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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Learn how to prevent and recover from chemical dependency as well as the aftereffects of chemical dependency on you and your family. Read Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. series of Recovery books.


What is Meant by Loss of Control


D
ear Dr. Steve:

I don’t know what to think anymore. At this point I’m so confused, I can’t even think straight. I’m convinced that my wife is an alcoholic. Her and I go round and round about this all the time. She tells me that I worry too much. She tells me that I can’t point to anything that would prove that she is an alcoholic. All I can tell you is that I know what I feel. Granted she only drinks beer and wine. I seldom see her drinking hard liquor. And I must admit that it’s not as if she is rip roaring drunk every day of the week. I can think of people who drink more than she does. But all I know is that when she drinks, she’s not herself. She becomes unpredictable.  I never know what she’ll do once she starts drinking. She usually becomes offensive and embarrasses herself. When she sobers up she’s very remorseful but she goes right ahead and digs the same holes the next time she drinks—only to repeat the cycle of remorse and promises of never doing it again. When we sit down to dinner who knows if she’s going to drink a couple glasses of wine or the whole bottle. When we go on picnics, I’ll suggest that she stop after her third beer, but she just keeps drinking. She’s always the last one to stop drinking, long after everyone else has. I don’t think it’s an act of defiance. I just have the sense that she can’t make herself stop.

When evaluating whether or not an individual is an alcoholic or drug addict, what one drinks, how often one drinks, and how much one drinks are not as relevant as other factors. More relevant factors include: 1.) Loss of control, 2.) Increased tolerance, 3.) Preoccupation with using, 4.) Withdrawal symptoms when individual stops consuming alcohol and other drugs.

What seems most relevant to your situation with your wife is loss of control. For most individuals, the consumption of alcohol and other drugs is a voluntary act. However, for some people, the consumption of alcohol and other drugs can cease to be a voluntary act when their ability to control their alcohol and other drug intake becomes impaired. Once an individual’s ability to control their alcohol and other drug intake becomes impaired, they can no longer consistently limit how much or how often they will consume alcohol and other drugs. As a result of their impaired ability to control their alcohol and other drug consumption, they also are unable to control their behavior and the resultant consequences of their behavior.

As an individual losses control over their alcohol and other drug consumption, they become unable to successfully:
1.) Decrease or discontinue consuming alcohol and other drugs
2.) Control when or how much alcohol and other drugs that they will consume
3.) Predict their behavior and the consequences of their behavior once they have consumed alcohol and other drugs

Fear of loss of control is a given. To acknowledge to oneself that they have lost control over their consumption of alcohol and other drugs is difficult for most people. To admit to loss of control begs even larger questions such as:
1.) “If I am not in control of my use of alcohol and other drugs, then who is?”
2.) If I can’t regain control of my use of alcohol and other drugs, then I must accept that my addiction to alcohol and other drugs is chronic and therefore incurable,”
3.) What does it say about who I am as a person if I can’t control my use of alcohol and other drugs?”

To admit to have lost control over one’s consumption of alcohol and other drugs is to admit to being powerless. The admission of powerlessness is oftentimes equated with being weak. To admit to being weak is to admit to being ineffectual, flawed, and perhaps morally reprehensible.

What an individual must come to understand is that the admission of loss of control means nothing about the quality of a person’s character. Admitting to loss of control over one’s consumption of alcohol and other drugs only means that an individual can’t:

1.) Intend to use a specific quantity of alcohol and other drugs and not exceed that amount
2.) Intend to use just enough to reach a desired state and not exceed that amount
3.) Intend to use for a specific time period and not exceed that time period
4.) Intend to spend only a specified amount of money on a substance and not exceed that amount
5.)  Intend to use only what is not one’s drug of choice without using their drug of choice as well
6.) Intend to quit tomorrow, without using again anyway

Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases that, once established, cannot be overcome by exerting Herculean willpower in order to maintain self-regulated, healthy use of alcohol and other drugs for extended periods of time. This is because the disease is not solely a disease of quantity and frequency of use alcohol and other drugs. It is a disease of loss of control. It is a disease that can not be managed until there is an acknowledgement by the user that they have lost control of their consumption of alcohol and other drugs. This requires that the illusion of control be revealed as just that—an illusion. Sadly this oftentimes does not occur until the individual is brought to their knees and the acknowledgement of illusion of control becomes inescapable. This conclusion must be based upon accepting without reservation or qualification that one has:
1.) Experienced a loss of control
2.) An unwillingness to control their use of alcohol and other drugs
3.) An inability to control their use of alcohol and other drugs


Learn how to prevent and recover from chemical dependency as well as the aftereffects of chemical dependency on you and your family. Read Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. series of Recovery books—From Insanity to Serenity.

Pathfinder’s Checklist
1.) Consult with a qualified healthcare provider about alcoholism and drug addiction
2.) Educate yourself about the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction
3.) Develop a plan to help your wife address the issues surrounding her alcohol and other drug use
4.) Develop a plan of self-care for yourself to help you cope with the affects of your wife’s alcohol and other drug use
5.) Contact your local chapter of Al-Anon—a support group for friends and family members of people who abuse and are dependent on alcohol and other drugs

G.B.U.

Steve



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