( picture from dooyoo.co.uk)
I went to my local Al-Anon meeting this week and it was a record turn-out - twice the usual number of attendees. Extra chairs were needed and the usually perfect circle became a somewhat bulging oval. There were a few newcomers, a few others I had not met before [I attend meetings irregularly, particularly when I am away for a week visiting my mother]. Proof positive that alcoholism is on the increase.
Newcomers invariably ask the same question that us old hands have once asked ourselves at our first meeting - what are the ways to help the alcoholic to stop drinking? Ha. If someone could bottle that answer (to pardon the pun), they would be a millionaire. The sad fact remains that there is nothing anyone can do to stop the alcoholic from drinking. Only the alcoholic him/herself can bring that about. If the alcoholic does not WANT to stop and will not TRY WITH ALL THEIR MIGHT to stop, there is no magic wand available in the cupboard. No amount of money, detox, rehab or medical intervention is going to bring that happy ending about. It can only come from intense effort by the alcoholic themselves to avoid the demon drop. I was once told that for every ten alcoholics, only one will succeed in becoming sober and staying sober: the other nine simply don't make it through and will lapse and relapse time after sober time into drinking or will kill themselves. It's a disease in all senses of the word.... one that neither the professionals, the alcoholic, nor certainly their loved ones can always cure. A lot of newcomers are also befuddled by their first Al-Anon meeting - I was. It's not about helping the alcoholic to stop drinking, but about the long climb to sanity for someone who has had to live with an alcoholic. It's about looking after ourselves not the alcoholic. It's a spiritual programme to heal ourselves and make us stronger to cope with the alcoholic. It's also knowing there are others out there like me, who have gone or are going through what I went through. To know you are not alone is a tremendous support. That doesn't always come across in the Al-Anon literature.
Earlier in the month a study said that people should have two alcohol-free days a week. That surprised me. My view is, we should rather be thinking more in terms of having only two alcohol-drinking days a week. Are we all drinking that much that we need to limit it to just two alcohol-free days? I grew up in a family where alcohol was only available at very special occasions like Christmas or birthdays with a zero in it. We couldn't afford it for one thing. No wonder people nowadays need benefits and large salaries to cope with their drinking habit, if they're downing alcohol on a daily basis. This rant, by the way, isn't about sobriety and prohibition. (I have the occasional little drink about once a month). But, until you have lived with alcoholism and watched a loved-one die from it, you cannot possibly understand what damage it does - to relationships, to health and ultimately to life. But once you have witnessed that, believe me, you would never want to drink again.