Spoiler alert – it wasn’t about the alcohol

© Mary Ratcliffe, 2021

Discussions have taken place over the years, at conferences and on online forums, about whether an addiction is the symptom to focus on directly or whether it’s more productive to see it as a painkiller and focus on the circumstances that lead to a binge. In this particular case, it took a while, but eventually it became clear that alcohol was a painkiller and resolving the cause of the ‘pain that needed killing’ was what led to a successful outcome.

I think it can be different in each case and, as ever, I learnt some useful lessons from this particular client. I’ve changed some details for confidentiality but retained others where they are needed to demonstrate a particular lesson I learnt.

He arrived in a state and seemed ready to run off at any moment. I did my best to reassure him, got him to my office and encouraged him to settle into my comfy reclining chair. It looked like his every sinew was stretched like piano wire and he would have little or no chance of relaxing – if we got anywhere near that part of a normal first session.

He managed to tell me that he needed to sort out his drinking – that his marriage was on the line and he was desperate to stop it from falling apart, losing his lovely wife and his precious children. He felt sure that, if this didn’t work, his only option would be Alcoholics Anonymous with a life of total abstinence, endless meetings and constant internal battles.

He wanted to be able to drink socially, to feel normal, to enjoy a full and relaxed social life, meeting friends for a drink, going to a party or meal and having a few drinks, but also being able to have alcohol-free days for his health and to feel satisfied with just a few drinks rather than losing track of when and how to stop after the first glass or can.


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mratcliffe has written 48 articles