Alcoholic Playbook: The Time Bomb

by The Discovering Alcoholic on March 2, 2008

I recently ran across an advice column in the Washington Post where a reader asks for advice about her on again, off again alcoholic grandmother she no longer wants to babysit their child. Her concerns were appropriately addressed by the advice columnist; I especially liked the realistic comment about placing a “frequency” modifier on the disease of addiction.

First, your mother-in-law isn’t an “on-again, off-again alcoholic.” She is an alcoholic. Everyone in her life needs to recognize this important distinction.

No, absolutely no problem with the advice given but I would like to elaborate on the reasons why the advice is sound. Expressions like on-again, off-again, functioning, and mild in relation to alcoholism or drug addiction are often used by those who only glimpse a small window or time frame of behavior or that have a personal desire to see the condition couched in more palatable terms. Those who suffer from addiction are quick to adopt such descriptors as it seems to lessen the severity of their condition, after all, “if other people say it then it must be true.”

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However the truth of the matter is that once the disease has progressed to the point that these terms are being used by observers means that the facade is wearing thin and catastrophe is right around the corner. For those of you familiar with the Alcoholic Playbook, what happens next is no surprise. There will be no long awaited plea for help or move toward treatment. Instead you will get a series of ill resulted events that even though they are caused by the addiction, they will never the less be used as a smoke screen clouding the root problem.

This is the alcoholic time bomb; once the true nature of an addict or alcoholic has been exposed they will set off a series of explosions that will engulf all those around them. The rationalization behind this is that their problem will be considered secondary to the “more serious” problems that now exist.

So the advice given in the mentioned article should be heeded, and anyone else who deals with the addictions of a loved one, friend, or co-worker should also pay close attention. I say these things as an alcoholic not be critical of those that still drink, but instead in an effort to limit the damage hopefully they may one day have the opportunity to regret and make amends.

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