“OTHERS DRINK JUST AS MUCH.”
How denial and downplay of personal consumption strengthen the spiral of addiction
Bad Brückenau, Germany, June 2015 – The process of addiction develops gradually – and that is what makes it so dangerous. In a society that handles alcohol consumption quite leniently and even encourages it from a social-communicative perspective, alcoholics find a multitude of excuses to rationalize or trivialize their growing addiction. The therapists at the My Way Betty Ford Klinik are committed to shedding light on the topics surrounding addiction and on how to deal with addiction while also raising public awareness of the disease.
Addiction often develops over a matter of years. This is nothing new. Yet those who are affected – both addicts and their relatives – often remain unaware. How is it possible for a situation to develop in which alcohol abuse and addiction are hardly noticed by the affected person and those around them? In many cases, those close to an addicted person often become accustomed to the use of alcohol without noticing, because the increase in consumption develops gradually and can be concealed over a longer period of time.
How do people get caught in a spiral of addiction? Initially, those affected start drinking alcohol almost without noticing to relax and unwind as well as at social events. It is always possible to find justified reasons for drinking; reasons that are socially acceptable or even quite significant. Yet little by little, alcohol becomes a tool for reducing psychological stress, depression and fear. It soon becomes an indispensable companion for dealing with conflict, emotions and personal development. Those affected deny the shameful truth by elevating alcohol in their minds to being a kind of medicine or lifeblood, which makes it appear positive to the addict and to others. By denying their addiction in such a way, those affected lose the ability – particularly in stressful situations – to abstain. Advanced stages of addiction are characterized by a loss of control. Even a small amount of alcohol soon leads to an intense desire for more, and if those affected are feeling miserable, this in turn leads to drinking even more. At the same time, an addicted person is not able to accept their inability to achieve long-term abstinence. Time and again, they try to control themselves, to “get a hold of themselves”, while counting on
their strong will and their own “strength”. In their attempt to deceive themselves, as well as the people around them who are becoming increasingly critical and less willing to accept the problem, addicts start setting their own drinking rules, such as “not before 2 p.m.”, “no more hard liquor”, “only one beer each evening” and so on. However, attempts to prove to others that they have their alcohol consumption under control, such as completely giving up drinking or taking breaks, fail time and again – sometimes due to the tempting: “Come on, have a drink with us!” Withdrawal symptoms are what often lead alcoholics to ultimately give up all attempts to control the situation themselves.
At this point, addicts become experts at covering up. They do not want to lose face – not to those around them, and most especially not to themselves. Excuses, lies and strategies for explaining every possible situation become routine. Intensified by the fear of being criticized and accused by those around them, an all-encompassing quest begins to find opportunities to drink without others noticing. With an unerring instinct, most addicts set themselves the rule to not drink in front of others and to hide their stock of alcohol. Because it is often no longer possible to drink the amount of alcohol that has become necessary around others, addicts often start drinking hard liquor or use straws to facilitate the absorption of alcohol in the mouth. To help mitigate withdrawal symptoms and to continue to be able to meet social obligations, addicts then also start drinking in the morning. Many of those affected are already drunk when they show up for appointments and continue drinking in secret. Convinced that they are the victim, those affected blame their dilemma on “the others” or their circumstances. This method of explanation is expanded to cover every aspect of daily life as alcohol starts to occupy all spheres of life. Alcohol increasingly becomes a universal remedy for all kinds of problems and conflicts that do not seem to have any other solution. At the same time, their ability to face conflicts, problems and challenges decreases without the use of intoxicants. Alcohol also becomes necessary for positive situations to be able to feel the mood better and to “really enjoy things”.
Keeping social disparities in mind by making a “top to bottom comparison” makes it even more difficult for those affected to accept their own problems. A “drinker” is still thought of as equivalent to the image of a bum under a bridge, and addiction is associated with social decline. However, this is seldom the case! By elevating themselves above the stereotype of a neglected, destitute alcoholic,
addicts are able to perceive and condemn uncomfortable issues based on a projection of someone else instead of themselves. Feelings of inferiority or powerlessness can be averted using such projections and allow addict to trivialize their own drinking behavior. Alcoholics also use other comparisons to make their own consumption appear “normal”: “If my neighbor is ordering a third glass, then I can’t be that bad.” Yet a situation that is not a problem for one person can indeed be a problem for an addict. Their neighbor will be able to stop drinking after the third glass and will not feel the need to drink for days afterwards. Addicts, in contrast, might continue to drink when they are back home or will also feel the need to drink alcohol on the days that follow. Self-deception is also a topic when it comes to the kind of alcohol or the amount consumed. “I only drink beer and not hard liquor.” – “A glass of champagne every once in a while doesn’t make me an alcoholic.” – “Two or three beers each evening are not a lot; almost everybody drinks that much.” These kinds of statements that play down an addiction can be heard quite often. Excuses, lies and strategies for explaining every possible situation become routine; it is all a matter of covering it up.
What happens if their family, friends or employer broach the topic of a possible alcohol problem? In particular when mistakes or shortcomings are involved, bringing up the issue is often experienced as being attacked or exposed and is vehemently denied. Even in cases involving a power struggle, competition and rivalry, this kind of degradation – and any kind of criticism will be understood as such – will not be accepted. Following failure that is true or suspected or after insults that are real or presumed, in particular in front of others, any suspicion that addiction is involved will be strongly denied. Ironically, these very indications from the outside are crucial for showing an addict the relevance of their problem. Without subjective suffering, little can be expected from therapy. It is only when the agony of addiction is greater than the agony of quitting that an addict will be ready for withdrawal or weaning. This then requires an addict to give up the secrecy of their addiction – but not without support.
With a wide assortment of offers, the therapists at My Way Betty Ford Klinik support addicts in acknowledging their addiction and in finding help. Representatives from the center regularly give presentations in different cities regarding the topic of addiction. Publications from the center have been printed in numerous newspapers and journals. Information is available for addicts, relatives and care givers on the
center homepage including types of addictions, their consequences and therapeutic treatment options. For those who are interested, comprehensive flyers and brochures are available from the center and information can also be requested over the phone. It is also possible for patients and their relatives to make an appointment for a preliminary consultation along with a tour of the center. Before beginning therapy, patients are asked to fill out an addiction-based medical history form, which requires them to confront themselves and their addiction. During their introduction to their group, events about addiction and admission consultation with physicians and therapists, patients receive increased insight into the problematic of their addiction. Discretion regarding all patient related information is of utmost importance at the Betty Ford Klinik. The following still applies for addicts: To be able to acknowledge an addiction and take part in withdrawal, an addict must give up the secrecy surrounding their addiction at least during therapy.
Profile of My Way Betty Ford Klinik:
My Way Betty Ford Klinik in Bad Brückenau is the leading addiction treatment and substance withdrawal center in Germany. The intensive therapy program is unique in Germany and is targeted at private patients and self-payers. 36 single rooms are available to accommodate patients. Absolute discretion is our top priority . The competence team of our center is committed to the goal of accompanying their patients on their way to a fresh start in life, equipped with new abilities and without addictive substances. Our therapists have longstanding experience in the treatment of addiction and, for many years, have been offering further training for general physicians treating patients with addictions. Against this background, the management of the center has decided to promote the information of the public on topics such as dependence, detoxification and withdrawal and to sensitize for the condition.
My Way Betty Ford Klinik opened its doors in 2006 quickly acquired an excellent reputation throughout Germany. Our therapy concept is based on the successful therapies used at the Betty Ford Center in California, USA.
My Way Betty Ford Klinik® GmbH
Fon: 0800 / 55 747 55