Habit Binge

Rethinking alcohol addiction: Not a lack of willpower, but a mental disorder


In fact, isolation compelled Sharon Ong, 53, another recovering addict who spoke to CNA, to start drinking. When she was a caregiver for aged family members, it was an “immensely isolating” experience.

She remembers “literally gulping” at the start of drinking sessions because she was in a hurry to get “a buzz” – but this wasn’t a buzz from being high or happy. 

“It’s not that the taste of alcohol is so wonderful. After the first sip, it actually feels very miserable if you’re drinking as a compulsion. A lot of the time, I suspect people are drinking because they don’t want to feel,” she explained. 

“I feel sympathy for myself in those days because I’d be literally gulping so I could get to the stage where I wasn’t feeling or caring.” 

As a result, for recovering people to successfully battle addiction, they need to connect with others, explained Mr Singh, who found his turning point and “ecosystem of recovery” in a church. 

When a fellow recovering addict shared about kicking his cocaine habit, it gave Mr Singh renewed hope that recovery was possible, despite having been told otherwise by naysayers. 

“The guy shared his experiences, his strengths and his hopes, and all of that was so clear. All the things that he shared, I knew. But here he was living it out. That was the X factor for me,” he said. 

A churchgoer befriended Mr Singh when he noticed him crying, and eventually helped him find a halfway house with a 10-month recovery programme. The churchgoer was also his first friend who “wasn’t an addict”. 

Having a network of support, including family and friends, is “pivotal” to help the recovering person, because “addiction doesn’t affect just an individual”, said Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary at the 5th National Addictions Awareness Day on Aug 20.

Among community partners that Dr Puthucheary listed, the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association, Central Narcotics Bureau, We Care Community Services and the National Council on Problem Gambling partnered with NAMS “to empower persons with addictions and their families with the skills and knowledge to manage their challenges and addictions”. 

These partners have also been involved in setting up helplines and web chat services to support those in the community and to reach out to those who need help, he said.


Read More:Rethinking alcohol addiction: Not a lack of willpower, but a mental disorder