26th April, At home by the Lake in East Pattaya.

3 Months, 26 Days – still sober

What Mobi did

Yesterday, Noo went to her English school with her son and when they returned in mid-afternoon I drove them back into Pattaya and the three of us went bowling. This was the first time that that they had ever been into a bowling alley and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and had a great time. I was a bit concerned about playing myself as my wrecked wrist of a year back has been causing me pain of late, but I decided to give it a go and it wasn’t too bad.

I used to go bowling occasionally with my last wife, Dang and her son but I must confess that I always found it a drag and never really enjoyed myself. I would always order a few beers and after playing a couple of games, I would just sit and watch them and get thoroughly drunk. But yesterday at the Bowling Alley, as with going to the beach on Sunday, I actually felt happy and enjoyed myself. It was good to be with two lovely people and share in the fun and watch the delight on their faces.

On our way out, we came across a large pool hall in the same complex, so Noo and Junior decided to have a game of pool while I walked a few shops down to explore a second hand book shop. The shop was a veritable treasure trove of ancient books, both hard and paper back and I rummaged with great gusto. One of my weaknesses is book stores, especially large ones that carry extensive collections; I can browse for hours. I found three novels by three of my favourite authors, all of which I had not previously read. They were Shirley (Charlotte Bronte), The Rainbow (DH Lawrence) and A Pair of Blue Eyes (Thomas Hardy) all for the princely sum of 240 Baht. I was well pleased, as they say…

Back home, we all enjoyed a repast of ham and cheese ‘toasties’ and English sausage sandwiches, liberally dosed with HP sauce. I don’t know who enjoyed them more – me or my little Thai ‘family’.

Alcoholism, AA and God

Here, in part, is a comment made recently on my blog by PholoenMobi:

….This notion of an alcoholic needing a year to “get his sober legs” is some kind of wives tail in AA. The literature never mentions it. Bluntly, it is BS.

The literature, over and over quite frankly spells out the instructions for attaining a spiritual awakening and connection with a higher power, for this is the solution AA puts forth. Both Bill W. and Dr Bob achieved their spiritual awakenings quite soon after practicing the principals such as the needed amends and confession of one’s personality defects to God and another. Alcoholics whole heartedly availing themselves of the practical program of action (12 steps) can have the sustained and lasting abstinence as well as the serenity and peace of mind that come from a spiritual awakening and connection with God. After this has occurred one doesn’t feel very “wobbly” One is transformed …. hope that helps….

 

And, here, in much detail, is my response.

An overwhelming majority of the world’s medical experts are now agreed that alcoholism is a disease. This is due in no small part to the widespread scientific medical research in this field which has very clearly identified a number of factors which clearly show that alcoholics do suffer from certain brain ‘abnormalities’ which distinguish them from their fellow drinkers, who do not suffer from such ‘abnormalities’.

As far back as the 1970’s scientists identified a substance called Tetrahydrolsoqulnoline in the brains of alcoholics or THIQ, which hitherto had only been closely related to heroin addicts. Further research clearly established that THIQ is manufactured in the brain and only occurs in the brain of the alcoholic drinker. It does not exist in the brain of the normal social drinker of alcohol. THIQ has been found to be highly addictive. In experiments it was found to be a pretty good pain killer but it couldn’t be used as such because it turned out to be even more addictive than morphine.

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 alcoholic, at some point, maybe sooner, maybe later, the alcoholic will cross over a shadowy line into a whole new way of living.

It is still not known 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. With the loss of control, the complex symptoms have become chronic. All aspects of physiology have become progressive and incurable. Now it is clearly a disease.

All alcoholics suffer from cognitive dysfunction as a result of drinking massive quantities of alcohol over an extended period. The extent of this dysfunction will vary from individual to individual and will depend on many factors, including age, and the length of time the person has been drinking. When talking about cognitive function, I am referring to:

1. Distractibility

2. Mild confusion

3. Irritability

4. Attention and concentration

5. Reaction time

6. Verbal learning ability

7. Verbal abstract reasoning

8. Verbal short term memory

9. Non-verbal abstract reasoning

10. Mental flexibility

11. Non-verbal short term memory

12.Visuospatial ability  

Research has now established after 2 months of abstinence, items 1-3 above will usually have shown significant recovery, but items 4-8 can take anything from 2 months to 5 years to show improvement and items 9 -11 can take up to 7 years, with item 12, maybe never showing signs of recovery.

The brains of long term, heavy drinkers shrink, but they return to almost full normal size after a long period of abstinence or moderate drinking. Long-term, heavy drinking kills some white brain cells and some of the grey cells which are responsible for spatial processing; however, it does not kill any other grey cells. In particular, the grey cells which are responsible for thinking, decision making, and other cognitive processes remain intact even in long-term, heavy drinkers. Unless there is permanent brain damage which is due to thiamine deficiency or liver failure, nearly all brain functions of alcohol dependent drinkers can be returned to normal with a long period of abstinence or moderate drinking. Cognitive functioning tends to return to normal when brain size returns to normal.

All this is assuming that the alcoholic is not suffering from a condition known as ‘wet brain’ or Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which is a form of brain damage, which is characterized by severe amnesia, confabulation (inventing events to fill in the black-out gaps in memory), and sometimes dementia.

In general terms, most medical practitioners who are concerned with the treatment of recovering alcoholics, will agree that the first year of abstinence is crucial and that during that period great care must be taken with the alcoholic’s lifestyle to ensure that he/she is kept away from temptation as much as possible and that during this critical period when the cognitive functions are slowly improving, that not too much pressure or expectations can be put on him/her. I personally have met literally dozens of long-term sober alcoholics who have impressed upon me how important that very first year is for a recovering alcoholic. They are all agreed that life changing decisions during this early period should be avoided, whenever possible.

Alcoholism is a disease. The sufferer has THIQ in his brain and it will never go away, and for him alcohol is a dangerous and potentially deadly chemical to which he has a lifelong addiction. Over time, the alcoholic can train himself to resist the temptation to take what he desires more than anything and he can become an almost normal, sober member of society, but he will never be completely cured.

Can God cure Cancer? Or heart disease? Some may claim that he can, but they are in the extreme minority – a religious fringe element, most would conclude. For most of us, the only cure for cancer is medical treatment – surgery, chemo therapy etcetera and as far as I am aware, although I have never consulted with any cancer specialists, God has no part in this process.

So why does God suddenly have this miraculous ability to relieve alcoholics of their disease, as so many recovering members of AA believe? I think we might find the answer in the nature of the disease – the fact that alcoholics – to one extent or another – are suffering from some degree of mental impairment. They are unable to think clearly and rationally and their powers of logical reasoning are severely compromised.

Medical science has already established that it can take years, if at all, for a sober alcoholic to recover all of his cognitive functions, so isn’t it fairly obvious that such people would be vulnerable to the heady and attractive ideas propounded by AA religious zealots? Then, if we add into the mix the fact that most, if not all alcoholics are also social misfits in one way or another, with many suffering from such diseases as manic depression, agoraphobia, OCD and so on.

I can confirm that from first-hand experience, I too was taken in by the ‘spiritual teachings’ of AA  and to this day I still accept that the exploring of your own spirituality can  be a powerful weapon in the arsenal of an alcoholic in his fight to stay sober. But as for the notion that there is a God out there who knows all about me, and will help me personally if I seek his help, if I do his bidding, work the 12 steps and try to lead an exemplary life? I’m sorry; it is a very praiseworthy ethos, but for me, it is a bridge too far.

This doesn’t mean that I dismiss the power and proven ability of AA to bring countless thousands of alcoholics to a life of sobriety. And if the only way these people can remain sober is to embrace a personal God in their life, then it is no bad thing. Indeed, if an alcoholic asked me for help today, I would have no hesitation in taking him to the next AA meeting and if, as a consequence, he embraced the conception of a Higher Power and by doing this and working the 12 steps, he found his way to sobriety, then I would be absolutely delighted for him.

There are a great many psychiatrists and psychologists who have years of experience in this field; from the eminent Carl Jung, right up to the Belgian therapist who worked with me last year, who all acknowledge that spirituality has a huge part to play in the recovery of most alcoholics. Quite why this is, nobody really knows, but we do know that the brain still contains many unsolved mysteries. Maybe the effect of THIQ on the brain lays bare that so-called God Spot that neurologists claim to have discovered.

There are many documented cases of patients with a certain type of brain tumour who suddenly become very religious, amidst claims that God is talking to them. Then, when their tumour is removed, so are their religious convictions. I am sure that amongst all this – still to be researched ‘brain science’ – that one day we will find the answers to these unexplained mysteries and I doubt that the answer will be that alkies have a direct line to God.

Butt….

3 thoughts on “26th April, At home by the Lake in East Pattaya.”

  1. Hi Mobi,
    Thank you. You’ve put forth a great deal of information from the medical community about alcoholism, some of which I was not aware of. No doubt there have been many advancements in the field of addiction and alcoholism by the medical community. Obviously to the extent where they have made more progress in identifying how alcoholics differ from non-alcoholics ie.. this mention of THIQ. Also more detailed observations of the the return of brain function, over time, with continued abstinence.

    After reading, one thing is still clear. With all the advancements in identifying how alcoholics are different than others and the observations of what brain function/abilities return during continued abstinence, the medical community still has no cure or proven method of giving real alcoholics sustained and lasting abstinence. As well, no pill or other therapy has been developed that will allow a real alcoholic to again “drink like a gentleman” or just have a couple with dinner and leave it alone.

    Carl Jung, the doctor considered the father of modern psychology in fact gave Alcoholics Anonymous the only way out that he had known and observered for real alcoholics. This is a quote from page 27 of the AA big book.

    “Here and there, once in awhile, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena.”

    and so on.

    In essence what you have provided is detailed observation from the medical community of an alcoholics mind as well as what’s been observed to recover upon sustained abstinence.

    What I get from your blog is just basically a statement of your reluctance to go through with the AA’s practical program of action (12 steps) and a justification for why you feel you can give yourself sustained abstinence without God. My hat is off to you dear sir if you can indeed pull it off. What I found out, over and over, is I could not.

    There is a statement which equates alcoholism with cancer and a conclusion that if there is no evidence God can cure cancer than God cannot cure alcoholics. This is indeed so. But let me say that there is a huge difference between being cured and being recovered or relieved.

    The main point to understand is that, as of now, alcoholism cannot be cured. Someday there may be a cure, but to this day there is none. AA does not offer a cure, it offers a return to sanity. The insanity being the thinking before the 1st drink that occurs within all real alcoholics yet recovered. This strange thinking occurs over and over again even though a strong desire to abstain exists. It is what perplexes most non-sufferers. They cannot understand. “Of what is he thinking?” “Why does he do it if every time means heartache?” These are common thoughts among outside observers.

    Distinct differences are made between non-alcoholics and alcoholics in the AA book. Their bodies are quite as different as their minds. This is just as the medical community has known for a good 75 years.

    Alcoholics have an allergy of the body coupled with an obsession of the mind. This is what the disease is simply put. The medical community has more or less confirmed it.

    Abstinence is the only way out for the allergy of the body because alcoholics cannot control the amount they take once they start. It sounds simple to take care of but unfortunately that is only half of the problem. Since alcoholics also possess the obsession of the mind they are doomed to repeat the mistake of the first drink over and over to the gates of insanity or death.

    AA simply states that a strong connection with a God of ones own understanding will return the suffer to sanity where before the insanity of the 1st drink would always eventually win and thus another debacle.

    Many alcoholics go to AA searching for answers an unfortunately rarely hear what I’ve just written. I do my best to bring the truth about the program of AA to any meeting I go to. I must sign off for now, because in one hour I will be meeting with a sponsee who is a real alcoholic and will try to help. This is the spiritual life I try to lead now. I was doomed to nothing but heartache and failure, probably even death before.

    Hope this might help.
    Pholoen Mobi

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