Addictions aren't caused by the substances to which we're addicted. They're caused by unpleasant thoughts and feelings that our addictive and compulsive behaviours allow us to avoid. Alcoholism is no different: it is not the drug of alcohol that we're addicted to, it's a specific set of conflicts and problems that we're trying to get away from.
Alcoholics have two serious unresolved conflicts that together create the alcoholic addiction. Therefore, alcoholism is really a syndrome.
Two unresolved conflicts of alcoholism syndrome:
1. the liquid conflict - "all flow is my enemy!" which results when we have a conflict-shock experience relating to water or other liquid. The most common example is near-drowning, but this conflict also arises, for example, if a fisherman's boat is damaged and his livelihood is threatened, or if a fuel truck driver's vehicle is in an accident and the liquid leaks out everywhere. Liquid conflicts can also be metaphorical - such as conflicts of "liquidity" and cash "flow." However, there really does have to be some tendency toward this type of conflict based on literal liquid or water conflicts earlier in life. This conflict affects the kidney parenchyma, and in healing phase produces a nephroblastoma, formerly called "Wilm's tumour."
2. the existence conflict - "I am all alone in the desert!" which is also a water conflict, but one in which we hold on to every spare drop of water possible. Our culture, promoting "rugged individualism" as an ideal, does nothing to help us to resolve this conflict, so it is extremely common. The existence conflict affects the kidney collecting tubules, making them tighten up so that we retain water. Whenever this conflict is active, all healing-phase symptoms (from other, resolved conflicts) are severely exaggerated.
These two separate conflicts of alcoholism syndrome set up a very difficult system any time we are unfortunate to experience the two together, because the two conflicts exaggerate one another. Exaggerated conflicts are difficult to resolve because we're so caught up in them that we can't think objectively about our situation.
On the one hand, an alcoholic will do whatever she can to surround herself with other people, belongings, collections, in order to try to resolve the sense of loneliness and isolation that comes with the unresolved existence conflict.
On the other hand, in the alcoholic's subconscious effort to resolve the liquid conflict, all "flow" or "liquidity" of any kind is the enemy. Metaphorically speaking, this usually relates immediately to money. Alcoholics literally "piss away" their money. They also tend to divert other kinds of flow such as networking opportunities, opportunities to expand relationships to become helpful to them in building a secure life that would help the alcoholic to overcome her isolation conflict.
The rate of alcoholism is rising around the world particularly in coastal areas because the loss of the extended family and tribal social structure in favour of modern Western individualism both sets people up for the existence conflict and makes them more susceptible to being overwhelmed by and unable to resolve liquid conflicts that they may experience.
Alcoholics only find refuge from these two opposing conflicts by getting themselves into a state of low blood sugar, camaraderie, and forgetfulness. Alas, this addled, drunken state just makes for a whole range of new conflict experiences that we can't deal with properly. So the hangover from both the blood sugar effects and sleep deprivation and the awakening to how much of a jerk we've made of ourselves the night before puts us in an even worse conflict situation. The quick fix solution? Another drink. And so the addiction cycle is set up.
Then, to make the whole matter even worse, alcholics almost always have rather serious financial problems due to both their hoarding, packrat tendencies, and their tendency to spend their money as fast as they can. This repeated cycle of financil problems creates yet another conflict that drinking helps the alcoholic to avoid. The consequence of repeated, small "starvation conflicts" leads to cirrhosis of the liver.
Healing Alcoholism Syndrome
Alcoholics must first resolve the existence conflict. Anyone who has the existence conflict (which is more and more of us these days) really needs to deal with it first and foremost. This will be the most immediate, pressing concern. This is why a rehabilitation facility and then the group and sponsor support of Alcoholics Anonymous is so crucial in the first stages of recovery. We cannot begin to heal when we are lost in the desert and terrified for our very existence.
Once the existence conflict has had a deliberate and reliable resolution, an alcoholic can then gain enough self-awareness to first intervene in the addiction cycle and, second, uncover and resolve the liquidity conflict.
In other words, once an alcoholic finds a sense of being anchored in supported safety, she will have the strength to take charge of her conflicts and find the most appropriate resolution for her.
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