. With all his energy tied to a losing battle… the pursuit of hedonism is futile, sought-after contentment remains elusive, and the door to healing remains locked. A shipwreck survivor, she is offered a lifesaver. She looks at it briefly, holds on momentarily, then says, I don’t really like the color of it, I don’t like how you’re throwing it at me, and I’m not so sure that you really “get me”. She lets go and is caught by sober-living staff making out in the bushes behind the AA meeting with a random acquaintance. She is a 34-old mother of two, having lost custody due to the ism. Her mother never protected her from sexual molestation by the father – The mother visits her at rehab, blames her for being stupid and dysfunctional, And takes her children with their dad and his new woman to Disneyland… while her heart breaks. Her wild emotions, disordered thinking, twisted perceptions, discontinuous behaviors, missing purpose and direction, her shameless oddities and fierce suffering create chaos and drama. Between sleepless nights and temper tantrums There is no time to seize the day for any good endeavors. The chance for a stable and happy life gets misplaced and she goes down. The ism of alcoholism is about the need for distraction from the status quo… departure from reality, oblivion at any price. For the bystander her behavior makes no sense - It is counter-intuitive and incomprehensible. For her it’s not negotiable – she lives in a whirlwind – continually flooded with sizzling feelings and urges. She expresses her intensity - She turns you on and breaks your heart. Then she distorts and misunderstands, defends and protects - She will tell you all about being victimized (it’s true) She hurts and disrespects you and then she drops you. Just like that. Newly clean, he falls for a newly sober woman, Relapses and continues to drink, saying, “I’m clean now. I’m not doing crack anymore.” His woman tries to get her life together. He interferes, coming home from the bar on Sunday morning, needy, anxious, irritable, aching for some loving. Without instant soothing from her, suffering from her indifference, he settles for negative attention by irritating her with unreasonable statements and demands. The sober woman… why is she in it? It’s the ism. The addict is meant to stop running from life – befriend reality and find some willingness to endure the truth – this can be accomplished through rising above, so to speak – to a higher plane – a psychic change via a spiritual awakening, where he is to understand that it’s all about connecting with life and love, that he is to make himself useful – bring forth love and joy. That’s his ticket to freedom – only then will he come to see his life as worthwhile.