Voices, My Personal Demons

I am not sure if the voices in my head were inherited or created for survival. I suffer from the disease of alcoholism and medical opinion suggests that the predisposition to this disease is inherited. All I know is that the voices are part of my disease and long before I took a drink and for as long as I can remember they were there.

At first the voices helped me cope with a very abusive father. However, even from a young age the voices were more detrimental than helpful. They told me “you are bad, you deserved it, you don’t belong, you are worthless, you are fat, you are stupid” and so on. I could quiet them down or make them even go away for a time through a variety of strategies; reading, studying, being a workaholic, holidaying, social Interaction, having a relationship, having a baby. In the end they would always come back with renewed vigour each time.

I spent a lot of my life feeling like a fraud. I pretended to the world that I had everything together, that I was a strong successful woman, wife, mother, daughter and friend. Inside I felt the absolute opposite. As a result of this extreme dichotomy I felt I was going Insane. I thought surely “normal” people did not have this war going on inside them. Further, as part of this insanity was my total inability to share the secret of my “voices” and my pain with anyone. It was a very lonely and crazy existence. My strategies to control the voices worked less and less as time went on.

Eventually I found a much better way of coping with the voices, alcohol. It was great! Alcohol completely banished them for periods of time and I felt, for the first time in my life, comfortable in my own skin. But of course my love affair with the bottle came to an inevitable crashing end. I had to keep upping the amount of alcohol until no amount of alcohol worked. In fact the voices were stronger than ever as I had created so much chaos in my life as the alcohol had taking over and my life was spinning out of control.

Now the voices had more traction and ammunition than ever, “look at what you did, look at the chaos, look at the hurt, you are flawed, you are disgusting, you are a terrible mother”, etc. The shame, guilt, hangovers, shakes and the destructive cravings for more alcohol fueled the voices like nothing before had ever done.

I felt like I would die if I could not drink and at the same time I knew that I would likely die if I continued to drink. I felt physically very ill, spiritually empty and emotionally at the end. I could not see a way out except death to quiet the chaos in my head and the extreme physical cravings in my body.

Fortunately through my family’s intervention I did get into recovery a number of years ago and by the Grace of God I hope to continue there.

Although putting the alcohol down wiped out the cravings it did not wipe out the voices. They were and will continue to be part of my disease for the rest of my life. I do know now that the voices in my head are telling me lies designed to make me hate myself. The voices, when they are not telling me how awful I am, tell me that I am a victim and cannot change my situation, another lie. I continue to battle these obsessive negative “tapes” on a daily basis.

To help with this battle I am involved in 12 step programs as well as counselling. I have tried to clear some of the wreckage of my past and make peace with it. I have taken ownership of my actions. I cannot afford to see myself as a helpless victim because then I would wallow away in justified and unjustified resentments and let the voices take over again. I have come to realize that I alone am responsible for my happiness. The only person that I can change is me. I strive for a positive attitude and I surround myself with positive people. I try to help others with similar problems. Most importantly I work on my spiritual connection with God.

Since I have been actively treating my disease my life has become filled with joy and miracles. Every day is a blessing, to be free from alcohol and for the most part free from the voices.

However should the slightest thing go awry, whether I make a work mistake, hurt a friend, have an argument with a family member or experience a financial or health problem the voices come pouring back in. Every time it happens I am offended as I was under the delusion that I had become “normal”. But I am not “normal”, I have a disease that twists my thoughts and wants to make me feel so worthless that I cannot stand to be “me” any longer. Furthermore it wants to keep my “condition” a secret. It wants to shame and embarrass me into living in my head. I cannot and do not do this. No matter how embarrassing or serious the problem I must and do share it with my support people and take the next right steps no matter how hard it might be.

I recently encountered a situation where I had made a mistake. My voices instantly screamed “of course you made a mistake, it was only a matter of time, you are so lousy at what you do, you are worthless”, etc. Then they said “you better hide this, tell no one and panic”. I did so for a few days then did the opposite. I shared the problem and took all the appropriate actions and the voices once again were relegated to the dark corners of my mind where they will however always be at the ready to attack.

I am writing this article so that people who suffer from the same disease as I do can have hope that these debilitating voices (or tapes, bad thoughts or whatever you call them) can be diminished to the point that one can lead a healthy, happy and productive life. One filled with joy and freedom. The best advice I can give is; get help, tell someone, share the burden, work on building a connection with a higher power and join a support group. This is not shameful and it can be treated. Don’t suffer in silence!

Elke C.


  1. Jonathan Westphal

    Thank you for sharing your story, Elke. It takes a great deal of bravery to admit one has a substance abuse problem. It sounds like you are well along on the path of recovery. I wish you all the best for the future!