Millions of individuals suffer with alcoholism to one degree or another. Some start abusing alcohol younger in life, some older in life. In many cases it’s self-diagnosed, as the individual first needs to admit a problem exists in order to heal themselves. Many claim alcoholism can’t be cured. But I’m going to argue that point throughout this post and the accompanying podcast episode. What I say may or may not make sense to you, but please leave any comments you wish to make civil or they will be deleted.
Alcoholism affects more than just the alcoholic. The alcoholic suffers physically as they destroy their body, and mentally as they destroy relationships and possibly develop or worsen depression. However, alcoholism also causes pain to those closest to them. Family members largely wind up being verbally and/or physically abused, friends are pushed away, and the alcoholics spouse and/or children could develop a depressive or anxiety disorder.
Typically an alcoholic will start drinking because of:
- Genetics (more susceptible)
- Peer pressure (teenagers and college)
- Loss of loved ones
- Loss of a job
- Trying to cope with depression and/or anxiety
- Poor or abusive marriage
Many alcoholics continue to drink regardless of the negative consequences because they feel drinking is an escape. They don’t see that the habit is causing more problems than it’s helping. Alcoholism can also lead to other health complications, including:
- bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
- damage to brain cells
- cancer in the GI tract
- depression (develop or worsen)
- high blood pressure
- pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- nerve damage
- changes in mental status, including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (a brain disease that causes symptoms such as confusion, vision changes, or memory loss)
It’s important if you know an alcoholic, to help them realize they have a problem and help them heal from it. You must be by their side at all times. It’s not good enough to have them realize the problem and expect them to treat it alone. They need the support system just as anyone else with any other type of illness. Without a support system, they may not treat it at all, or pick it up again believing no one cares.
People usually blame the alcoholic for being an alcoholic. Some feel that the alcoholic doesn’t care about them or they wouldn’t drink in the first place. This isn’t true. You don’t know why they started drinking; even if you know the general background of why they started, you don’t understand. In many cases, the alcoholic does care about their family. The chose to drink to try and hide their problems from you; or if it’s a shared issue, such as a loss of a loved one, it’s how they’re coping to feel like they’re being strong for you. They don’t understand what their drinking is doing to you.
My family is a family of alcoholics. My grandparents are alcoholics, as was my mom, my brother, and myself. My brother is currently in rehab and has been clean for over a year as of this writing. I have been clean since 2009. And I do not view myself as an alcoholic any longer. I do not feel the urge to drink at all. But more on that in a bit.
If you’ve been following the blog and podcast, you know pieces of my background story. Here’s a bit more, but keep in mind I’m not attempting to show anyone in a bad light. My family has moved passed the past and are healthier now. I’m sharing what I do to help prove a point and help others.
Growing up my mom was an alcoholic. There were different types of alcohol all over the house. Though for many years she did a good job at hiding it. It wasn’t until my teen years I caught her spiking her morning coffee with alcohol hidden in the cabinet below the counter in the kitchen. I also found bottles hidden in other areas. Some bottles that I felt were less touched, I drank out of. When my friends and I would get our hands on alcohol, I would hide it in a bag under my bed or in the closet.
As I stated in a previous blog post, my mom largely ignored issues as if they weren’t happening. We had the perfect family and nothing could go wrong. This mindset was possibly due to her being under the influence of alcohol most of the day, and trying to hide from issues that caused her to start drinking in the first place.
There were several occasions that she didn’t know how to react to:
- My attempted suicide
- My brother left for dead by his friends in a field due to an asthma attack (he’s fine, he didn’t die)
- Several of us being diagnosed with mental illnesses (and the cause of the mental illnesses)
To name a few. There were others, including one that really needs the whole story to not sound far-fetched. That’s for another post altogether.
Granted no parent wants to deal with their kids having a serious illness, physical or mental. And no parent wants to hear their child may be dead. Children are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around. But ignoring events like this doesn’t make them go away. If anything, it only worsens the situation. How would you feel if you almost died and your parents didn’t rush to your side? Or if you’re parents told you that because of your illness (mental or physical) they want nothing to do with you? Caused by alcoholism or not, hearing that wouldn’t make you feel too good.
There’s a lot of my parents past that they don’t discuss. From what I do know of my mom’s childhood, her alcoholism most likely didn’t start until her marriage to my dad began to fall apart. Though her having alcoholism in the family didn’t help matters either.
My dad took all his work-life stress home and was largely verbally abusive to everyone. Physical on occasion. I know it began shortly after I was born, but it could have began earlier. I know my dad did love my mom and us kids. He just had a problem showing it and leaving work stress at work. We all got the blame. This could have been where my mom’s alcoholism began.
But after the eventual divorce (more than 20yrs after trying to make the marriage work), it got worse. This could be due to her realizing her staying with him for us kids didn’t benefit us as most us developed depression or anxiety illnesses. Or it could be out the realization, and regret, that she wasn’t there as much as she could have and should have been for us. But I don’t know the actual reason, she doesn’t talk about it.
However, most likely thanks to her new boyfriend, she is doing much better. And as I said earlier and in previous posts, we all have healthier relationships with her these days than we did in the past.
I started drinking from a combination of trying to deal with my depression and my friends. It started at a party. When I realized that while drunk I didn’t feel so depressed, I kept on drinking. But unlike the typical alcoholic, this only lasted about 7yrs before I just didn’t feel anything. It wasn’t helping. And without much effort, I was able to stop drinking.
My brother, like me, began drinking out of depression. Used it as a crutch to deal. Now realizes all the damage he did to himself and others, and is getting clean.
When dealing with an alcoholic, many people focus on the damage the alcoholic is doing to themselves to get them to realize they have a problem and get help. Seldom do they focus on damage being done to others or why it started in the first place. When trying to help an alcoholic, on top of making them realize what they’re doing to themselves, also explain how you and others feel about it. Explain what their alcoholism is doing to the family. In many cases they care more about others than they do themselves. But also try to understand what caused them to start drinking in the first place and help them cope with the issue of origin.
When addressing the alcoholics alcoholism to the alcoholic, trying to convince them to get help, you must be careful in how you say it. You can’t focus just on the damage to themselves because they may not care what they’re doing to themselves. But you also can’t just focus on the damage it’s doing to the family because they may feel upset about it, and drink more. They will drink more because drinking is how they cope with being upset. You need to show them the whole picture, what they’re doing to themselves and to others, and help them realize other ways of coping.
If their drinking started because of a depression illness, find out what triggered the depression and help them cope. By helping them deal with the depression, you will also be helping them quit drinking on their own terms. It will also show them they do have a support system and don’t have to deal with their illnesses by themselves.
I also strongly believe alcoholism can be cured. I feel this whole “once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic” is a degrading mindset, and may be why many alcoholics don’t want to admit having the illness. It’s bad enough depression is lifelong, people don’t want to also feel they have no control over themselves. Is it an illness? Yes. Is it possible to relapse? Yes. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t cured or can’t be cured. There are many alcoholics that are clean for many years and not once had the slightest urge to pick up another drink after getting clean. I don’t view those people as alcoholics, they are no longer sick and suffering from the illness.
Alcoholism is a tough illness, and largely misunderstood. It takes time, effort, and learned coping skills to heal. Depending on severity, the alcoholic may also experience withdrawal symptoms. But healing can be quickened, and withdrawal symptoms possibly avoided, through the use of a natural supplement.
Alcoholics continue drinking because it makes them temporarily feel good. As the body grows tolerance to the alcohol, they drink more. The feel good effect is because of the temporary increase in oxytocin. Particularly when drinking beer, as beer is made from hops and hops has a mineral in it known as xanthahumol that increases production of oxytocin.
There is a product, the only one currently of it’s kind, that can help the body produce it’s own natural oxytocin without getting drunk. It is very possible, that through the use of this product, an alcoholic will more easily be able to stop drinking because they won’t need to drink to get the relief they are looking for.
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