By Dr John McMahon and Lou Lewis for YourTango.com.
It would make things so much easier if we could just have an on/off scale, love/don’t love.
Unfortunately life is rarely as neat or as simple as that.I’ll try to explain the love issue from the point of view of the alcoholic.
People sometimes say to me, “If you love someone you’d never hurt them, is that not right? Therefore, if you’re hurting them by your drinking then you don’t love them, right?”
Well actually, WRONG. Did I love my wife? Yes. Did I love her well? Sometimes, but rarely when I was drinking. Did I love alcohol more than my wife? To an observer it’s easy to see how it could seem that way.
After all my wife was pleading with me to not drink, not drink too much or to not go out, I'd go out, drink too much and get drunk. Clearly then, I chose the alcohol rather than my wife - so by logical deduction, I must love alcohol more than my wife, point proven, case closed.
My relationship with alcohol was a complicated one. In my early days of drinking it felt like I had found the answer to life, the universe and everything. For someone like me who had a social phobia, suffered from low self-esteem and was terrified of women rejecting me, alcohol was a wonder drug.
So did I love it? I loved the way it made me feel. I loved that I could talk to people without feeling clumsy and stupid. I loved the fact that it made me attractive to women (that was a lie but I was more than happy to believe it).
As time progressed and I started to drink increasing amounts to achieve the same effects, and I started to do things I was ashamed of, the love affair with alcohol dimmed slightly. Oh I still loved the effect, no doubt about that. But now I was less eager to pay the price.
I did still want to rid myself of the social fear, most certainly, but I did not want to become the arrogant boor. I didn't want to get into arguments, be insulting, self-righteous and patronising. I didn't want to get into fights, get thrown out of parties, clubs, pubs, anywhere.
But oh, I did still love the feeling of not being afraid of life - and people.
If that'd been the only choice, it would have been easier to give up the booze and be a better husband than I was. But it was more complicated still. The alcohol still took away my fear, it still made me feel popular, attractive, sexy and smart.
However when those feelings wore off, I didn't return to being the scared, socially clumsy man that I was when I started drinking. When I was sober any confidence I had was gone, and the fear was heightened.