Wednesday, 19 August 2009
How to Help an Alcoholic
Photo by nicdalic
How to help an alcoholic? It is almost impossible. Or at least it seems like it. They all say that in the end it is down to the alcoholic to decide to stop and that is correct, obviously. But, and here is the good bit, there are things that can be done that lead the alcoholic down a route during which he or she develops an awareness of the alcoholism, develops a strengthened mind to combat it and shifts away from alcoholic habits. Because a lot of alcoholism is down to routine and habits. Unless the alcoholic is drinking all the time (continuously), the brain starts thinking about alcohol at a certain time because in the past on countless previous occasions the person drank alcohol at that time after, before or during a certain type of event.
To change drinking habits is as long a process as becoming an alcoholic. It may take years and probably will. Over the years before becoming an alcoholic a person would have drunk alcohol in small doses and gradually wanted and then required more. My estimate is that this process can take 2 - 15 years lets say. It all depends on the person and the circumstances.
My theory is that the unlearning process should be a mirror of the learning process and therefore the time frame for stopping being an alcoholic should be the same as the time frame for becoming one.
So how to help an alcoholic if you are a partner of one? First create stability in the relationship so there is less chaos. Alcoholics generally live or can live in chaotic circumstances. A nice stable relationship (which is very hard for the non-alcoholic to establish) will gradually reduce the circumstances under which the desire to drink occurs. For example, the worse case scenario is for the partner of an alcoholic to be an alcoholic himself. Under these circumstances there is no chance of an alcoholic stopping as one supports the drinking habits of the other. The bad habits and addiction will be reinforced daily.
Every time an alcoholic does not drink at a time when he or she would have had a drink is one small step to unlearning the habit of drinking. Another thing that can take place is the non alcoholic becoming sensitive to the alcoholics habits and making sure that the alcoholic knows about that. If the alcoholic knows that his or her partner is sharp enough to know exactly when he or she has drunk alcohol it puts a bit of a squeeze on the alcoholic and over time this places a brake on the alcoholic's automatic desire to drink at certain times. It is squeezing the habit out of the person bit by bit.
Also being aware of the alcoholic's drinking and knowing when she or he is drunk or beginning to be drunk and then telling the alcoholic that. This generates gradually a greater awareness in the alcoholic as to what he or she is doing. A lot of alcoholics simply lose track of how their alcoholism affects others and themselves. They seem to become blinkered or blinded by the craving for drink. And alcoholics are very self obsessed. They are constantly looking inwards at themselves through drink. It is good to step outside of themselves and "look in". Jane moves from the time that she is sober to having her first drink very smoothly. The transition is seamless. She does not question what she is doing and how it will affect her job, health and relationships. It is a complete lack of awareness. In fact she plans a binge days beforehand. That is a kind of awareness but it is part of her life so much so that she doesn't see it as odd or damaging to herself and her partner.
Another thing in how to help an alcoholic is for the non alcoholic partner, friend or relation to sit the alcoholic down and explain the kind of damage their behaviour is having on them (the partner). Once again this should, bit by bit, promote an awareness in the alcoholic of his or her condition to allow her to gradually begin to have a degree of control over it. If there is an awareness of the downside of a binge before it starts (and the effects are awful) then there is a chance that the conscious mind can begin to control the subconscious mind that is craving for alcohol.
Awareness building should be accompanied by building mental strength in the alcoholic. An awareness and meeting the challenge and occasionally succeeding will help the alcoholic's self esteem. Higher self esteem helps generate mental strength. There is also the concept of self fulfilling prophecy. If a person feels that they are worthless they will behave as a worthless person which encourages self destructive behavior such as drinking to excess. The partner can help by building the self esteem of the alcoholic. This can prove difficult as they behave very badly a lot of the time!
The person who asks, how to help an alcoholic should think very long term and ideally be seeing and be around the alcoholic a lot. This allows a greater impact on the alcoholic. These are just some thoughts, no more. There are many ways to help but the ones I have talked about attempt to stop the alcoholism over a long time, years. It may take 10 years or more to bring it under control. Persistence is key.
How to Help an Alcoholic to Home Page