GUEST POST written 12-10-10 by Judith Kirkpatrick
Judith Is presently studying psychology at the University of Michigan – Flint. This post is part of her writings on alcohol and psychoactive drugs. She is also the wife of Fr. Orthohippo. (Yes, I am married to a coed.)
ALCOHOL AND THE SILENT VICTIMS
Alcohol should be recognized as the best friend of all psychoactive drugs: uppers (cocaine, crystal meth), and downers (heroin, opium). Let us also remember that rohypnol is the drug of choice for rape.
Since the dawn 0f time and discovery, most any substance that fermented gave a kick to the drinker, and booze was born. Today, if your crack cocaine habit is getting too expensive, it can be mixed with alcohol until tolerance levels drop, and so much won’t be needed to get the effect, as least for awhile. If the local crystal meth lab blows up, there’s a crack-alcohol mix to hold you until a new lab can be built.
A great deal is known about alcohol: the cheaper way to escape from the real world, available all over the world, usage is on the rise. Let us remember crime statistics: one-third of hospital admissions are due to overuse, half of all murder suspects and murder victims were boozed up at the time, and half of all rapes were the result of alcohol, and these crime statistics occurred all in one day!
In 1932, in Akron, Ohio, one drunk helped another stay sober, and Alcoholics Anonymous was born. The only requirement for membership in this organization is the desire to stop drinking. AA does not keep records of membership, and asks for anonymity of its members. In nearly seventy years of its existence, millions of people have stopped drinking, and carried the message to others.
Psychologists and social scientists have been trying for years to quantify AA, to measure it, to find out what myriad reasons people have had for stopping drinking. Statisticians measure families of origin, individual backgrounds, individual circumstances. There is no formula to stop drinking, Dedicated drunks have been known to take antabuse, drink, throw up, take antabuse, and drink some more. Interventions have taken place, where grief-stricken loved ones try to persuade the abuser to stop. AA members can step in and help. There are rehabilitation places all over the country, and some of them are very, very good. Have little money? AA is the poor man’s rehab.
There is another group which needs to be recognized when it comes to alcohol abuse. You could call these people collateral damage. These silent victims and children of alcoholics who grow up to be ACOA, adult children of alcoholics.
Dr. Janet Woititz (1939-1994) was the pioneer who identified and described ACOA in the middle 1970s. “At that time, the prevailing thinking…..was that if the alcoholic got well, the family would get well. After all, most folks find the person with the lampshade on his head more interesting than the partner cowering in the corner. This was not for me; I have always been more fascinated by the reactors than the actors.” (Woititz, J. (2002) Adult Children of Alcoholics at Home, at Work, and in Love. Healther Communications, Inc. Deerfield Beach. This book is a compilation of Woititz’s writings).
In her research, Woititz discovered that “The child of an alcoholic has no age. The same things hold true if you are five or fifty-five.” That is, a little child in a family of active alcoholics develops coping mechanisms to survive. The child sees no loving, intimate relationships, rather shouting, fighting, or silence. The child develo0ps feelings of guilt, and usually, low self-esteem. The child learns that expressing emotions are bad. Children become caregivers, or become withdrawn, but whatever they have learned in childhood, these self-perceptions don’t disappear as the grow older, and they don’t know what normal is. These children are the walking wounded. With the spread of ACOA there is great hope that the origin of their problems will be recognized and dealt with. The walking wounded can be healed.