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Sat

14

Mar

2009

When Ten Men Tell You You're Drunk...
Saturday, 14 March 2009 14:19
by ddJango

I'm an alcoholic (not drinking these days). At the apex of my rush toward suicide, I used to hang out with, yeah, you guessed it, a lot of other hopeless and helpless drunks. We drank in order to function at an at least basic level; functioning at all without alcohol was an impossibility.

In the chronic, late stage of alcoholism, the line between functioning drunk and dangerous drunk is nearly invisible. Stumbling over that line is usually a matter of the next swig. You can't see it, but even the drunks around you can see it happen to you. So you rely on other people to keep you out of trouble.

We had a saying: "When ten men tell you you're drunk, lie down". It often took that many to convince me, but I learned the hard way to listen. Bluntly, if I hadn't, I wouldn't be writing this (or anything else, for that matter).

I have just described a severe, nearly impenetrable stage of denial, a symptom of addiction that worsens as the addiction does. At this lowest level, denial is psychotic and totally delusional. The ability to break through denial by relying on one's own reasoning is totally lost. Every thought of "I gotta stop this shit" is followed by another drink (or a bullet to the brain). To attempt to live on alcohol is to live on borrowed time. Eventually, you dry up or pay up and the cost, with the vig, is incalculable. More often than not, one pays with the only thing one has left - life itself.

I'm very fortunate, but not special. I didn't get myself sober, other people did. I would not be able to stay sober without the concerted help of others. I had lost everything; and now, 90% of what I own was given to me - not loaned, given. The only conditions are that I stay sober, try to help others and, when I can, pay the debt forward.

I am obviously using alcoholism as an analogy to western society's common addiction - to money. And I must admit that a more appropriate analogy is probably the addiction to overeating. The only thing to do to avoid dying from drink is total abstinence. Of course, that's out of the question with food. Likewise, we need money, because money is exchanged for goods and services. You have to have money to have "stuff" - even the basic "stuff" like shelter, clothing, food, and medicine. The task with an overeating addiction is to learn appropriate moderation - and so it is with money addiction.


The bad news and good news about addiction: all addiction is progressive, and eventually fatal, save a radical intervention. That intervention is successful only if (a) it is from external sources (family, friends, a judge, etc) and (b) the consequences of not responding to the intervention are clearly cataclysmic.

Our addiction to money is late stage and chronic. As individuals, many of us will not survive this end stage. And western society, at least as we know it, may die as well, although it will be basic society which will save survivors' lives to the extent they embrace it.

The addict finances today's high with tomorrow's money (and health and friends and jobs and raises and so forth) until there is nothing left to borrow. At this point, again, it's change or die. Simple . . . and, yes, very, very scary. When I finally had to stop drinking this (I hope) final time, I was terrified and convinced that my life was about to end. And it almost did.

I indicated that the truth of addiction is both good and bad news. The good news is that recovery can produce a life that is fuller and richer than the dreams one has during active addiction's illusions and abject narcissism.

The first thing an addict must do is take personal responsibility. No more "it's [fill in the blank]'s fault". We can blame banks, other financial institutions, their paid PR pushers in Hollywood and Madison Avenue, government, lobbyists, whoever and whatever. Yes, they all have a part in it: we addicts call all of them "enablers". But they're all addicts themselves - dependent on credit and smoke and mirrors. They won't help; they can't help. They're too caught up in their own terror, manipulation, denial, and self-centeredness. They may have stolen all our money (and will steal more with Obama's enabling), but they will pay, too, in their own way.

Acceptance is key. It's indispensable. Absolutely necessary. We can hold out hope that "we'll get through this and everything will go back to normal" or we can surrender to the fact that "recovery" will not be constituted by a return to the old ways. Recovery from addiction occurs as one learns how to get along without the addictive substance (or, at least, to moderate its use, as in the cases of food and money).

Easy credit and seemingly unlimited growth in the availability of new "stuff" to "need" have alienated us from each other and, ultimately, from our very selves. We don't really know each other or ourselves. We are become what we have. We don't have lives anymore, we have "lifestyles".

The really good news is that this long-predicted death rattle of post-capitalism can give the opportunity for self-examination and real change that we squandered in the aftermath of 911, when Dubbleduh told us to "go shopping" and "defeat the enemy" and "defend our way of life".

We must learn that shopping and "stuff" is not the solution, we have been our own worst enemies, and our way of life is no longer defensible. We must find each other. We must live within our means, in today, not in either the false dazzle or the black doom of tomorrow.

Be at and about peace.
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