Annabel91 · 20/06/2019 15:25
@Prawnofthepatriarchy I see this thread started a couple of months ago, but I hope you don’t mind if I add some questions to it! Thank you so much for this thread, and congratulations on the 30 years!
A friend of mine is alcoholic. He’s mentioned it in passing a few times, but not started an in-depth conversation about it. (I have not started a conversation about it either, as I don’t feel it’s my business to.) If he were to mention one day that he’s not drinking any more, do you think it would be most helpful for me to say something like “Wow, that’s brilliant!”, or to act as if it’s no big deal? (I don’t know whether making a big deal of it could make a person feel more under pressure, and whether not making a thing of it would come across as more respectful of their privacy?)
You have mentioned that alcoholism is an illness. I’m wondering how exactly the friends and family of an alcoholic should think of it - if we think and talk of it as an illness over which an alcoholic has no control, I guess that could be discouraging, i.e. convey the idea that there’s no way out of it, but if we think and talk of it as something over which the alcoholic has control, they might feel blamed. (At the moment I’m not in a situation where this is an issue, but I’m just wondering generally.) What are your thoughts on this?
Thank you! 💐
MissConductUS · 21/06/2019 19:11
@Annabel91 - prawn may not have seen your post because the threads I'm on link is dodgy at the moment, so I'll have a go with the understanding that she will probably return at some point with a much better her own answer.
You might have missed it up thread, but I'm also a recovering alcoholic with 25 years of sobriety.
If he were to mention one day that he’s not drinking any more, do you think it would be most helpful for me to say something like “Wow, that’s brilliant!”, or to act as if it’s no big deal?
It depends on where he is in his recovery. If he's not drinking because he's really in recovery then feel free to say something positive. A bit of encouragement is generally welcome. If he's not drinking because he just got arrested for punching a cop while drinking, it's probably best to just nod and smile and say nothing.
I tend to operate under a "need to know" rule. My doctor and my DH need to know I'm a recovering alcoholic. The rest of the world just needs to know that I don't drink. After 25 years, not drinking isn't a daily struggle, it's normal.
You have mentioned that alcoholism is an illness. I’m wondering how exactly the friends and family of an alcoholic should think of it
Like any disease, it can be active or in remission. In the case of any addiction, the long term treatment that creates remission is abstinence. Alcoholics do have control over it in that they can seek treatment (medical or peer support or both) and devote energy and determination to staying abstinent. There really is no issue of blame, any more than any other disease. The only distinction that I can think of is that most medical treatment tends to be fairly passive - take these pills, etc. Because alcoholism is so behaviorally intertwined it requires a change of habits and attitudes, which is much harder than taking a pill everyday.
I generally don't care to talk about it with people at all, except with others in recovery or in situations like MN, where my discussing my own experiences might be helpful to others. If he is sober, he knows what he's doing and living life without planning his day around alcohol and waking up hungover is it's own reward. If he's struggling and brings it up, try to be supportive and encourage him to get help. Very, very few people who are actively addicted can stop on their own. There's an old saying in AA which goes "You alone must do it but you cannot do it alone".
Reading this over, it seems terribly unclear, so please ask if there's anything I can expand upon. And thank you for being so considerate of your friend.
ruthboros · 21/06/2019 19:54
I’ve just celebrated my 15th anniversary of being sober. My dad was an alcoholic and so am I. Somehow, I just stopped- literally woke up one morning and decided to stop. That was on June 11th 2004 and I haven’t had a drink since. Several months later I had a big emotional meltdown which I think was all the feeling I had tamped down by being drunk working their way out of my system. It’s definitely the best thing I ever did. I now have a great job, I run, I have a wonderful husband and we got through him having cancer - now in remission - without me drinking a drop. It’s not a struggle now, in fact life became so much better so soon after I stopped it wasn’t hard for that long. I love my life now and shudder to think of how I would have ended up. Like my dad, probably, long term unemployed, depressed and isolated. I wish now that instead of being a seIfish teenager, I’d done more to help him.
BikeRunSki · 22/06/2019 19:38
This thread has been wonderfully insightful. I am the child of an alcoholic mother - 39 years sober. She has always been open about her sobriety, her involvement in AA and so on. What I have never known, or i’ve felt comfortable to ask, is what made her drink, and what made her stop. It has been interesting reading people’s stories here. Well done and good luck to you all.
ruthboros · 22/06/2019 21:18
@annabel91 I think it is an illness too. Having cared for my husband when he had cancer it is very hard seeing a person you love suffering and feeling powerless to help. Often they may not handle things as you think they should and that can lead to tensions. I think you just have to be there and they need to know you are,
As regards what you can do or say to help your friend, just make small gestures or comments and see how it goes down. You are obviously sensitive so you will be able to tell soon enough if your friend wants to talk about it or not. Everyone is different and there is no single ‘right’ approach for friends and family to take. Some people prefer AA and to share with others. I totally get that but it would have been anathema to me. I didn’t feel I needed support to give up drinking, I just wanted to do it by myself with zero fuss and attention from anyone else. It worked for me, but everyone needs to find their own way. I like it now when people say congratulations - thank you - but at the beginning I just didn’t want people saying anything at all! I don’t know why - I guess embarrassment maybe. After I stopped my husband said he’d been worried but felt sure I would see it for myself in time so he decided not to interfere- if the roles had been reversed I’m not sure I could have been so forbearing. Like other illnesses, the person who is an alcoholic didn’t choose to be ill, but they can choose how they respond. I mean, they can choose whether or not to help themselves, whether to let others help them and whether or not to accept treatment. My late father wouldn’t engage in any of that at all. I don’t blame him, I think he was scared and traumatised because he lost his job and couldn’t cope, so couldn’t respond rationally. As I said, I wish that instead of being an unthinking teenager I had been better able to help him. But I think if he could see me now he’d be pleased, I hope so anyway. Every time I run a big race I set aside a few minutes to think about him before I start, and I run them all for him. Sorry, this has turned into a ramble. I wish you and your friend all the very best.
aufaitaccompli · 22/06/2019 23:24
I've been bothered by my drinking for several years now. I've used it as a crutch to numb the pain of an abusive relationship and shockingly bad self esteem. This thread has been an eye opener, and not a bit of it stung; reading similar threads before resulted in indescribable shame and self loathing. Different now.
I have realised lately that I'm making things worse for myself by being so blase about my health, my sanity and my pocket.
I'm not kicking myself about it anymore though, because that behaviour has contributed greatly to the negative spiral of booze/shame/remorse.
I have hidden bottles for years and spent so much money. I'm disappointed, but am being compassionate instead of angry. It's working.
Last two weekends have been booze free for me and that's a biggie. My life is pretty stressful as it is without adding to it.
I am confident in my positive intentions now, which I believe is breaking the cycle in a way which works for me. I like myself again. I'm just as worthy of a contented and serene life as the next person, as are my children and family.
Not sure if anyone is even going to read this but that doesn't matter. I'm owning my responsibility to myself and the kids and that's my motivation and inspiration.
No more negativity from me, to me.
MissConductUS · 23/06/2019 01:05
What I have never known, or i’ve felt comfortable to ask, is what made her drink, and what made her stop.
What made her drink was the intensely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms she had when she stopped. There's a well understood biochemical mechanism for alcohol addiction:
Molecular basis of alcoholism.
For someone who is physically addicted to this level, as I certainly was, stopping caused intense cravings.
Others abuse alcohol without being truly addicted to it in a biochemical way. The use of it as a coping mechanism, by chronic use, will cause some to be addicted and others simply habituated. Alcoholism is about 50% heritable, so there's a large genetic component.
What likely made her stop was the realization that it was destroying her life.
@aufaitaccompli - my heart truly goes out to you. Congratulations on facing the issue head on, that's a very difficult but necessary first step.
If you struggle with not drinking I urge you to see your GP if for no other reason than to make sure you can stop safely and that your liver is still functioning normally. Seek peer support too. That also is a difficult step, but the support and wisdom of others who have gone before you on this journey is truly priceless.
Of course you are worthy of a full and happy life. Alcohol almost killed me. I am now a good mum with a good life and a happy family. Being abstinent makes all of the difference.
Feel free to PM me if you think it might be helpful to chat one on one.
aufaitaccompli · 23/06/2019 13:01
I drink 1/2 nights per week, down from 3/4 a few years ago. Equivalent to 3-4 bottles of wine.
Enough to disrupt my sleep and dull my mood, and ability to resist crap food.
When I don't drink I am full of energy and less moody, which is fab.
Am sure time will tell but I'm so resolute and decisive; will definitely speak to GP if things don't improve over the next 4-6 weeks.
Annabel91 · 23/06/2019 16:00
@ruthboros Thank you so much for your post - it’s really good to have more of an insight. It’s interesting that to begin with when sober you didn’t want people to say anything about it, and also what you say about how different people deal with it differently.
It’s so lovely that you think of your dad before each big race and run them all for him!
I completely agree with you that there is no place for blame in this.
Thank you for your good wishes! All the very best to you too
ruthboros · 23/06/2019 16:37
@annabel91 I have thought a lot about the question of blame and illness/alcoholism. Regarding myself, my dad and also my husband. It’s actually a very tricky area. Without realising, we do load illnesses of all kinds, not just alcoholism with morality and blame. My husband had/has HPV throat cancer which can be sexually transmitted, but is not necessarily, and can lay dormant for years. I was astounded when a ‘friend’ advised me to keep quiet about the fact the cancer was HPV because ‘people will judge you’. But then I reflected on the fact I was very quick to tell people that although my husband had throat cancer he was not a smoker. I didn’t attach any moral overlay to HPV but I did to smoking. Which is odd as in my drinking days I also used to smoke very heavily. The point is, we are often quick to blame and moralise, and it’s very subjective- and totally unhelpful.
My husband’s cancer made me reconsider my attitudes to people who are ill. There is definitely a social stigma to certain illnesses that people are deemed to have ‘brought on themselves’ as if they are less deserving of sympathy than the ‘innocent’ victims of ill-health.
This is pretty shallow thinking, Illness is not a punishment, though it can be a consequence.
I think the impulse towards blaming comes from fear of the other person’s pain and a desire to protect oneself by asserting superiority. If you can blame an alcoholic or for that matter someone with another illness for their plight, you can kid yourself it won’t happen to you. If you think about it, empathy is that imaginative leap where you share another person’s experience - blame is the opposite, it denies the validity of what they are going through and really denies their and our full flawed humanity. I think the world divides into two types of person. The type who, when they see another person in trouble responds with empathy and the type who responds with blame. Before I had my own difficulties I used to be more the blame type. I hope I’ve changed.
Annabel91 · 24/06/2019 12:01
@ruthboros I think you’re absolutely spot on. I think that can happen with any illness; I know of someone who, on hearing that an acquaintance had cancer, said: “I’ll never get cancer because I think positively” (implying that if anyone has cancer, it’s their fault for not thinking positively enough!).
MissConductUS · 24/06/2019 15:33
I know of someone who, on hearing that an acquaintance had cancer, said: “I’ll never get cancer because I think positively”
People are terrified of cancer, which leads to all sorts of irrational beliefs about it. It's also why there's such a huge market for dubious or outright fake cancer treatments. There was a time when having cancer was considered shameful so it wasn't even discussed.
Guardsman18 · 03/08/2019 12:48
Thank you for replying. I'm doing ok but it is only 12.45 pm! However I would normally have had a drink by now but I am currently looking through old mail that has been sitting on my 'dining room' table for months and months.
That did concern me a bit - something Prawn mentioned about withdrawal being quite dangerous. I nearly used it as excuse to have a drink until I could see the doctor! Any old excuse eh?
MissConductUS · 03/08/2019 15:03
It can be quite dangerous. That's why some people like me had to detox in hospital. At day three you're probably out of the woods for acute withdrawal issues, but if you feel really off get to A&E. Here, have a read about it:
The two things you need now are peer support and medical support. You alone must do it but you cannot do it alone. You must learn how to live without drinking. That is where the peer support comes in. Your GP will want to check your liver function and can give you medications that help tame the cravings. Get them. Alcohol does not fight fair. That's why it wins most of the time.
May I ask a few things? How old are you and how long have you been drinking? Do you live alone?
Guardsman18 · 03/08/2019 15:54
Thank you again. I'm trying t fill my time and thought I'd take the dog out and then go shopping and now it's chucking it down with rain! I feel like a child stamping my feet at how unfair that is!
I'm 57(I'm a woman despite my username - I picked it in a hurry from a piece of paper next to me) - been drinking since 17 I guess. Break when pregnant and when children were small obviously not in the 'league' I am now.
This has sort of crept up in the last say 10 years. Certainly the last 3 it's increased and the last year where if I go out, I can't wait to get home to have a drink - oh God - I've said it
Guardsman18 · 03/08/2019 16:00
I didn't answer your last question. No, I live with my two sons. One and adult but no yet independent and a 14 year old. Over the last year or so I have deliberately isolated myself if that makes sense.
Strange how once the you start to tell the truth, it all comes out.
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