The underlying basis of all addictions – and alcohol is no exception – is the avoidance of pain. While there is evidence that some people have genetic and biological predispositions toward alcoholism, not all people with these predispositions abuse alcohol or become alcohol dependent. Many people who join AA learn to deal with their painful emotions without the use of alcohol, regardless of their genetic predisposition. What if you are a person who wants to stop drinking, who has tried AA and treatment programs, and just can’t stop? What might be happening here? Often, the pain you want avoid is the pain of loneliness and inner aloneness. The aloneness is caused by inner disconnection, and the loneliness is caused by not connecting with others. Sometimes, the situation you are in is extremely lonely and painful; yet leaving the situation might seem even more painful. For example, Gwen married a man she thought was kind and caring. But after they had a child and experienced financial stress, he became verbally abusive to her and to the children. Alcohol had always been a part of her life, but she started to abuse it when the pain and stress of her marriage became too great for her to handle. Due to her fear of her family’s judgment and her two children, Gwen did not want to leave her marriage. Gwen felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. If she stayed, she would need to continue to be at the other end of her controlling, angry, needy, blaming, judgmental husband. Gwen felt extremely lonely with him and suffocated by him – feeling like she had to tow the line and do what he wanted or be at the other end of his rage. Whenever he would attack her with his anger and criticism, she would overtly give in, but covertly numb out and resist him with her drinking. Her husband, Sam, hated her drinking, and would become even more controlling. But for Gwen, drinking was the only way she knew to survive the pain of his insults while finding some way to resist his control. Not knowing how to take care of herself with her husband, she gave herself up, creating the inner aloneness. If she left, she believed she would need to face the anger and judgment of her parents and siblings. No one in her family had ever been divorced. Gwen was terrified of being outcast from her family of origin. She believed that the pain of leaving would be worse than the pain of staying – that she would end up feeling even lonelier. Gwen tried to learn to speak up for herself, but this only brought more abuse. From Gwen’s point of view, there was no way out other than to numb the pain through drinking. As long as Gwen believed that she could be okay only though the approval of others, she remained stuck and unable to stop drinking. But Gwen decided to get some help in learning how to take loving care of herself. Gwen grew up being the good girl in her family, the person who looked after everyone else’s feelings and needs. She learned well to ignore her own feelings and needs. When she started counseling with me, she actually had no idea why she drank. As Gwen started to tune into her own feelings and learned to connect with a spiritual Source of love and comfort, she realized that keeping herself and her children in an abusive situation was not loving to anyone. She asked her husband to join her in counseling, but he refused. Mustering her courage, she left her husband – and discovered that her family was actually relieved for her! They had been very worried about her, but had not wanted to interfere. When Gwen no longer felt trapped and suffocated, her desire to drink went away. She was so excited to be able to be herself. “I just couldn’t be myself with Sam. No matter what I did, it was wrong, unless I did exactly what he wanted me to do. It is such a relief to be able to just be myself. And my children actually seem happier too. They are so happy to have me back rather than numbed out with alcohol.” If you want to stop drinking and can’t, you might want to look closely at what you would need to do to change your situation so that you no longer need to drink to avoid pain.