Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Irish people drink and Freud's suggestive conception

OK, so I had planned to blog on the next addictions lesson – one on Proactivity, and I certainly plan on spending a lot of time on this, I want to back up for just a second to the blog I posted on Monday where I said that I may be suffering from Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome.

If you are familiar with Freud’s work, he went on and on and ON about the subconscious and the power of suggestive thinking. He is said to be the father of the subliminal psychology and representative symbology in the human psyche. So powerful was subconscious thought to Freud that I’m sure that when his own children were conceived, he probably wasn’t even in the room and instead just made several suggestions to Mrs. Freud about having kids for nine months until, POOF, out came a baby.

One day, allegedly, Freud was smoking a cigar (probably a congratulatory cigar after his wife birthed one of those ‘suggested’ babies, I dunno) – but anyway, he was smoking a cigar and someone asked him what he thought the cigar signified. Now – I am certain the student might have expected some long deeply thought out response that this cigar had some phallic significance, or that the particular hand he held it had some significance, but Freud simply responded, ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’

And this brings me to my analysis that I am suffering from Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. And while I am sure that this is a possibility, its also entirely possible that I am not suffering from ACUTE Withdrawal anything and instead suffering from CHRONIC hypochondria. That I am not suffering from any sort of physical withdrawal and instead, I just couldn't sleep one night, which made me tired, which made me cranky, which made me stressed out and not maintain peace of mind, which kept me up at night…. etc. And so you can see, maybe I am not suffering from any sort of fancy rehab diagnosis and instead just can’t sleep. Maybe the cigar is just a cigar.

But as I was thinking about this, I realized that alcohol or addiction is a form of self-medication and every good diagnosis has a really nice prescription, and alcohol is a way to self-medicate. And this is why, at least in my case, self-diagnosis is so dangerous, because this leads to self-medication.

And, so, although I am pretty excited most of the time about my progress through the program, addictive thinking can creep in where you least expect it – even when you are in the very process of avoiding addictive thinking. My God! This seems ludicrous. But, well, its all part of the self-awareness that we are trying to learn to develop here.

I will tell you that I did learn that it takes an average of 10 years from the time an alcoholic decides to get help to the time he can be considered successful in maintaining sobriety, and there are an average of 7 relapses. At first, this scared the crap out of me, but I realized that I’ve been trying to figure out this whole addiction malarky for about 4 or 5 years now on my own and have had some relapses, and so, I am not too worried about maintaining sobriety when I get out of here. I mean, Ozzy Osbourne has been trying to get sober for decades and since the 10 year marker is just an AVERAGE, then Ozzy really allows for some shortened recovery times on the flip side. Thanks Oz.

My point is that the process of recovery is intricate and not only one thing will work for me, especially when you consider there is about a decade that I may be working on this. One reason I didn’t drink during my weekend pass was because I am now in great shape and I was worried about the caloric intake and refined sugars in beer. That’s not the only reason, but it certainly crossed my mind and helped me to decide not to drink. And the thing about recovery is that there is no magic potion, no magic prescription. The ‘magic prescription’ I thought I discovered in alcohol is what brought me here to begin with, but the development of several layers of defense against the urges to partake in addiction all add up to a healthy armor. One night I was talking to my parents about relapse and I said that for some people, if they believe that magic green elves come out at night and sprinkle them with ferry dust to keep them from drinking, then that’s a solution. Whatever works.

And I’ve gotten some emails and some comments from people who are reading this blog and they have said that they have quit things like decade long drug habits and other addictions on their own, and I am sure that if I was to talk to them, they would each have a safeguard on how to buffer themselves from a relapse.

And this is awesome. You know, in Ireland, when you look at potato crops, you’ll notice the plots are surrounded by stone walls - this marks property as well as potato variations. And when there is a blight, the potatoes inside the walls often die and sometimes this forces a famine, the potatoes rot. Maybe after many centuries of this it explains why the Irish drink – (and hell if I am gonna let my life be dominated by the British!)

In Peru, the potato crops are surrounded or marked off by rows of bushes. In those bushes grow varieties of wild potatoes which are never picked or eaten. In fact, as individual potatoes go, they’re not really all that significant or important and could never amount to a meal. But they are there because if a blight occurs, the farmer goes into the bushes and finds the potato strains that survived the plague. Then he cross breeds the survivors with the old potato and a new potato is born resistant to the original blight. This is AWESOME! This is how a buffer zone to sobriety, to failure, to any part of your life works. You have many elements to survive the blight in your buffer – many insignificant, often unedible as they are- and you connect them with elements of your life (the crop) to become more resistant to blight.

And while all this is really cool, and I am glad that many people are getting something out of this, I am gonna end this blog entry with one thought. While all the connectedness is necessary, and its critical to think at all the intricacies of how sobriety or how avoiding ANY addiction or even a bad habit is going to work for each of us; in the maintenance of ANY goal we achieve, sometimes the answer is right in front of us and doesn’t require additional thought or deep analysis, and maybe over thinking a slight, a wrong, a failure helped feed the addiction or create the bad habit in the first place.

And its entirely OK that you don’t drink one time because of the calories in beer, and another time because beer makes you burp and another time because of the great destruction it leaves behind. And in my life I am going to have sleepless nights because I cant sleep or my neighbors car alarm is going off or because I drank too much Hawaiian Punch before bed. And in the grand scheme of things, I don’t have to over think my life every single second because sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And, what a relaxing thought…. One that will help me to sleep tonight.

Have a peaceful and SIMPLE day.

PS – to everyone who has been emailing and leaving me comments – WOW! Thanks, if you’d like me to write back to you, please leave me an email address. But, hearing all the stories of how you are managing your sobriety is SO good to hear and your kind words keep me really encouraged. As a side note, if anyone wants to know where you can get the world’s smallest fishing rod, I know a guy….


  1. Hey,
    I wish all the best for you man. I know many will label others because of what they don't understand, or for what they have never experienced. It takes a strong person to realize that they have a dependency, and are willing to deal with it head on. No matter how many times it takes to get it right. As long in the end that a person does get it right. We are all brought up in a society that is very different than the society that existed 50yrs ago. As a society we are brought up blaming others for our problems and misfortunes. Society has engrained in us to be a certain way, so that we may be socially acceptable. The United States of America was founded by people with alcoholic dependencies, and we as a culture use alcohol to become more formalized in this culture. In the end though, people can become so dependent on alcohol that it becomes socially unacceptable. There is a dual standard here. Society has created monsters that it can no longer control, and it not only affects our families but also our livelyhood. As a society we are sheep, and as individuals we are smart. Society has not stepped up to the plate to take responsibility for what it has created. I hope this made any bit of sense.


  2. I wish you the best in your jouney. I have watched a friend on his up and down path of alcholilism. He is a very good man, that just turned to the wrong comfort source. He lost his daughter, his government job, his home, and the love of his life because of it. He is in rehab now, and I do all I can to support him. Along with that I had to walk away from the man I loved because he is an alcholic, and it stills hurts me. You have a fan in me, and hopefully I can take some of your words as a comfort to them. If you want a email pal my email is I will right back.

  3. Hey, Id like to hear from you. Been fighting addiction for a long time. Meth, and Oxycontin.
    Both my parents were alcoholics, lost my dad from it in 2003. Mom claims to never had a problem, Yea right!!! My childhood was pure hell. email me at