Substance Abuse

Most river runners know the joys of sharing a beer with the crew at the end of the day. In fact, the culture of guiding generally includes a toot on the ole whiskey bottle when we get together. It’s a way of celebrating our friendship and our connection to those who came before us – those early explorers surviving in the wilderness. It’s a way of expressing how tough we are, how much we love living and being outdoors. But we’ve all seen the results of folks who’ve had a little too much, a little too often, for a little too long. When celebrating with alcohol or drugs becomes a habitual pattern – over which the user has no power – it becomes a problem, and anything but celebratory.

Signs & Symptoms

Substance use becomes abuse when we can no longer predict our behavior, and/or have an inability to stop using a substance. The following is a working definition of the addictive process:

“Any process over which we are powerless, causing us to do and think things that are inconsistent with our personal values and leading us to become progressively more compulsive and obsessive. A sure sign is the sudden need to deceive ourselves and others, to lie, deny and cover up. An addiction is anything we feel tempted to lie about… anything we are not willing to give up… in spite of the adverse consequences this may bring”. (Wilson-Schaef)

If you’ve ever had a concern about yourself or someone else, the following simple questionnaire may clarify whether alcohol or drug use has become a difficulty.

Michigan Addiction Screening Test – MAST

  1. Do you feel that alcohol or drugs cause any problems for you?
  2. Have you ever awakened the morning after drinking or using the night before and found that you could not remember a part of the evening before?
  3. Does your wife, husband, a parent or other near relative (or your employer, see note below) ever worry or complain about your drinking or using?
  4. Can you stop drinking or using without a struggle after one or two?
  5. Do you ever feel bad about your drinking or using?
  6. Do friends or relatives (or co-workers) think you have a problem with alcohol or drugs?
  7. Do you ever try to limit your drinking or using?
  8. Are you always able to stop drinking or using when you want to?
  9. Have you ever attended a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous?
  10. Have you gotten into fights when drinking or using?
  11. Has drinking or using ever created problems between you and your wife, husband, a parent, near relative, employer, or co-workers?
  12. Have you ever been in a hospital to be dried out (detoxified) because of your drinking or using?
  13. Have you ever been in jail, even for a few hours, because of using or drunken behavior?

And the following list of symptoms may indicate problem use:

The Four Phases of Addiction:

  • Altered awareness is desired.
  • Altered awareness is sought.
  • A harmful dependence begins to develop.
  • The substance must be taken to produce a feeling of being “normal”.

Alcoholic Cycles

Pre-Alcoholic Symptoms:

  • Frequent relief drinking
  • Increase in tolerance

The Early Phase:

  • Blackouts
  • Gets drunk
  • Sneaks drinks
  • Preoccupied with alcohol
  • Gulps drinks
  • Guilt feelings
  • Avoids reference to alcohol
  • Loss of predictability of drinking

The Middle Phase:

  • Loses control
  • Rationalizes
  • Loses job advancement
  • Fabricates excuses
  • Behaves in a grandiose manner
  • Drinks weekends
  • Behaves aggressively
  • Feels remorse
  • Loses work time
  • Attempts self-control
  • Changes pattern of drinking behavior
  • Drops friends
  • Quits jobs
  • Becomes alcohol-centered
  • Loses outside interests
  • Misinterprets interpersonal relations
  • Shows signs of self-pity
  • Runs away
  • Changes in family habits
  • Resents others
  • Protects alcohol supply
  • Neglects proper nutrition
  • Decrease in sex drive
  • Exhibits jealousy
  • Drinks in early morning

The Chronic Phase:

  • Intoxications are prolonged
  • Changes in ethics
  • Experiences daytime intoxication
  • Thoughts impaired
  • Drinks alone
  • Turns to inferior companions
  • Increases sedatives
  • Becomes intolerant of others
  • Fears are undefined
  • Increased Psychomotor involvement
  • Obsesses with drinking
  • Develops vague religious feelings

Call The Whale Foundation if you wish further information or an assessment.

A Message of Hope from AL-ANON

Al-Anon Family Groups, Al-Anon and Alateen for younger family members, are a fellowship of men and women who are husbands, wives, relatives or close friends of alcoholics. If you are seeking a solution to the problems that come from living or having lived with an alcoholic, we at Al-Anon can help you. We too, are familiar with promises made only to be broken, with forgotten good intentions, worry and sleepless nights. We too, have known despair and complete helplessness. We have seen our loved ones in hospitals, jails and institutions looking for the ìcureî that never cured.

We have learned that the Al-Anon program shows us how to cope with our difficulties and find a more serene approach to life. Our improved attitudes may, in turn influence the alcoholic to seek the help needed.

Specialists in the field of alcoholism regard it not as a moral weakness or sin, but as a complex disease, perhaps part physical and part emotional. Alcoholics are likely to be sensitive and emotionally immature, excessive in their demands on themselves as well as on others. When they fail to live up to their own standards, they escape from reality by drinking. The habit of escape through alcohol leads to obsessive drinking, a compulsion so powerful that not even the threat of death or insanity seems to break it. One drink sets up an uncontrollable craving that only more drinking can appease.

It is difficult for a non-alcoholic to realize that a person does not deliberately and willfully become alcoholic, rather the drinking has become an uncontrollable, compulsive urge. The alcoholic needs encouragement and understanding whether drinking or sober. By detaching ourselves from the alcoholicís problems and concentrating on restoring ourselves to serenity, we encourage the alcoholic to seek and keep sobriety.

For many of us, Alcoholics Anonymous and the Al-Anon Family Groups have been the salvation of our homes and our marriages. Because of them, we once again know peace of mind, feel secure with our loved ones and enjoy an untroubled nightís sleep.

Even for those whose loved ones have not yet found sobriety in AAA or elsewhere, there is hope. Once we come to realize, and admit, that we too, are powerless over alcohol, we are freed from a staggering burden. No alcoholic has ever been helped by preaching, nagging or violent scenes. Humiliation and anger only increase the alcoholicís guilt and drinking. The emotional energy we expended might have been better directed to constructive thought and action.

We in Al-Anon are learning to face this problem squarely, acting with faith and courage. We all wish good things to happen to us, but we cannot just pray and then sit down and expect miracles to happen. We must back up our prayers with action.

Just as AA offers a new way of life to the alcoholic, Al-Anon Family Groups offer the adventure of a new way of life to the alcoholicís family and friends. Our meetings are devoted to understanding our own problems. Often members talk about the Twelve Steps which embody our basic philosophy. Sometimes there are question-and-answer meetings with general discussion afterwards.

It is a fact, that only an alcoholic can fully understand another alcoholic. Only a person who has had a serious drinking problem, with all it entails, really understands what is going on in the mind of one who has a compulsion to drink. If is equally true that only a person who has lived with an alcoholic and has experienced the mental anguish that goes with it, can understand the problem of the alcoholicís family and friends.

The Al-Anon Family Groups are a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength and hope in order to solve their common problems. We believe alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can aid recovery.

Al-Anon is not allied with any sect, denomination, political entity, organization or institution; does not engage in any controversy, neither endorses not opposes any cause. There are no dues for membership. Al-Anon is self-supporting through its own voluntary contributions.

Al-Anon has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic.

For information and a catalog of literature write to World Service Office for Al-Anon and Alateen:

Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, VA 23454-5617
Phone 757-563-1600 Fax 757-563-1655

Or to:

Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
Box 459
Grand Central Station
New York, New York 10163

Or To:

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