JWR Outlook

Jewish World Review Feb. 20, 2003 / 18 Adar I, 5763

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Escaping reality

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | A number of years ago there was a commercial on the radio which was repeated numerous times, and I am sure that this repetition must have impacted on some people. Here is how the commercial went:

First woman: "Oh, Grace, what am I to do? My husband is bringing his boss home for dinner tonight and my sink drain is all clogged up. I'm so upset!"

Second woman: "There, there. Don't let yourself be upset. Just take some ________________ (brand name of tranquilizer)."

How foolish! If Grace had used good judgment, she would have suggested getting a plunger and/or a can of the drain-opening chemical and that would solve the problem. If push comes to shove, one could call a plumber. But taking a tranquilizer will not open the drain, and will only make the woman oblivious to the problem. Indeed, if she becomes so tranquilized that she tries to prepare the dinner in spite of a clogged-up sink drain, she will soon have a flooded kitchen, which will constitute an even worse problem.

In a lecture to the clients at our rehabilitation center, I cited this commercial as typical of addiction. Instead of coping with a reality problem, the addict takes a chemical to forget it.

Several months later I received a letter from a young woman who had been treated at our center for alcoholism and had attended that lecture. She said that she had wanted to show off her recovery by having a dinner at her home, to which she invited 15 people. The day of the dinner her sink drain was clogged up, and after working on it for two hours, her husband could not get it open. He was terrified about how his wife would react, knowing her history of recourse to alcohol.

The wife burst into laughter, which her husband could not understand. She used the powder-room sink to wash the vegetables, and after the dinner was over, she asked the guests to help carry the dishes down to the laundry sink in the basement. "They not only carried the dishes down, they even helped me wash them! I hate to think what I would have done if I would have still been drinking at the time."

Medication is for emotional illnesses, not for escaping reality. Using chemicals to escape from problems instead of coping with them will only complicate things. When you are confronted with a reality problem, try to resolve it. If you can't do it alone, get appropriate help.

You are certain to be much happier.

Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. is a psychiatrist and ordained rabbi. He is the founder of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, a leading center for addiction treatment. An Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, he is a prolific author, with some 30 books to his credit, including It's Not As Tough As You Think: How to smooth out life's bumps, from which this was excerpted (Sales of this book help fund JWR). Send your comments by clicking here.

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