& Problem Drinking. The Paradoxes of Control – Paradox 1: Using alcohol to control experience results in the loss of control over alcohol use: The motivation to increase pleasure and decrease pain is fundamental and universal. The discovery that drinking alcohol can produce immediate pleasure or relief gives an individual a way to cope with day to day difficulties.
Anything capable of delivering such a desirable payoff can corrupt the soul. Alcohol is so effective in helping some people control their experience that they lose control of their alcohol consumption.
Paradox 2: Because controlling alcohol intake seems so trivial a challenge, most problem drinkers do not invest the effort required to succeed, and end up relapsing: It is possible to exercise will, even in the presence of great stress and temptation, but doing so requires considerable preparation.
Shallow attempts to control drinking through “willpower” often produce the spectacular failures that discredit the concept of willpower. Lack of respect for what is required to act as intended during a crisis is the primary cause of failure of will.
Paradox 3: Depending on an external agent to free you from dependence on alcohol promotes dependence: When you act counter to your intentions, you weaken the power of future intentions to influence action.
Loss of control occurs when alcohol consumption is dependent upon local conditions rather than upon your intentions. Demoralizing relapses may motivate the individual (or loved ones) to give up and seek an external agent who can produce the intended outcome.
Consider treatment strategies based on the medical model, in which the problem drinker is urged to accept powerlessness over a disease and to accept the patient role as recipient of the treatment: The strategies and goals are selected by an external agent [treatment provider, self-help group]. This approach, most closely associated with 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, is well matched with physically dependent alcoholics and many non-physically dependent problem drinkers. However, it provides a poor match for some high-functioning problem drinkers.
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