Health knowledge made personal
I chose to publish my seventh and eight books, "If You Loved Me, You'd Stop! What You Really Need To Know When Your Loved One Drinks Too Much" and "Loved One In Treatment! Now What?," and to write this blog because I wanted to help all of us better understand the new brain research on addiction – information that has only been possible in the past 10-15 years as a result of new brain imaging technologies. I believe bringing this science based research to families and the public at large is the best way to help society as a whole come to terms with alcoholism as a disease – instead of a moral weakness, or a shameful lack of willpower. After decades of loving / living with various alcohol abusing / alcoholic loved ones and my eight-year journey to unravel these entanglements, I have a very good understanding of what people need to hear in order to change.
Why this science based research? It is non-threatening, it explains why attempts by an alcoholic to stop drinking have not worked, and perhaps more importantly, it can help us prevent alcohol abuse and alcoholism – especially in young people, which is where much of it starts. NIAAA reports than just about half of alcoholics were addicted to alcohol before the age of 21 and two-thirds were addicted to alcohol by age 25. (It just takes another 10-15 years before they seek help; if they do.)
Taking this approach also allows other key groups of people to join in the understanding of the role alcohol plays in hijacking the brain and what living with an alcoholic/alcohol abuser does to the family members, all of which has a ripple effect – in the workplace, in society (e.g., incarceration at great costs to communities of nonviolent offenders who break the law while under the influence of alcohol), at school, in custody battles during a divorce, in domestic violence situations, in arrests for DUIs, in the political arena – just about everywhere.
I have to say -- I find this new brain research fascinating. Neuroscientists and medical professionals (and lay people like us) are amazed by the previously unknown plasticity of the brain, the role of brain circuitry in our habits and the ability we have (but previously not understood) to influence and/or change that circuitry. In other words, the brain can change, and in changing allow us to come up with different habits, but we are wholly responsible for how. And that’s where new research and talking about it can help.
Recall the early 1970s…many adults smoked cigarettes, we didn’t use bike helmets, infant car seats hadn’t been invented, and we rarely used our seat belts. Recall the early 1980s… HIV / AIDS – thousands were dying because of the stigma and shame that had surrounded it, inhibiting treatment and prevention efforts. All of these conditions changed drastically in just 20+ years — simply because people started talking about and sharing the new research and taking action as they gathered knowledge.
I'd love for you to add your comments to any of my posts and welcome guest posts, as well. Together, we can start / continue the conversations that can shatter the stigma and shame that surround the disease of alcoholism and keep so many of millions of men, women and children "stuck."