So what is the process by which the alcoholic becomes dependent? William Styron in his extended essay ‘Darkness Visible, a memoir of madness’ describes it this way, ‘Alcohol was an invaluable senior partner of my intellect, besides being a friend whose ministrations I sought daily – sought also, I now see, as a means to calm the anxiety and incipient dread that I had hidden away for so long somewhere in the dungeons of my spirit’. Alcohol for William Styron, as he discovered very early on in his life, was an effective “friend” in helping him change his mood. It made him feel better. This is how the social drinker, unwittingly, learns that chemicals can change how you feel. For the majority of people, that is the beginning of a lifetime pattern of “social drinking” (or moderate drinking). For the unfortunate few, however, the experience is a gateway to the total devastation that chemical dependency wreaks, both on its immediate victim and on the family members who share his tragedy.
Its causes are a combination of individual difference and life events. Those who do develop addictions, however, often start ‘using’ in order to block out the feelings associated with an emotional trauma. After taking hold addiction affects the whole individual.