Eliminating Addictions From Our Lives

This article is going to pull together all the strands of my thinking on the subject of addictions from a RC perspective. It will start with my own personal experience, my own story. It will then go on to examine addictions in relation to other area of oppression, and finally, will look at how to conquer addictions totally. A lot of what is written here has come out of my own thinking and the thinking/discharge of people I have called together to work on addictions. It's come also from work Cathy Itzin has done in this area.

MY OWN STORY - ALCOHOL AND OTHER ADDICTIONS

Beginnings

I remember as a child that alcohol was strictly forbidden by my father. Yet my mother was a secret drinker knocking back the sherry in the food larder in the kitchen and getting morbidly drunk before the ritual Sunday lunch each week. She also took tranquilizers, which got her in to a fuzzy, aggressive, and distraught "high." I just assumed all adults did this to deal with their painful feelings.

Rows always ensued from these Sunday binges. At Christmas my father would buy lots of bottles of drink, especially spirits. They would sit gleaming on the sideboard, deep ambers, golds, and chestnuts warm and inviting. Yet also mysterious and obviously dangerous. Noone was allowed to touch them unless asked. My parents also smoke like chimneys - my father around forty or sixty cigarettes day, my mother a modest twenty. Yet, they would warn me of the dangers of smoking - and were genuinely distressed when I suffered asthma, bronchitis, and bronchia pneumonia (five times from eighteen months to fifteen years).

When things got tough - which they did regularly - my mother would drug herself up with painkillers, anti-depressants, antibiotics, cigarettes, tea, and of course the secret sherry (and sometimes whiskey) in the cupboard.

There were times in fact when she gave me sleeping pills and tranquilizers. I remember her placing half tablet by my bedside and instructing me to take it; it would make me feel better. It was certainly nice to feel the rapid languor rushing through my veins and stomach and to feel long-awaited sleep descend almost effortlessly. Sleep was always a problem for me as a child. I almost never, ever, relaxed. Getting ill got me some attention.

Even though there was always alcohol in the house, my father would watch the bottle like a hawk. In fact, I can remember him marking the sides of the bottles to see if the level went down. It always did. We all knew it was my mother, but nobody said anything about it. It was a tense, unspoken acknowledgment. Sometimes my father would offer a drink, but never two. He would regale us with stories from the Navy (he ran away to sea at sixteen, a lonely, working-class lad) about two brothers, twins, who drank a half pint of rum on their birthday and dropped down, stone-cold dead.

I was also told, not directly, that both my grandfathers had been heavy drinkers. Both had been feckless, weak womanizers, and both had hit the bottle to deal with their emotional and financial problems, which, of course, had actually got worse through their hitting the bottle.

So the messages were confused and confusing, yet I was given drugs, offered drinks sometimes, and laughed at when I screwed up my nose at the pungent bitter taste, drowned in cups of tea (true British cure-for-all-ills) and lived in a permanent wheezy fog from my parents' exhaled cigarettes. I also learned that the only activity worth anything after working hard was watching TV (interspersed with the occasional binge at the pub or bowling club).

Teenage Dealings

I was a secretive teenager. My mother was constantly in and out of mental health system institutions, my father had a cardiac arrest, and I, a single child, was left to hold the fort. I developed, from eleven on, a private world. This world included alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex, and other addictive substances.

At fourteen I learned to get drunk by drinking large quantities of cider or beer (cheap) and sometimes spirits. Having boyfriends who were ten years older brought me into contact with a lot of rum, gin, and whiskey; it also introduced me to wine (then quite rare in Britain as a drink).

I remember the sense of desperation on "Saturday night" when my three friends and I would club our money together and buy a bottle of Martin! or something stronger and furtively drink it down. We would buy cigarettes and smoke them till we went green. It was a secret initiation; it was naughty, it was definitely exciting, it defeated the boredom and it went against what the adults wanted us to do. It also made us feel good, cosy and warm, and less isolated.

My early teens, up until eighteen, were spent doing a lot of drinking and experimenting. I got used to dealing with hangovers and hid the effects of booze from my parents. I did a lot of rough travelling (like camping to Russia and back), and realized that drinking in Europe was far easier and cheaper. That remained a major attraction about foreign travel up till two years ago. Going out and having fun was synonymous with going out and getting plastered. I would also drink rather than eat and become quite anorexic.

It continued until a major event happened in my life. At eighteen, I got run over by a ten-ton lorry and spent a year of my life in hospital and rehabilitation centre. I was completely disorientated, had no idea what had happened to me, could not understand why it had happened. In some sense it was a profound relief to get run over. It meant I could relinquish all responsibility for myself and my own (and my parents') problems. It also meant I would (at last) get some attention (just like getting sick as a child). I didn't throw myself under the lorry, I was hit by it from behind. But I could have fallen two ways, under the wheels, or onto the pavement. I chose the former, and I remember thinking in a flash, "Oh well, that's it, then."

In rehabilitation centre the drinking started again, and in earnest. In hospital I had been pumped full of drugs - I had been dying for the first two weeks - morphine, pethadine, distalgesics, then largactil and other anti-depressants. I had got hooked on morphine and tried to get more than my quota.

In rehabilitation centre life was hard. I had to come to terms with my now-permanent disabilities. I had to learn to walk again. I also had to deal with months of pent-up emotional confusion. (I remember the nurses in hospital teasing me for "breaking down" and crying, and I was told to be a brave girl in the rehab. centre). Nonetheless, I was heavily drugged every day and night; we would cue up for our sweeties four times a day. It certainly broke the monotony and it certainly seemed to cure both the physical and emotional pain. But as with all drugs, I became hardened to their effects too soon and they began to wear off.

So the inmates of the centre took to drink. There was generally an unspoken law - you didn't talk about your accident or injury, you smiled and got on with it. People would banter and tell jokes (usually "sick" ones), and we would rub along together discussing the food or the weather. Nighttimes we would escape to the pub, and we all would down as much potent alcohol as we possibly could in the shortest amount of time. This, mixed with our drugs, was a powerful concoction and we felt less and less like invalids, more like "normal" people.

My room-mate and I hid vast quantities of vodka in bottles of orange juice. We would slug this back before visiting time and blur our way through painful visits from those who tried hard to, but couldn't, understand. So it went on.

On my release, six months later, I was very fit, I could even run and do press ups. But I was now a heavy drinker.

To my credit, I didn't "crack up;" in fact, I came out of the centre, threw away my sleeping pills and tranquilizers and was successful in doing some exams and getting a place at University (I'd dropped out of school before I'd been run over, so this was an improvement). Yet, drink and now marijuana became my secret answer to success; it helped to numb me enough to be "normal" among my able-bodied friends. In fact, with the aid of drink I was able to climb the Pyrenees a year later, and to camp all the way to Turkey and back. I was also able to push myself through a strenuous academic programme and to live life up to the full.

Student Days

Having come back from the dead my student days were delirious. I met and formed an intense relationship with a German man who knew a lot about wine and drinking in general. Student existence for me was very much wrapped up with drinking, taking drugs, experimenting, and having sex. All the repression of my childhood years, all the volumes of unspoken experience during my accident overflowed, and I was able to drink them away in peaceful oblivion.

I went to live in Germany and enjoyed a Bohemian existence with artists, writers, and natural scientists. Drink was key to our lives - we had champagne breakfasts, we stayed up all night drinking crates of beer and philosophizing, we drank schnaps early in the morning in the mountains. All the years of loneliness as a single child of working class parents with enormous problems slipped away as I was able to be classless and foreign. Drink numbed my physical pain (from the accident) and also my confusion about who I was. I was always the centre of a party, a desperate, energetic force wanting to have fun, fun, fun.

Underneath it all I was desperately unhappy. I wasn't able to carry out my job properly, I never got down and wrote my short-stories and poems, and I felt all the time that I could die at any minute. My relationship foundered as I got repeatedly drunk and picked fights (recordings from my home), and ended up having desperate drunken affairs with people.

I was desperate and I was drinking and my world was about to shatter.

I came back to England to do an MA, which I did, but at no mean cost. I had no money, but my drinking continued. My relationship snapped finally, but I had lots of desperate and unhappy affairs. I had a lot of illnesses over the next year, some serious, culminating in a major operation.

Turning Point

I took up a teacher training place, having moved to London from Brighton, and my drinking was accelerated. Yet everybody about me - at home in my nine-person communal house and on my teaching course - were drinking heavily too. It was "wonderful." I started to buy crates of wine, a dozen bottles of dry white Italian. I thought it would last months; it usually lasted a week. I got the habit from an owning-class woman in my house. We drank a bottle a day, at least, each. Yet I continued to maintain a "successful" social facade and managed to scrape my money together. I would always find enough money to drink. In fact, the booze shop down the road would have probably gone bankrupt without me!

About this time I was introduced to Co-Counselling. A friend, Linda Seymour, who had recently moved to London, saw me in a state of suppressed distress one day, sat me down on her bed, and said: "Right, you've got ten minutes; go ahead and tell me what's going on." In five seconds I was blubbering like a baby. Two months later I was in a fundamentals class, still drinking heavily, still a good-time-girl, but beginning to feel real for the first time in my life. I was beginning to feel the floor under my feet, to see a sky above, and to actually have a glimpse of things possibly being all right.

Stopping Drinking for Good

Two years later I had stopped drinking. No one told me to, no one suggested it, no one even took me to one side and had a word in my ear. I simply decided - of my own volition, to stop.

How did this come about? First, the sheer power I felt from becoming a Co-Counsellor. In the first few months the discharge just dropped off me. The power of those initial validations was enormous. I went through two fundamentals classes because I got so much out of it. I also began to see I was alive, that I had survived and that I didn't have to continue struggling in the same way I had all my life.

The steps towards stopping drinking were gradual but firm. The more power I took in Co-Counselling, the less I felt like destroying myself. I felt a secret shame at the thought that I was still drinking like a fish, but preserving a facade of well-being. The more people genuinely validated me, and the more I was able to feel it, the less I felt like carrying on. Yet, I couldn't imagine life without drink, had no idea how I would cope without it. An alcohol-free existence seemed colourless, bleak, and uninviting.

So how did I stop? Three things happened:

(1) One night in April 1982 I staggered in from the pub and rolled into bed. I opened Present Time, and my eye fell on an article, and I received a profound shock. Here was a letter from Caroline Stevens and Maria Tittley about my secret problem. The article, "Counselling on Distress Around Alcohol" (Present Tim No. 47) told me:

(a) about the need for counsellor to discharge their disgust around drinking;

(b) how we have internalized shame around drinking;

(c) how chronic drinking patterns aren't hereditary, and that these patterns weren't any different from other peoples' chronic patterns (and indeed chronics in general).

I felt both horrified and deeply relieved. At last there was something written and out in the open about drinking. I wasn't the only one! I had always assumed heavy drinking was hereditary (and therefore we could do nothing about it) - but I could actually take charge and stop if I wanted to!

(2) In May, 1982, I went to a Educational Change Workshop led by Don Clarke, assisted by Debbi Wilson. For some reason, I felt strong and powerful going to this workshop, and it showed. (I always felt relieved going to workshop because you couldn't drink there - permission from outside to stop.) I was asked to lead a section. This filled me with such terror and pride that on returning home I went out for meal and sipped (rather slugged) my customary drink. I felt an extra ordinary sensation, like a cloud passing across and through my forehead; my tongue became like large spongy marshmallow, filling my mouth. I realized that I had been feeling good before drinking, and that the alcohol made me feel stupid and heavy. Usually it pepped me up; now it was depressing me. Somehow, taking power at the work shop had shifted gears inside of me. I put the drink down and ordered tonic water.

(3) By June, 1982, my life was breaking up yet again. My communal existence with nine people was on the rocks, and I had decided to leave and live on my own. As the departure date drew near, I was drinking more and more. It felt like was bleeding inside. My birthday came around just before I was leaving. With fixed and insincere grins people handed me presents, and got sickeningly drunk. I needed to client, but instead turned it on myself. Next morning I awoke and discovered I had been sick into my wastepaper basket in the night. I felt completely disgusted with myself and felt I would never want to do I again. I couldn't imagine myself as counselling leader at that moment. I also couldn't remember what had happened the night before (an increasingly familiar syndrome). So a week later....

On 25th June 1982 I stopped drinking altogether. Three days after I'd already realised that drink was:

(a) a means of relaxing (especially sleeping at night);

(b) a means of getting close to people (especially through sex);

(c) a means of turning off all thoughts and feelings, all consciousness.

I felt dreadful. I wrote in my diary "I feel terrible, I'm obsessed with drink, I feel thirsty all the time, have a deep longing, a deep hunger. I wake every morning with a hang over! It's as if I've been out on the tiles all night. It feels as if there's absolutely no point in going on - is there any life at all without drink? How do people exist without it? How can I get through hours of being with people, or talking about difficult things or dealing with stress?"

In fact, each night I slept a deep, deep sleep. It felt like I was at the bottom of a well of deep exhaustion. Gradually, over three months, I began to haul myself out of it. In Caroline and Marian's article they had said, "if your client gives up drinking he or she is likely to face chronic material and heavy fear which people don't normally face." That was certainly true of me. My discharging took off at high speed - the sweat, shakes, and tears rolling off in a completely new way. I also started to lead in RC and take charge over my life in an entirely new way, almost for the first time ever.

I also simultaneously gave up smoking marijuana and the odd cigarette, and took greater control over my diet and health. I moved into my own flat and lived on my own and also established, for the first time in four years, a new and powerful relationship with a man. This man, Peter Baker, and my best friend, Linda Seymour (who had introduced me to RC) also stopped drinking, both because they decided it was right for them, and also in support of me.

The next six months were difficult. I didn't know how to be with people, or how to have any social life. My job was intensely alcohol centred (I worked for a union and also was active in the staff trades union - very alcoholic activities). I withdrew and counselled and felt more isolated than ever. Then one day, in November of 1982, I decided to lead a workshop on "Giving Up Addictions and Living." I shared my experiences with people and we looked at our own addictions - smoking, eating, TV, sex, nail-biting, and we found a lot of common threads. Mainly self-invalidation, a "desire" to destroy ourselves, deep undischarged frozen needs and many other things. In August 1983 I went to Harvey Jackins' workshop at Leicester and led two topic groups on addictions which attracted many experienced Co-Counsellors. The next year in Leicester I led another topic group and many of the same people turned up and reported back. Giving up addictions seemed to be inextricably linked to giving up chronic patterns - no doubt about it. People were pleased to get the skeletons out of the cupboard and give them an airing.

Since then, my thinking and discharging have continued. I occasionally get the urge to drink, but nearly always recognise deeper feelings of boredom, frustration, anger, and sadness. A quick mini-session, and the urge to drink recedes. The next step now is this coming weekend (21-22 July 1984) where Cathy Itzin and I are leading a London Regional weekend workshop on "Completely Eliminating Addictions from our Lives." Both Cathy and I have led one-day workshops in our respective Areas and we feel excited by the pioneer work we are doing!

I'm now going to turn to some of the theoretical conclusions that my work and experience in this area has already thrown up. Of course, we're still on the brink of much exciting thinking, but I think we've begun to get a handle on the whole topic of what addictions are and how they function, and how we can get rid of them for good!

COMPLETELY ELIMINATING ADDICTIONS FROM OUR LIVES

I'm going to talk about addictions in a broad sense, while referring to alcohol where it makes the meaning more clear.

Where Addictions Started

a) Frozen Needs

When we come into the world we have real, rational needs. We need warmth, comfort, affection, nourishment, shelter, and sustenance. The meeting of these rational needs is best accompanied by good, loving attention. It has long been established in counselling thinking that the failure to meet these rational needs leads to the establishment of "frozen needs," (i.e., needs which were once unmet and remain a driving force, with the person constantly striving to meet them). Because they are "frozen needs," they can never actually be met - they need to be discharged.

Where frozen needs are accompanied by unmet physical needs (such as hunger, thirst, etc.), we get what is called "frozen hungers." Both frozen needs and hungers can be inextricably intertwined and overlay our deeper chronic patterns.

An example of this: a young person is actually thirsty and also wants some good, loving attention and neither need is being met; what becomes frozen is both the recording of the physical thirst (and lack of physical comfort) as well as the actual need for good, loving attention. In later years, warm and cold drinks, alcoholic drinks may be consumed in vast quantities to try to quench this "frozen hunger." In a sense, the best way to quench it is through discharge. Of course, the frozen hunger may be attached to all sorts of things.

All of us have had misinformation about food and drink, and have imbibed values and attitudes from our parents and surroundings; this is where the broader aspects of class, sex, and environment come in. Many of us have been fed according to a timetable and a clock, food has been used as punishment and reward (withheld when we're bad and given in vast quantities when we're good). Some of us have been forced to eat what we hate "for our own good," some of us know we get "treats" which show we are loved (where the carers cannot show it or vocalise it, so we eat/drink grateful for some sign), some of us have starved and eaten very poor food knowing that others eat too much or even have to throw it away. Many women and children see men getting bigger portions of food because they're "more important."

There is much misinformation about our food and drink consumption, and a lot of this is passed on in childhood through adultism. Addictions have their roots in these frozen hungers and frozen needs. The insatiable appetites, the unquenchable thirsts, the ravings for comfort all stem from a time when we were too small to make our real needs known, or when we were subject to the oppressive forces of denial or coercion.

b) Chronic Patterns

Again, as is well known, chronic patterns are simply patterns or recordings which have been played so frequently that they play all the time. They are so pervasive that we don't even know they are in operation. Like a loop film, it's difficult to see where the beginning is or where to break it. The possibility of snapping the loop film seems impossible, as we feel we will be snapped too.

Nearly all of us have one thing in common, however. We all have an isolation pattern in some form or another. None of us got enough loving attention, especially enough to discharge our hurts as they have cropped up, or to discharge our restimulations as they have occurred. The common feeling of isolation which we all carry is one foundation upon which all other chronics slowly build. Our frozen hungers and frozen needs become attached to our chronics, and slowly our addictions begin to show themselves. It may be having sweeties or cakes or later warming alcoholic drinks or relaxing cigarettes. Whatever, addictions attach themselves like limpets to our chronic patterns and become the outward manifestations of them. They also slowly become intrinsic to them over the years and eventually become an implicit part of the distress recordings.

Gradually the addictions become in themselves chronic patterns, a sort of glossy veneer keeping all the other chronics (or basic isolation chronic) neatly and firmly in place. To stop acting on the addiction is to stop acting on the chronic, both of which makes the person feel like they're going to die. In some ways they feel they'd rather die than give them up!

c) Physical Processes

It is also clear that the systematic use of drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes, tranquilizers and other mind-changing substances, tea and coffee, sugar and salt - sets up physical and physiological processes which in their own way create distress recordings. The systematic use of alcohol, for instance, causes damage to the brain and liver and other parts of the body. This damage is really a hurt, which when undischarged, becomes a distress recording over time and can be restimulated either by re-introducing the substance into our bodies or by restimulating the chronic patterns to which the physical distress recording is attached.

Stopping drinking allows both the body to discharge the toxic substances which have built up, allowing the body to heal itself, and also allows the chronic pattern to which the chronic drinking addiction pattern has become attached to discharge.

How We Get Hooked

a) Addictions and Young People

One of the hardest times to combat the pull of addictions is during our teenage years. As young people we are subject to systematic oppression from adultism, which is institutionalized in schools, families, belief systems, etc. Puberty and adolescence is a time of great strain for us as young people.

With little or no economic power, with a lot of confusing messages from home and school and the wide world, with pressure from the media and multinational companies to be "grown up" and beautiful, sophisticated, and sexy - addictive substances are pushed at great expense to the consumer.

It is not surprising that most of us learn to smoke or drink or take drugs or starve ourselves or watch TV or gamble in our teens. The enormous social pressure to be a success, to be powerful, to make conquests is juxtaposed with lack of money, hard competitive examinations, youth unemployment and sexist attitudes towards job choice.

The one place where as young people we feel we can be powerful is with our friends, and ironically the one thing we can have equal power over is using drugs or drinking or smoking. It is definitely a club into which most of us are initiated. It's the major way to stop feeling isolated and to feel some, if limited, power. And yet for nearly all young people, the first cigarette, the first drink is disgusting, and it's a matter of sheer guts as to whether we proceed further or not.

In Britain at present there is an enormous problem for many young people who are sniffing glue or "scag" (a form of heroin), drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Massive youth unemployment, a systematic invalidation, is largely a problem. It is also a problem for young people to see adults abusing themselves all the time. There is a strong reaction to the hypocrisy of adults commanding that they "do as adults say" and not "do as adults do."

b) Addictions and Sexism

Most of the addictive substances - such as drink and cigarettes - are pushed on the public with a conscious appeal to sexuality. Men are "real men" when they squint in the rugged mountains drawing on a cigarette. Women are "real women" when draped over Martinis or Napoleon brandy. Certain foods are sexy ("man appeal") and women are made to feel they are only a 100% female if they cook in a certain way. Sexual encounters are guaranteed successful if accompanied by drugs of some sort or another. All this underlines the oppressively sexist nature of many addictions, something to which we are all prey.

At the same time there's a message that everybody should be in control of their feelings at all times. The Bogart-type image of people being "cool," or of suffering tragically in silence is very seductive and hooks straight into the romantic yearnings for undying love which are really our undischarged frozen needs. We are all made to feel, all the time, that we are not good enough. If we had just one more cigarette or drink, or ate or lived in a certain way, all would come right and our dreams would be fulfilled. This is, of course, sheer rubbish. But it is where we get hooked.

c) Addictions and Class

All classes suffer from similar addictions, they're just dressed up in different ways. Traditionally, working-class people have been looked down upon as being uncontrollable and like animals. This has become internalized by working-class people, so we often feel it's normal or at least hereditary for us to guzzle drink or eat badly or smoke ourselves to death.

Many middle-class people feel that addictions should be taken in moderation; it's a subject for shame and secrecy. For many owning-class people, addictive behaviour is in some ways acceptable because it is "eccentric" or it fits with a certain lifestyle and can be afforded (i.e., the "best" wine, the "best" cigarettes, etc.).

Where addictions hook in to all classes is in the chronic class patterns, i.e., those of being violent, or being always in control; of being worthless, or of being of immense value in material terms. Basically we learn from our surroundings to treat ourselves badly and to deal with our feelings in suppressive ways. Addictions have a major part to play in keeping the social order - whatever class we think we belong to.

d) Addictions and Disability

For many of us addictions provide a "good," accessible means of dealing with distress. It allows us to function where there is no special attention for us. It allows us to deal with pain and discomfort, to feel part of the crowd, to blend in. Again, a lot of this goes back to our undischarged frozen needs and hungers. There was probably a lot of disappointment around when those of us with congenital disabilities were born.

Because the rest of society is addicted, there is a major pull for people with disabilities to take on addictions to be socially accepted. It is also a means for dealing with the chronic isolation that we suffer as people with disabilities.

e) Addictions and Mental Health System Survivors

The mental health system has a lot invested in keeping us addicted, especially to mind-changing drugs.

There is a general acceptance of cigarettes (in fact, people used to be encouraged to smoke to calm their nerves), and alcohol (again, accepted in moderation). Thousands of people (especially women) become addicted to tranquilizers each year, and they are encouraged to stay on them by the mental health system, and then blamed for being "weak" because they become addicted.

Again, drugs provide a certain level of comfort for those of us who are mental health system survivors. But once hooked, the mental health system often has to treat us for the problems it has, itself, caused.

How We Stay Hooked

a) Invalidation

The major reason we stay hooked is because there doesn't seem to be any alternative. Being a drinker, a smoker, an anorexic, a binge eater, a drug taker, is more comfortable, because at least then we feel good about ourselves (in only a moment, a "high").

Going back to our frozen needs and hungers, to the fact that we felt lonely and unloved, to the fact we didn't get enough (or any) attention when we needed it, the addiction seems to fill that frozen need/hunger, seems to quell the chronic feelings of isolation and invalidation.

The addictive pull is nearly always the pull towards being comforted. The illusion is that we will feel better, more rooted in ourselves and the world if we do X. Yet nearly always, acting on addictive impulses leaves us feeling dissatisfied, sordid, self-hating, and restless. It sometimes leads to us wanting to kill ourselves and sometimes we succeed. One of the most powerful tools against addictions is validation, pure and simple. Validation goes against all the misinformation that we are bad or unlovable (and were therefore neglected), and makes us see we exist and deserve to have a good life (more of this later).

b) Environment

I will talk here about British culture in particular. It is full of confusing messages. We are to drink alcohol (if you don't, you're very strange) but not too much (then you're an outcast alcoholic). You're to smoke cigarettes (it looks cool and sophisticated), but you're only supposed to smoke at a certain age and the government gets a lot of money from it, but says it's bad for your health. We're told to eat lots of butter, cheese, cream, meat, and sweets, yet we've got to keep slim and fit and sexy.

Many social groups, particularly counter-culture groups (e.g., leftwing political groups, parties, etc.), have an unacknowledged code of practice, which is centred on meetings with lots of drinking of coffee, tea, booze, and smoking of cigarettes and dope. Not to join in is definitely to be left out in the cold.

The hypocrisy of the culture is always apparent - whiskey-swilling judges putting people in prison for being drunk and disorderly; men with mistresses condemning prostitutes in the courts; cigarette smoking adults punishing their children for doing the same.

Things are changing, if slowly. London Transport, for instance, has just banned all cigarette smoking on underground trains, due largely to public preference for unpolluted travelling. More information is becoming generally available about diet and drink, and people are becoming more health conscious. Many manufacturers are now having to state how much salt and sugar and other additives they put in food in order to wean the public off these addictive substances. There are some laws which make advertising difficult, especially for cigarettes. Public pressure continues.

Getting Off the Hook

It will be no surprise to the reader that I think discharge is the major key to getting off the hook. Returning to the beginning of this article, to my own story, it was through discharging my early hurts, of being isolated, of having disabilities, of being physically hurt, of being a single child, of being abused, I began to see I was a person of great worth. By systematically discharging my feelings of self-hatred, beginning to see I was worthwhile, that I didn't have to destroy myself, I was able to see more clearly what I was doing to myself on a regular basis.

a) The way to use RC to discharge addictions:

- is to own up to them. Get them out in the open and look at them. This goes against all of the isolation and shame that gets attached to them.

- is to take complete pride in who we are, where we've come from. Complete appreciation can be done time and time again and will have positive and resounding effects.

- is to form support groups along Wygelian lines, initially, to look at our addictions and how to eliminate them from our lives, then later to form particular "drinkers" or "smokers" groups.

- is to take charge of our lives and change life-long patterns of behaviour or ways of seeing ourselves. It's important to change ourselves as we go; it may be taking more pride in our general health and hygiene, or our appearance. More than anything, it's seeing everyday what a special and precious piece of poetry we are, how unique our thinking is, and how beautiful we look - whatever shape or size, colour or sex.

b) Counselling People on their Addictions

-The first thing is to hold out the hope that everybody can give up anything they want. They simply have to decide to do it.

-We need to discharge our moralistic feelings, our disgust or shame, our internalized oppression about people and their addictions to be good counsellors for our clients. Feeling that "if they could pull themselves together" it would be better, will communicate itself to a client and make them feel judged and unsafe.

-We need to celebrate our addictions - to revel in the taste of the wine, or the yumminess of the chocolate or the excitement of the brief sexual encounter. Get all the details out in the open. The counselling needs to be light and irreverent, just as when dealing with "heavy" issues such as death and dying.

-The counsellor needs to show the client that s/he is fine, to completely and genuinely validate and be accepting of the person just as s/he is, without any additions (which addictions make us feel they will fulfill). Accept it's been the best way we've had to get close, feel safe, make friends, etc.

-We need persistent and regular counselling on our addictions. As with all chronic distress, the pull to slip back is enormous due to the nature of patterns to persist, to make us forget, and to confuse us. Our counsellors will have to decide to leave their boredom behind and be in there with us, persistent to crack the chronic to which the addiction is attached.

Finally

RC needs to do a lot more conscious thinking about this area. Food at workshops, the addictive pull to client, tackling our chronic patterns, all these things can and will be tackled by our systematically bringing out the addictive skeletons into the public arena and giving them an airing. We then need to take them to the dustbin and drop them in, replacing the lid for good.

The best way to eliminate addictions is simply to give them up. As with the other areas of thinking in counselling today - discharging about making the decision is all very well. The only thing which is going to move us all forward, at high speed, is to give them up finally. By stopping acting on our addictions, the discharge will flow and flow and the chronic patterns unbend themselves and disappear. They've really no other choice because we've taken charge at last - and there's no place for us both!

Corinne Sweet
London, England



Last modified: 2016-12-20 06:43:20-08