Drugs and Addiction

The following are bits of writing from many sources such as personal correspondence, posts to on-line discussion groups, notes, and occasionally even some journaling. All of this is informal in nature, but contains some interesting and/or useful information.

One of the predisposition signs I mentioned was that in some alcoholics, even when they've never had a drink before, they for some reason aren't affected by the stuff. They don't feel it, so they can push themselves farther than their peers. I haven't had a whole lot to drink in my life, but I've never been able to get a buzz. I would love to experience that (and a lot more; acid being at the top of my list, in fact), but I recognize that for me it's a very slippery slope.
One of the surprising things about alcoholism is that there are so many varieties of it. There are binge drinkers, plateau drinkers, and so on. I knew a guy (the stepfather of a childhood friend) who was the captain of a tug boat. He worked offshore for two weeks, then was home for a week. This was his regular schedule. Those weeks that we was home, he was falling-down drunk for seven days straight, but then he went right back to being sober when he got on the boat.
Conversely, a lot of plateau drinkers try to keep themselves at a certain level so that they don't slip into needing it. I've heard of a lot of actors who did that (Leonard Nimoy from Star Trek was one), and no one around them had any idea that there was even a problem.

Drugs and alcohol
[From a questionnaire I found in someone's blog]
>are you an alcoholic?
Boy, this is going to be a complicated answer. Short version: Yes and no. Long version: I'm a latent alcoholic. My grandfather was a serious problem drinker. You know the type: verbally abusive almost to the point of violence, etc. Thankfully, no one else in the family ever followed his path. My dad drinks a glass of wine probably every day now that he has heart problems, but he can't handle any more than that without getting a headache (it's a vaso-dialation thing).
Essentially, I have a predisposition that I haven't triggered. My own drinking history is rather limited so, in effect, I'm a teetotaler. You might mistake me for a Baptist or something... only without all the messy dogma and superstition. I have had a few drinks in my life, but I still have no idea what "buzzing" is. One of the predisposition signs of alcoholism is that in some people, even when they've never had a drink before, they for some reason aren't affected by the stuff. They don't feel it, so they can push themselves farther than their peers. I would love to experience that (and a lot more), but I recognize that for me it's a very slippery slope.
I have a few other traits of an "addictive personality" that I won't bother with for these purposes, but all the above coupled with the ADD thing (for which there is a high correlation with alcoholism) sort of disinclines me to take a chance in that area. You've always got a designated driver with me around. Well, as long as your car is an automatic.
>do you do any drugs at all?
Again, no... largely for the reasons cited above. However, I recognize that not all drugs are addictive and therefore represent a loophole to the addiction "cop-out." I've tended to avoid the rest (e.g., LSD, pot, ecstasy, etc.) as well simply for reasons of safety. I don't want to end up with Parkinson's, tracers, memory problems, etc. since the one thing I'm proud of is that I have a decent brain... excepting the attention deficient aspects of it, naturally.

Alcohol has little to no effect on me. I've always avoided drinking because I strongly suspect that I have a latent problem that I don't ever want to bring out (and compound all my others). I've tried drinking moderate amounts and didn't enjoy the taste of most of it, but I *never* got any mental effects from it. As interested as I am in experiencing things first-hand, I just don't want to risk triggering problem drinking.

Nature or nurture?
People deal with things very differently. For example, my dad was the product of an alcoholic father who was emotionally distant from his kids and verbally abusive (almost to the point of violence) toward his wife. The more typical pattern is unfortunately one of reproduction of that dynamic among the offspring of alcoholics (in part, obviously, because of the genetic influence coupled with the upbringing). Thankfully, for all my dad's faults in other areas, he has never had a problem with drinking and he is always been very affectionate toward me, my mom, and all of my friends. I don't know how much of it is due to nature or nurture in my own case, but I inherited the better side of the equation in both regards from him.

Alcoholic predispositions
I always avoid drinking because I have a predisposition toward alcoholism. In addition to the aforementioned genetic component, I also have an addictive personality. One sign of a predisposition is that alcohol has very little effect on those people... just like with me. Apparently, they just get the good side of drinking without anything bad happening... until it gets to be a habit. And that's a habit I really don't need.

Do you smoke?
I could pass for a Mormon or something because I don't do anything "impure," as a friend of mine used to say. There's a good reason behind all of it, although it's more grounded than spiritual. For example, I don't smoke because three of my dad's brothers died from smoking-related illnesses (i.e., lunch cancer, heart disease, and emphysema). I avoid drinking and pretty much everything else as well because I'm a latent addict.
Most people aren't even aware that there's such a thing, but basically I'm someone who would become an addict. There are questionnaires that can kind of tell you it you may have a predisposition toward alcoholism, but I don't have one handy. Specifically, the signs that show up with me are that I will use up anything that I have handy rather than saving it for later. For example, I'll eat a whole bag of candy or watch all the movies I've just rented rather than doing some now and some later. Another thing is that I'm really impulsive and will try anything that sounds exciting (fortunately, I've never been around enough drugs to try them). I also have a family history since my grandfather was an alcoholic. It's kind of a scary trap to fall into, but I at least know it's there.

"The first step in avoiding a trap is knowing of its existence." I know I'm a latent alcoholic/drug addict, so I have always avoided taking anything.

One of the predictors of a relapse is falling back into patterns and situations and other cues that were around when you were using whatever. I've been lucky in that I never started anything. I tried drinking red wine because of the alleged health effects. I drank half a glass one night and found it had no effect in spite of the fact that one would expect that I should have no tolerance (given my history of abstinence). The next night I tried a whole glass. Again, no effect. The third night I tried almost two full glasses and still didn't feel anything. That's one of the sure signs of a pre-disposition to alcoholism (which runs in my family anyway), so I gave the bottle away to Dani's dad (he actually likes cheap wine).

I've never missed with pot or anything else. Not to sound arrogant or something like that, but the problem is that I'm too educated to mess around with any chemicals that aren't exactly mainstream. By "educated" I mean both by personal experience as well as the academic kind. Obviously when you read enough science you end up on the verge of paranoid when it comes to microbes and carcinogens. Add to that the fact that several of my dad's siblings died from smoking-related illnesses and many of them were likely addicts as well. Not that any of them were drug addicts, just that they had something in their genetic makeup that wouldn't let them let go of certain dependencies. The ones who smoked could not give it up and there were a few who drank excessively as well (in spite of their intellectual desire not to engage in that behavior). My grandfather was the worst in that group.

The Chinese cure
In "Junky," Burroughs described the "Chinese cure" in which a heroine addict adds water back into the bottle every time he takes out a dose. Eventually he's just shooting water. What is important here is not just the fact that he's reducing his intake, but also that he keeps everything else the same. Context plays a large role in things, so he is ostensibly doing everything he would be otherwise except for the chemical component.

It's all I can do to keep myself from tearing through whatever movies I have almost as soon as I get them. Yesterday, I ended up with eight movies from the library (5 dvds, 3 tapes), and I watched all of them in less than 24 hours. That seems almost impossible, but of course I was watching them in FF and/or doing other things at the same time, but even so it's a bit scary. One of the signs of addiction is an inability to refrain from indulging. In other words, if there is alcohol available, you drink it all until it's gone. That's what I do, only I don't drink.

I watched an old episode of NOVA (rented from the library) last night about alcoholism. I don't expect to ever become a full-fledged one, but it is interesting to learn about what makes them tick, especially since 1 person in 10 has the potential to become one. Also, a propensity for alcoholism is more than that; it is a predisposition for addiction to a lot of other things (it's just that alcohol is easy to acquire and socially accepted in most of the country).
My grandfather was an alcoholic, but I never met him. However, my dad worked as a personnel officer for the Corps of Engineers. He was the last person people spoke to before they were fired (if that's what ended up happening to them). See, when a supervisor consistently has problems with an employee, he can't just fire him. It might just be a personality thing, so they have to go to sort of an "appellate court" before any official action is taken. That was my dad. Often the problem was they guy was an alcoholic. It made sense. Here you have an employee who was educated, had his references together at some point, and had gotten the job. He was alright at some point in the past, but now there's a problem. Of course, alcoholics get pretty crafty once they start drinking more than is socially acceptable.
I'll give you an example. This one guy used to inspect the locks and drawbridges all along the waterways. Since he was always out in the field, he didn't spend a lot of time in his office, so he had to find someplace to drink. He typically had someone with him when he went places, so he couldn't just drink in the car. Instead he kept a drink hidden almost everywhere he went. This guy was what is known as a plateau drinker; he never binged, but he always had to keep himself from "drying out." This is a more advanced stage of alcoholism. People generally start with the opposite pattern: infrequent, but heavy drinking. This guy didn't do that by this point, so it wasn't all that obvious that he was drinking, but there were a lot of signs, he just never got drunk enough for anyone to realize that was why he was screwing up on the job.

There's a story about child star/drug addict Danny Bonaduce in which, at the height of his addiction, his wife (or maybe just girlfriend at that point) used to lay in the driveway to keep him from leaving to get drugs. He would scream at her to get out of the way, "Don't you understand, I'm a drug addict; I will run over you." Eventually she would have to yield, but she helped curb his behavior (in conjunction with a lot of other interventions, jail included).
The point was that Danny was consciously aware of his behavior, but his conscious control over it was ever diminishing as his craving grew. This is almost universal among drug addicts/alcoholics. Similarly, just because I can tell you about my behavior doesn't mean that I want to follow the same pattern. I'm drawing from past experience, not plans for the future.

It's funny how a whole lingo will show up around certain things like alcohol, gambling, illicit drugs, etc. I wonder why that is. You don't hear people talking about, say, steak like this even though the taste, texture, etc. can be just as nuanced and therefore as deserving of its own lexicon.

A while back I tried drinking wine. My dad had heart problems, so I decided to try red wine. I also decided to try and get drunk. But for better or worse, I can't without some serious effort. I tried drinking a half a glass, but that didn't do anything, so the next day I drank a whole glass, and that didn't do anything, then I tried two glasses later, but it never affected me. The wine was really cheap, so maybe that's why I thought it was so nasty.

I've had alcohol several times in my life, but it never had any effect on me... which I may have mentioned last time is, paradoxically, a sign of a predisposition towards alcoholism. Specifically, I remember have a couple beers with my dad when I was maybe 15 or so. We were outside cutting the grass (there was a lot of it; we had 7 acres at the time), and I was probably almost dehydrated and weighed maybe 110 pounds. Two beers should have given me a buzz, but I didn't feel anything from it.
Most recently, I had a couple glasses of wine maybe three years ago, but it had no effect on me either, in spite of the fact that I had no reason to have a tolerance to it. I just didn't like the taste though. I'm sure I could find drinks I would like, but I don't know that I want to. I would like to know what people get out of this experience, but for me more than most, it's a slippery slope.

Latent addicts
Most people aren't even aware that there's such a thing, but basically I'm someone who would become an addict. There are questionnaires that can kind of tell you it you may have a predisposition toward alcoholism, but I don't have one handy. Specifically, the signs that show up with me are that I will use up anything that I have handy rather than saving it for later. For example, I'll eat a whole bag of candy or watch all the movies I've just rented rather than doing some now and some later. Another thing is that I'm really impulsive and will try anything that sounds exciting (fortunately, I've never been around enough drugs to try them). I also have a family history since my grandfather was an alcoholic. It's kind of a scary trap to fall into, but I at least know it's there.

How are you with alcohol? I ask because I'm wondering about whether you have a generalized pattern of addictive behavior (something that's co-morbid with OCD, incidentally, probably because both are grounded in impulsive behaviors).
I have always avoided drinking largely because I see tendencies toward addictive behavior. (I have a several other traits that signal a predisposition toward alcoholism that I'll go into later.) The relevant one here is that I used to be a sugar junkie as well. Since I spend a lot of time on the computer (e.g., writing, reading, watching vids, computer games, etc.), it was a natural thing to have a bowl of candy on the desk. I would reach for that constantly, and since I wasn't getting a whole lot of exercise, I gained about 40lbs over a year or so. I finally cut back and eventually just decided to cut it out entirely, but it was seriously ruling my life for a while. I was a member of Sam's Club specifically so I could buy the 3lb bag of Skittles instead of 1lb bags like they sell in Walmart. When I ran out of candy or cookies, I would go to the grocery in the middle of the night just to get another bag, and that was the only think I was there for. It was pretty bad.
A few years back when Eric Clapton first opened the Crossroads rehab center, he did the usual media circuit answering questions about the place and -to make it a human interest story- about his own history of addiction. Back in the '70s he ended up on heroin, but before that he was drinking to excess, even when he was 16. The first time he had anything to drink was at a music festival, ironically enough, and he drank so much that he blacked out and woke up on the other side of the country two days later with no memory of how he had gotten there.
"So it all started with the drinking," the interviewer posited.
"No," Clapton corrected. "When I was a kid, I was a candy junkie." He went on to describe how, if he had any candy around, he would just eat it all up, then would go looking for more. He couldn't leave it alone the way most normal people could when they've had their fill.
That's where I've been as well. Fortunately, I know some of the other warning signs, so I haven't pushed myself any closer to the edge of the slope, and hopefully I've even managed to back away.
Some of the other warning signs I alluded to above include:
*A family history. While my dad has never had any problems with drinking, his father was an extreme alcoholic and became a belligerent drunk. I suspect it affected his health in later years including giving him diabetes that resulted in poor circulation and eventually amputation of both of his legs.
*Obsessive thinking. I get obsessed about things that interest me and can't stop thinking about them. Sometimes that's a good thing because I figure out intellectual problems (e.g., designing guitar circuitry, among other things), but it can be all-consuming almost like worrying, even when it's something I'm excited about like finding out what is in a place I know about and want to explore.
*Impulsive behavior. It's more just an attention deficiency in my case; I bounce between things, so I'll go to whatever is the most interesting thing in a given moment. If I'm working on something I don't want to be doing, and I'm a little hungry, I'll jump up and get something to eat or clean or do anything other than what I don't want to be doing.
*Consuming to the exhaustion of supply. Although I specifically illustrated this with food, I also do it with things like media. For example, if I just rented three videos, I'll work my way through all of them as soon as I can. (Admittedly, I don't "veg" on the couch; I'm usually working on something else at the same time. Point is: I don't just watch one and go on and do something else while there are other things I could consume.)
*Thrill-seeking. Exhibit A: There's a hang glider in the spare bedroom that's just dying for some warm weather.
*Intensity. This is a corollary of the above, I'm sure, but it manifests differently. I tend to like things to be even more salient than normal. For example, with the media, I watch (or listen, in the case of audio books) things faster if I can utilize features of the playback technology to speed them up. Similarly, I was drawn to strong-tasting candies like Shock Tarts and would eat so many in rapid succession that I would take the skin off my tongue. I'm not being figurative here; this will really happen, and if you experience it, you need help.
*Unaffected/unimpaired at moderate intake levels. For some reason, people with a predisposition toward alcoholism have no problem consuming moderate amounts of alcohol right from the start of their drinking "career." They don't get drunk when they drink quantities that would make their peers drunk. In my case, I haven't consumed a lot of alcohol in my life, but I remember when I was a young teenager, maybe 14 or 15, when I was cutting the grass with my dad. We owned seven acres and kept probably four of them manicured, so this was a big job. It was in the summer and we were all sweaty and taking a break. My dad had a beer and let me drink one. I was about 98 lbs, relatively dehydrated, and had no previous exposure to alcohol, yet not only didn't it affect me, neither did the next beer. I tried drinking wine a few years ago. I drank half a glass one night, and nothing happened. The next night I tried a full glass. No effect. The next night I tried a couple glasses. Same thing. It just tasted like cough syrup to me, so I gave up on it, and eventually gave the bottle to Dani's dad.
I don't know that I'm missing out on anything, but it means I'm always the designated driver or hair-holder.

Copyright Alexplorer.

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