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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

PTSD and Alcoholism

One of the readers, Michael, sent along this fascinating article on how alcoholism rewires the brain and leaves one susceptible to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

What the study shows is that heavy drinking impairs the mind's ability to shift out of one emotional scenario to the next.  That's what PTSD is in a nutshell: a prison of the past, along with all of its reactions.

People in recovery have long experienced the problem of 'arrested development' in the alcoholic personality. Alcoholics and other addicts tend to lean so heavily on their addictions that they no longer experience the growth that emotional pain offers and thus they ossify in an emotional sense.  Many even deteriorate to a form of 'infantilism,' a kind of perpetual childlike neediness and conscience-devoid sense of entitlement.

This study shows that there may be a chemical component to this problem.

The collective experience of recovery tells us that, over time, this changes and the brain does retrain itself.  However, most recovering alcoholics will tell you this takes years, even up to a decade.  Certainly, this can be lengthened by relapse or not working a program the way one is supposed to.

But, the demands of time cannot be avoided.

The same is true of Orthodoxy: it takes time for one to mature and develop as a Christian.  Christianity is not a one-time ticket-punch that get you into heaven.  Rather, it is an overcoming of a worldly PTSD.  We are called to emerge from the tangled web of sin and be healed by God's divine love so that we can live in the reality of the present with Him rather than in the prison of the memory.

Alcoholism is a prison, not only in terms of physical dependency but also emotional reliance.  PTSD is a natural byproduct when someone does not grow.  There is a reverse form of PTSD, it is called being 'spoiled rotten.'  They are two sides of the same coin, where one's attention is so firmly rooted in the past that the present is not truly reacted to.

There is so much new research out there that it is hard not to get excited.  But, we should always remain aware of the Solution.

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