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Alcohol Works Even When You're Not Drinking

  • anonymous Asks ...

    I am a recovering alcoholic. Right now I am having a lot of trouble with insomnia and I can’t take it anymore. I am thinking about trying some sleeping pills. I would not want to take any pills that can be ‘addictive’ or that can get me high because I know that this would be a bad decision for me. Is there any reason for me to avoid over the counter sleeping medications?

  • Dr. James Strawbridge Says ...
    Dr. James Strawbridge


    One thing is certain about alcohol, it works. It works to destroy a man's education, career, ruin his marriage, turn him into a zombie unconscious in a hallway---but it works. Even when you're not drinking, it works. On the short term, it works much faster than a psychiatrist, a psychologist or a priest or the love of a husband or wife. Those things...they all take time. They must be developed...but alcohol is always ready to go to work at once. Then minutes, half-hour, the little formless fears are gone, sleep is possible. But then they come back. Oh yes, and they bring reinforcements.

    Acute Withdrawal Condition

    One of the most confusing aspects of alcoholism is that the alcoholic is most sick, not when he drinks,but when he stops drinking. His body has adapted to the constant presence of alcohol---his cells are accustomed to functioning with alcohol as their major source of energy and stimulation and as an antidote for the ever-present toxicity.

    Hell Breaks Loss

    Thus, when he stops drinking, all hell breaks loss. Blood vessels, cutting down on the flow of blood and oxygen in the cells. The blood glucose level drops sharply and remains unstable. The brain amines, serotonin and norepinephrine decrease dramatically. Hormones, enzymes, and body fluid levels fluctuate erratically. The body's cells are malnourished and toxic from long exposure to large doses of alcohol and actaldehyde. These chaotic events cause fundamental disruptions in the brain's chemicals and electrical activity.

    Extended Withdrawal Condition

    Even if he is able to endure the acute withdrawal condition without taking a drink to relieve his anguish, his troubles are not over. The majority of alcoholics continue to be anxious, depressed, nervous, and fearful long after they stop drinking. Alcoholics abstinent for months and even years may complain of insomnia,

    depression, agitation, moodiness, and an over-whelming desire for alcohol. Because so many alcoholics experience these symptoms to some degree, many people conclude that the alcoholic is and always has been troubled psychologically troubled. Yet the alcoholic's persistent problems are usually not caused by any inherent psychological flaws or emotional weaknesses but by the physical disease itself. The depression and anxiety are actually long-term (or protracted) withdrawal symptoms, and they indicate that the cells are still suffering from the damage caused by alcohol. The healing process is not automatically completed when he stops drinking alcohol.Alcohol has created widespread destruction throughout the body, and the cells need time to heal. He also needs help if the healing process is to be rapid and complete.

    Bundle of Problems

    The major causes of the extended withdrawal conditions are malnutrition, hypoglycemia, autonomic nervous system dysfunctions, cortical atrophy, and brain amine depletion. Each of these physical abnormalities need to be understood in the context of alcoholism. Most alcoholics do not even know that they are suffering from nutritional damage, and even if informed about their condition, they probably do not realize that a balanced diet and nutritional supplements will help them make a rapid and complete recovery.

    I would suggest that you call the medical association nearest where you live. Ask for a referral to a doctor who specializes in addictions. Make an appointment with a psychologist who's practice includes working with those affected by addictions. Go to your AA meetings. In the discussion type meeting, bring the insomnia up for discussions.

    There are no new problems, just different people going through them.



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