Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Could Alcoholism possibly be a mental health issue?
I never thought of myself as having a mental illness... all joking aside. But... I've felt I didn't fit in to the norm of society somehow... and this describes me sober as well as drunk. Now... I think few who have travelled the road I have would argue that there might just be something underlying... besides the alcohol. Are you with me so far?
So... has anyone heard of MHFA?
Here is the Mental Health First Aid Action Plan;
Action A; assess for risk of suicide or harm
Action L; Listen nonjudgementally
Action G; Give reassurance and information
Action E; Encourage appropriate professional help
Action E; Encourage self help and other support strategies
So there's a first aid for mental situations as well as for physical situations. Let's look at alcoholism as being a mental health situation, shall we?
Mental health problems include; depression, anxiety, misuse of alcohol and drugs... and even food.
"Many people are not well informed about how to recognize mental health problems, how to respond, or what effective treatments are available. There are many myths and misunderstandings about mental health problems. Common myths include the idea that people with mental disorders are dangerous, that it is better to avoid psychiatric treatment, that people can use willpower to pull themselves out of mental health problems, and that only weak people have mental health problems. Lack of knowledge may result in denial and avoidance. With greater community knowledge about mental health problems, people will be able to recognize problems in others and be better prepared to offer support."
"There is a stigma associated with mental health problems. Stigma involves negative attitudes (prejudice) and negative behavior (discrimination). Stigma can lead people to hide their problems and delay seeking help. People are often ashamed to discuss mental health problems with family, friends, teachers, and/or work colleagues and may be reluctant to seek treatment and support because of concerns about what others will think. Stigma can lead to exclusion of people with mental health problems from employment, housing, social activities, and relationships. People with mental health problems can internalize the stigma and begin to believe the negative things others say about them. Better understanding of the expereinces of people with mental health problems can reduce stigma and discrimination. People with mental health problems may not have the insight that they need help or may be unaware that effective help is available. Some mental health problems can cloud a person's thinking and rational decision-making processes, or the person can be in such severe distress that they cannot take effective action."
So... is it not stigma and discriminaiton that we get from the anti/XAer camp? They dare to judge us for supporting our "support strategy" and encouraging others to give it a shot. They dare to mock us for having a less than cordial attitude to insults and vicious attacks on our character and motives. They condemn us for our seeming proclivity to dwell on death, suicide, violence, destruction, etc. "Stand with us on the firing line..."
What if ... it was a mental illness... among other things? What would this imply with current and past treatments of the over-indulgence of the mysterious elixir? What would it imply with regards to the "disease model?" Would it support it? Compliment it? Run contrary to it?
I could think in terms of what we have done right and wrong with regards to 12 step work in A.A.
My understanding of 12 step work in A.A. boils down to this; Try to find out about the prospect's situation and their past history with booze. Do they drink alcoholicly... aka show lack of control physically and mentally? Are they receptive to learning what the definition of alcoholic drinking is and do they currently identify? If so, does booze scare them? Do they want to do something about their condition or do they just want to negotiate something to terms of their own... to bargain back for rights or things lost? Do they want and need help?
But what if they don't exactly fit the A.A. description of the alcoholic? What then? Do we know where to send them or can we suggest they try something else? Or... what if they are an alcoholic to the A.A. book's description and they do not/can not do our proposals for recovery for ... whatever reason? Can we turn them lose and there again, steer them to seek "appropriate professional help?"
How do "we" know that our ducks are in a row? How do we hold accountable those who set out to prey on and harm these vulnerable folks? Well, it's been my experience that you don't. As a boss I had used to tell me, "Give them enough rope, they'll hang themselves." The anti/XAers would sure weigh in with a more drastic proposal; yeah, just torch A.A. to the ground.
How about let's see what's right about A.A. and look a little more closely at this MHFA model and see where it fits in. Can it help us? Can it help us help "them"? Can it help bridge the gap between pro 12 Step and other methodologies?
As far as the spiritual approach; I think that more and more now, there is a need for acceptance and understanding of secular methods and there should be a way to bridge the gap between the two regardless of the recovery method. This would of course require a cease-fire from both sides. If you want/need to belong to a fundamental Christian-based 12 Step group, find one or create one. If you want/need to belong to a secular 12 step or alternative recovery method, find one or create one. In fact, if you're as secular and rebellious and you claim, I offer you this challenge; form and A.A. meeting and do whatever you want with the Alcoholic's Anonymous book, the steps, a 3' by 5' poster of Bill W, Dr Bob, and Dr. Silkworth and do what you want, so long as you don't "affect other groups or A.A. as a whole." Drink beer and throw darts at Bill W, and then us the A.A. book for fire kindling if you'd like. See if A.A.W.S. comes and breaks your meeting up. I doubt it. If it helps folks get sober and helps them to improve their lives, then great. But if not, try something else.
I think I've covered a few thoughts. Let's see if what I have so far generates some conversation. If you say I'm too vulgar and over the top nasty and angry, then give me a smidgeon of credit for trying to think positive here. If it's blood you want, You Got It!