Boozy to Butterfly

Alcoholic: The Toxic Label

March 16, 2021 This Brain of Mine Episode 1
Boozy to Butterfly
Alcoholic: The Toxic Label
Chapters
Boozy to Butterfly
Alcoholic: The Toxic Label
Mar 16, 2021 Episode 1
This Brain of Mine

Join Emily as she discusses the toxic nature of the labels assigned to complex human beings including alcoholic and addict. Learn how these labels actually hinder the process of creating a drink less or sober life you can love and how they conveniently help the alcohol and rehab industries.

Looking for support on your stop overdrinking journey? Head over to https://thisbrainofmine.com/stopoverdrinking to sign up for my free 10-day training course. 

If you're ready for private coaching, email me at [email protected]

Show Notes Transcript

Join Emily as she discusses the toxic nature of the labels assigned to complex human beings including alcoholic and addict. Learn how these labels actually hinder the process of creating a drink less or sober life you can love and how they conveniently help the alcohol and rehab industries.

Looking for support on your stop overdrinking journey? Head over to https://thisbrainofmine.com/stopoverdrinking to sign up for my free 10-day training course. 

If you're ready for private coaching, email me at [email protected]

Boozy to Butterfly: The Sober Coach

Episode 1: The Damaging Label: Alcoholic

In today’s episode I want to talk about the term “alcoholic” and the harmful effects of this widely accepted label.

When I say the term alcoholic, what do you think of…what do you picture? What comes to mind? That picture or image is derived from a label and everyone has a role in creating this imagery from movies to ads for rehab. Have you seen those ads, by the way? My god, they’re awful.

Look, labels are part of being human…they help us identify seemingly complex things and simplify them with a single word, or label. This is useful for language. This helps us create stories with fewer words and supposedly can improve communication. But as soon as we identify and label something, we’re done with it. The curiosity ends, the inquisitiveness stops, and the complexity of the problem is solved.

We label everything as part of our language. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Eckhart Tolle but he’s what I would describe as one of the greatest spiritual leaders of modern times. He has some great books I highly recommend, The Power of Now and A New Earth. He talks about how when we label our surroundings with words like tree, bird, grass, etc. we then lose interest in them. We’re familiar with them and find no further need to explore the miraculous beauty of each tree or bird. I definitely noticed this to be true for me. The wondrous nature of this planet and the universe lost its luster through my 20s and 30s, right in line with creating my overdrinking lifestyle. But now I intentionally look a little closer at nature, the veins in leaves, the shape of flower petals, the vibrant colors, and it really brings a little more peace and joy to those moments.

If you’ve ever watched a child learn to speak, they are pointing at everything shouting words with excitement. They are in awe of the universe and the world around them. They deep dive on everything with extreme interest and curiosity until they learn the label or word and then they’re on to the next interesting thing to learn. When we label something, we lose the mystery and majesty of it. We simplify it. We strip it of it’s depth, character, and context with a single word.

Now the same goes for humans. We label people black, white, fat, skinny, gay, straight, mean, angry, alcoholic. And humans are so much more complex than birds and trees from the sheer nature of our individual personalities, upbringings, and cultures we’re raised in. All of these factors contribute to what makes us complex and unique. Our environment plays a significant role in how our brains are formed and the programming we receive. Our brain literally gets wired by our interactions with the world. So to label a person dismisses nearly everything about them and categorizes them in to one tiny box. 

And beyond this, the label plays a role in determining what you see. Because when you label something, you’re not only giving it a category, but you’re then interpreting that category. If I label someone a republican, that is what you will see and your interpretation and all your associated stories of what a republican is will come to your mind. Your mind will then create more opinions and labels, good or bad, depending on your picture or view of what a Republican is.

This is the very reason many derogatory labels are reclaimed by minority groups to take the negative charge out of the label and turn shame into pride. Or turn hate into power. 

So I truly believe one of the biggest problems in our overdrinking culture is the labeling that has been assigned to someone who has developed a dependence or overreliance on alcohol: the terms alcoholic, addict and even recovery. I also believe these labels keep people drinking far longer than they want. 

When you turn down alcohol, people will flat out ask if you’re an alcoholic or what’s wrong with you or why you’re not drinking. Alcohol is the only drug you have to have an excuse not to take. I know plenty of women who have lied about why they’re not drinking to get people to leave them alone…whether it’s antibiotics, illness, or pregnancy. I’ve witnessed firsthand on many social occasions where someone has repeatedly turned down the offer to drink and serious continual pressure to imbibe has ensued until the person reluctantly agrees. It’s beyond ridiculous and that’s a real problem with our drinking culture…the people who are drinking and pressuring others to do the same. Peer pressure isn’t just for kids anymore…

And Hey, that was me. I peer pressured people regularly in my drinking days. If I got other people to drink or even better, overdrink, it made ME feel more comfortable about my overdrinking. And this goes beyond just friend groups, there’s pressure at work and family engagements, too. In fact, in some industries, drinking is so ingrained in the work culture that it can directly affect your career trajectory and I’m not talking about the alcohol industry. 

But speaking of the alcohol industry, these labels alcoholic and addict are very convenient for them. These labels segregate a population of people and identify them as less than, weak, or diseased, unable to handle this legal drug, which allows them to continue to market this psychoactive substance under the guise of an elixir of life or a social lubricant. These labels shift the blame to the person from the substance. They ignore the fact that the drug is a concentrated dopamine source coupled with psychoactive properties. It’s worse than cigarettes because not only does it also cause cancer but it alters your state of mind and reality with intoxication like meth or cocaine, not in the exact same way but it is a psychoactive drug, it changes your nervous system and brain function. So think about how convenient these labels are for the titan alcohol industry and their products. It allows them to sell a product that is killing hundreds of thousands of people every year through drinking and driving, domestic violence, cancer, kidney failure, liver failure, alcohol poisoning, the list goes on and on.. Their job is to sell you this product, so think about how convenient this label is that allows them to isolate a group of people that shouldn’t use this product rather than the general public.

These labels are absurd and harmful. Who wants to be an alcoholic or addict? So you avoid introspection and self-reflection because it might lead you to think this about yourself. You avoid seeking help of having candid open conversations about overdrinking. Think about the isolation and shame this perpetuates. How does that feel, think about it. I am… it’s heavy, it’s hopeless, it carries imagery, uselessness, visual pictures, and pain.

When someone smokes two packs a day and has tried numerous times to quit smoking to no avail, they don’t get labeled, shamed, and told to join an anonymous support group. Why? Is it because alcohol can be so much more destructive due to the psychoactive nature of it? Well, then that proves it’s the substance not the person. 

When people are obesely overweight due to overeating, they have to learn how to eat a normal balanced diet. They can’t just quit cold turkey and never be exposed to food again. Yet, that’s what we tell alcoholics and addicts to do. Avoid being around alcohol and remove it completely from your life. Ask you friends and family to not drink in front of you, etc. Avoid parties and social events with alcohol. That’s not a life. That’s ridiculous. That’s more isolation and segregation. Overeaters have to learn to stop emotional eating and use food as fuel not comfort or whatever reason they’re overeating. They have to get to the root of it. The overeating is a symptom. 

The same goes for overdrinking…it’s a comfort, emotional support, a relationship. Alcohol should not be a relationship. Food should not be a relationship. Yet this fear of exploring your overdrinking and realizing you have a relationship with alcohol leads you to drink more. And then you start to wonder if these labels fit you. You’re having a hard time abstaining or drinking less so do you have a problem? Are you an alcoholic you start to question? 

This is why I believe AA and the 12-step programs are not fulfilling avenues to truly help people overcome overdrinking. I’m not saying they haven’t helped anyone, I’m saying the method, the steps, the shame, and the labeling is not a fulfilling, sustainable way to live.

The first thing you have to do is declare yourself an alcoholic…which I believe is an awareness practice or possibly admission that you are powerless over alcohol. Either way, it’s painful, degrading, damaging, and leaves you a shell of a human being. Of a whole, complex human being.

These labels are loaded with shame. How can you feel empowered to make changes if you’re weighed down by shame? Shame is the feeling that there is something wrong with you. That you are bad not just that you did something bad but that you are bad. Shame sucks the life out of you and robs you of self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, and self-love, all the selfs. 

 

Alcoholic and addict is charged with helplessness and weakness. The self-image created by this admission immediately takes your power away. You handicap and cripple yourself as you surrender to the almighty power of alcohol. This is ridiculous. If you’re powerless to alcohol and as a labeled addict or alcoholic, you no longer feel or believe you have the power within you to make changes. But you do. 

You’ve traded the crutch or coping tool of drinking with the crutch of meetings and support groups. I’m not against support groups. In fact, I have my own Facebook Group called The Sober Candor Community, but I don’t believe you should be reliant on a support group to live. By accepting these labels you’ve not really addressed the underlying reason you’re overdrinking, you’ve just swapped one overreliance for another. 

Overdrinking is a symptom, it’s not the problem. It’s a sign that you’re not fulfilling your needs and not willing to address any pain or social underdevelopment you feel. You may wonder well maybe I am an alcoholic because I can’t seem to control my drinking…but let me share something with you that the billion-dollar rehab industry doesn’t want you to know…the main premise of addiction is not empirically supported and in fact is contradicted by many studies and scientific evidence. And from my own personal experience and those of countless other I coach as a Sober Life Coach, I agree. I literally stopped drinking one day and never craved it again and I didn’t have a rock-bottom moment and I’m not some unicorn because there are hundreds of times I tried to quit or cut back before and it didn’t work. There are so many ways drinkers are persuaded into thinking there is something wrong with them. That they’re not normal or there’s something different about them that makes them weak to a glass of psychoactive liquid.

So what if your overdrinking is not caused by addiction? What if it’s not caused by chemical hooks? What if you’re overdrinking because you want to despite thinking you don’t? Even if you really believe you want to quit drinking but you don’t quit drinking. What if you ARE in control of it all? Sometimes people don’t want to believe that because it’s hard. It’s hard to understand what’s going on and it’s hard to believe you CAN control this because when you try to quit and don’t succeed you think of yourself as a failure. 

Changing habits is hard especially when you don’t understand the reason you’re overdrinking and you really don’t want to take a good long look at your life. We have pain and regrets deeply buried under our skin and no one wants to say this hurt me. I’m still carrying this pain and I’m not willing to be vulnerable. It may feel easier to just succumb and accept the alcoholic label and allow that identity to now rule your life. You think rather than be isolated and alone, at least by admitting I’m an alcoholic I can be part of a network of people at AA. AA is the largest support group of any kind but for most people it’s doing a disservice. For most people it doesn’t work. It’s hard to believe you’re not an alcoholic, addict, or a failure when these 12-step programs are so prevalent and the rehab industries prey on those who don’t get helped by AA. It’s a beautifully designed symbiotic system between the alcohol industry, AA, and rehab all centered on labeling you.

But what if you didn’t label yourself at all? You’re not a failure, you’re not an addict, you’re not in recovery, you’re not an alcoholic? Why continue letting others choose your identity for you? Beyond just a wife or husband, a mother, a sister, an accountant, a lawyer, a bus driver, who are you? What do you want to put after the words, I am? That’s a very powerful meditative phrase…I am. It’s limitless, it’s open-ended, it empowering. You are everything. So why on earth would you stand up an say I am an alcoholic? 

When you accept a label, you lose the reality that you are capable of change, even though it likely doesn’t feel that way. You have the total ability and control to learn what’s happening with your body and mind, to think new thoughts, to create new beliefs, and to live a life free from fear of alcohol. 

Look, my previous life would have fully fit into the framework for terms like functional alcoholic or addict. And I knew my tolerance was way too high so the amount of alcohol I had to consume to get the same feeling I was used to was a lot…like a lot. So of course, my mind was severely impaired while drinking due to the amount of consumption. With that cognitive impairment, I did a lot of stupid things that I would have never done with normal cognitive abilities. As a psychoactive drug, alcohol affects your perceptions (think beer goggles), moods (think happy one moment and raging the next), and consciousness. Yet, one day when I realized I didn’t want to make anymore stupid decisions, I found power through education, learning, and rejecting the labels. I didn’t just accept these limiting definitions of what I was experiencing. And if you’re tossing these labels around in your mind, I offer you the idea that maybe you shouldn’t accept them either.