The dynamics of relationships between a chemically dependent person and his/her memory system:
• Almost all persons have a basic trust of their memories.
• Current decisions and behavior are often based on our memories of past interactions and decisions. (Example: This is how we came here today.)
• Chemically dependent person ends up trusting a memory that, like Swiss cheese, has big holes in it.
These processes combine to give the chemically dependent person a deluded memory system.
Blackouts: A fundamental symptom of chemical dependency.
- Definition: A chemically induced period of permanent loss of memory — a physical reaction; "temporary anmnesia;" unconscious process outside of person's control.
- Unpredictability of blackouts:
- When they occur — there seems to be no identifiable pre-existing factor that will trigger a blackout, i.e. time of day, emotional makeup before use, etc.
- Quantity of chemical to induce blackout — sometimes huge quantities will not cause a blackout.
- Duration of a blackout — minutes, hours, days.
- Loss of evaluation data:
- Behavior and events that occur during a blackout cannot be remembered and, therefore, cannot be used by the chemically dependent person to determine that chemicals are causing problems.
- Effects of blackouts on others:
- Persons who observe individuals in a blackout (and don't know it's a blackout) expect that person to remember the events during that period of time accurately.
- This assumption can lead the person to believe that the chemically dependent person is lying when he/she denies behaving in an inappropriate way during a blackout.
- Definition: The spontaneous defensive reaction that shields the victim from recalling and experiencing specific shameful and painful events. Psychological reaction, not chemically induced. Unconscious process.
- Dynamics of Repression: It varies in thoroughness from complete amnesic episodes (a war incident, incest, etc.) to impressions of vague feelings of unworthiness, insecurity, and guilt. (Specific events of last night are not remembered.)
- Results of Repression: Since the specific behaviors and feelings are either lost (total repression) or indescribable, the chemically dependent person is unable to recognize the relationship between the chemical and the harmful dependence.
- Same effects on others as blackouts.
- Definition: It is a perceptual distortion caused by the pharmacological and psychological properties of the chemical which results in the victim not being able to assess accurately, while under the influence or at a later time, the effect of the chemical on his/her behavior. In other words, the victim remembers the feeling response during intoxication, not the behavioral response. Example: He remembers feeling amorous and was misunderstood and rejected by his cold and possibly frigid wife. He is unable to remember the aggressive and demanding advance he made to his firghtened and hurt wife.
- Results of euphoric recall: The disortion of perception becomes so frequent and massive that the chemically dependent person's judgment becomes thoroughly impaired.
- Same effects on others as blackouts and repression.
The chemically dependent person is trusting and relying on a memory that is totally unreliable because of blackouts, repressions, and euphoric recall. Those surrounding the person are certain he is lying or insane.