20 January 2012

A record

( 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.


Working Mum said...

It's very sad that there was such an increase in attendance from those living with an alcoholic.

The news things surprised me as well; has it become the norm to drink every day? Drinking during the working week seems like a slippery slope to me.

HyperCRYPTICal said...

I work with a lot of young folk and it does appear that for some everyday drinking is the norm.

Like your good self I was bought up in an era were money was tight and a tipple was usually a Christmas Day or/and New Year event only.

Young folk have a great deal more disposable income that I did in my teenage years - gave half my wage to mum and dad - but that doesn't seem to happen any more. (So some of it goes down their neck!)

Anna :o]

Kelloggsville said...

I think some people are more predisposed to addiction. Some people seem to drink one glass of wine every night and they only have one glass of wine. Others fight with themselves not to drink and once they have the one they just don't seem to be able to stop. I like to have a drink but often don't because I don't want to 'set the other half off'. And even if they want to stop they appear unable. Is it a shallow want not a WANT? It's a sad sad thing, thats what it is. It is good of you to keep going and to carry on helping others, it's a great source of support to know others who understand in any situation.

Nora said...

I'm only an occassional drinker, but I've been married twice to alcoholics who had to drink every day. I'm never going to be in a relationship again for fear that I will pick the wrong person again and again become a co-dependent. Not drinking two days a week is drinking too often. It seems to me that you're already hooked then.

Elizabeth said...

We didn't have wine either when I grew up but my dad had a gin&tonic every evening until he died at 84. I drink as he did, but a glass of wine or a beer. I never seem to need more and if I take another glass I often leave it half drunk. Since I live alone, I drink alone(!) but I think there must be some sort of biological predisposition to alcoholism and I just happen to have the other sort of body type. Not drinking to help a partner is wonderfully supportive. Good on you Kellogsville!

Furtheron said...

I think your figures are high, I recently heard only 2.5% alcoholics attempt to stop and only 50% of them (i.e. about 1 or 2 in every 100) have any success - sobriety in medical terms is I think continued abstinence for 6 months. Laughable I was still mental at 6 months, obsessing about booze every day and even having to drive bizarre routes to avoid my old haunts.

You are right though - no programme will work if the person doesn't want it for themselves - I sadly know this is true, the love of my wife and kids never brought me to sobriety it is sad to say.

The two drink free days is a gag as well... If I'd still been drinking I'd have gone hell for leather to do that... probably spacing them apart so say Sunday and Thursday but then said to everyone that I was ok... policy makers... not a clue!

ADDY said...

Hi Furtheron. Thanks for your comments. The one-in-ten figures I use, came from AA who told my mother-in-law when she phoned them to ask for help for Greg.

cheshire wife said...

It is the stress of modern life and the current financial situation is probably exacerbating things.

Elizabeth said...

I have just read Futheron's post about his alcohol story and feel quite humbled by my lack of knowledge. That's part of the problem I suppose, how little understanding there is in the general community about addictions. Here in Australia a group of people who have been attempting to help gamblers have just been torpedoed by the gaming industry ... probably using the proceeds of problem gamblers to help them in their fight to keep gamblers gambling.

heavy hedonist said...

My father died, was killed actually, due to his drinking. We left him, my Mom and us six kids, when I was about four. My family never really recovered from it some ways. I hope you and yours find the way to peace & success. You're reaching for support, and that is a smart start.

Peace, Mari

Anonymous said...

Pretty daunting to think it's on the increase. Obviously, government tactics by increasing the price of booze is doing absolutely nothing to help. All they're doing is making people claim more benefits because they can't currently manage on what they have. And so it's a vicious circle.

We don't drink at all in this house and when I heard about the 2 days no-drinking a week, I was also surprised. I'm not naive enough to know how people are, but if this has been announced, then this is a problem that desperately needs to be addressed properly, not just by increasing the price of booze.

CJ x

Nota Bene said...

A worthy rant...alcohol can do untold damage but too few people realise that

Flowerpot said...

Alcohol is so expensive now - compared to when I was young when I couldnt afford to drink either - it amazes me when you see teenagers and students in bars spending a fortune on it. Where do they get the money from? Parents I guess or overdrafts. Not a good way to start life. But that's another thorny topic.

Have Myelin? said...

Two days a week? Why not give up alcohol completely?

If you can't do it then why should you expect the alcoholic to do it?

Retiredandcrazy said...

When I first joines Al-Anon in 1974the AA stat was "only 1 in 32 that come through these doors make it".

And what was the statistic for those that don't even try to stop? No-one knows.

Suffice to say alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful and should never be underestimated.

As for the family? Best to get off that merry-go-round of denial. Face up to you own issues, which will be many, and head for recovery.

Alcoholism can make the whole family sick. It's in your power to step off the treadmill.