An article from The Guardian in August 2017 written about an alcoholic brother.
I was visiting friends when I got the call to go to the hospital. I’d been expecting it for the last few years. I ran to find the ward on which my brother was lying in a bed on a ventilator.
“Am I too late?” I asked.
“No, Steve’s still with us,” somebody told me. I looked down at the bed, the monitors, assessing his heart rate and blood pressure. Things I knew about. Then I looked at my brother and knew the doctor was wrong. The truth was quite different.
In reality my eldest brother, 17 years my senior, had not really been with us in many years. We had been losing him a little bit at a time to a disease we had long held off giving a name. We didn’t know what to call it. Sometimes we thought we knew, other times we felt blind. We held back from labels, organised dinner without wine when it seemed prudent, with wine when things seemed all right.
We were just fumbling about in the dark. Because what we came to accept in those final years, and what was more obvious than ever as we stood at his bedside, was that what had resulted in his latest, and final admission, had a name. Steve was an alcoholic.
But it wasn’t always like that. Alcoholism takes its time, comes and goes as it pleases for years. There was a time, many years before, when my brother pushed me about in my buggy, played at being Dad. He took me fishing, teased me, and made me hate him by locking me in his room while Michael Jackson’s Thriller played on repeat. Years later, he called me when his cats were giving birth, and looked after me when it was school holidays and my parents were at work.
When I got older he would invite me to dinner and we would eat lasagne from oversized colourful plates and he would talk to me about his woodworking and huge movie collection. Now, I wonder if it was my childhood naivety that casts our earliest shared memories in a joyous light. Perhaps what for me was a lovely night with my brother pointed to a deeper loneliness on his part. A fact that something was missing, a hole there to be filled. It was a sign of what lay ahead, although I never realised.
I lived just around the corner. But it was only when he died that I came to understand the predicament he had been in; there had been no choice about the way he lived. And it was only after that insight that I came to appreciate that alcoholism wasn’t a lifestyle he had adopted as the easy way out of disappointment. It was only after he died that I realised how nobody would have chosen to live like my brother, on the sidelines of a family who loved him, isolated from the world, surrounded by chaos.
It was never preferable to live the way he did rather than how he would have liked, which is why, even when I felt hopeless, he never lost his faith that one day it might get better. He never stopped making plans to stop drinking. He always hoped that a better, happier life was waiting for him on the other side of sobriety.
After we lost him, for a long time that sense of injustice stayed with me; it wasn’t the fact that we had lost him, but the disappointment he felt while he was alive, how his treatment had failed, and how, to his chagrin, he had never achieved the quite simple dream of loving and being loved in return by somebody other than his family.
Every time I hear about a person with an addiction, I think of my brother. Every time I hear that someone has battled their demons, I feel as proud as if they were him. When I see men fishing from the end of the pier in Limassol, Cyprus, where I now live, I remember the times he untangled my lines, and told me that another lost float didn’t matter. I see his face when I look at the bowl he made, which I took from his house after we lost him.And each time I think of him, I realise I was as wrong about him in death as I was in life. For years, I thought he was no longer with us, but he was, filled with hope that there was another chance waiting for him, a different life we could be a part of.
So perhaps when I thought he was lost already that day in hospital, he wasn’t. Perhaps he was still with us. Because although there might have been no hope to save him that day, he never stopped hoping that we could. That is how I choose to remember him.
We needed to break down my brother’s door before we could see the problem for what it was. On that occasion he was found unresponsive, and was admitted to hospital for detox and rehydration, and was back out within a couple of days, unharmed and unchanged. One of my brothers fixed the door. Steve was fine, OK?
But the episode had put an altogether different spin on what was happening, and quietly, between ourselves, the first mutterings of alcoholism passed our lips. I began to understand what everybody else already knew. So a new routine became our norm: sporadic periods of silence, mixed with concern, always topped with a thick slice of denial.
The problem was not my brother’s drinking, per se, even during periods of inebriation. It was the fact that drinking was altogether something normal. Acceptable. Having a drink at a family dinner or finding a two-litre bottle of cider in the fridge would have been entirely reasonable if it had been anybody else.
Well-intentioned strangers couldn’t see the harm. But they didn’t see that the cider was the only thing in his fridge, and the food that should have been in there with it was still in the carrier bags, rotting on the kitchen floor. They didn’t have to help him down from the roof of his garage when he became disorientated and confused. They didn’t wait for half an hour each day on his doorstep over a two-week Christmas period calling his name through his letterbox, only to hear him moving around inside, denying their wish to spend time with him, knowing he was wasted. Wasting. By then the time for breaking down doors had long since passed.
As we inched towards the later years of my brother’s life, frustrated by his continued demise despite our best efforts to maintain a sense of normality, such desperate measures as broken-down doors seemed an overreaction. The alcoholism had taken hold of all of us in some way, reduced our expectations about what was possible. Still, during crisis moments I would wake up at 1am to a call that something wasn’t right.
We all took our turn when it came to those late-night dashes, to stand in his room amid the disarray, crouched in front of our tearful eldest brother, feeling hopeless, even when he agreed to do anything we asked. He would go to rehab, call them tomorrow. He would find a therapist, a different one. He would go to the GP, and this time take the tablets. Those nights would often result in sporadic attempts to set things right. Pens and bowls would be turned on a lathe with surprising precision; we would receive invites for dinner and find the house immaculate. When treatment would commence. Despite the failures, these moments offered blurred remembrances of our bright, hopeful, and unfailingly kind brother with a crude sense of humour that we all missed so much.
Often, I was frustrated by alcoholism and therefore my brother. It seemed so simple to me in my easy life where I could mix cranberry juice with vodka and it didn’t imply another failure. Just pour it away, don’t buy it, go to work, and come to my house.
The comments are heart-rendering sharing of other young deaths caused by King Alcohol as pictured above ((Image: “King Alcohol and His Prime Minister” c. 1820)
So last summer I read this book and there was one chapter that was like a punch to the gut. It is Ch 11 in Melody Beattie’s book Codependent No More and the chapter title is Have a Love Affair with yourself.
I could quote the entire chapter but would get into copy right trouble so I’m going to cherry pick the bits that I reread repeatedly as I attempted to let them sink in.
Over to Melody:
Most co-dependents suffer from that vague but penetrating affliction, low self-worth. We don’t feel good about ourselves, we don’t like ourselves, and we woudn’t consider loving ourselves. For some of us low self-worth is an understatement.
We don’t like the way we look. We can’t stand our bodies. We think we’re stupid, incompetent, untalented, and, in many cases, unlovable. We think our thoughts are wrong and inappropriate, We think our feelings are wrong and inappropriate. We believe we’re not important, and even if our feelings aren’t wrong, we dont think they matter. We’re convinced our needs aren’t important ….. We think we’re inferior to and different from the rest of the world – not unique, but oddly and inappropriately different.
We pick on ourselves endlessly, heaping piles of shoulds on our conscience and creating mounds of worthless, stinking guilt. We think a thought and then tell ourselves we shouldn’t think that way. We feel a feeling, then tell ourselves we shouldn’t feel that way. We make a decision, act on it, then tell ourselves we shouldn’t have acted that way …… We are engaged in a form of punishment designed to keep us feeling anxious, upset and stifled. We trap ourselves.
A few of us believe we can’t do anything right, but at the same time, we demand perfection of ourselves. We put ourselves in impossible situations, then wonder why we can’t get out. Then we finish the job by shaming ourselves.
As codependents we frequently dislike ourselves so much that we believe it’s wrong to take ourselves into account, in other words, appear selfish. Putting ourselves first is out of the question.
Much of the defensiveness I’ve seen in codependents comes not because we think we’re above criticism, but because we have so little self-worth that any perceived attack threatens to annihiliate us. We feel so bad about ourselves and have such a need to be perfect and avoid shame that we cannot allow anyone to tell us something we’ve done wrong. One reason some of us nag and criticise others people is because that’s what we do to ourselves.
We can find endless means of torturing ourselves: overeating, neglecting our needs, comparing ourselves to others, competing with people, obsessing, dwelling on painful memories, or imagining future painful scenes. This “what if” attitude is always good for a strong dose of fear. We scare ourselves, then wonder why we feel so frightened.
We don’t like ourselves, and we’re not going to let ourselves get any of the good stuff because we don’t believe we deserve it.
I read this with my mouth open like she was talking directly to me …….
So having deconstructed us she then restores us
Actually, it doesn’t matter when we began to torture ourselves. We must stop now. Right now, we can give ourselves a big emotional and mental hug. We are okay. It’s wonderful to be who we are. Our thoughts are okay. Our feelings are appropriate. We’re right where we’re supposed to be today, this moment. There is nothing wrong with us. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with us. If we’ve done wrongs, that’s okay; we were doing the best we could. In fact, codependents are some of the most loving, generous, good-hearted, and concerned people I know. We can stop picking on ourselves for picking on ourselves. This habit is not our fault either, but it is our responsiblity to learn to stop doing it.
We can cherish ourselves and our lives. We can nurture ourselves and love ourselves. We can accept our wonderful selves, with all our faults, foibles, strong points, weak points, feelings, thoughts, and everything else. It’s the best thing we’ve got going for us. It’s who we are, and we we meant to be. And it’s not a mistake. We are the greatest thing that will ever happen to us. Believe it. It makes life much easier.
We aren’t second-class citizens. We don’t deserve to lead second-hand lives. And we don’t deserve second best relationships! We are lovable, and we are worth getting to know. People who love and like us aren’t stupid or inferior for doing that. We have a right to be happy. We deserve good things.
We need to be good to ourselves. We need to be compassionate and kind to ourselves. How can we expect to take care of ourselves appropriately if we hate or dislike ourselves?
We need to refuse to enter into an antagonistic relationship with ourselves. Quit blaming ourselves and being victimised, and take responsible steps to remove the victim. Put the screws on guilt. Shame and guilt serve no long-term purpose. They are not useful as a way of life. Stop the “shoulds”. Become aware of when we’re punishing and torturing ourselves and make a concerted effort to tell ourselves positive messages.
We can be gentle, loving, listening, attentive, and kind to ourselves, our feelings, thoughts, needs, wants, desires, and everything we’re made of. We can accept ourselves – all of us. Start where we’re at, and we will become more. Develop our gifts and talents. Trust ourselves. Assert ourselves. We can be trusted. Respect ourselves. Be true to ourselves. Honour ourselves, for that is where our magic lies. That is our key to the world.
And for me that all started when I put down the drink …….
So I read my first Augusten Burroughs book in my very early weeks and months of recovery. On that occasion it was Dry: A Memoir and what a fantastic book it is too. This is How is equally as good if not better and I’m going to quote these excerpts from the chapter How to Feel Sorry For Yourself. It gave me shivers reading this …..
“Self-pity knows it’s hated. It’s one emotion that lives up to its name: it’s something reserved for the self. Self-pity is a feeling you allow when you’re alone. If you allow it when you’re around other people, they fuss at you and never give you the sympathy you want. So self-pity becomes your private, secret feeling.
I believe self-pity is an emotion from our earliest days, probably among the first emotions we experienced. You can see self-pity every day if you live near a playground like I do. Little kids trip or get shoved and they fallover over all the time. Little kids also know that injuries are an opportunity for extra affection from the adults.
Self-pity isn’t the most accurate description for this feeling because it describes only half of it: sad for me, I’m hurt. What’s missing is the other half: and you need to do something about it. In other words, self-pity feels childish to adults.
Which is why self-pity is a very dangerous feeling for any adult to harbour.
It’s one thing to recognize that you’re hurt. It’s quite healthy, in fact, to see and appreciate your own emotional injuries. BUT we have to be that adult for ourselves.
Where this healthy self-empathy turns into a malignant self-pity is at the arrival of resentment. “Fuck everybody. Nobody gives a shit about me. Fuck them all.”
That is self-pity and it is dangerous because it signals a lack of accountability for one’s mental state and worse, the outcomes of one’s life. Self-pity can last for years. Sometimes, it can last a lifetime.
In pre-school, when somebody hurts us, the teacher sees to it that the person who hurts us apologizes.
It is engrained in us from a very early age that inflicted pain or wrongdoing or unfairness should and will be corrected.
Note the passive phrasing: “be corrected.” We will not, as children, take control and make sure the amends are delivered in a timely fashion. That is the job of the teacher.
In adults, self-pity turns darker and more dangerous as no playground rescue arrives.
The feeling solidifies into victimhood.
Somebody with victim mentality believes life has screwed them over. Somebody with a victim mentality blames everybody else or “them” but takes no responsiblity themselves.
This is the quicksand of life. Once you have become a victim, you may well remain a victim for the rest of your life. Taking no responsibility, no action, and, as a result, seeing no change for the better.
The truth is that nobody is owed an apology for anything. Apologies are lovely when they happen. But they change nothing. Thye do not reverse actions or correct damage. They are merely nice to hear.
The truth is that life is brutally, obscenely unfair. Fairness is not among the laws of the universe.
Avoid self-pity by taking responsibility for everything that happens to you, even if somebody else is at fault. By taking responsibility, I don’t mean play doormat. I mean, repair yourself. Move forward. Move on. Then, only then, see if you can wrangle some empathy.
The truth behind the truth is this: even if you are a victim, you must never be a victim.
Even if you deserve to be one.
Because while you wait for somebody to come along and set things right, life has moved forward without you.”
I think the reason this was such a zinger for me was because when I stopped drinking I wallowed in my own private pity-party for a long time, railing against the world because I thought I could no longer drink and this was horribly unfair. “Why me?” I cried. Yes I could argue that things had happened to me in my childhood that were unfair but it was me as an adult who had chosen to drown my distress in alcohol and me who had to take responsibility for what choices I made now. Tough but true.
What do you think of what he writes? Does this resonate or hit a nerve for you too?
So this post was actually published by The Guardian last summer but I’m posting it today to catch those at the end of their January abstensions and relates to the scale of addiction in over 50’s. This would have been me as I turn 50 this year so hits a particular resonance.
Alcohol and substance abuse, and their detrimental health effects, have reached worrying levels among baby boomers in Britain. Katherine Brown from the Institute of Alcohol Studies sums it up: “This is the first generation of home-drinkers who are far more likely to buy cheap supermarket alcohol than visit their local pub. They are drinking more than their parents and it’s no surprise that their health is starting to suffer as a result.”
Tabloid imagery of inebriated young people lolling in the gutter couldn’t be more misleading. The hard core of the drinking problem is those aged 55 to 74, who outstrip any other age group including millennials for alcohol-related injuries, diseases and conditions.
The phenomenon is being seen in other countries as well – by 2020 the number of people receiving treatment for substance misuse problems is expected to double in Europe, and treble in the US, among those aged over 50. Cannabis, opioids and prescription medications are increasingly part of the picture.
In the UK there are calls for tailored addiction programmes for older people. Karen Tyrell, from charity Addaction, said: “[Older adults’] drinking and drug use tends to be around age-related issues, so things like retirement, bereavement [and] being quite lonely.” Screening for alcohol dependency and other drug issues during visits for health problems such as dementia or liver disease is also being proposed. On a practical level, older people should limit their standard drinks to a maximum of 11 a week rather than the government guideline of 14, says Dr Tony Rao, an old-age psychiatrist with expertise on the issue.
And this piece was followed up the next day with this:
More than half a million adults aged between 55 and 74 were admitted to English hospitals with alcohol-related injuries, diseases or conditions in 2015-16 – more than for any other age group, according to NHS Digital data.
While risky drinking is on the wane in the UK and Australia, those in the over-50 age bracket buck the trend. By 2020 the number of people receiving treatment for substance misuse problems is expected to double in Europe, and treble in the US, among those aged over 50.
We asked people over 50 to share their experiences and thoughts on the trend.
‘What started out as a hobby became a problem’ – Adrienne, 62, Wellington, New Zealand
My experience was drinking too much wine for years, over a bottle pretty much every night for maybe three to four years before I stopped altogether eight years ago. I was a wine aficionado and really knew my vintners, wineries and wines. What started at as a hobby became a problem.
Wine is alcohol, but I really thought of it as a food group. I loved the mystic, the people and places and the taste of wine. Alcohol addiction is a progressive condition. I was in my early 5os before it became a problem.
I received private addiction therapy for about six months. I had few bad physiological effects from stopping drinking, just a long process to undo a life centred around wine and entertainment. Normalising alcohol addiction in private was critical to developing a bit more self esteem and more emotional honesty. I became a much nicer more grateful person when I stopped feeling ashamed of myself and hiding bad hangovers. I went to AA a couple of times and made lots of people laugh with my stories of self deception. That was good too, but I didn’t feel the need to go regularly.
I am a very high-profile person in NZ, and most people would be astonished to know I was once addicted to alcohol.
‘If you use a poison as an antidote to life you are in real trouble’ – Phil, 61, London
Heavy drinking over decades slipped into dependency and on to addiction, where everything I did revolved around where to find the next drink, notwithstanding that I held down a job and was successful. I used substances to negate fear and anxiety with life and numb emotions, which in my experience is the a common element among addicts. Alcohol was my go-to friend to cope with life – and if you use a poison as an antidote to life, you are in real trouble.
Addiction is an illness and the most selfish of conditions. Nothing, including family, could stop me in my quest for oblivion on a nightly basis. Sure, there were good times along with the bad, but there came a point where despite knowing I had a problem I continued to drink and put at risk material success and relationships.
It is unfortunate that we addicts have to reach a real crisis point physically or mentally, a rock bottom, before we decide to change. That was three years ago, and I have been sober since then.
Lets be clear: this is not social heavy drinking – it is a need to be alone with a bottle and no one in the way. After a particular bad binge, it was clear that the drink was no longer working and I was so desperately miserable and unhappy (mostly with myself) that I had to take action for myself and not anyone else, or end up dead or in a mental hospital. I was reluctantly ready to do what no one else could make me do: go to rehab and begin a total rethink around alcohol.
One-on-one therapy became a weekly story of my drinking and unhappiness but with no solution. Residential rehab for three weeks where for the first time in years I had the opportunity with help to look at how I was destroying myself and those around me allowed me to understand I was trapped in addiction and the freedom that might be on offer if I could recover. I regularly attended AA, despite being an atheist. Do not be put off by the religious element. Freedom from addiction is far too important not to discuss it. The fellowship is full of interesting people ready to help.
• In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.
There is huge evidence building about this age group and the issue and I’ve written about it too and you can read here where I have collated all news sources into one post:
So I’ve been working with Alcohol Concern and Dry January since 15th December 2017 on this year’s campaign. You may have read their guest blog post for me in December which you can read here. Or you may have seen some of my tweets in support of their social media campaign on Twitter in December and January. I was also honoured to have them ask me to write a guest blog for them and today’s post is to publish this guest blog post and provide a link if you’d like to go read it yourself!
Another guest blog post from Andy who previously contributed here. This time he’s written about the warning signs of high functioning alcoholism. Thank you again Andy!
When you hear the word alcoholic, what type of person do you imagine? Someone who is constantly propping up a bar or nursing a bottle of liquor by themselves at home? We all have a picture in mind when we think of an alcoholic and it is probably someone who is constantly drunk and can’t function in regular society.
The shocking truth is there are many alcoholics that hold down steady jobs and go about their lives like anyone else. They’re known as high functioning alcoholics and sometimes they are difficult to identify and help. The problem with a high functioning alcoholic is that they may endanger the lives of others or disrupt the workplace. Imagine a mom picking up her kids from soccer practice after a long lunch with friends that turned into several drinks, she’s putting not only her children at risk but others on the road. Or a surgeon suddenly finds his hands shaking uncontrollably in the middle of a complex operation on your sick relative.
The same risks apply to high functioning alcoholics as they do to anyone abusing alcohol; from affecting judgment, concentration and decision making to long-term effects on organs like the liver. Still, many alcoholics may not see their drinking as a problem.
If you suspect someone you know might be a high functioning alcoholic there are signs you can recognize to identify their behavior so you can help them get the help they need.
1. One Drink Turns into a Party
One of the most common things a high functioning alcoholic will say is that they are only going to have one or two drinks, then end up drinking beyond their limits. This doesn’t always have to be at a party or some sort of celebration but includes lighter social activities like meals in restaurants or catching up with friends at home.
If you notice that you or someone you know is a couple drinks ahead of everyone else almost every time it could be a warning sign they are (or you are) a high functioning alcoholic.
2. They Often Deny Things They Have Said or Done
As with anyone who abuses alcohol, blackouts can be a common occurrence and I don’t mean being unconscious. Occasionally blackouts affect the memory and the person can appear to be functioning as if on auto-pilot and not completely intoxicated, yet the next day that person will have no recollection of events or things they said or did.
In high functioning alcoholics, blackouts frequently occur and you might not notice a change in their behavior until you mention something they said or did which they will completely deny ever doing so.
3. They Always Joke About Drinking
One of the tell-tale signs someone you know is a high functioning alcoholic is how they will go out of their way to joke about drinking to make light of how much they are consuming. They may even tease others about not being able to drink as much as they can.
By projecting this onto others around them or the social situation they are in, helps to shift the focus away from their own problem. Most high functioning alcoholics are in denial that they have a problem because they are capable of working and socializing like everyone else.
4. They Always Excuse Why They Drink Yet Hide Their Drinking
A high functioning alcoholic will always give you a reason why they drink. Stress at work, dealing with overwhelming children or simply that they’ve had a bad day. What’s more is that a high functioning alcoholic will conceal their drinking so you don’t see how much they are consuming. They can slip out early to get to the bar before you and arrange meeting you there.
They may even have bottles hidden in places like the car or desk drawer at the office. Next time you meet them at a bar notice if they seem like they have already had a few drinks. Hiding their drinking is a sure sign that they are addicted to alcohol and are having a problem functioning without it.
5. They Replace Meals with Drinks
Many functioning alcoholics will see a mealtime as an excuse to have a few drinks so it is not uncommon to see that they are more interested in ordering more alcohol instead of eating the food in front of them. Medical research has shown chronic alcohol abuse may result in a loss of appetite or failure to identify hunger.
6. Acting Out of Character
If someone close to you who you’ve to know for a long time suddenly seems different, more outgoing or perhaps more aggressive than usual, it may be because they are a high functioning alcoholic.
On the outside, they appear to be the same person you’ve always known but pay close attention to how they are, particularly around other people or in larger groups. Alcohol tends to bring out certain behavior in people which can range from being more social to easily angered and violent.
By identifying someone you know as a high functioning alcoholic you might be able to reach out to that person and discover the reason behind their drinking and help them get the professional help they need. Depending on the severity of their alcoholism you might just be saving their lives.
Do you have anything to add to these 6 signs how to identify a high functioning alcoholic? Perhaps you have your own story about being a high functioning alcoholic and would like to share your experience with our readers? Leave us a comment below we would love to hear from you.
Two articles that appeared in the news last summer that feel like they would be good to share now when we have our hair shirts on rather than our Hawaiian one’s! One is from the UK Daily Mail and asks the question of ‘are we drinking too much?’ and the other is from the US and says the answer is yes! Both are incidentally talking about the same JAMA paper that was published in August 2017.
“The prevalence of 12-month DSM-IV AUD increased significantly from 8.5% to 12.7% (change, 49.4%) in the total population. Significant increases in AUD were seen in all subgroups except Native Americans and those residing in rural areas. Notable increases were found among women (83.7%), racial/ethnic minorities (51.9% for Hispanic and 92.8% for black individuals), adults 65 years and older (106.7%), those with a high school education (57.8%) and less than a high school education (48.6%), those earning incomes of $20?000 or less (65.9%), those living within 200% of the poverty threshold (range, 47.1%-55.8%), and those residing in urban areas (59.5%)”
But when do your long lunches, after-work drinks or that ‘decompression’ glass of wine at home become a cause for concern?
‘Not everyone who drinks heavily will become dependent, or an alcoholic,’ explains Dr Mohiuddin. ‘But some of us are definitely predisposed to it.
‘It’s a mixture of genes and environment. Many people with a drinking problem have a family history of it – a parent, aunt/uncle, a grandparent. It doesn’t mean everyone in a family will suffer.
‘However, if the environment is there – perhaps a job with a heavy drinking culture – a problem can develop.’
Around 20 percent of people in Britain and the USA drink to a hazardous level, figures show.
‘It’s easy for many people to get through a bottle of wine a night, and over time, this can creep steadily upwards, to two or even three,’ says Dr Mohiuddin.
‘In my experience, a lot of heavy drinkers – both men and women – steadily move onto harder things.
‘They may start with beer or perhaps wine and then progress on to heavy spirits such as vodka or whiskey.
‘However it’s not necessarily what you are drinking or where, it’s the amount and the effect it’s having on your life (see below). Some people will be able to cut down, while others will try and then realise they can’t – a sign of dependence.
‘There is a significant proportion of heavy drinkers who don’t realise or are in denial that they could be functioning – albeit progressively less functioning – alcoholics.’
THE WARNING SIGNS
‘The main problem is that it’s quite easy for some people to slip into drinking regularly – and the soothing effect it gives you becomes like using a tranquilizing medication such as diazepam,’ explains Dr Mohiuddin.
‘But over time, the benefits wear off quicker and you need more alcohol to get the same effect.’
‘Many people associate being an alcoholic with drinking in the morning, the old adage of ‘vodka on the cornflakes’ or sitting on a park bench with a can of cider – but there are many more subtle signs of dependence and/or alcoholism.’
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has produced a list of classic symptoms that show your drinking has stepped up to a worrying level. These include:
You regularly use alcohol to cope with anger, frustration, anxiety or depression – instead of choosing to have a drink, you feel you have to have it.
You regularly use alcohol to feel confident
Your drinking affects your relationships with other people – they may tell you that, when you drink, you become gloomy or aggressive. Or, people around/with you look embarrassed or uncomfortable when you are drinking.
You stop doing other things to spend more time drinking – these other things become less important to you than alcohol.
You carry on drinking even though you can see it is interfering with your work, family and relationships.
You hide the amount you drink from friends and family
Your drinking makes you feel disgusted, angry, or suicidal – but you carry on in spite of the problems it causes
You start to drink earlier and earlier in the day and/or need to drink more and more to feel good/get the same effect
You start to feel shaky and anxious the morning after drinking the night before
You get ‘memory blanks’ where you can’t remember what happened for a period of hours or even days
Before I stopped I had all 10 warning signs. The articles recommendation:
HOW TO CURB YOUR DRINKING BEFORE IT’S TOO MUCH
Set yourself a target to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.
Avoid high-risk drinking situations and work out other things you can do instead of drinking.
Opt for lower-strength options, such as 4 percent beers or 10 percent wines.
Involve your partner or a friend who can help agree a goal and keep track of your progress.
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOUR’E DRINKING HEAVILY
If you are drinking heavily, do not stop suddenly – see your GP or another medical professional, says Dr Mohiuddin.
‘Some people manage to stop suddenly without any problems, but others may have withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, shakiness, sweating, increasing anxiety, headache and even hallucinations. In fact, going ‘cold turkey’ if you’re a very heavy drinker is highly risky and could be fatal. Hence, it is not recommended.’
And if you fear you can’t stop or cut down on your own, there are many specialist alcohol workers who can help. Your GP should be able to tell you about services available in your area.
Some people, especially those with a possible or real dependence, will need more comprehensive help and treatment. For example, says Dr Mohiuddin, if you’ve been using alcohol as a de-stressor, or to try and block out your worries, therapy can help you address these issues and find other, non-destructive ways of dealing with them.’
In the case of alcohol and certain drugs a medical detox is essential – there can be serious health implications linked to sudden withdrawal.
There are also a wide range of tests to help staff ascertain the damage done to the body by drugs and alcohol, allowing patients to get tailored treatment plans that suit their needs with the help if therapists, doctors and a full nursing team.
‘Another option is to attend a support group for drinking problems, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, where there are other people in your situation who understand and can give you support,’ says Dr Mohiuddin.
‘There are meetings all over the world and they’re free to attend.’
And for friends or relatives worried about someone they know or suspect has a drinking problem, there is Al-Anon – a spin-off of Alcoholics Anonymous.
All good advice which I would advocate. You can always reach out to me here and I will do my best to signpost you to the relevant services and support you need.
Today’s blog post comes from my friend Veronica Valli. Veronica and I have worked together in the past where we discussed AA and the 12 steps and recorded our interveiws which you can revisit here.
V and I also have a shared connection in that she worked for Focus12 as did I! Sadly by the time I joined the organisation both V and the legendary Chip Somers were no longer there but I have heard a great deal about him and know that he is a local hero in the rehab and recovery community. So it is my great pleasure to feature this guest blog post and share their work with you here. Over to V:
For a long time, I have been thinking about developing a program where I can mentor anyone who has an alcohol use disorder. Putting my 16 years experience of working with addiction and my own experience of recovery into an affordable and accessible format.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in sobriety is believing that drinking is the problem when it is a symptom of the problem.
Our real problem is how we think and how we feel. We have to develop new and better ways to deal with our feelings and emotions. Because when we feel differently, we act differently. Alcohol loses its power over us.
The Soberful program is made up of the five essential components that you need to implement to not just successfully stay sober but to be happy, fulfilled and free also. Because who wants to be sober and miserable?
The five components are;
These are the tools I have been using for over 17 years to stay sober and to live a life beyond anything I could have dreamed of. In my 6-week program, I teach you how to implement these components in your life. In the process section, we go deep to look at relationships, peer groups and dealing with fear. In the first week, I teach you an easy and effective tool that will help you relieve stress and eliminate cravings.
I am also deeply honored that Chip Somers has come on board as one of the instructors of the Soberful program. Chip is the first person Russell Brand thanks in his book ‘Recovery.’
In the video below I welcome Chip to the Soberful community and ask him how he went from being a ‘right social liability’ to the man he is today.
If you are interested in learning about Soberful living and the five pillars of successful sobriety, then please sign up for my Masterclass here. I will pack in a lot of information that you can apply to living a successful sober life.
You can also join my FREE Facebook group where I provide mentorship and support to anyone wishing to overcome an alcohol problem.
Introducing Chip Somers to the Soberful community - Vimeo
I never had the pleasure of hearing Chip speak about recovery and this video is well worth your time!