What is Alcohol Addiction?
The disease called Alcohol Addiction is characterized by a craving for and a dependence on drinking; an urge beyond the capability of the person to control.
But there is so much more… it is a disease of the body, mind and spirit.
What does this MEAN?
However, what that “means” is probably the more important question to ask. Addiction is an enormous problem in the United States because alcohol is so readily available, it’s socially acceptable and we tolerate those under the influence, even when they break the law.
“I need a drink.” It’s a common statement, one that millions of Americans mutter when faced with a tough situation, or after a stressful moment. In film it is portrayed as a necessary element to handling tragedy, such as in the “The Godfather” scene, when Tom Hagen (Robert Duval) is trying to compose himself in preparation for telling Vito Corleone (Marlin Brando) that Santino had been killed.
Film also portrays the need for a drink in a comical light, such as the scene from “My Fair Lady” when Alfred P. Dolittle (Stanley Holloway) tells Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) that he can’t face the missus without “a little liquid protection.” The whimsical way in which alcohol is portrayed in theater, movies and television is a contributing factor, because drinking is acceptable and isn’t taken seriously.
Drinking problems are VERY wide-spread
The problem of Alcohol Addiction is wide-spread. The Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University concluded:
“more than half of all adults have a family history of Alcohol Addiction or problem drinking, and more than nine million children live with a parent dependent on alcohol and/or illicit drugs.” That is a staggering piece of information.
A major part of our Culture
I live in Milwaukee, where beer drinking is a major sport. Attending a game at Miller Park for the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team is quite an experience, as vendors are constantly walking the aisles of the stadium hawking beer. As soon as one leaves another one appears.
I counted once and recorded that 48 vendor appearances were noted before the fifth inning at one game. People drink the whole time, and come into the ballpark after having a few in the parking lot. It’s all a part of the culture. The Milwaukee Brewers don’t consider it a problem, especially when they take in nearly $7 a serving.
It impacts all of us!
Alcoholism affects us all. Beyond the immediate family, we have friends, co-workers and neighbors. Moreover, Alcohol Addiction and alcohol abuse are directly related to our most difficult social problems, such as crime, domestic violence, teen pregnancy.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction teaches us that a person will continue to drink even though it has serious impact on family, friends, employment, health and legal matters. The disease takes over and soon a person is slave to the alcohol. They have to take another drink. People have been known to literally drink themselves to death.
Sadly, there is no cure
Alcoholism and Alcohol cannot be cured. It will forever remain a part of a person’s makeup. However, when it comes to Alcohol Addiction, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that alcohol can be treated and managed. Alcoholics can live successful lives. The bad news is that they are always vulnerable to relapse if they take a drink.
Denial is major issue
Some people will say, “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m just a problem drinker.” There is humor in this statement, but there is also serious truth. People can drink too often, drink too much and run into problems, even though they are not physically addicted.
DUI, driving under the influence is huge in this country. People have been known to go to court repeatedly, yet they are not technically alcoholics. Sure, there are drunk-driving laws, but people abuse the tolerance and generosity of the court system. They will continue to drink and they will continue to drive, with or without a license. If you lock up the drunks, the jails will be filled every night.
Codependency Perpetuates Alcoholism
The story is repeated all over the country and as the television show “Dragnet” used to disclaim, “This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”
First of all, let’s define a couple of terms, which most people use interchangeably. Codependency is a term used to describe a person who is addicted to “helping” other people.
Harriet is a 68 year-old mother of four children, ranging from 34 to 46 years of age. Three of the four children are well-adjusted, reasonably happy and successful parents of their own children. However, the 34 year-old son is a different story. He lives at home, is unemployed, alcoholic and has for the most part given up on life. He has no ambition, no dreams and no sense of personal responsibility.
He allows his mother to support him, clean up after him and feed him. The other three children recognize that she is being drained by her son, but she steadfastly refuses to make any changes, no matter how slight, in order to help her son break out of his addiction to alcohol and lead a healthy, productive life. She is convinced that he will die if forced to fend for himself. She believes he is incapable of recovering.
It is said that a codependent person will actually contribute to the other person being helpless, and so Harriet fits that description well. She loves being mom, even if it means treating her adult son like a middle school child. The kind of behavior is also called enabling, because it is purposeful in keeping the other person in “need.”
Harriet has always made excuses for her son. When he loses jobs, it’s always somebody else who is to blame. She overlooks his drinking entirely, and when the family gathers to talk to her about helping him and getting him into treatment, she becomes very protective.
Here is an interesting test found on http://way2hope.org, giving us a roadmap of the symptoms of codependency.
Take this test to find out if you're helping people who need or needing people to help:
1. Do you feel demeaned, hurt or offended when someone you love tells you they don't need your help?
2. In the last year, has anyone resorted to arguing, begging or raising their voice to get you to stop trying to help them?
3. If you had plenty of money and your child, sibling or parent had an addiction to drinking, spending, gambling or drugs, and they asked you for money to help with their necessary expenses (food, rent, clothes, bills), would you give them the money?
4. When someone shares a life or relationship problem with you, but doesn't ask for help, do you offer help or advice, anyway?
5. When you survey your relationships, do you find yourself surrounded by mostly people who need you?
6. Do you ever find yourself making excuses for the needy people in your life?
7. If someone you love has a substance abuse, emotional, spending or gambling problem, do you avoid confronting them?
8. Do you measure your self-esteem by how much someone depends on you?
9. Do you ever remind people where they would be without you?
Often kids not allowed to grow up!
Harriet will not allow her son to grow up and take care of himself. His sister stated that he sits in his room most of the day and then he goes off at night to see his friends. Mom is oblivious and if the brother is approached about standing up and taking responsibility, he immediately becomes defensive and angry.
The three kids are trying to convince Harriet that she is actually hurting her son, but all efforts have failed thus far. The needy son will never receive anything he truly needs from his mother, the classic enabler, who tries to rescue her son.
For the family, it is a dance that never ends. The older children have managed to get their mother to allow some discussion about her moving in with one of them, selling the house she lives in, which will force the brother to move out and fend for himself.
They have contacted a local treatment center and are planning a family meeting to outline a plan for their brother. They want help for their mother, who has no understanding of tough love and how her enabling her son’s behavior is slowly killing him.
This is a story in progress. We pray for a happy ending.
For more about the negative effects of alcohol please visit: Alcohol Addiction Help.