Stuttering & Alcoholism: A Cycle Which Feeds Itself

Written by Matthew O’Malley

A note from the author: I am both a person who stutters and in recovery from alcoholism.  When I drank as a young adult my stutter went away.  That was enough for me to keep doing it.  In my adult life, I have worked extremely hard on projects and on developing careers only to have them shattered by alcoholism.  Enduring alcoholism for decades is repeatedly having your soul ripped out, your dreams shattered, and your will to live sucked from you.  You’re left with two choices. Die or pull yourself off the ground with a strength you don’t have and try again.  I again recently shattered dreams I worked towards day and night for years; spiritual dreams I was deeply passionate about.  I have to start anew.  I have tried countless avenues to treat my alcoholism.  However, in learning about this condition as well as spending the past number of years researching stuttering I have come to form some views on why these two conditions (stuttering and alcoholism) feed each other.  This has been why I believe it has been so challenging for me to establish lifelong sobriety.

Part One – Explaining How Recovery is About Human Connection

Psychotherapist Daniel Roberts writes (2018), “Humans are born wired for connection – it’s in our DNA, as strong a need as food, water and warmth. And if you look at a newborn baby, that makes sense. Unless babies successfully attach to their mother, they won’t be able to survive – human infants are born completely helpless, so we are entirely reliant on our caregivers. A loving, secure relationship is literally a matter of life and death for babies.”

Another important quote:

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety – it is human connection.” Johan Harri

In continuing:

Recovery from alcoholism and the experience of regular and deep human connection have a strong relationship.  It seems the antidote to addiction and the key to long-lasting sobriety is real human connection.  This is largely what the entire AA program is based on; that and another form of connection (one with your “Higher Power” or God).

One of the main reasons AA works is what is called “the fellowship” which is making friends at and going to meetings.  Fellowship is human connection.  Another part of AA is called “sponsorship” which is another form of human connection.  You meet with your sponsor and discuss your life.  You discuss what’s on your mind.  You tell them things you wouldn’t tell others.  This is a form of deep human connection.

In addition to this are the twelve steps which are also largely about human connection.  In Step 5 you share your deepest, darkest secrets with another individual.  This person embraces you and accepts you despite the things about yourself you shared that you thought were shameful.  You feel accepted despite your shame.  This is about connection.

Steps 8 and 9 are about rekindling past relationships.  You “make amends” for past wrongs.  This often leads to re-established relationships; hence, more human connection.

In short, long lasting sobriety is about human connection.  This presents problems for the person who stutters which leads us to Part 2.

Part Two – Explaining How This Prevents Establishing Sobriety For People Who Stutter

The slogan of The National Stuttering Association is “You are not alone”.  This gets to the core of the problem for people who stutter; human connection.  And better yet, the lack of it.

As we established above, connection is a deep human need as well as a huge part of the antidote to addiction.

There is an isolation to the experience of stuttering.  There is a stifled ability to connect for most.  Interactions often feel awkward and disjointed.  People don’t feel understood or connected with.  Often times it is the opposite feeling which is experienced after an interaction; disconnection.  A person who stutters doesn’t feel connected at all but disconnected and ashamed.

So with the antidote to alcoholism being connection, can we see an obvious problem here?

I personally have struggled with it and believe it has been my barrier to establishing lifelong sobriety.

The experience of “fellowshipping” is not a joyful connecting one for many people who stutter.  It Is an arduous and draining task.  This is the opposite of what is needed to fulfill this antidote for addiction: connection.

For a person who stutters, following fellowshipping there can often be an experience of disconnection which can trigger the addictive cycle (I won’t get into this for the sake of brevity of this post).

Last but not least, AA and recovery is based on sharing in large groups.  That isn’t exactly at the top of the list of favorite things to do for people who stutter.  As a matter of fact it is an extremely fear inducing situation.

Part Three – Combining the Two

The antidote to alcoholism is connection.  The very problem people who stutter face the most is connecting.

What is there to do?

All I personally can do is attempt to rise again and fulfill my life’s purpose.  I’ll need divine help to do so. I hope these brutal struggles have purpose to transform me in His image.

“I understood myself only after I destroyed myself.  And only in the process of fixing myself did I know who I really was.” – Unknown

Works Cited

Roberts, D. (2018, June 20). Why Humans Need Connection. Retrieved from https://thriveglobal.com/stories/why-humans-need-connection/

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