My mother was an alcoholic. She would have never agreed with that statement. She drank daily and I don’t remember a day that I did not see a beer sitting next to her. Because of this, my parents fought almost daily. According to the Mayo Clinic, a drinking problem is classified as having trouble controlling alcohol consumption, preoccupation with alcohol, continued use of alcohol even when it causes issues, or experiencing withdrawal symptoms when one stops or rapidly decreases alcohol consumption. So by medical definition, whether she would admit it or not, she was an alcoholic. My family tried to convince my mom to seek help but she was in denial. It was a never ending battle with her to try to help her. After a while, we just gave up the fight and decided to just not talk about it. She has since passed away and we leave the topic to rest with her.
Later in my life, I dated a guy whose father was an alcoholic. His family did exactly what mine had done. They knew that he had problem but they did not talk about it because it was easier to ignore the issue than deal with it head on. He has also since passed away from health issues related to his drinking.
Having met another family who was going through the same experiences I went through made my childhood seem just a little bit more normal. But I still did not understand why my family and his family had just let the issue go. I did not understand how either of our families could just give up on fighting with their loved one when it could have saved their lives?
Now, as an adult, I have a close friend whose father is an alcoholic and they struggle in the same way that my family and my ex-boyfriend’s family did to get him help. They have also given up fighting.
Now I understand why.
The answer is simple; no one wants the same fight on repeat, day after day. As an adult, I realize just how much the fighting effects each individual in the family separately. Fighting is exhausting. Fighting causes hurt feelings and nasty words that you may not intend to mean to be carelessly thrown around. Fighting can cause you to feel like a failure when the individual chooses the alcohol over their loved ones. It can make you feel like you will never be enough for them. One person can only experience these hurt feelings so often until they cannot handle them anymore. And then, for your own mental health, you just walk away.
In an ideal situation, we would be able get everyone the help that they need for their addiction. Unfortunately, with addiction, you are fighting the powerful hold the drug has on them. The person’s drug of choice changes the individual’s way of thinking and they do not think that they have a problem or are too embarrassed to admit it. Helping someone overcome denial is the hardest process when helping someone that has an addiction.
Luckily, my friend’s father is still alive. We have the time to continue trying to get him help. Alcoholism creates an increased risk of health problems. Alcohol is a factor is 25% of suicides and those that use alcohol have higher rates of attempted suicide than those that do not use alcohol.
If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, what should you do? Be supportive and help connect them with local resources. Alcoholics Anonymous is a support group for individuals experiencing addiction. You can also call the Alcohol Treatment Referral Hotline at 1-800-252-6465 for more information regarding treatment centers and local support groups.
And don’t forget to get support for yourself too! Al-Anon is a group to support those that have a loved one experiencing addiction.
I urge everyone to fight this terrible fight for as long as you can in the hopes that you can get yourself or your loved one the help that they need. Know that the addiction is not who they are and that there is help out there.