Is Alcoholism A Choice… Or A Life Sentence?

This is a very bold question, which is bound to draw some criticism. Regardless, I believe it is a valid question and I have some very sound, logic and evidence to answer it.

Note:  My original website slogan was in the form of a statement ‘Alcoholism is a choice… not a life sentence!’. I subsequently changed it to a question, ‘Is alcoholism a choice… or a life sentence?’ to avert possible criticism from the medical profession. I had been unhappy with that change ever since, as it compromised my real intent of telling people that being dependent on alcohol is in fact a choice, that only you control. I have now changed my slogan back to near original so it is in harmony with my intent and beliefs: ‘Alcohol dependence is a choice… not a life sentence!‘. This post below was written while the word ‘alcoholism’ was still in the slogan, though my explanations are still valid now.

To start let’s look at the definitions of the words ‘alcoholism’ and ‘alcoholic’.

Alcoholism:

‘A chronic disorder characterized by dependence on alcohol, repeated excessive use of alcoholic beverages, the development of withdrawal symptoms on reducing or ceasing intake, morbidity that may include cirrhosis of the liver, and decreased ability to function socially and vocationally.’ i.

‘A condition in which dependence on alcohol harms a person’s health, social functioning, or family life.’ ii

‘The compulsive consumption of and psychophysiological dependence on alcoholic beverages. A chronic, progressive pathological condition, mainly affecting the nervous and digestive systems, caused by the excessive and habitual consumption of alcohol.’ iii

…and

Alcoholic:

Stick Figure Man, Can You Do It, 300x300‘A person who drinks alcoholic substances habitually and to excess or who suffers from alcoholism.’ iv

There are many other broad variations of the definitions, though all imply that an ‘alcoholic’ or person that is deemed to be suffering from ‘alcoholism’, is dependent on, or addicted to the use of alcohol. These are labels that are commonly used, though I consider people add their own perception to what the terms actually mean.

The harsh reality I am pointing out with the first part of my slogan “Is Alcoholism A Choice…” is that every person dependent (or addicted) to alcohol, got to be that way by an accumulation of many choices over a period of time. For whatever reasons, the person chose to start drinking alcohol and chose to consume alcohol on every subsequent occasion after that. No one held a gun to their head or forced them to consume each drink. They made those choices themselves on all those separate occasions.

Now, they may have been naive to the long-term effects, or that sustained alcohol use and alcohol abuse may lead to alcohol dependence, or may have even been raised in a culture and environment where it was expected that young people will start using alcohol as soon as legally able. However, they still had the ultimate decision whether to drink alcohol or not. I’m not suggesting that peer pressure and poor examples set by family and other influential people, doesn’t play a big part in young people readily adopting alcohol use as a substance to ‘deal’ with life’s issues and social expectations. Our young and impressionable minds do readily accept behaviours of people we trust and look up to. Though again, no one forces us to drink alcohol under some threat of harm or retribution if we don’t. By the time we are teenage we have the capacity to say no to alcohol use and alcohol abuse.

I, like many young people, just did what was culturally accepted and started drinking alcohol at a very young age, mainly to feel good and fulfil my perception that it was a ‘rite of passage’ into adulthood. I used alcohol to mask and hide from emotional discomfort and to give me a false sense of confidence. I may have been naïve and certainly not planning on becoming an alcoholic, nevertheless I chose to drink on every occasion I did, and my habitual drinking did lead me down the path to being an alcoholic. It is probably a similar process for most people that end up down the path of alcoholism.

I agree with the notion that some people are genetically programmed to be susceptible to alcoholism, though disagree that they have no choice in the outcome. We all have the ability to be the masters of our fate. Our fate is made up of the many choices we make each day. Whether to drink alcohol is no different to other important choices we have to make. Those of us that ended up as alcoholics (with ‘alcoholism’), got there one choice at a time.

Woman Looking Out a Barred Window, 300x450The last part of my slogan “Or A Life Sentence” is to contradict what the ‘traditional’ view is on being an alcoholic. I refute the idea of ‘once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic’, in all cases. I for one am living proof that someone completely dependent on alcohol (an alcoholic), can stop drinking and become completely and permanently alcohol-free, without even the desire for alcohol. Sure, it requires rewiring your brain with some new beliefs about what alcohol ‘actually’ does to your life, as opposed to what you may have believed. It also requires some very good ‘whys’ that you should live completely alcohol-free. Furthermore, it requires a resolute commitment to do what is necessary to see the process of becoming alcohol-free through to completion. You cannot be the same person psychologically, doing the same actions and expect to get different results. You must be prepared to make changes to your belief system and at a deep core level. Once you meet these requirements your outer results will match your inner mindset and you will be free from the desire for alcohol…permanently.

The Alcohemy process I developed completely changed my beliefs about alcohol use and its relevance in my life. It changed me in such a way that I find it practically laughable that I would drink alcohol for emotional or social comfort. After reading my book, Australian counselling psychologist (and member of the International Positive Psychology Association), Dr. Bob Rich MSc, PhD, MAPS, stated “David has convinced me that it is possible to get rid of this urge, this desire to drink alcohol, and by implication to get rid of any other addiction. I have started to apply David’s ideas in my therapeutic practice, and hope the book will be widely enough known that it becomes the new accepted wisdom.” v

Being an alcoholic is not a life sentence in all cases, as commonly thought. People get there one choice at a time, and can with some commitment completely remove the desire for alcohol, by choosing to do so. If you have an alcohol dependence (or know someone you care about who does), my Alcohemy book and the Alcohemy website will provide a private and discreet alcohol treatment solution. It is then up to you on what choices you make. I am just passionate about helping others with alcohol dependence experience the rewards of alcohol-freedom like I did. Be the Master of your Fate; the Captain of your Soul.

i. American Psychological Association (APA):
alcoholism. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved January 05, 2014, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/alcoholism
ii. American Psychological Association (APA)
alcoholism. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved January 05, 2014, from Dictionary.com website:http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/alcoholism
iii. American Psychological Association (APA):
alcoholism. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Retrieved January 05, 2014, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/alcoholism
iv. American Psychological Association (APA):
alcoholic. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Retrieved January 05, 2014, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/alcoholic

Who made YOU the ‘alcoholic’ expert?

Often the first things people think of when they are looking for, or being offered advice, is ‘What credibility or expertise does this person have?’ and ‘What qualifies them to give me good advice?’ The answer is not always as ‘academic’ as you may think.

The reason I am writing this is to address possible queries people may have about my ‘suitability’ to give advice on resolving an alcohol dependence. It is most likely that the questions I stated above will be asked of me… and that’s very reasonable given the topic concerned.

So what is and who is considered an ‘expert’?

Group portrait of doctors on white background

Wikipedia states, ‘an expert, generally speaking, is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular field or area of study’. Furthermore it states, ‘experts have a prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field. In specific fields, the definition of expert is well established by consensus and therefore it is not necessary for an individual to have a professional or academic qualification for them to be accepted as an expert.’

…And to allow for differences in opinions it states, ‘Experts are called in for advice on their respective subject, but they do not always agree on the particulars of a field of study.

I have also seen it written, that it is generally accepted that an expert level of any skill requires 10,000 hours of purposeful engagement in a particular area. Also, although formal education is often considered the most well established route to expertise, there is experienced-based expertise that in some cases leads to more rapid discovery, technical evolvement and deep understanding.

Proud mature student holding his diploma

Typically though, (rightly or wrongly) most of us want to know what ‘formal’ qualifications the person has in a particular field to judge their ‘expertise’ on. There are plenty of fields you would expect to see formal education and accreditation e.g. medical, legal, accounting, engineering, scientific etc. There are also many other professions, including trade-based ones, where formal education is less important to us in determining whether the person is an ‘expert’ or competent in their field.

Regardless of the hierarchy of professional status, having a formal education and accreditation in a particular field, does not necessarily mean they are an ‘expert’ or even any good at what they do. Whether it’s a lawyer, accountant, a doctor, a baker or a candlestick maker, expertise doesn’t just come with the formal piece of paper. It also doesn’t necessarily make their opinion correct or the only alternative.Professional opinions can often differ and even good doctors are happy to refer patients to peers to get 2nd and even 3rd opinions when requested, or to confirm diagnosis or treatment. I’m sure we have all heard plenty of stories of malpractice and shoddiness in all professions, regardless of being formally highly ‘qualified’ or not.

In fact, what I believe we really want to know is are they suitable to help us with what we are trying to achieve… and are they any good at what they do. For me, I want to know what sort of ‘experience’ do they have and what sort of ‘results’ have they had. The formal qualifications confirm academic training, though real life personal experience and results are the proof of the pudding.

So where does this leave me in the ‘alcohol dependence’ scheme of things?

The facts are I have no formal medical or psychological qualifications in the field of alcohol dependence, and I am quite comfortable with that. Though for many years I have thought, that if I had my time over again, I would have liked to formally study psychology. I have always, as long as I can remember, been a deep, analytical thinker and observer of people and behaviour. I have always pondered the ‘why’ questions and thought about why people behave in certain ways.

Despite no formal qualifications in the alcohol dependence field, what I do have is over 30 years of personal experience in the consequences of alcohol consumption. I would say about 20 years of that time I was addicted to alcohol, drank every day and suffered anxiety if I was forced to go a day without it. I experienced many years of trying to manage my alcohol abuse, to limit the embarrassing consequences of being drunk, at home and socially. For years I suffered the emotional depths of frustration and despair, as time and time again my attempts to moderate my alcohol abuse failed and I would embarrass myself, my family and my friends.

I have also personally experienced what it was like to go from the extremes of ‘no belief I could ever stop drinking’, to the ‘knowing I don’t desire alcohol any more’ now and will never ‘need’ to drink alcohol again, for any reason. I personally experienced what it took to change my thinking around at a core level. What it was like to take those first steps on the uncertain journey of ‘no more alcohol forever’, and how it felt each step of the way. I experienced my own level of alcohol withdrawal and cravings and learned how to best manage them relevant to my particular circumstances. I learnt how to deal with questions (or taunts) from family, friends and colleagues. I fathomed and experienced how to restructure my daily and social routines to support an alcohol-free lifestyle. I have also personally experienced what a magnificent change can occur to someone’s self-esteem, confidence, spirit, pride (call it what you want), when the realisation spreads from the inside out, that alcohol is no longer necessary nor desired.

The Best of Both Worlds on a venn diagram with intersecting overlapping circles and the words Fresh Ideas and Trusted Experience to help you pick the ideal service provider or candidate

I spent many years before starting my own personally developed process of becoming alcohol-free, and more years during and after, reading, listening, watching and studying material on human potential, personal growth… and in the field of alcohol dependence. I have listed some of these (though certainly not all) on my alcohemy.com website.

No, the knowledge I gained over these years of study and research didn’t result in a formal medical or psychology qualification in alcohol dependence. However, I can assure you, what I did learn helped me shift my thinking at a core level and aide me in developing my alcohol treatment program that now sees me blissfully and permanently alcohol-free. Such was the magnitude of the change in me, that I am now committing myself for the rest of my life, to help other willing people resolve their own alcohol dependence.

I fully accept that there will be academics and potential participants alike that will assess my credentials as unsuitable to render assistance to alcoholics, regardless of the severity of their alcohol dependence. That is their choice and out of my control. However, I am confident there will also be many people with an alcohol addiction, looking for someone with real life experience, who has personally been successful in become alcohol-free, to help them complete their journey in a private and discreet way. Someone who knows how they feel and has successfully been through the process.

There are many different public and private avenues available to get help with alcohol addiction and Alcohemy is just one of the more private and discreet options. I am happy to provide my personalised service to all those that believe my particular knowledge and experience, is more important than whether I have a medical degree or not. I didn’t need one to get my fantastic results and firmly believe my actual experience will be of great value to a lot of people struggling with what to do. To help them again be the Master of their fate; the Captain of their soul.


Can alcohol dependence be cured?

We don't want you opinion!I used to have a slogan on my Alcohemy website which said “Alcoholism is a choice… not a life sentence” I coined it to get people thinking about how much of a role does the actual alcoholic play in getting to that state, and how much are they responsible for determining if they remain an alcoholic. Admittedly, I chose the wording to elicit a reaction from those that hold the traditional view point that alcoholism is an ‘incurable’ disease and that ‘once an alcoholic… always an alcoholic’. Boy! Did I underestimate the response from the traditional-thinking US medical fraternity, who were approached by my US PR consultant to review my book, in hope of me gaining an interview. Some were quite visceral in their opinion that I was not medically qualified to question a hundred years of research and ‘accepted’ thinking on the subject. Some even suggested it was ‘irresponsible’ at best and ‘dangerous’ at worst to give hope to alcoholics that they could ever be completely free from desiring alcohol. Well, I’m making the big call… to me that’s bullsh*t and very limiting and defeatist thinking.

The whole point of the book I wrote was to give people struggling with alcohol dependence, addiction, alcoholism (call it what you want), inspiration and hope that it is possible to stop drinking and recover to lead blissful alcohol-free lives. And yes, for some, this can be without even the ‘desire’ for alcohol. In my book I regularly use the term “be the master of your fate; captain of your soul”, to reiterate that we do have the ability to control our futures, one thought, feeling, choice and action at a time. It might not be easy, though it is possible.

Another thing I have noticed in my efforts to get my message exposed via the media (which are vetted by their medical staff), is the apparent fixation on the word ‘alcoholism’. I was told it was odd the term wasn’t mentioned even once in my entire book, yet told I shouldn’t have used it in my website slogan.  It seems once the word ‘alcoholism‘ (or even ‘alcoholic‘) is used you are entering into hallowed ground and only medically qualified people have any credibility to comment.

I have read many definitions of what an ‘alcoholic’ or ‘alcohol dependent’, ‘alcohol abuse’, ‘alcoholism’ etc. means from many sources, including medical. They vary greatly and some mention ‘disease’ and some don’t. Regardless, you can find a definition to suit your particular point of view if you look hard enough. I have never seen anywhere where is states what is the difference between an ‘alcohol dependent’, an ‘alcoholic’ or person with ‘alcoholism’ is, nor where there is a change (if any) from one to the other. There seems to be a major hang-up on the word ‘alcoholism’ by medical professionals; and that it precludes any possible treatment except for current medically approved methods. Where does the definition of someone who is totally ‘alcohol dependent’ finish and someone with ‘alcoholism’ begin???

In fact there is a good reason I didn’t use the word alcoholism in my book. My book was not meant to be a look at treating alcohol addiction or alcoholism from a medicalperspective. It was intended to come from a past sufferer’s perspective, based on my personal experience. One that other alcoholics could relate to at a deeper personal level. From my experience, people don’t like being called an alcoholic and given my book is trying to gently coax people to consider the real state of their alcohol dependence, then ‘dependence’ seemed a friendlier, more relatable term to me. If someone asked me back when I drank if I was ‘alcohol dependent’, I would have said, “Yes, I guess I am”. If they asked if I was an ‘alcoholic’ or had ‘alcoholism’ I would have told them to bugger off and not to be so blatantly rude. I believe my choice of words such as ‘habitual’ and ‘dependence’ in my book, are not only factual, it shows very good ‘tact’, instead of being so ‘medically’ literal. My intent is to help the alcohol-dependent ‘fence-sitters’, rather than alienate them.

Another point of feedback that has trickled in via social media (Facebook, Instagram) postings I have made is people (apparent sufferers??) telling me alcohol addiction is a disease. Again, it’s almost like they are saying nothing can be done about it and the very best they can hope for is a life of perpetually stressful vigilance. My experience indicates to me it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. I believe alcohol dependence can be reversed. I have been alcohol-free for over 6 years and don’t even ‘desire’ to use alcohol (or any external substance) to prop up any area of my life, emotionally or physically. I admit, I wasn’t to the stage where I was living in a box on the streets, drinking cheap wine out of a bottle in a paper bag. I was a business person, though can assure you I drank way too much wine/spirits every single day and was definitely addicted to alcohol.

Furthermore, I have never said anywhere in my book or website that alcoholism is not a disease. The term disease has its own varying definitions, though I am satisfied that full-on alcoholism is classed a disease. What they (traditional medical thinking) seem to be saying is that it is incurable and the sufferer has no choice in that. I am simply questioning that stand point in all cases. The human mind and spirit is a very powerful force and if given the right guidance and belief system, can do things medical science can’t fathom. True, it might not work for everyone, though to disregard that approach to follow the ‘rule’, to me is very limited thinking. Why can’t conventional and non-conventional methods work side by side to widen the alcohol treatment options to more sufferers, hard core or not.

Open or Closed Minded?I believe the greatest percentage of ‘alcoholics’ would be in the category I was (not needing urgent medical treatment and reluctant to seek public help), so surely my experience and discreet alcohol treatment program is worth supporting, if it could potentially help millions of middle-ground alcoholic ‘fence-sitters’. I understand I don’t have a medical degree to walk the hallowed grounds of alcohol addiction treatment unchallenged and I accept that. All I ask for is a free-thinking approach from those open minded enough to even read my book all the way through and not just skim through to see if it meets their existing beliefs and encoded biases. At the end of the day we are all trying to do our bit to lessen the global problem of culturally accepted alcohol abuse and the heartache it causes to individuals and their families.


Alcohol’s Effect on Intimacy & Sex

Girl embarrassed after binge drinkingContrary to a popular myth that drinking alcohol makes people feel more intimate or ‘horny’, it actually doesn’t. The fact is alcohol is a nervous system depressant that gradually ‘dumbs down’ the brain and deadens all our senses, leaving us less likely to fully enjoy sexual intimacy. Though for some, drinking alcohol (especially binge drinking), may result in the likelihood of having sex, purely because the ability to make sound, rational decisions becomes one of the first brain functions to become impaired when drinking alcohol. The more this ‘reasoning’ part of the brain becomes dysfunctional, the more our other ‘animal instinct’ primal part of the brain takes over (and it’s not big on sound thinking or consequences). It’s more about just satisfying needs… don’t think, just do!

Alcohol just acts to remove the mental barriers that we have in place that prevent us from doing things we would (when sober) normally consider morally questionable, personally risky, or likely to cause us social embarrassment. Often high standards that we have set ourselves, or been raised to hold dear (the ones that reside in the part of the brain responsible for logic and cognitive control), become over-ridden by the primal urges of “I want it, so I’ll have it” and “if it feels good, do it”.

Guy embarrassed after binge drinkingThis might all seem like harmless fun when you find yourself up singing karaoke, albeit way off-key. However, much more serious and life-changing decisions also get made when alcohol abuse stealthily switches off our ‘morality and sensibility’ guardian system. When my book ‘Alcohemy’ was being edited, I was told I had to edit out several hundred pages from the original manuscript to shorten it into a more ‘reader friendly’ length. Some of the material selected to be removed was concerning how alcohol abuse effected relationships, especially if the relationship was already struggling in some way. I was told by my editor that I had gone into too much detail in that area considering the objective of my book. I begged to differ, because after all, having a healthy and loving relationship is one of the big reasons most people desire to cease an alcohol dependence and regular alcohol abuse.

One of the alcohol facts that wasn’t removed, reported that in the USA alone (with a population of over 310 million), up to 50-70% of relationships experience infidelity with approx. 30-50% of these involving alcohol use. It is also reported that 99% hide their infidelity and will deny it when questioned. Some alcohol facts that were removed during editing are: Wikipedia (the online encyclopaedia) states ‘Studies suggest around 30–40% of unmarried relationships and 18–20% of marriages are marked by at least one incident of sexual infidelity. Men are more likely than women to have a sexual affair, regardless of whether or not they are in a married or unmarried relationship.’ On the Truthaboutdeception.com website it states ‘It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in the United States) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage’. Recent studies reveal that 45-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship (Atwood & Schwartz, 2002 – Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy).

Couple caught having sex after drinking alcoholEveryone reads stories in magazines, or sees in movies people having too much alcohol at a work Christmas party, or a function and end up having a sexual encounter they desperately regret. However, we all think it would never happen to us. Well I’m telling you, if your personal relationship is already strained, and if you pour enough alcohol down your throat that your rational judgement is completely shot, and your very primal urges to ‘feel good’ and ‘feel desired’ are just about the only circuits functioning in your brain; it can and doeshappen. I believe there are literally many millions of people around the world that this type of alcohol-induced sexual transgression has happened to (including some of you reading this). These aren’t intrinsically immoral or bad people. They are generally everyday people like you and me who, due to an alignment of circumstances like; existing relationship problems, excessive alcohol consumption and opportunity, made an alcohol-affected, foolish and regrettable decision.

During my deeper research I read studies and reports that revealed the deeper primal urges like, acquiring food, water, shelter, safety, and yes… sex, were more intrinsic and powerful than our ‘intellectual’ desires to be morally appropriate, liked or fair. It is only our conditioned values and human reasoning that governs the behaviours which we are prepared to do, in order to obtain those basic urges, and prevents us from acting more ‘animalistic’. For most (when sober), it would take a particularly serious event for them to over-ride their moral values and to act in a way that is contrary to them. Others are more easily swayed to sacrifice their values to get what they want.

Regardless of what category you are in, the decision can and does get short-circuited, if you disable your brain’s capacity to reason and think rationally by drinking alcohol or taking other mind-altering substances. As stated above, once this ‘reasoning function’ is switched off, you are operating at a lower primal level of thinking (or more appropriately put, ‘not thinking’).

This doesn’t make the decision of having ‘inappropriate’ sex with someone ‘right’ or even ‘OK’, though it is a reason of why it does commonly happen. The majority of people that consume alcohol are mature and smart enough to understand, that a side effect of drinking alcohol is that it does affect our ability to ‘think straight’. If we drink alcohol knowing this, then we have to take full responsibilities for our actions (and their consequences) whilst intoxicated, even if those actions were irrational. It is a known hazard of drinking alcohol and by choosing to drink it you must accept that risk and responsibility.

Intimate couple after quitting alcoholThe second part of alcohol’s effect on intimacy involves two people connecting on an intimate level (and let’s remember that being intimate with someone doesn’t necessarily involve having sex). Loving intimacy is usually best when bothpeople involved are in the same frame of mind and are ‘in the moment’ and in-tune with each other. Drawing on research and personal experience over my lifetime, it is not likely this level of mutual intimacy will be obtained if one of the pair is intoxicated. Even if both are intoxicated, it is more likely they are operating at a primal lust level, than a thoughtful and caring level of intimacy. Not that there is anything wrong with mutually lustful sex… it’s just not the same as the awareness and consideration that goes into deliberate intimate moments.

Intimate couple after quitting alcoholIf you or your partner are regularly intoxicated from binge drinking, it is highly likely the number of mutually intimate occasions will be low and more than likely so will any occasions of mutually satisfying sex. My advice is that unless you are occasionally using alcohol to assist in lowering inhibitions for some raunchy, down-n-dirty, primal sex, drinking alcohol has no benefits to your relationship’s intimacy or sex life. Of course, those of you that are using my Alcohemy program to live alcohol-free, forget alcohol and try the old fashioned, tried and true way of mutually satisfying intimacy and sex… lovingly talk to each other with open minds about what turns you on, then experiment :) . That is best done without drinking alcohol.