Thoughts on the Alcoholic Addictive Personality

Submitted by on Saturday, March 22, 20142 Comments
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Alcoholic Addictive Personality

Dear Personality - You act too alcoholic. Can you act more like Catwoman please?We can’t deny that there are aspects to an alcoholic’s way of thinking or behaving that other (usually recovering) alcoholics may be able to look at and think, “Yeah, I did that too,” or “I felt the same way,” or “I thought that way too.”

But how many behaviors, feelings, or thoughts must I have in common with a fellow alcoholic in order to have an  ‘alcoholic addictive personality?’

There’s a post I ran across this past week entitled “Is there an ‘alcoholic/addictive personality?” with its byline reading:

Suffering victim and destructive asshole, all wound up in the same person. That’s the “alcoholic/addictive” personality. But who is the “real person” underneath the disease?

Although I think I know what the piece is going for, (ie. primarily, extremes of an alcoholic or addict behavior exhibited in the world) I disagree with the belied assumption that we ‘are’ what the world thinks ‘we’ are or even that we are necessarily what ‘we’ think we are. It goes on to offer behavioral characteristics like to say ‘the collective’ (those with the ‘alcoholic addictive personality’) stole and cheated.

Alcoholic Characterization

Alcoholism is not characterized by moral failings. Alcoholism is because once that first drink is taken, the phenomenon of craving is introduced into certain person’s body chemistry. And when that craving happens, the need to satisfy it is great. The things that may happen to that personality as she grows into satisfying the cyclic craving /obsession is what can make her certainly look like an asshole or victim.

Drug Addict Characterization

I can imagine that, because there are more controls on drugs, drug addicts would have to be a little more creative than having to go to the grocery to purchase it. They may have to visit doctors and make up stories or spend family money obtaining drugs illegally. I have known nurses who have resorted to stealing cancer patient medications in order to get fixed and not necessarily would I have ever considered these nurses assholes or victims (yet the victim they stole the meds from may think differently or their family they withdrew the grocery fund from to go to the online “pharmacy” may think differently).

Is there an Alcoholic Addict Personality

Sure there is. But it’s the same personality for any one who seeks an external FIXING to the exclusion of all else.  People not addicted to alcohol or drugs also steal and cheat. People not addicted to any substance can also be simultaneous asshole and victim all wound up into one. Maybe the person not on drugs or alcohol can more easily dissemble, while the ‘alleged’ alcoholic addict ‘personality’ either whispers loudly OR screams for its substance.

Personality of the Alcoholic or Addict

Personality: All that the external world sees are degrees

Certain drugs can act on the brain in such a way that it seems to drown out more easily those personal and social mores to which the original personality used to abide. Depending on the drug of choice these minds need (after becoming addicted or the degree of addiction) to get their fix they may become more willing or even able to resort to theft, lying, cheating, and so forth.

The fact that drugs that act upon the mind in such a way as to be a direct cause of this are often illegal and more difficult to obtain, makes the addicted mind contort itself in such a way that their personality MUST change if this person is to successfully obtain their drug of choice.

And yes, personality is an outward manifestation isn’t it? This does not mean it’s the I, inside.

If alcohol were still in prohibition, would alcoholics also evolve down this scale? I don’t know. It is a possibility, isn’t it? Or sugar. How do you feel about sugar?

People love to point at a thing and say, “That! That is why s/he is ______.” Because if you can correctly identify the ‘thing’ you can imagine its disappearance and imagine that things really can be different if the ‘thing’ goes away and you can imagine a different life for yourself. Of course, we’ll say it’s ‘for their own good’ and we’ll say it’s ‘because we love them’ but I say, “Tell the truth.”

My Personality + Alcoholism

I was a Highly Sensitive Personality (HSP) and mostly introverted  (INFP personality) long before I took any first drink. I was tender-hearted but also passionate and good humored. To be fair to my ‘negative’ humors, I was also quick to anger and had little tolerance for prideful ignorance. And I still have these qualities of my personality.

Being alcoholic did not alter these qualities in myself except in the sense that I felt a sense of being at ease when I was in public. Noticing this sense of calm and comfort, with lack of any other solution, I continued to seek it out.

When alcoholism gained its foothold and began climbing the mountain of my mainstay,  it quit being my best friend and metamorphosed into my best frenemy. Retrospectively, I noticed the growth of my insecurities and fears. I noticed the ever-increasing reliance on it to bring me comfort. Ironically, as alcohol led to my increasing discomfort while in my own skin, it seemed to be the only solution to its ever evolving problem.

Cheating and Stealing

I was 7 – 12 years old when I used to sneak into my parents liquor cabinet and drink the wine but I doubt anyone would call a child who did that a thief anymore than the kid who sneaks into the candy cabinet and eats candy.

I was 14 (and already drinking regularly) when I was caught cheating on a French test. Does this make me have the alcoholic addictive personality? Maybe I was a scared to death girl-child fearful of a bad grade? (I would like to thank my teacher for allowing me to learn a valuable lesson on being caught, not shamed DUE to being caught, and for offering me compassion in making up the test honestly.)

Asshole and Victim

It does seem like, more often, while actively engaging in the drink, I was much more prone to extremes of behavior, whatever they may be.

I was either WAY too talkative (for my natural personality) or WAY too quiet (for my natural personality). I was either WAY too confident (for my natural personality) or WAY too insecure (for my natural personality). And yes, at times, I was WAY too self-pitying (for my personality) OR WAY too asshole (for my personality).

And although someone may think me to have been an “asshole” or a “victim” as my primary personality while engaged in active alcoholism, that is not my responsibility and it is not my experience. But were someone to think I am “way too asshole” today, for what could possibly, then, be my excuse? See Codependent Recovery if perceptions bother you to distraction.

Thoughts on the Alcoholic or Addictive Personality

Although I disagree that alcoholism or addiction ‘makes’ one a victim / asshole, the ‘walking extremes’ is the takeaway.

When a person is in survival mode [as many alcoholics/addicts and even codependents or eating disordered people will acknowledge] their first order of business is to survive; To survive their own thinking, to survive and escape their own self-loathing or defeating thoughts; To survive, period.

And for many, depending on how far down the scale they have gone; depending on their environment; depending on their first cause personality; they can be victim first, asshole second or asshole first, victim second. OR, I’ve met assholes and victims not in any addiction whatsoever just as I’ve known non-assholes and non-victims IN a dis-ease operation.

I AM who I was before alcoholism took me to hell. I was who I was while alcoholism even had me there. My brain was just a little confused and it may’ve expressed itself in extreme behavior, certainly, but no one in my life – I do not think –  would have ever primarily characterized me an asshole OR a victim.

Today I have a different view on my thoughts. I am no longer in survival mode.  That no longer being in survival mode, a ‘more genuine’ and open expression of my personality can burst forth.

Gangaji addresses Kindness

I loved that in the middle of my writing this post, I see a tweet from Gangaji, kind of close to this topic and she responded so succinclty to the question, I am happy to have this opportunity to share it.

And kindness is a part of one’s personality isn’t it?

I have discovered that when we’re no longer in survival mode; no longer obsessed with that external fix; no longer fiddling about with our leaves and branches but instead, have gotten to the root and core of the who we are, kindness or non-assholeism is the natural state but without label. I naturally desire to want to extend and be present.

And even in this natural state, someone can STILL come along; Can point to me and say, “Look! An Asshole!”

I hope that made you smile. There is room for it all here.

Catwoman is not an alcoholic or addictFinal Thoughts: CatWoman

Catwoman is not an alcoholic or addict.

But she does have the qualities the original article references.

If she were and did the same things she does now, which is primarily burgle for jewels, hurts Batman (but loves Batman), takes justice into her own hands, ignores law, and evades capture, one might try to blame it on alcoholism or addiction.

Some may say she even does what she does DUE to her addiction, right?

So with all that being said, here’s a contemplation:

An alcoholic cat burglar gets sober. Who is she now?

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2 Comments »

  • Garth M. said:

    So…I’m at an AA speakers meeting, and before the meeting my wife has told me that the speaker is someone she knows from both work and from her home group and that while she has known him he has really “grown a lot.”
    He shared his story, both before and after. And “before”, (by his own account), he was quite the assh*le. A pretty unlikeable guy. After? Well I’m looking at him. He’s engaging, funny, personable, honest…I really like this guy. And not only has he changed from how he was, but by my wife’s account he’s still changing.
    So for what it’s worth, as we’re driving home I have this epiphany: Who we are is not fixed. There is no “me.” I can be, (or I can learn to be) egoless.
    To me that’s the definition of freedom. Who I am is not constrained by who I was (or what I did)…when I was a kid, when I was a teenager, when I was a young parent, last year, last month, last week, yesterday, 5 minutes ago. I can change. I am changing. I can turn on dime. I’m free.
    I have made mistakes. We all have. I will continue to make mistakes. We all will. Actions have consequences. But that’s, literally, just karma. Even if I made a mistake so horrible that I ended up in jail because of it…that mistake doesn’t define who I am. It defines who I was, or what I did, but jail is just karma. To quote a Tibetan Buddhist who was jailed before he got out to Tibet: “Jail is a great place to practice.”
    For me, my epiphany give me both hope and compassion. Hope that I can become the kind of person I want to be, and maybe even the kind of person I don’t even know I can be. Compassion for all those people who are doing the best they can, but suffering…because I know that if life had twisted and turned just a little differently I could be any one of them. Oh yeah, and gratitude, because I live in a great country, and at a great time, and because the twists and turns of my life have brought me to right where I am right now.
    “An alcoholic cat burglar gets sober. Who is she now?” Magnificent?

  • Samsara (author) said:

    Hello, my friend Garth!
    Magnificent. Yes.

    The extremes of emotions, the shit in my head, the lies, the shame, the thinking that I WAS what my mind said I was, and while drinking, Garth, that’s what got me interested in sobriety. The hurt, death, cycle, hell; I was imploding in slow motion. [Or… if you like ducks, try this one on: Duck Nibbles ]

    We’ve both known people I am sure who’ve gotten sober because OTHERS did not like the consequences of their drinking. [And they did not want the potential consequence of the ‘or else’.] Fortunately, I was not in that position. I was stripped down to the layer of ‘me’ or the, who I thought I was and that ‘was’ is what needed changing.

    Being a type of people-pleaser I can see my getting sober, yes, but not being in enough pain to bring me into an honest willingness to strip down to this current version of ‘myself,’ I am unsure how long it would have lasted.

    That epiphany you had IS freedom, isn’t it? That awareness is a gift. Were I still in my state of hell, shackled to the mind’s bondage, believing its thoughts, behaving from them, I can certainly see how no such epiphany would occur.

    When I first began drinking, after those first drinks, I really did believe I was free. And as much as it FELT like freedom, I know even that was a lie because upon waking I was shackled, once again, to the thoughts and regrets of my actions and consequences of my prior night’s so-called ‘freedom.’

    And this, too, another version of the cycle of Samsara. The endless birth, death, re-birth and the imprisonment it represents.

    Seeing someone’s personality changing (toward an alignment with their heart/truth, if you will) is also a gift.

    I have a friend who was very emotionally upset not too long ago. In her state of emotions happening [side by side with her thoughts], her comment had been, “I’m such a mess.” It was a heart swell of a moment for me (when I said, “No you’re not. You’re having emotions.”) and then she said, despite being in an emotionally distressed state, “You’re right…” Now, she also survived those moments without drinking, drugging, acting out, or otherwise behaviorally harming herself or others around her; But more than that, I felt her ‘shift’ easily into that awareness. THAT is a gift.

    She allowed herself the room – in that moment of awareness – to yes, have those emotions to which she was entitled but to not allow self-judgment to define her; who she was or where she was. For me to bear witness to that one amazing moment is satsang.

    This is an amazing journey we’re on, Garth. Life is beautiful.

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