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Dr. Silkworth on Alcoholics and Human Nature

Old 02-19-2015, 03:01 PM
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Dr. Silkworth on Alcoholics and Human Nature

I recently ran across a couple of articles written by Dr. Silkworth that touch on aspects of human nature and "alcoholics". I thought they would be appreciated here.

"In both professional and lay circles, there is a tendency to label everything that an alcoholic may do as "alcoholic behavior." The truth is, it is simple human nature.

Emotional and mental quirks are classified as symptoms of alcoholism merely because alcoholics have them, yet those same quirks can be found among non-alcoholics too. Actually they are symptoms of mankind!"

----

"In any event, the psychology of the alcoholic is not as different as some people try to make it. ...But in many instances, there is no more reason to be talking about "the alcoholic mind" than there is to try to describe something called "the cardiac mind" or the "TB mind."

I think we'll help the alcoholic more if we can first recognize that he is primarily a human being - afflicted with human nature."


For me, I think this speaks very clearly to the idea that the alcohol addiction is quite separate from all the other "isms" that are really just part of being human, but instead seem to be currently wrapped up into one complicated bundle.
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Old 02-19-2015, 04:19 PM
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I've always hated those memes, and never believed them.

My mom has been an alcoholic her whole adult life, and she's the most honest and loving and hard-working and giving and least manipulative person I know. She just has an addiction. Her brain has become wired by over-drinking to not be able to feel any happiness without alcohol in her system. That's it.
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Old 02-19-2015, 05:31 PM
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I agree with you jazzfish (and Dr. Silkworth). I don't believe in an "alcoholic personality". I have seen too many varied personality traits in alcoholics to subscribe to that idea. However, I do believe that the incidence of psychological disorders is greater among alcoholics than in the general population. Depression and anxiety disorders seem to be overrepresented because people with these problems often find temporary relief with alcohol (only to then have their problem eventually escalate because of alcohol use).

I do see one common thread with most alcoholics, and that is on a spiritual (not a religious) dimension. Given the rules of this forum I'll just leave it at that.
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Old 02-19-2015, 06:31 PM
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Early on I was told to look at the similarities and not the differences in the group. Mostly the only similarity we shared was that we all drank too much. I felt that the objective was to meld us all into one unified brain. Individual thought and reasoning seemed unwelcome and threatening to the collective. I thrive on learning different things and new perspectives. (Also over analyzing the crap out of everything) So this lifestyle or type of "recovery" was not for me.
I see myself as a human being with human faults an attributes. This is why I refuse to label myself or anyone else for that matters. Sure we all fell victim to our own compulsive tendencies but we are all responsible for how we react to regain our own dignity.
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Old 02-19-2015, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jazzfish View Post
...[I]"In both professional and lay circles, there is a tendency to label everything that an alcoholic may do as "alcoholic behavior." The truth is, it is simple human nature.
I would agree and suggest that "character defects" (anger, resentment, fear etc.) are simply human emotions. The question isn`t can you get rid of them because I don`t believe you can. They are part of what makes us human.

The question is how do you handle such emotions after they flair up.
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Old 02-19-2015, 08:21 PM
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Thanks for posting this jazz.

One of the first things that I thought of after reading this is that the recovery industry relies on perpetrating this "alcoholic mind" nonsense. It's big business...and it's predicated on trying to fix the 'underlying' symptoms and HOPING that will make the alcoholic stop drinking. It's totally backward.

I've been in meetings and I've heard people talk about the alcoholic mind and alcoholic behavior and I have never bought into it...even when I was still drinking and going to meetings I never bought it! (Meaning that even when I was a bit hazy I still had more sense than to believe that crud).

And I love that he says the alcoholic is just a human afflicted with human nature. Glad my theory has been acknowledged by someone with credentials!
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Old 02-19-2015, 09:55 PM
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I read it differently, since alcoholic implies an active alcohol addict, not someone who used to be an addict, or might someday become an addict. Read that way, I wholeheartedly disagree with the author. As addicts we did some strange irrational things, and we have similar stories of similar behavior that non-addicts don't exhibit, at least not nearly to the same degree. And it's a mental health condition, that lights up like a christmas tree in MRI scans and screams, "I'm an addict!". None of that is human nature, as evidenced by the fact that very few people are alcohol or other drug addicts. But without reading the rest of the context, it's hard to say what the author really meant.
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Old 02-19-2015, 11:19 PM
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nice work jazz

this information is as salient and relevant as ever

v
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Old 02-20-2015, 01:26 AM
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Originally Posted by JeffreyAK View Post
I read it differently, since alcoholic implies an active alcohol addict, not someone who used to be an addict, or might someday become an addict. Read that way, I wholeheartedly disagree with the author. As addicts we did some strange irrational things, and we have similar stories of similar behavior that non-addicts don't exhibit, at least not nearly to the same degree. And it's a mental health condition, that lights up like a christmas tree in MRI scans and screams, "I'm an addict!". None of that is human nature, as evidenced by the fact that very few people are alcohol or other drug addicts. But without reading the rest of the context, it's hard to say what the author really meant.
He headed up the addiction ward at the Town's Hospital in New York

Worked with 40,000 different alcoholic folk, from the mild to the wild.

I'm tipping he knew what he was talking about.
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Old 02-20-2015, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Hawks View Post
He headed up the addiction ward at the Town's Hospital in New York

Worked with 40,000 different alcoholic folk, from the mild to the wild.

I'm tipping he knew what he was talking about.
I'm not big on someone not in my head telling me what's in my head, particularly if he's never been an addict and doesn't know what he's talking about and thinks addiction is a disease like TB. But that's just me. (Note his article also keeps referring to AA)

Edit: Ah, that Dr. Silkworth. He founded the disease theory of alcoholism in AA, and wrote a section in the Big Book.
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Old 02-20-2015, 07:27 AM
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I think what Jazz (and Silkworth) are pointing out is that we shouldn't get bogged down in over-analyzing everything we do in sobriety and automatically equate those actions with our alcoholism. When I was first getting sober, every time I had a bad day, someone would point out that it was "dry drunk" behavior or my "alcoholism rearing it's head". Not being an expert in human psychology, I tended to believe every comment and it threw me into a deep depression.

Some of us can throw a baseball, some of us can't. Some of us like to read stories about pirates, some don't. This has nothing to do with alcoholism. And while it's certainly paramount to monitor ourselves and our conditions, we don't have to unnecessarily punish ourselves every time we spill a cup of coffee or take a wrong turn on the highway.

I think the passage shared by Jazzfish is very hopeful and can be helpful to many in recovery.
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Old 02-20-2015, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by JeffreyAK View Post
I read it differently, since alcoholic implies an active alcohol addict, not someone who used to be an addict, or might someday become an addict. Read that way, I wholeheartedly disagree with the author. As addicts we did some strange irrational things, and we have similar stories of similar behavior that non-addicts don't exhibit, at least not nearly to the same degree. And it's a mental health condition, that lights up like a christmas tree in MRI scans and screams, "I'm an addict!". None of that is human nature, as evidenced by the fact that very few people are alcohol or other drug addicts. But without reading the rest of the context, it's hard to say what the author really meant.
I can agree with you. When I was using and during the first year or so of recovery I acted and thought totally out of character for me. So yeah for the time it takes to recover from that I think there is crazy that correspond to what part of the brain is damaged. Most importantly for me was the part that allows insight so I can change.
After that though it boils down to my human nature and has nothing to do with the fact that I drank heavily in the past.
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Old 02-20-2015, 08:42 AM
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In my opinion, don't throw the baby out with the bath water just because he is 'that' Dr Silkworth.

I wholeheartedly reject the notion that alcoholism is a disease, but what he says about human nature is spot on. I think alcoholics love the idea of an alcoholic mind because it justifies continued drinking and continuing relapses. 'Oops....I've got an alcoholic mind...no wonder I drink!' Read that way, Silkworth is actually calling BS on that kind of thinking.
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Old 02-20-2015, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by brynn View Post
I think alcoholics love the idea of an alcoholic mind because it justifies continued drinking and continuing relapses. 'Oops....I've got an alcoholic mind...no wonder I drink!' Read that way, Silkworth is actually calling BS on that kind of thinking.
He is. Here is another quote from the same article:

People are inclined to say, "there is something peculiar about alcoholics. They seem to be well, yet at any moment they may turn back to their old ways. You can never be sure."

This is largely twaddle.
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Old 02-20-2015, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by jazzfish View Post
He is. Here is another quote from the same article:

People are inclined to say, "there is something peculiar about alcoholics. They seem to be well, yet at any moment they may turn back to their old ways. You can never be sure."

This is largely twaddle.
I am not sure if that is true in my experience, I tend to agree with the good doctor. If someone says,' Pssst - he's an alcoholic, you know', most will consider that person to be untrustworthy, dishonest, unreliable. At the least, they will not be surprised to see those behaviours. And a return to drinking? Well, THAT'S almost a guarantee, after all, it's one day at a time for those people.

That's a good reason to refuse that label. Am I an alcoholic? Not on your life, and definitely not on mine.
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Old 02-20-2015, 12:36 PM
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I think that people are people. I don't think addiction is character flaw and I know a few people without addiction issues who could use some recovery!
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Old 02-20-2015, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by JeffreyAK View Post
I'm not big on someone not in my head telling me what's in my head, particularly if he's never been an addict and doesn't know what he's talking about and thinks addiction is a disease like TB. But that's just me. (Note his article also keeps referring to AA)

Edit: Ah, that Dr. Silkworth. He founded the disease theory of alcoholism in AA, and wrote a section in the Big Book.
Well yeah, opinions are like a-holes, everyone has one.

However the doctors and scientists that study and work with alcoholism are pretty up front about what they think.

The modern disease theory of alcoholism states that problem drinking is sometimes caused by a disease of the brain, characterized by altered brain structure and function. The American Medical Association (AMA) had declared that alcoholism was an illness in 1956. In 1991, The AMA further endorsed the dual classification of alcoholism by the International Classification of Diseases under both psychiatric and medical sections.

Unfortunately your opinion counts for very little Jeffrey

It's a bit like the climate change deniers........ Doesn't matter what the scientific community says, or what the evidence leads....... they cling dogmatic like to their unsubstantiated opinions.
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Old 02-20-2015, 12:55 PM
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Unless he was a chronic, compulsive drinker himself who quit on his own, I am inclined not care what he says.

The world has way to many people giving recovery advice without the slightest knowledge of what motivates drunks.

And there is only one answer to that: the desire for the deeply pleasurable sensations of alcohol intoxication.

Everything flows from that and anything that contradicts that is pure nonsense, Beast talk, recoveryism or some sleight of hand method of the AV trying to wheedle a little drinky-poo out of you.
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Old 02-20-2015, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Greenwood618 View Post
And there is only one answer to that: the desire for the deeply pleasurable sensations of alcohol intoxication.
That's not my experience.
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Old 02-20-2015, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by jazzfish View Post
That's not my experience.
Every other answer leads only back to the bottle.
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