One of my graduate students says, “Please don’t ever set that assignment again.” I am surprised at the anger that my assignment has roused. The course was ‘Stress Management’ - aiming to give self-analysis, coping skills and particularly to acquaint and align students with stress models and encourage them to construct new stress models.
It is official: we are all in collective trauma. There is really no point in being competitive about it, although, for economic reasons, many people are worse off than others. However, it is good to acknowledge that at this particular time, we are all threatened.
Human beings have evolved with inherent needs for physical, psychological, emotional, social, and many would suggest, spiritual connection.
As someone who’s in long-term recovery from alcohol and drug dependency I’ve often reflected upon the various causal factors associated with addiction and what these suggest in terms of successful recovery. There seems to be many diverse opinions, often polarising voices, in relation to the causes, nature and treatment of addiction.
The human body is a wondrous thing. When a foreign substance, such as alcohol, a toxic chemical, is ingested in large amounts over a considerable period of time, the body “adapts” to the substance, developing tolerance and becoming physically dependent upon it. This changes our brain chemistry. These take place in the neurons’ receptor sites, altering the balance of glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and in transmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine.
I vaguely recall noticing, in my first foggy reading of the Alcoholics Anonymous "Big Book" while in rehab, that my profession seemed to be curiously over-represented. There are, in fact, three chapters in there written by medical doctors: "The Doctor's Opinion,” "Doctor Bob's Nightmare,” and "Physician Heal Thyself.” At age 26 and having graduated just nine months earlier from a prestigious school of medicine, I believe this fact encouraged me to keep an open mind to AA and its Twelve Steps.
The first time I became clinically depressed I was in graduate school and it happened overnight. I had been drinking for several days. I went to bed on a crisp fall Saturday night, intoxicated but feeling otherwise normal. Upon waking Sunday morning, I sat up, swung my feet to the floor, and knew immediately that something was terribly wrong. This was not just a hangover. The room spun around me and I was clutched by a feeling of dread unlike anything I had ever before experienced. Panicking, I grabbed Saturday’s newspaper. The words pulsated into an indecipherable muddle of ink. I stood up in my small room and needed to clutch the edge of the mahogany bureau to support my trembling legs. My heart beat rapidly, as though it were trying to pound its way out of my chest.
I like AA – especially the fellowship. In most locales, it’s the only show in town and the price is right. When I was a kid, my family went to the Baptist church and my Baptist friends - Catholics. I married a Catholic and found out most Catholics were good people. Why did the Baptists think they were so bad? Catholics believed the wrong dogma (unchangeable beliefs). I ended up rejecting the dogmas from both groups and tend to believe that uncritically accepting any group’s dogma is fuzzy thinking. AA has a bit of dogma, despite Bill Wilson’s efforts to soften some of what’s in the Big Book: “We only know a little … future studies will show us new ways … these are only suggestions” … or some such language, talking about his book and the steps.
For me the heart of Alcoholics Anonymous has always been the 24-Hour Plan. A day at a time we stay away from the First Drink. I first heard about it as a boy — from my father over the family dinner table. A friend of his had joined AA and described it to him. My father was fascinated by the power and simplicity of the 24-Hour Plan. If you don't pick up the first drink, you can't get drunk — you won't have to struggle against drinking the second, or third, or sixth, or tenth.