The Unconcious Alcoholic

By: Regina Perez, MAC

Sigmund Freud is a name that looms large in the field of psychology. The unconscious alcoholic uses his structural model to define one’s psyche and is made up of three distinct concepts. First is the id, which we are born with and can be thought of as part of our personality crying out for “I want what I want when I want it” or immediate gratification. Second, is the ego, which is the “director” of our personality. This develops and helps us to see things from a realistic perspective. Lastly is the superego. This develops as part of our personality that helps us distinguish right from wrong.

This personality concept finds the ego balancing between our need for immediate gratification, and at the same time not “offending our superego” such that we lie awake at night plagued by guilt.

Individuals with addiction issues are constantly struggling with their need for immediate gratification. If they don’t like the way they feel, they take a drink or a drug that seems to deliver a change in mood.

The problem is that when we go beyond their id and get into the realm of their superego, there are consequences. While their ego attempts to counterbalance between the id and the superego, it utilizes three primary defense mechanisms. Denial, which can look like “I don’t have any problem with drugs or alcohol. Projections, which can look like” I am not the problem, you have a problem or are making things up”. Lastly, rationalization, which can look like “the reason I have a problem is because of A, B, and C”, so there is no responsibility taken.

These defense mechanisms that are used in the service of the ego to preserve one’s self-esteem, often serve as a roadblock in helping the addicted individual see reality. Some clinicians try to strongly confront these defenses – but this often leads to the person becoming even more defensive. I have found a more “carefrontational” approach can be more helpful. One that treats the individual with respect and dignity – never shaming or blaming but does indeed hold them responsible for their personal recovery. It is important to build one’s self-esteem and not change how they feel in the moment.

Helpful Tips:

• Planning a healthy diet and creating a healthy sleep routine
• Keep active and establish a regular exercise routine
• Drink plenty of water
• Keep busy with non-substance use activities- start a new hobby or spend more time on a hobby you enjoy.
• Reach out to non-using friends and create a support system
• Find nonsubstance use treats or rewards for yourself
• Go over the reasons you’re cutting back and remind yourself of the positive changes
• Use distraction: keep yourself busy and engaged in things you enjoy
• Every time you resist an old habit you come one step closer to overcoming it.
• Aim to talk with support once a week. Talk about the struggles and the success.
• Give yourself grace and be kind. Bumps in the road can happen and you’re in control of changing it next time.

Use a Problem-Solving Approach:

  1. Identify the Problem.
  2. Brainstorm ideas for handling it- realistic and those that may feel out of reach.
  3. Think what is likely to happen if you try each one and then select those you feel will be more effective.
  4. Try one out. If your first choice doesn’t work, try the next one. Keep on trying until you find what works best for you. These may differ with each situation.

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