Alcoholism Damage and How To Deal With It
Some Thoughts Before We Begin
This will not be an article filled with sugar-coating. I have rubbed shoulders with alcoholics for over twenty years now, and I have lost far too many friends to this disease. I am tired of patting people on the head and saying that everything will be okay, and then a month later burying them.
If you are looking for a kinder, gentler way then stop reading this right now. I’m not in the mood to be kind or gentle, and I’m tired of seeing the damage that this disease causes. Alcoholism is a killing machine, and it takes no prisoners. The alcoholic is not safe, their family is not safe…nobody associated with the alcoholic is safe.
I write this for those of you who have a friend or loved one who is an alcoholic. There are endless articles focused on the disease, and there are endless articles focused on the alcoholic, but this article is focused solely on those of you who must deal with the alcoholic in your life.
There are very definite dos and don’ts and it is important that you know what they are. Perhaps this article will provide some relief for you as you take your next step. That is my hope.
Take Care of Yourself
Realize, first of all, that none of this is your fault. Nobody can force an alcoholic to drink. That is a silly notion that needs to end now. This is a disease, and no force on earth can end the disease or cure the disease. The only person who can take steps to handle the disease is the alcoholic.
Thus, if you are a loved one and/or family member, you must take care of yourself so that you do not become another statistic.
One of the most important steps in taking care of yourself is to bring alcoholism out of the closet. There is an old saying in AA that we are only as sick as our secrets. There is a social stigma to alcoholism. You know what I’m talking about, the concept that the alcoholic is weak, that they have no backbone, that they are just worthless drunks. That kind of stinkin’ thinkin’ causes many people to hide the disease. It is natural to do that and it is damaging.
There is no shame in being related to an alcoholic unless you choose to find shame in it. Stop changing your life to fit the alcoholic behavior. Start doing things that make you feel good about yourself. Go to the gym; go on walks; go visit friends and begin to re-build you life in a healthy fashion.
Do Not Enable
We all want to help, but oftentimes in our attempts to help we make matters worse. Quit trying to be the alcoholic’s safety net. Quit making excuses for them. Quit giving them money to drink. Quit hiding the truth from friends and co-workers.
In other words, stop making it easier for the alcoholic to continue their self-destructive behavior. I have written at length about enabling and you can read more about that here.
Help is there if you want it
- Al-Anon Sixty Years of Hope
Great support group for family and friends of alcoholics
Do not try to battle this disease by yourself. You will lose the battle, and the spoils of war may be the life of your loved one and your own sanity and self-worth.
There are numerous support groups in every city in the world. Alcoholism is that large a problem. You will have no trouble finding a group that can provide support for you. Al Anon is one such group, and they do wonderful work in establishing a network in which you can thrive, or at the very least in which you can function.
Call on your friends and family members for support and help, and if the problem becomes one that can no longer be tolerated then plan on an intervention. Bring all the loved ones of the alcoholic together, with the alcoholic, and have an honest, heartfelt discussion about the damage that is being caused by the alcoholic’s behavior. Is this a difficult step? Of course it is, but it might be the step that finally convinces the alcoholic that they need help.
- Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse
Facts about youth and alcoholResearch and facts about youth and alcohol.AMA policies on alcoholIncludes links to AMA policies on alcohol, including referral and treatment, drunk driving, and alcohol availability.Media roomProvides links to communicat
"We are not cured of alcoholism. What we have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our daily activities."
William Griffith Wilson
If your loved one had cancer you would do as much research as possible about that disease. I feel safe in saying the same is true of any disease that you or a loved one may face. Do the same with alcoholism. Knowledge is power and understanding the baffling characteristics of alcoholism is a huge step in planning for the future.
You must understand what you are dealing with. Alcoholism is an obsession of the mind and a physical craving of the body, and it is a disease that will remain with the alcoholic for their entire life. Many find sobriety and live normal and productive lives for decades after they have sought help. Many die.
There are endless support groups out there to help you gain an understanding about this disease. Find one that works for you and let them help you.
Knowledge is power!
A look at the brain chemistry of an alcoholic
Love Does Not Conquer All
You cannot conquer this disease with love. My relatives tried and they failed miserably. You can provide support and understanding. You can give unconditional love as you would for anyone who is ill. However, you cannot beat this disease by simply loving the patient. It simply does not work.
There will come a time in the alcoholic’s drinking career when alcohol becomes more important than family and friends. They will lie to protect themselves and their precious alcohol. They might seek the comfort of someone who is willing to allow them to drink unabated. They quite possibly will steal to pay for their habit. The obsession will become that strong and no love on earth will stop the obsession.
Still, you must love them. You would not stop loving a cancer victim, and alcoholism is a disease. Love from a distance if that is necessary for your own safety, but love nonetheless.
Sit with me and let's talk about alcoholism
A Bleak Picture?
Yes, indeed, it is a bleak picture, and you need to be aware of it now rather than later when they are placing your loved one in a body bag.
Hopefully these tips will lessen the damage in your lives. Hold onto the hope that things can and will get better. Take the steps necessary to limit the damage. Provide love and understanding but in no way enable the diseased, and above all protect yourself and your children so that alcoholism does not claim any more victims.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)