For the purpose of keeping things simple, we will talk about the addiction of alcoholism and some of the consequences. Yes, A PERSON CAN BECOME ADDICTED TO ANYTHING AT ANY TIME, but for this discussion, we will be dealing mostly with alcoholism. The ADULT CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS (OR ADULT CHILDREN OF ADDICTS) will be called ACOA's from this point on.
When you live in a highly dysfunctional family, the stress level may be as high as if you were in a concentration camp. You may literally have life and death situations. You may be in a plight or a flight situation, with lots of violence and trauma. You will probably grow up not being able to trust your environment. Your body may store memories that your mind will repress. If you are an adult child of an addicted person, you can go into a room full of 100 people, size them all up, and have the ability to seek out any other adult child of an addicted person.
One interpretation of addiction is that it is a "loss of choice." If you lived in a family who stole cars for a living, it would be "normal" for you to learn how to steal cars and see nothing wrong in doing so – until you are arrested! At that point you might REALIZE that what your family had done and how they were living was not healthy (and hopefully you would realize that you would be very upset if someone were to steal your car)! Then you might REALIZE that you did not want to live that way anymore – especially if you had to spend time in prison – and you vowed that you would learn how to do something else so that prison would never claim you again. The CHOICE was made! So perhaps when you got out of prison, you decided to go back to school and learn how to repair and paint cars. You took a healthy course of action, are now able to work with the cars that you liked so much, and you can make money legally doing something you like doing. You don't have to worry about being arrested for stealing because now you don't feel comfortable with stealing, so you don't want to steal and you understand that was not a healthy way to live. The rest of your family are still stealing, going to prison, getting out, stealing, going to prison, etc. They are still "stuck" in their roles as thieves, addicted to the thrill and the adrenalin rushes – you are not. You broke the chain – they didn't. You chose to get out of the insanity – they didn't.
You may not have any intentions of being like your addicted parent(s). Yet the words and actions seem to come from you. There are a lot of sadness and grief issues around addictions. You may have lost people by death, emotional distance, etc., even your own identity – who am I, what is my purpose and why am I here? You may feel like you don't fit in, that you don't belong anyplace. Sometimes you feel like you are on the outside, looking in. Perhaps you feel like you are in a "void." You may feel powerless over your family, life, alcohol and/or drugs. You may even get to a place where you don't want to be around the family because of underlying tension. You are probably feeling the "dis-ease," (not feeling at ease) of addiction. And remember, YOU CAN BECOME ADDICTED TO ANYTHING!
You might be hurting so much and have been hurting for so long that you wonder if you were born with the "dis-ease." There is a whole lot of "underlying stuff." Your whole family may feel a "dis-ease." As long as you can't be honest with yourself and with each other, as long as you can't tell each other how you feel, i.e., sad, happy, hurt, afraid, guilty, etc., you won't be able to feel total love for your "self," your family, your kids or other loved ones. Until we can get honest with each other and realize that we all make mistakes, that we can all be in error – and that it's okay to admit the mistake or error, that we must forgive and go on, try to do the best we can with the knowledge that we now possess, and make amends as we gather more knowledge – we are stuck! Until you can accept your "self," your family and others for who they are, do some forgiving and pray, share, talk, get totally honest, cry, laugh, etc., you are going to continue to feel the "dis-ease" – and so will your family and others. You may feel total love for your family, for your children and for others, but not for your "self." It will take a lot of time and a lot of work for you to be able to feel that love for the "self" – and that work is called the process, or the journey. You have to heal through fellowship with other people who can relate to you, who can talk with you, who can understand – people who are caring, communicating and loving. Communication is essential! And sometimes depression can be part of the "dis-ease" that can sweep over you.
About the mid 1950's alcoholism was recognized as a disease. The disease is chronic, progressive and incurable. People can lose control over drugs and other addictions. A disease needs: 1.) Cause, 2.) Symptoms, 3.) Certain Signs (like blood work), 4.) History, the course if untreated, 5.) Outcome (person dies or is able to recover or have partial recovery), 6.) Treatment. Alcoholism qualifies in all those cases.
Causes can vary. Probably 97% of the population is addicted or co-dependant in some way, with varying degrees of dysfunction. You can be addicted to food, a person, a relationship, a place, power struggles, ideas, etc., and feel that you can't live without that person, place, thing, object, etc. You may not feel that you can live without the approval of some one else! ACOA's have more clients than friends. They want to help others in some way, without regard for their own safety or "self" many times. There are millions of ACOA's, many of them under the age of 18. If you live or lived in a dysfunctional home, you probably experienced:
1.) Military life,
Symptoms are classic and so common they are almost universal. The course goes downhill. Please imagine a hill, yourself being at the top. There is a valley below you. The top of the hill is the early phase, each symptom is descending into the valley:
2.) Alcoholism or addiction of some sort,
3.) Illness or disease,
5.) Physical, sexual, emotional abuse,
6.) Extreme religious views.
- Relief Drinking – physical, mental pain, stress, etc.
- Blackouts/amnesia while drinking ("wake up" a minute or days later)
- Drunk driving
- Loss of control over alcohol/other drugs – not every time an alcoholic drinks does he get drunk. One time he may have a drink or two, have a good time and then leaves, everything being okay. Next time he may do the same thing, but loses control, drives while intoxicated and becomes unmanageable.
- Family Problems
- Job Problems (late, sick, terminated)
- Money/legal problems
- Deterioration of personality while drinking
- Breakdown of morals
- Physical deterioration
If you were to get into recovery, or "on the wagon," in the middle stage, stay in recovery for 14 or 15 years, and then has a relapse, or "fall off the wagon," within a very short time, even less than a month, the symptoms go back to the same stage as when you stopped drinking before! So if you were to "fall off the wagon," you would start your decline in the middle stage, where you left off to begin with!!! And the decline is much more rapid!!! Almost all alcoholics die from alcoholism, and not necessarily from liver problems. A common way is from having a car accident. Or, you might be drunk while you are washing your clothes. The buzzer goes off, you start down the stairs to load the dryer, miss the 2nd step, fall on down the steps and break your neck. You might even die in a fire caused when you dropped your burning cigarette as you nodded off to sleep. Sometimes alcoholics die a violent death when their brains become impaired (because the tissue is being destroyed and can not be repaired) and they end up on the streets. Many alcoholics become insane from the brain tissue being destroyed.
- Chances of recovery are poor
- Liver and/or other health problems
Treatment is simple, and has been improved, but most alcoholics won't get into treatment. They may get treatments for depression, broken bones, ulcers, etc., but they don't recognize the real cause – alcohol or other addictions.
Alcoholism (addiction) runs in families. Researchers used to think that the kids chose to copy the coping mechanism (drinking) the parents had. Then they found that twins born to alcoholic parents who had each been adopted out to different parents ended up having problems with alcohol. They researched further and found that the genetic tendency for addiction (alcoholism) and behavior modes can be handed down for at least five generations, and there is possibly a genetic predispositon to alcohol, which could cause even a higher risk. There seems to be something different with the basic biochemics between an alcoholic and a social drinker. They have found a substance referred to as THIQ in an alcoholic. This substance is in the brain tissue – found in the brains of alcoholics after their deaths.
There is also dopamine, serotonin, endorphin, etc. in the brain – these are natural. The addictive part of the brain (even without drinking for the alcoholic) is in the receptors, the pain and pleasure center. When the body manufactures dopamine, etc., the dopamine, etc. fits in the receptors like keys in a lock. The researchers did experiments with rats versus "drunk" rats. Some rats were so well bred that they would die of thirst before they would take a drink of alcohol. Researchers took these rats, injected THIQ into their brains and they turned into alcoholic rats who could literally drink themselves to death by drinking alcohol (instead of any water). THIQ is very powerful! (See Reference No. 1 and No. 2 at end of chapter for more information.)
Dopamine is considered a neurotransmitter and is one of the neurotransmitters that plays a major role in addiction. Many of the concepts that apply to dopamine apply to other neurotransmitters as well. As a chemical messenger, dopamine is similar to adrenaline. Dopamine affects brain processes that control movement, emotional response, and ability to experience pleasure and pain. Some people make more dopamine, etc., than others.
The regulation of dopamine plays a crucial role in our mental and physical health. Neurons containing the neurotransmitter dopamine are clustered in the midbrain in an area called the substantia nigra. In Parkinson's disease, the dopamine-transmitting neurons in this area die. As a result, the brains of people with Parkinson's disease contain almost no dopamine. To help relieve their symptoms, these people are given L-DOPA, a drug that can be converted in the brain to dopamine.
Neurons can become sensitized or desensitized to dopamine, and one important aspect of drug addiction is how cells adapt to previous drug exposure. For example, long-term treatment with dopamine antagonists increases the number of dopamine receptors. This happens as the nervous system tries to make up for less stimulation of the receptors by dopamine itself. Likewise, the receptors themselves become more sensitive to dopamine. Both are examples of the same process, called sensitization.
An opposite effect occurs after dopamine or dopamine agonists repeatedly stimulate dopamine receptors. Here overstimulation decreases the number of receptors, and the remaining receptors become less sensitive to dopamine. This process is called desensitization. Desensitization is better known as tolerance, where exposure to a drug causes less response than previously caused. Tolerance reflects the actions of the nervous system to maintain a constant degree of cell activity in spite of major changes in receptor stimulation. The nervous system maintains this constant level in an attempt to keep the body in a state of equilibrium, even when foreign chemicals are present.
Sensitization and desensitization do not take place only after long-term understimulation or overstimulation of receptors. Both sensitization and desensitization can occur after only a single exposure to a drug. In fact, they may develop within a few minutes. Sensitization or desensitization normally occur with drug exposure. However, addiction or mental illness can tamper with the reuptake system. This disrupts the normal levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and can lead to faulty desensitization or sensitization. If this happens in a region of the brain that serves emotion or motivation, the individual can suffer severe consequences. As an example, cocaine prevents dopamine reuptake by binding to proteins that normally transport dopamine. Not only does cocaine "bully" dopamine out of the way, it hangs on to the transport proteins much longer than dopamine does. As a result, more dopamine remains to stimulate neurons, which causes prolonged feelings of pleasure and excitement. Amphetamine also increases dopamine levels. Again, the result is overstimulation of these pleasure-pathway nerves in the brain.
Many researchers believe that some people are born with too many or a lack of some naturally occurring brain chemicals. Some chronically depressed people drink because of this, they make THIQ, which makes the person drink more, then they manufacture more, etc., and as the THIQ attaches itself to the brain tissue as slowly (or quickly) as it is manufactured, the person will lose control after a certain amount has built up on the receptors in his/her brain. (See Reference No. 2 and 3 at end of chapter for more information.)
It seems that people with addictions make lots of chemicals which build up in the brain, so when you add coffee, chocolate, heroin, nicotine, mood altering drugs, etc., the receptors can be overwhelmed. If you descended from a strong warrior background, i.e. American Indian, English, Spanish, German, etc., where natural brain chemicals helped keep them free from pain (or at least helped them have a very high tolerance for physical pain), you may be left with a very low tolerance to addictions – and a "perfect alcoholic" has a very low tolerance to addictions.
Just one abuse of a drug may start manufacturing THIQ which coats the receptors and acts like a magnet, requiring the addict to actually NEED more. An addict can NOT use. If you have a physical addiction, like alcoholism, it is not just psychological – and you have it the rest of your life – it never leaves. It is like having diabetes. If you have a history in your family of diabetes and you go many years (or even just a few years) sucking down sugar, you will usually end up with the disease. Once an alcoholic is addicted, he/she is addicted. And they may become addicted to other things – or almost everything – like smoking (for nicotine), heroin, sugar, food, etc. It's not an issue of willpower.
A 15-year-old male may out drink everyone else, act very macho and be addicted and an abuser by age 16. This disease tells us that we have no disease. If you try to address a drinking issue in the family, you will probably fear losing your family. If you choose to drink, then you, your mate and family will probably end up compromising life away. There may be minor signs. You may pick all friends who use and/or drink and protect the source and supply of what you abuse. You will drop all your old friends that don't use. The mom may say to the 15-year-old that he/she shouldn't drink and the 15-year-old will tell the mom that "all my friends drink!"
In an adult life you may go hunting, go to a party, etc. and you will drink with other people. You may constantly change your peer group so you can point to someone else and say, "I'm not that bad (yet)!" – while you continue the descent into the pit. You may start blacking out, having angry outbursts, etc. If you, as the alcoholic, are living with me, I might pick you as a target – and our children, even as young as 2 years old, may also start targeting their anger at you. Everyone who lives with you is a co-addict and can be more ill than you are because they don't have anything to ease the pain and don't know how to deal with their own pain. The drunk makes love with his bottle or jug – the co-dependent is lonely. Drunks don't care and have no boundaries. This pattern goes back at least 5 generations and will continue until someone has the guts to "break the chain."
The co-dependent mate fears the alcoholic's wonderful/mean personalities. The kids fear the same thing. The kids don't know if dad will "cop a feel," give a hug, hit, hate or love – and neither does the dad! So everyone around the drunk "walks on eggshells" – and as the drunk abuses more and more, his/her anger is directed at loved ones and everyone starts yelling and/or hurting each other. The alcoholic can have a "blackout," which is when a person is able to function while drinking, but doesn't remember anything. When this blackout occurs, the alcoholic may end up physically and/or sexually abusing one of the kids. Later that kid will probably be put into a mental hospital when the alcoholic and the kid get into a power struggle because the kid is "sick" or "crazy."
Having an alcoholic in the house is like having an elephant in the front room. The co-dependent and kids will say, "What elephant? Life is fine!" Yet someone has to water, feed and take out the elephant poop!
In a dysfunctional family:
From 0 - 2 years of age, something happened and you, as a child, learned to avoid.
From 2 - approximately 27 years of age, something happened and you avoided it because that was what you learned. A male will avoid his feelings differently than a female will, even though the feelings may be the same. A male may be sensitive, but he will not let "that feeling get to him." He will use anger, logic, work, fast cars, etc. to avoid being vulnerable. A high percentage of males would rather get in a boxing ring with bare knuckles and take a beating than "turn sissy" and become intimate. Some females feel the same way, but most females who have been abused would rather crawl under the bed and never come out. You need to risk! If you think you have found your soon-to-be mate and you could say to that person that you love him/her, and you're scared to death to get close to him/her, and the other person could say they feel the same way – you would become intimate (both of you having shared feelings and fears). Risk a little at a time, don't let everything hang out all at once. Some people will stomp on you if given a chance, but if someone tries to, or does so, remember that you are a survivor and you and your "self" are okay.
From approximately 27 - 40 years of age, your patterns begin to "crystalize." You become more rigid and less likely to be "open" to any change whatsoever. Usually you experience some kind of loss and then issues start coming. If you are severely dysfunctional, this would be about the time for a mental (nervous) breakdown – your "self" cracks and then shatters into a whole lot of pieces. Just "some little thing" may push you "over the edge." Most of the time ACOA issues could be enough to push you "over the edge" during the "mid-life crisis" – the same thing may happen if you are in denial about your childhood. These issues need to be dealt with and worked through, because if another loss comes through, things could be get really ugly! If you have not "bonded" with your inner child and learned how to become your inner child's parent – if you have not gone through issues that cause grief, i.e., death (especially a parent or child), divorce, robbery or other assault, your ideals, your self worth, etc., you will need to do so in order to begin the recovery process and heal.
From approximately 40 years of age to the end of physical life, your patterns crystallize, and it usually takes a very major trauma, like two or three deaths in the immediate family within a short period of time, for you to change – and the older you get, the more unlikely any change in patterns will happen. As aging occurs, you may suffer severe illnesses, strokes, etc., that changes your behavior, but an actual recovery probably won't happen unless you start the process by (approximately) age 50.
You won't be able to deny (pretend nothing happened, etc.) or push the pain and grief away when you start the journey to recovery. You will need to go back, walk the inner child, the "self," through the trauma, feel the feelings and the pain – and grow. Yes, you may feel as if you would not be able to stop crying if you were to start, but crying is very therapeutic. If you try to manipulate your feelings, thoughts, actions, etc., you are more likely to become morose (having a cheerless aspect or disposition, glum, hopeless, cynical, doubting, believing the worst of human nature and motives, generally hating mankind). Of course, if that's how you want to be...don't go into recovery!
If you decide to go through the process of healing – the recovery of the "self" - you may feel emotional numbness – it's okay to need to be numb for a while. That is normal during the grieving process. You may want to isolate your "self," you may want to run away, hide and not communicate. That is normal also, but if you stay in that part of the process you will become "stuck" – and like in quicksand, you will be pulled under! And, if you were stuck in quicksand and sinking very fast, you probably wouldn't be able to get out by yourself. You would probably need a helping hand so you would not sink under the surface and die. So don't hover in the "stuck" mode for too long – you need to be with others, communicate, experience the pain and work out your feelings! Remember, pain means you're alive and living, you are normal, you are responding to life. Experience the hurt, then you can go through it and come out on the other side a lot more healthy. Please do not do this part by yourself! Again, as in the quicksand scenario, if you do not allow others to help you, you'll probably sink and die – and you can die mentally, spiritually, emotionally and eventually physically.
When something activates your "loss" or grief issues, you won't be able to activate the recovery process unless you feel emotionally safe. Grieving and sharing should be done with another human being(s) in a "safe" environment (with a good therapist, an AA or ACOA meeting, etc.) so that you may receive acknowledgment of your pain, and so you may feel acceptance and compassion by another person(s). Again, you can't do that by yourself – you need to share and trust – which is not easy for an ACOA to do, but it is a necessary part of the grieving process. Remember, you are a survivor! You are a veteran of a war upon your "self" from your childhood issues or trauma happening at any age! Yes, you are wounded – yet you are still alive! You are searching, too! And now, you have found some of the answers – use them to heal your "self!"
Most people who fear intimacy (usually men) will act arrogant, cocky, will be afraid to talk and will try to con you. If one person opens up and the other person doesn't want to, it's okay. Sometimes expectations are just expectations, and they do not come through. You may think that if you show "yours" that the other person will show "theirs." Isn't that fair? Unfortunately, life isn't fair. If the other person is unable to be intimate with you, then you need to care for your "self" and go to a meeting or talk with someone who can be intimate. The other person may have a fear of losing, or what you say may trigger an inadequacy or another fear that he/she has never been able to tell another person about and may not even know about yet (repressed memories). Perhaps someday that other person will become more healthy, perhaps not. You are responsible for your own journey, just as the other person is responsible for theirs. Someday each of us has to make "that decision" – and we will not be able to postpone that decision. (Some people have already made most of the decisions they needed to make so they could become healthy and/or stay healthy.)
If you are in an unhealthy relationship and you are not sure you should stay in the relationship, you will have to ponder both the good points and the bad points. Do the good points outweigh the bad? Do you choose to stay in the relationship even though your mate is unable to be truthful and intimate with you? Perhaps you can just "live with it?" Should you hide your feelings? In this process, think about when you are 80-85 years old, sitting on a porch in that rocking chair. Will you be sharing with one another? Will the relationship grow? Do you think the relationship will grow if both of you are not willing to be open and talk? Can you have mutual interests with others and not be lonely because you have those other intimate times with family, friends or a group of ACOA's, etc.? BEING INTIMATE IS THE OPPOSITE OF BEING LONELY. Remember, your mate may still be feeling lonely, even if you are not! Until your mate can start sharing, that loneliness may cause anger issues that could cause violence. Your mate may start feeling jealous of your seemingly wonderful life while he/she feels so miserable, inadequate and lonely...
Another issue is boundaries. If you are ready to talk and the other person is not, please recognize the other person's boundaries. The other person doesn't have to listen while you talk if he/she is not ready. He/she should be able to ask you to stop, and if you respect his/her boundaries, you will. If he/she says "shut up" or "come fix me," you most likely have a problem. And, if you want to help others you won't be able to do so until you have helped your "self" first.
If you are in the early stages of alcoholism (or any addiction), and you are using and/or abusing alcohol (or other drugs), you need to be aware that trouble will come. It may physical, such as high blood pressure, heart, liver or kidney problems, eyesight problems, or perhaps even the inability to make love to your significant other. Males may have loss of body hair and broadening hips while females may develop a low voice, broad shoulders and narrow hips (among other health problems) because hormones are suppressed when long-term drinking is involved. Or, it may be the kids' grades going down, job problems, divorce, etc. – and it will be constant trouble.
Mentally, an alcoholic starts to lose short-term memory, to have blackouts or to function with distortions. The alcoholic can lose as much as 20 points (or more) from his/her IQ score and/or end up functioning as a moron. Most addicts start out fairly intelligent. The dumb ones usually die early. People think they can "control" their drinking, that before they are "hooked," they will know it. If they realize they are "hooked," then they will sincerely believe that it will be "trust me, never again," "I'll stop drinking and I'll never touch booze again," etc. The alcoholic will get depressed, will question his/her sanity (but the only time he/she feels sane is when drunk or drugged), and the behavior become crazier. Everything becomes distorted – including relationships – and game playing begins. The alcoholic will promise you anything! "I will make everything wonderful if you will make it the same way for me – trust me!" – "If you love me, you would," or, "If you will, I'll love you."
Emotionally the alcoholic will be the same age as when he/she started using. That age may be 15 or it may be 51. The alcoholic will probably be self-centered, incapable of love, a "taker," may threaten or con to get what he/she wants, and will probably also mess with your mind to get into your "knickers" or into your billfold. The alcoholic will be a mess, with a phobic fear of intimacy, and will keep from being intimate by being a clown, angry, very logical, etc. – and will be a surface, shallow, party-all-the-time or "closed-off-completely" (etc.) type of person. He/she is "afraid you will hurt me." If the alcoholic feels more than a physical attraction, he/she will back off immediately – violently or non-violently. The alcoholic will blame everyone else (never the "self") and everything else, even the bran muffins and coffee, etc. This alcoholic will not be able to look at the "self" and take responsibility. It's easier if he/she blames everyone and everything else – and kids, especially, will take blame.
Subconsciously a child will think, "If I wasn't such a bad kid, so rotten to the core, dad wouldn't drink and mom and dad wouldn't fight. They would be better off without me." When the guilt and shame is reinforced by an alcoholic power figure (i.e., mom or dad, etc.), and the alcoholic tells the kid that he/she is bad, ugly, dumb, a slut, etc., it can get lethal really quick. The kid will try to be a perfectionist so dad or mom can't find anything wrong, or perhaps he/she will become a rebel whose motto is, "I'm a loser, so I will live hard, die young and be a good-looking corpse!" – and a "slow" or even a "fast" suicide may be the result. (A "slow" suicide is by smoking, drinking or taking drugs over a period of time, eventually killing himself/herself from cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, etc. A "fast" suicide is by driving a car over the cliff, slicing the wrists, etc.)
If dad never acts like or admits he's afraid, then his 14 year old boy will act "macho" and pretend that he's not scared, and he will probably think or feel like something is wrong with him. He has never been able to talk about fear and if he can't talk about it, it must be bad. This again, like the elephant in the living room, could be stomping all over everyone, but no one can admit there's an elephant in the living room – so the poop keeps building up! And this pattern will continue on for 5 or more generations, as well as having gone back 5 or more generations.
In another scenario on the generations that alcoholism could affect, think of this: four generations ago, the father punished his son with whip, scarring him physically and mentally for life, and almost killing him. That boy grew up vowing that he would NEVER do that to his kids. So he beat his son with a belt, which left many bruises and scarred the boy mentally. That boy grew up also vowing never to do that to his children, and he beat his son with his hand – still mentally scarring his son. Again, this child grew up vowing never to hurt his son – so he verbally abused him instead. The results were the same in all the cases – all the children were traumatized and injured in various ways – yet each man thought he was being a better parent to his child!
Spiritually, the prime requirement of the alcoholic is to think he/she is God and they will try to change life without having perspective. Many young children have had faith shoved down their throats, so they become an agnostic or atheist.
In the middle stages of alcoholism, big trouble will come, like a serious disease, divorce, killing someone in a car or other accident, losing a job, money problems, getting someone pregnant (and not remembering), etc. By this time, the co-dependent and everyone else in the family is in big trouble. Everyone reinforces: "If I were a better spouse," "If God would just talk to me," "If I was a loser when I married this person, I'm a bigger loser now," etc. The co-dependent will try to control things by giving the alcoholic an allowance so he/she doesn't have any money to drink. Everyone will be playing games. Friends will disappear because if they stay, they will have to "take sides." The marriage may stay together, but there will be no relationship.
Anger is reinforced. The co-dependent does not take anything to dull the pain. He/she starts telling the kids "what's going on," and the kids will become the responsible one, the rebel, the "wife" or the "husband," etc. The co-dependent will remember every little thing the alcoholic did and will recite it ad nauseam. The whole family will have no place to go and will resent everything. Everyone will be depressed, anxious, lonely, etc. Everyone has to "tip toe" around. The only escape seems to be to leave – to do anything to get out of the family.
The more out-of-control the alcoholic gets internally, the more control he/she tries to exert externally. The best way a guy can "control and dominate" the woman is to tell her to "go fetch my beer," or "go wash my shorts and if you're real good I'll love you," – or "roll over, baby" – and the guy gets a great feeling with all this control, which is the "illusion of control." A "dry drunk," or someone who does not drink and is not in a recovery process, thus allowing unhealthy patterns to continue and to escalate, will be causing the family to become extremely dysfunctional. He may well say, "I was a jerk before I drank, then I got drunk and stayed drunk for a while – well, now I don't drink and I'm still a jerk." Or, he may try to be a martyr, "I gave up drinking for you, what else do you want????"
The alcoholic and the co-dependent both want control, and will play power games, being rescuer, victim, etc., and giving advice so neither of them have to look at their own "stuff." If the co-dependent becomes the nurse, they will play another whole set of games. Even if the addict never takes a drink at all in life, he/she will need to eat jelly doughnuts, devour chocolate, work too hard, etc. – use anything they can think of to avoid dealing with the feelings of being powerless, hurt, fearful, angry, guilty, shamed, etc. Single mothers may spend their whole lives being "drunk with kids" – and if the kids leave home, the mothers go bankrupt.
You can be very wealthy, you can be very poor – you can be a judge, a lawyer, a doctor, a psychologist (who went into the business to try to figure out the "self" and usually hasn't been able to), a teacher, an engineer, etc. Most alcoholics are highly functional for a while in the early stages (at the top of the hill). Then they start into middle stages (into the valley), and as they go down into that valley even surgeons, doctors, etc., have become binge drinkers, thinking that will continue to "hold them together" after they have spent a long time holding everything in. However, even though they try, there is no way they can get rid of "it" all at once – there's no such thing as a "clean-everything-out-all-at-one-time" binge.
Many adolescent girls discover "control" with their bodies about age 14 or 15. They start feeling out of control and start using their body to feel control. Sex may take care of the hurt and pain for a while, but eventually they will probably "escape" their pain by suicide (again, by the fast or slow kind of suicide).
The last stage of alcoholism, after the big trouble, is bankruptcy. When the alcoholic hits bankruptcy the co-dependent hits exhaustion. The co-dependent whittles away the "self" until there is no "self" – by trying to change the alcoholic, by trying to get into control and by playing games. There is a lot of stress during this time – physically, emotionally, etc., and stress can do strange things to people – it can even sabotage your immune system, causing you to get very sick. These people will also probably be feeling guilty when trying to have fun – they don't enjoy anything he/she used to and they are too busy "doing for others." The kids will grow up not being prepared for life. The alcoholic will think his/her behavior is "normal" – or he/she will try to find "normal" (or the exact opposite). Both the alcoholic and the co-dependent will feel loneliness and the co-dependent will be exhausted. The ACOA's believe they are crazy and will probably have a distorted reality. The co-dependent will probably divorce the alcoholic, but there's a very big chance they will marry again, and they will probably marry someone with whom they can repeat the whole scenario. There seems to be very little chance for recovery in the last stages. Besides liver and/or other health problems, which usually end up with the death of the alcoholic, the family system is extremely dysfunctional.
If you're a caretaker and tend to pick losers so you can take care of them, the alcoholic will tell you that you are the only person in the world for him/her and only you can make him/her happy. He/she will "reel you in like a fish on a hook" and you will give up your value system to make him/her happy. You will try to deal with all the problems, you will try to hide those problems for a long time – and you will have trauma, will feel lonely and abandoned, and will have emotional/physical/mental abuse. If you meet a rescuer, he/she may tell you that they "found Jesus" – and "you better find Him too, or I might have to kill you!"
Most people are set up for addiction, but especially so if you are a sensitive person or if you have a low tolerance to pain (you'll take anything to get out of the pain, whether it's emotional, physical, or whatever type of pain it is). This is heightened if you do not deal openly with your feelings. If you are "too logical," you will still have "normal" feelings inside! If you are sensitive you will hurt more – emotionally, physically, etc. The following chart will help you understand some of the feelings:
THE SUM TOTAL
With THIQ |
Fear / Anger
Bankruptcy / Loneliness
Fear / Anger
Guilt / Hate / Rage
Exhaustion / Loneliness
We are "not supposed" to have fear in a relationship, etc. Males can "get away with" anger – females can't. A lot of people have guilt and/or shame, inadequacies – they don't feel big enough, small enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, etc. These people will usually allow others to manipulate or hustle them, and a real "master manipulator" can tweak these people until they will do anything the "master" wants them to do. Some people will use "games" to control others. They will "fiddle" with your "stuff" and then become your "rescuer." Or, they may need to find someone who feels (and acts) worthless to rescue so they can be "the perfect one" – giving them the "illusion of control" because they are "playing life by the rules" while the worthless one is not.
Many people have gone through emotional, physical and mental abuse. Feelings are accumulative if not talked about or let out in a healthy manner. This accumulation of feelings is most lethal in adolescence because they don't know what to do, so the peer pressure says to do drugs, etc. If the kids do "pot" or other drugs, the mood altering chemical(s) makes the feelings go away – and they don't feel any more fear or hurt. Sometimes anger will come out, but at first it's usually more mellow – and they don't feel shame or guilt. If the kids continue to use, and if they have a high tolerance or build up to a higher tolerance, it will take more of the substance(s) – or another type(s) of substance(s) – to take the feelings away. Eventually they will need even more substance(s), resulting in distorted reality, and they start abusing the substance and they become addicted. When (and if ) they get older, they may want to go have a couple of beers and relax, but they may end up getting drunk and mean, losing control of their behavior and/or becoming very depressed.
Each alcoholic handles alcohol differently in his/her body, and especially in the brain. This was a theory, and I am not sure if it has been proven yet, but researchers were pretty sure, based on scientific facts, that alcoholism is a disease, just like diabetes – they just don't know the exact cause(s). However, just because alcoholism may qualify as a disease doesn't mean it won't change with psychotherapy. And you must stop drinking! You may not be responsible for the alcoholism, and you may say you don't want to become an alcoholic, but once you know you are an alcoholic, you are responsible to stop drinking – do something about it – help your "self" and your family!
A lot of ACOA's, get very angry with God. They feel that their prayers were never answered, so now they can have problems with a Higher Power. How many times did you ask someone to come help you? If someone did come to help, how many times did that person tell you that whatever the problem was, that it was "your fault."
These ACOA's, will probably be "super achievers," have high suicide rates, have low self esteem, feel isolated and feel they have no control so they carry too much guilt – "I couldn't save my parents from the booze, guess I'm not good enough." Many ACOA's will pick a "role" of perfectionist, rebel, victim, persecutor, etc., rather than deal with his/her feelings. We can't be a perfectionist, a rescuer, a rebel, etc., without being depressed. It's been said that hell is two perfectionists living together. It's also been said that perfectionists try harder, until they hit "bottom" – and they hit bottom harder than anyone else could. (Then they say that they couldn't have done whatever they were trying to do anyway.) Other people say that God made everyone perfect, then "cracked the bottoms" on the ones who weren't.
It's a theory (and may have been proven by now) that genetically, ACOA's, may carry genes for alcoholism (or addictions of other sorts) and perhaps even disorders in eating, etc. The genes from father to son seem to be at high-risk for addiction, and the genes from mother to daughter also seem to be at high-risk. There also seems to be a high risk for that daughter to marry an addict of some sort. We can't choose our genes (yet), but we can choose behaviors so that we don't carry on the addictions to our "selves" and to our children. Survivors need control to keep their sanity – but we can't control other human beings or even much of our surroundings. Abuse is a form of control. And many times a rebellious child feels that mom or dad is trying to control his mind or his behavior.
Just SOME of the things ACOA's have to deal with are:
1.) Being told "don't talk, don't trust and don't feel;"
Some Alcoholic (Addict's) Characteristics:
4.) Being too independent;
5.) Being hyper-sensitive, especially to others, i.e. "I think I know what this person wants, so I will give it to them – there will be less grief or violence that way;"
6.) Delayed grief;
7.) Depression – and don't know why!;
8.) Anger (sometimes even angry at the "self" for being depressed);
9.) Being a "workaholic;"
10.) Being sarcastic or being hyper-sensitive to sarcasm;
11.) Thinking "either" "or" – because that's how ACOA's survive – when in reality, they need to think in terms of "grey," looking at lots of choices and options;
12.) Being on one end of the spectrum or the other;
13.) Not being able to relax or socialize;
14.) Keeping too busy – keeps you away from feeling – things tend to be serious, no "play time;"
15.) Needing to be right (never being right at home);
16.) Not deserving, others are more adequate;
18.) Inability to form intimate (done with your clothes on) relationships because it's too scary;
19.) Seeking out tense situations - tense is normal, so ACOA's will seek out adrenaline rushes, look for or create a crisis, and look for people who will be angry with them or hurt them;
20.) Lack of a role model, therefore having confusion as to whether to be a parent or not, and even how to be a parent;
21.) Fear of abandonment or of being an orphan;
22.) Using destructive mechanisms to get attention, i.e., acting up, being belligerent, being ill, etc.;
23.) Being overprotective and giving everything to the children;
24.) Despair and hopelessness;
25.) Carrying the family legacy on their back – hopeless and despairing – life's not worth living – suicide – or acting out or marrying someone who will act out for them.
An alcoholic needs a co-alcoholic (co-dependent). That person can be a spouse, child, friend or even an employer.
Dual personality (one never knows who will walk in)
Some Co-Dependent Characteristics:
Dysfunctional families don't seem to work well together – they won't talk to each other, they usually accuse one person in the family (identified patient) so that "no one else in the family has any problems."
Low Self Worth
Lying (Dad has a headache)
Reinforcing Alcoholic Behavior
A co-dependent is willing to do for the alcoholic what he/she is not willing to do for his/her self. This person feels responsible and tries to measure how much alcohol goes into the alcoholic. Neither the alcoholic nor the co-dependent will tolerate a lie, yet lies are second nature to both of them. An alcoholic's main concerns are when and how to get alcohol. The co-dependent's main concern is control. Children are NOT the main concern of either one. ACOA's are much like alcoholics.
The children don't have much time given to them by their parents, so they may become "people-pleasers," and do whatever they need to get their parent's time and energy. A male child may see dad acting out and mom paying more attention to dad, so the child may begin to act out. The female child may react the same way.
Children learn what they see, not what they hear, so in an alcoholic (or other addictive) home they learn how to be in control, be depressed, be a martyr, be a workaholic, how not to have any self worth, etc.
If you feel as if your parents are "haunting" you, you may be acting out your parents' scripts. They may have acted out violence, being a martyr, etc. And you will probably act out what you disliked the most about your parents! Of course, you may have gone to the other extreme, so you will never be like your parents, so if they were irresponsible, then you will become very responsible.
You can relearn anything, even how not to be in control all the time, or how not to be violent, etc. You can "re-parent" yourself. When the violence, or being abandoned, or other trauma(s) occurred in your childhood, your inner child stopped growing and he/she has stayed about the same age as when the trauma(s) happened. To re-parent your "self," you must take a good look at what your parents did or did not do, and then do for your inner child. Nurture and love the "self" in whatever way(s) you did not have as a young child.
If you are depressed, you need to know that there is help. If you use recreational therapy, you will use recreational activities as therapeutic tools (like drawing, painting, writing, horseback riding, etc.). You may have situational depression, which means you are not able to deal with what life has handed you, i.e. growing "old," a very painful illness, etc. You may have organic depression, which usually stems from situational depression you have had for most of your life, and which may cause a chemical imbalance. As an example, you may not be able to deal with the fact that your father beat you and then, later in life, you lose your job. You start "self-medicating" with food, sex, alcohol, drugs, etc., which depletes a chemical balance in your brain and you become organically depressed.
There are at least three types of depression from interaction in the dysfunctional family:
1. Deprivation – fear of poverty, so money was very important, yet much of any money was spent for alcohol, so your environment was awful, including being around other abusive people/strangers. There was a loss of love (left in a car in front of the bar without food or a place to sleep, etc.) and there was no physical, emotional or spiritual needs met in your childhood.
2. Responsibility – burdened with taking care of the "self" and perhaps even caring for younger siblings and even the parents (like preparing food); acting and being treated like an adult, becoming overburdened with responsibility, having to be in charge. Feeling trapped is a legitimate feeling for an ACOA. In an alcoholic home, one needs "control – and that can be overly good or overly bad. You may feel like you were "not good enough" – if your grades had been better, if you weren't so ugly, if you didn't slam the door, or whatever, then your parent(s) wouldn't have had to drink! So you start nurturing other people, with no limits as to what other people are doing around you. You can invite others into that type of dysfunction, too, and with no boundaries you could have a person in your home that most "normal" people would have never invited into their homes. Then you don't know if you, one of your family members or friends might be beaten up, so you feel guilty and then you don't invite any of your family members or friends over. You start staying away from home, too.
Depression finally hits you and you don't know what to do about it, whether you were an over-achieving ACOA or not. Confusion is your life style. What's right today may not be right the next day. If a new baby is born, your role changes. If an older child leaves, your role changes. If the "scapegoat" is taken away, another one takes his/her place. Acting out increases, and learning disabilities are almost certain. Even hyperactivity can be learned. You may try to become mom and dad's "friend," and you start drinking with them so you can become "buddies," which is a death wish for them. Subconsciously, you may feel that things would be better around the house if the parent(s) weren't around. You may even consciously wish the parent(s) were gone. But if the parent(s) leave, then you feel responsible for their leaving. You think it's "normal" to have a death wish and then the next step, like suicide, may be "normal" for you. Or, you may think it's best not to get "caught up" with a death wish and/or suicide, but if you do get "caught up," then it's "normal" that you would do so. If you can become aware that the patterns are NOT NORMAL, NOT HEALTHY, and you can get into some type of recovery program, you can catch yourself in time so that you don't become a statistic.
3. Imitating – parents cope with life by drinking, etc., and you imitate them.
Some people feel like they have always been depressed. Chemical-wise, each person absorbs chemicals (like alcohol) differently than any other person. We can create our own pain killers, joy, etc., even without drugs. If you are an ACOA, then you need exercise more than other people. Normally the brain chemistry is different in ACOA's than in "normal" people. Sugar, chocolate, coke, coffee, etc., will affect you differently than other people. You need exercise, healthy food and quiet time – and you need more of those things than "normal" people. Sometimes the female children will end up with PMS in adulthood. Sometimes with the exercise, healthy food and quiet times, you can alleviate the symptoms of PMS or rid yourself of them almost entirely. When you release the brain's chemicals (like dopamine), you can alleviate pain, cause the "self" to feel "normal" again, etc. Brain chemistry (and the effects) is still being studied, but there are tests that can be done to find out what hormones and/or brain chemicals are (or are not) in your body. A doctor can then prescribe medications that could possibly make things better.
As an ACOA, you normally choose conflict. Remember, you can leave the situation. If you are faced with a decision to do something or not to do something, try to go with your "gut" decision. It's normally more healthy. If you happen to be in charge of a business, or if you are an executive, you can ask other people how they know something will work or not. As an ACOA, you usually have no sense of order. You either know how to do it or you just plain don't know how. You can't explain your decisions and you don't know the "why" of your decisions. You normally fear someone will find out that you don't know everything. Life and death situations around young children is hard on them and can make for disastrous results later in life.
If you feel the isolation, the loneliness, etc., express and identify whatever feeling it is. Trust your "self." You are powerless – it's okay – feel that powerlessness, then choose to do something healthy. You were a victim. Be aware that you are also a survivor. You can change your "self" and your environment for the better!
The "rules" in a dysfunctional family can include:
1. Don't talk! If you were afraid to talk, if you were afraid to be with dad, if you were ashamed of your parents' behavior or how they looked – if you feel guilty and confused about those things, remember whose problem it was! Your parents' behavior was probably erratic. They might have looked like they belonged "on skid row." You probably were afraid you wouldn't be believed. You figured that what was true one day wasn't true the following day! Perhaps you thought that if you were to ignore the problem(s) and not talk about it, it would just go away!
2. Don't trust! If your parents were absent or preoccupied, or if they couldn't share, you were not supported. You couldn't rely on your parents to not drink. You were unable to respond to the drinking, the arguing, the escalating violence. If your dad was yelling, lashing out, etc., you probably thought, "It's okay – he won't remember anything in the morning anyway." An alcoholic is unpredictable and the co-alcoholic says it's okay. No one in the family can trust in anyone or in anything. No one can be open and honest. Children need safety, openness, honesty and predictable behavior. If they don't have these things, they may rationalize, deny, etc., in order to have a "stable" family – and if there are no feelings, there are no problems. Most children in an alcoholic home feel as if they will never be able to "please" their parents, no matter how hard they try. Many of them just give up trying at all, so much so that you can even see the hopelessness and despair in their faces.
3. Don't feel! A child's denial system keeps him/her from feeling sad, angry, etc. They feel that they
can't be lonely, angry, sad, embarrassed or scared – they have to be tough! Some other feelings are okay, but those five feelings must be repressed, somehow. Kids have to understand that they should not repress feelings, but rather acknowledge the feelings and choose a healthy way of dealing with them. They need to have faith that someone is there, people who are willing to listen, people who are willing to hold them when they cry. They should not feel guilty to express feelings, and someone needs to validate those feelings, and talk about real issues. It's okay to feel and let others know what you are feeling. In the past, if you felt and said something, you probably wouldn't have survived – so perhaps you don't think you have a right to those feelings. Anger can become rage, and because you have suppressed the anger for so many years, when it finally comes out, it can become inappropriate, out-of-control rage. Any feelings, like sadness, can become "out of proportion." Even insignificant things, like a child spilling a glass of water, will make you feel "out-of-control." You could end up crying for days! Just know that it's okay. These out-of-control feelings are part of the grieving process. It's best if you can express them a little at a time with help from family and/or friends.
I'm reminded of the little story given to me by a very great teacher. Feelings are like gas in your tummy. If you go to church with a lot of gas on your tummy and you try to suppress (or even repress) the gas, no matter how hard you try, and no matter what you do, that gas is gonna come out! So, you can choose to let the gas come out all at once and lift yourself up off your seat, or you can choose to let the gas escape a little at a time – and hopefully you didn't eat too many chili beans. If you did eat too many beans and you know that gas is gonna be pretty stinky, it may be best if you go to an appropriate place to get rid of it, like the bathroom! So, if you know the feelings are pretty ugly, it's best to go to an appropriate place to let them out, like at an AA meeting or somewhere "safe."
Without feelings we are not alive! There does not have to be a logical reason for feelings. There may not be any reason for you to feel afraid, but you are. You can be afraid of God, the future, intimacy, etc., and that fear probably started in early childhood. Don't allow the decisions made by a 5-year-old child rule your life now! You didn't understand that fear is normal, so you repressed it. "No, I'm not hurt," and you smiled, even though you just fell down a flight of stairs. "I'm not afraid," and you smiled, even though you were in the middle of a battlefield and your gun just jammed. You can't be afraid, you can't feel any inadequacy, so you try to "cover up" that fear or that inadequacy. You will try to cover them up with clothes, makeup, fancy car, house, etc.
I remember a wise teacher who told me about a guy who was "perfect," not even a hair out of place, and this man had "everything" – a $3,000 suit, a $100,000 car, a five million dollar mansion, etc. – and he was driving around in his fancy, expensive car with a hole in his underwear!!! You really are no "better" or "worse" than anyone else. The Creator didn't make junk!!! Self esteem is the cake, esteem from others is the frosting.
This wise teacher also told me that we are all spiritual beings who are living in a material world, just trying to find our way back home.
Another wise teacher told me that we came here to learn a bunch of lessons – and to learn these lessons, we had to work through them. She said each day that she would pray that her lessons would be gentle – and that she could learn them the first time around so she didn't have to go through them again (and again and again). And so may we all pray!
All feelings are normal and real. If we don't have a healthy childhood, and feelings were "stuffed," then you will chew on any negative feelings for a while and then swallow them. And if we can't talk about our feelings (being intimate, done with clothes on), then we are going to act on them, i.e., drink, act out to get noticed, get in a fight, etc. I can be scared, and still get in touch with my "self" and my fear.
An alcoholic is dysfunctional. The focus in the family or in a relationship is on the alcoholic. When the alcoholic WANTS to change (and sometimes he/she has to reach "rock bottom"), he/she will get help. Alcoholics may go to a therapist and/or may go to AA meetings, and will learn how to become intimate, will be able to cry, share their fears, etc. – and when no one laughs at them or calls them a "wuss," they will learn how to give a hug and feel acceptance. If you haven't "been there," don't judge the alcoholic. If I have cancer and you have had it and survived it, then we can talk about it. If you were immediately going into a war zone and you were given the choice between a book about war tactics/survival and a veteran of war who had survived many, many missions, would you choose to read the book as you went into that war zone – or would you choose to follow the veteran who had survived and watch, listen and learn how he survived? If you are an alcoholic or addict of any kind, you are in a war for your soul, your "self," your family, your friends and a decent life!
You may want to have patience (and want it RIGHT NOW) – don't try to force feed your "self" or another person! It is hard and you may feel selfish, but it is imperative that you take priority to work on your "self" so you can heal from within, recover and be more healthy and happy. You may not "see stuff" for a while. It's okay. It may be painful to try to "grow up." It's okay. And if you think you might be "crazy," and you think you need to go to a mental hospital, remember that the success rate is about the same for inpatient services as they are for outpatient services. You just have to stay sober and clean for this process to work! If you are drunk or drugged, you will be unable to process your feelings in a healthy manner – and you must process them! If you are in denial, nothing will help until you can "see" that there are unhealthy patterns in your life and in your family, and there are problems with your "self." If the other person in the relationship is in denial, he/she probably won't get help – so you get help, and if you love the other person but can't stand the behavior, then you can realize that you don't have to "hate" the other person, you can "hate" the behavior if you have to hate anything.
It's quite common for a young ACOA to move a great distance away from the parent(s) and family and end up being a lonely, distrustful, bitter, angry person. It's also quite common for the ACOA to stay and take care of the parent(s) and end up being a lonely, distrustful, bitter, angry person. So far it has not been very common for a young ACOA to become aware that they can choose to have a better life, a more healthy life, filled with love, respect, trust and joy. Let's make that life style more common!
The process, recovery, journey, or whatever you want to call it, lasts for a lifetime. Deal with past "stuff." You can't change others, you can only change your "self." (Others may change and become more healthy because of your changes, however.) Change the things you are able to change, if you can't change something, then just stop trying for at least a while, or at least until you are sure you really should keep trying to change "it," and remember, you have no "power" over another person – your mate, your kids, your friends, certain situations, etc. You might want to "save" another person that you love or like from hurt, but you may not be able to do so. Accept your "self" (and another person) and allow your "self" (and the other person) to "grow at your own pace."
Intimacy is hard. If you can love and you are dysfunctional, the more you love the more you are afraid to share with the person you love. You can "share" in a bar because you got drunk (which lowered your inhibitions), you don't care about the person you are sharing with and you know you'll probably never see that person again. However, if you can be sober and share with the ones you love (and know love you) and admit your inadequacies, then no one can manipulate you. If the alcoholic get better, becomes more healthy, the co-dependent doesn't usually get better. He/she might feel like he/she is perfect and will focus attention on the relationship because it's not working now. The co-dependent won't learn, will remain where he/she was in the relationship, thinking that if it wasn't the drinking, it must have been you! And he/she will probably get a divorce – unless the alcoholic and the co-dependent both decide they want their relationship and their family to be healthy and decide to get into the recovery process together. Chances are they both can learn hor to become intimate (again, done with clothes on) and learn how to change unhealthy patterns into healthy ones, resulting in a really wonderful relationship and a healthy, happy, peaceful, loving legacy for themselves and future generations!
*Recreated from notes taken during lectures at various hospitals, and at the YWCA, etc., including classes given by Jim Osborn, a great teacher
REFERENCE No. 1: The THIQ Hypothesis
by dinosaur (Dennis McClain-Furmanski)
This is a summary of research results, a compilation of observations of mine, all tossed together with speculations based on my education and expertise. Frankly, I'm quite convinced of the conclusions, enough so that I intend to pursue biochemical and genetic research on this. There's enough here to spend a life time on, and I intend to, unless I can get real results sooner. I find it a fascinating study in the operation of science, as much as in addictions.
It starts some years ago with dead people. In a fairly well known (among those in the addiction field) story, a researcher was looking into brain structures using dead people at a coroner's office. She knew about the particular changes that occur with chronic opiate use. While examining the brains in question, she remarked to the coroner that it was surprising that so many of their subjects were junkies. The coroner replied that these were in fact winos who suffered from all the signs of chronic alcoholism in all their body tissues, and none were shown to be addicted to opiates. So began the research into the chemical similarities between alcohol and heroin addiction. Among the results of this was the fact that there was a general atrophy of endorphin receptors. Somehow, these receptors,those stimulated by either endorphins (endogenous morphine) or the plant kingdom's real stuff, were getting wiped out. Examining them showed that they were being plugged by a molecule which fit into the receptor, but was dissimilar enough that it was not being removed.
This chemical is tetrahydro isoquinilone. It is a normally formed breakdown product of the monoamine neurotransmitters. Monoamine oxidase attacks these neurotransmitters once they've done their job, removes them from the receptors, and disassembles them for reuptake into the neuron for recycling. These are normal, but only in very small amounts. In the presence of acetaldehyde, the first breakdown product of ethyl alcohol, and in fact a product of burning tobacco, monoamines break down much more frequently into this chemical.
When acetaldehyde is present, THIQ forms. It gets plugged into endorphin receptors, and stimulates them. This is a primary agonist action. However, the part of the molecule which protrudes from the receptor is *not* shaped like the neurotransmitter it acts as, and the monoamine oxidase cannot remove it or break it down. It gets stuck in the receptor, preventing it from being used again. This is a secondary antagonist action -- a permanent one. With more and more endorphin receptors being taken out of action, the person begins to feel the lack. They feel the need to return to the previous balance. They have already trained their brain to know that using alcohol (or tobacco) relieves this need. So they use some more. Once enough receptors are taken out by THIQ, and the person attempts to correct it, an escalating spiral has started.
This THIQ hypothesis made big noise when it was first introduced, a little over 5 years ago. At first, there were studies which showed that the hypothesis was flawed. It fell out of favor. Then, more studies showed that the reaction would in fact take place, and it came back in. Finally, in the absence of corroborating evidence in biological systems, it fell out of favor again.
Last summer, out comes a claim from a researcher named Mele. He had been hired by a tobacco company to do studies on, well, I'm not really sure. But what he ended up doing was showing that rats preferred to take acetaldehyde. Since it's nasty stuff, they won't drink it, so the apparatus used included IV injection. Once habituated to nicotine, rats would press a bar 12 times on average for water. They would press 4 times that for water and nicotine. But they would press it 10 times 40 times that for water, nicotine and acetaldehyde. Since this appeared to substantiate the fact that tobacco was addictive (recall acetaldehyde is in tobacco smoke) the company decided not to publish his results (so goes his fairly well substantiated claim). The corroborating evidence for acetaldehyde's role in mediating *some forms* of addiction apparently exists, and in fact existed 10 years ago, when he did this work.
What else supports this? The long standing claim that genetics plays a part. Alcohol breaks down by the action of alcohol dehydrogenase on the alcohol, removing a hydrogen, forming acetaldehyde. This toxin is supposed to be removed quickly by the action of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (away with another hydrogen) forming acetate and water. If, in this two step process, there is either relatively too much alcohol dehydrogenase, or relatively too little acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, a build up of acetaldehyde will occur. The levels of both of these enzymes are genetically determined. It would seem that if the gap between these were too large the person would be more prone to addiction.
Yet the Japanese are very often extremely deficient in aldehyde dehydrogenase, hence their tendency to turn red, sweat, get cramps, etc., when they take alcohol. This effect is so common that it's called the 'oriental flush'. This is precisely the effect seen when someone drinks on Antabuse - disulfarim - which blocks the action of aldehyde dehydrogenase. It appears there is a range of disparity between the enzymes which allows the acetaldehyde build up to the point that THIQ is formed, but not so much that the person suffers too much of this effect when they drink.
Many studies have been done on alcohol metabolism. Most have shown that the metabolism of alcohol does not correlate with incidence of alcoholism. Not in racial groups, and not in individuals. My contention is that they've studied the wrong thing. They looked at the metabolism of alcohol, *not* the metabolism of acetaldehyde. Alcohol provides the primary action sought by users, and may in itself be habit forming, but I claim that it is the acetaldehyde which mediates the addiction. My field of personal interest is in studying what appears to be an extremely high rate of alcoholism in Native Americans. Incidence rates in 1980 were estimated at 70%. Those that had it suffered adverse consequences in all body systems more so than most other groups, and much sooner.
Native Americans are a genetic group coming from three separate ancestral groups from the orient. It is likely they have a genetic make up for the markers for acetaldehyde production, which falls pretty much at the optimum for THIQ production. What's it going to take to prove this? First, following up on Mele's work to substantiate it. Ksir at Wyoming (co-author of probably the best drug use and abuse textbook on the market) is in the process of doing this. Getting the rats to take acetaldehyde is apparently the sticking point.
Second, redoing the alcohol metabolism studies with measurement of acetaldehyde levels over time. Last, determining the genetic markers for acetaldehyde production, and correlating them with incidence rates in genetic groups, and with individuals who have been shown to be particularly susceptible to alcohol addiction. #1 being under way, I intend to work on #2. #3 will come once report comes from the human gnome project that they have isolated the genotypes which determine acetaldehyde dehydrogenase production. We know the specific enzymes and locations of production, so it won't be too tough a job. Getting it past the ethics committees will be tougher.
As I said, some of this is speculative. But too many pieces of the puzzle fit too well for it to be entirely wrong. If it all turns out, it will give us a genetic marker for testing to determine if a person is at high risk to develop addiction to anything which produces acetaldehyde. This will give the person the chance at informed decision making. And given the expected advances in genetic medicine, it should be possible to correct the enzyme levels if not in individuals, then in their offspring, and so reduce their risk. Addiction would still exist. But some cases of it could be prevented either by high risk persons choosing not to use, or physical reduction of the risk factor. I welcome comments, particular thoughtful comments, regarding the background, logic and conclusions here. I am, at the root of it all, interested in discovering the true nature of addictions, or as much as possible. This is the end of Dynasor's writing.
The short story is: Rats were placed in one cage with water and an alcohol mixture. The rats chose to drink the water, completely ignoring the alcohol mixture.
The rats were taken out of the cage. THIQ was surgically implanted in their brains and they were placed back in the cage. Now they drank the alcohol, completely ignoring the pure water, until they died.
Such is the nature of our disease. Surgically implanting the THIQ completely bypasses all social factors so that whether or not we went to church, got potty trained, came from a split family, were sexually abused, or any other number of social factors matter not one whit. It is completely a matter of whether or not the brain manufactors THIQ. If it does. (and we drink at all) we become alcoholic.
If the brain does not manufactor THIQ we cannot become alcoholic, even if we drink a freight train load.
REFERENCE No. 2: The Disease Concept of Alcoholism
T.H.I.Q. --Biochemical Culprit
Heredity studies, done all over the world, clearly show that genetics is far more significant in determining whether or not you'll be an alcoholic than any other single factor. Genetics is more significant than any combination of social or environmental factors examined.
The report is not saying that a person is born an alcoholic. However, evidence is conclusive that some people are indeed at greater risks to alcoholism because of their heredity, and if they ever start drinking they run a high risk of developing the disease.
If you love your children don't condemn them with a high chance of getting this disease, stop your drinking!
T.H.I.Q. was discovered in brains of alcoholics in Houston, Texas by a scientist named Virginia Davis who was doing cancer research. For her study she needed fresh human brains and used bodies of homeless winos who had died during the night and were picked up by Houston police in the morning.
She discovered in the brains of those chronic alcoholics a substance that is closely related to Heroin. This substance, known to scientists, is called Tetrahydrolsoqulnoline or THIQ When a person shoots heroin into their body, some of it breaks down and turns into THIQ The Alcoholics studied had not been using heroin so how did the THIQ get there?
When the normal adult drinker takes in alcohol, it is very rapidly eliminated at the rate of about one drink per hour. The body first converts the alcohol into something called Acetaldehyde. This chemical is VERY TOXIC and if it were to build up inside us, we would get VIOLENTLY SICK AND COULD DIE. But Mother Nature helps us to get rid of acetaldehyde very quickly. She efficiently changes it a couple of more times - into carbon dioxide and water - which is eliminated through kidneys and lungs. That's what happens to normal drinkers. It also happens with alcoholic drinkers, but with alcoholic drinkers something additional happens.
What Virginia discovered in Huston has been extensively confirmed since. In alcoholic drinkers, a very small amount of poisonous acetaldehyde is not eliminated. Instead it goes to the brain. There through a very complicated biochemical process, it winds up as THIQ.
Research has found the following:
THIQ is manufactured in the brain and only occurs in the brain of the alcoholic drinker. It is not manufactured in the brain of the normal social drinker of alcohol.
THIQ has been found to be highly addictive. It was tried in experimental use with animals during the Second World War when we were looking for a painkiller less addicting than morphine. THIQ was a pretty good pain killer but t couldn't be used on humans. It turned out to be much more addicting than morphine.
Experiments have shown that certain kinds of rats cannot be made to drink alcohol. Put in a cage with very weak solution of vodka and water., these rats refuse to touch it. They will literally thirst to death before the agree to drink alcohol. However, if you take the same kind of rat and put a minute quantity of THIQ into the rat's brain -- one quick injection -- the animal will immediately develope a preference for alcohol over water.
Studies done with monkeys, our close animal relative in medical terms, show the following:
A. Once the THIQ is injected into a monkey's brain, it stays there.
The alcoholic's body, like normal drinkers, changes the alcohol into acetaldehyde and then it changes most of it into carbon dioxide and water, which in the end kicks out through the kidneys and lungs. However, the alcoholic's bodies won't kick all these chemicals out. The Alcoholic's brain holds a few bits back and transforms them into THIQ. As THIQ is accumulated in the brain of an alhoholic, at some point, maybe sooner, maybe later, the alcoholic will cross over a shadowy line into a whole new way of living.
B. You can keep the monkey dry off alcohol for 7 years but brain studies show that THIQ remains in place in the brain.
It is not known by medical science, at this time, where this line is or how much THIQ an individual brain will pile up before one crosses this line. Some predisposed people cross the line while they're teenagers, or earlier. Others cross in their 30's or 40's and others after retirement. But once this happens the alcoholic will be as hooked on alcohol, as he would have been hooked on heroin if he'd been shooting that instead.
Now comes the loss of control. Now it's chronic. progressive and incurable. Now it's all to clearly a disease.
THE GOOD NEWS IS:
1. Alcoholism is a disease.
Web Site by Craig W. Hughes Sr., Founder/Executive Director of "Think" Before You Drink Foundation: http://qis.net
2. Alcoholism is not the alcoholic's fault.
3. Alcoholics can get proper treatment for the disease, which begins with telling them these facts.
4. The alcoholic can be relieved of guilt.
5. The alcoholic can take on responsibility for arresting their disease.
6. The alcoholic can refuse to put more THIQ in their brains and refuse to activate the THIQ that is already there.
7. Alcoholics can and do recover.
REFERENCE No. 3: NEUROTRANSMITTERS
by Dr. C. George Boeree:
Neurotransmitters are the chemicals which account for the transmission of signals from one neuron to the next across synapses. They are also found at the axon endings of motor neurons, where they stimulate the muscle fibers to contract. And they and their close relatives are produced by some glands such as the pituitary and the adrenal glands. In this chapter, we will review some of the most significant neurotransmitters.
Acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter to be discovered. It was isolated in 1921 by a German biologist named Otto Loewi, who would later win the Nobel Prize for his work. Acetylcholine has many functions: It is responsible for much of the stimulation of muscles, including the muscles of the gastro-intestinal system. It is also found in sensory neurons and in the autonomic nervous system, and has a part in scheduling REM (dream) sleep.
The well-known poison botulin works by blocking acetylcholin, causing paralysis. The botulin derivative botox is used by many people to temporarily eliminate wrinkles --a sad commentary on our times, I would say. On a more serious note, there is a link between acetylcholine and Alzheimer's disease: There is something on the order of a 90% loss of acetylcholine in the brains of people suffering from that debilitating disease.
In 1946, a Swedish biologist by the name of Ulf von Euler discovered norepinephrine (formerly called noradrenalin). He also won a Nobel Prize. Norepinephrine is strongly associated with bringing our nervous systems into "high alert." It is prevalent in the sympathetic nervous system, and it increases our heart rate and our blood pressure. Our adrenal glands release it into the blood stream, along with its close relative epinephrine (aka adrenalin). It is also important for forming memories.
Stress tends to deplete our store of adrenalin, while exercise tends to increase it. Amphetamines ("speed") work by causing the release of norepinephrine, as well as dopamine and seratonin (see below).
Another relative of norepinephrine and epinephrine is dopamine, discovered to be a neurotransmitter in the 1950s by another Swede, Arvid Carlsson. It is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that when it finds its way to its receptor sites, it blocks the tendency of that neuron to fire. Dopamine is strongly associated with reward mechanisms in the brain. Drugs like cocaine, opium, heroin, and alcohol increase the levels of dopamine, as does nicotine!
The severe mental illness schizophrenia has been shown to involve excessive amounts of dopamine in the frontal lobes, and drugs that block dopamine are used to help schizophrenics. On the other hand, too little dopamine in the motor areas of the brain are responsible for Parkinson's disease, which involves uncontrollable muscle tremors. It was the same Arvid Carlsson mentioned above who figured out that the precursor to dopamine (L-dopa) could eleviate some of the symptoms. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2000.
Recently, it has been noted that low dopamine may related not only to the unsociability of schizophrenics, but also to social anxiety. On the other hand, dopamine has been found to have relatively little to do with the pleasures of eating. That seems to involve chemicals such as endorphin (see below).
In 1950, Eugene Roberts and J. Awapara discovered GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), which is also usually an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA acts like a brake to the excitatory neurotransmitters that lead to anxiety. People with too little GABA tend to suffer from anxiety disorders, and drugs like Valium work by enhancing the effects of GABA. Lots of other drugs influence GABA receptors, including alcohol and barbituates. If GABA is lacking in some parts of the brain, epilepsy results.
Glutamate is an excitatory relative of GABA. It is the most common neurotransmitter in the central nervous system -- as much as half of all neurons in the brain -- and is especially important in regards to memory. Curiously, glutamate is actually toxic to neurons, and an excess will kill them. Sometimes brain damage or a stroke will lead to an excess and end with many more brain cells dying than from the original trauma. ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, results from excessive glutamate production. Many believe it may also be responsible for quite a variety of diseases of the nervous system, and are looking for ways to minimize its effects.
Glutamate was discovered by Kikunae Ikeda of Tokay Imperial Univ. in 1907, while looking for the flavor common to things like cheese, meat, and mushrooms. He was able to extract an acid from seaweed- glutamate. He went on to invent the well known seasoning MSG - monosodium glutamate. It took decades for Peter Usherwood to identify glutamate as a nurotransmitter in locusts in 1994.
Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that has been found to be intimately involved in emotion and mood. Too little serotonin has been shown to lead to depression, problems with anger control, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and suicide. Too little also leads to an increased appetite for carbohydrates (starchy foods) and trouble sleeping, which are also associated with depression and other emotional disorders. It has also been tied to migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Vittorio Erspamer first discovered what we now call seratonin in the 1930s. It was found in blood serum in 1948 by Irvine Page, who named it serotonin (from "serum-tonic"). Another researcher in Page's lab - Maurice Rapport - proved that it was an amine. John Welsh found that it was a neurotransmitter in molluscs in 1954, and Betty Twarog (also at Page's lab) found it in vertebrates in 1952. All this gives you a sense of the cooperative nature of most of scientific discovery!
Prozac and other recent drugs help people with depression by preventing the neurons from "vacuuming" up excess seratonin, so that there is more floating around in the synapses. It is interesting that a little warm milk before bedtime also increases the levels of seratonin. As mom may have told you, it helps you to sleep. Serotonin is a derivative of tryptophan, which is found in milk. The "warm" part is just for comfort!
On the other hand, serotonin also plays a role in perception. Hallucinogens such as LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, and ecstasy work by attaching to seratonin receptor sites and thereby blocking transmissions in perceptual pathways.
In 1973, Solomon Snyder and Candace Pert of Johns Hopkins discovered endorphin. Endorphin is short for "endogenous morphine," i.e. built-in heroin! It is structurally very similar to the opioids (opium, morphine, heroin, etc.) and has similar functions: Inhibitory, it is involved in pain reduction and pleasure, and the opioid drugs work by attaching to endorphin's receptor sites. It is also the neurotransmitter that allows bears and other animals to hibernate. Consider: Heroin slows heart-rate, respiration, and metabolism in general -- exactly what you would need to hibernate. Of course, sometimes heroin slows it all down to nothing: Permanent hibernation.