Monday, March 13, 2006

Dealing with Alcoholics

Dealing With Alcoholics

In reply to an ongoing discussion in the Konkani Catholics group, Mr. Vincent Fernandes had the following useful insights to share on dealing with alcohlics

I think if there's one place where the saying 'God helps those who help themselves' fits well, it is in the case of alcoholism.

There could be many underlying reasons for being an alcoholic. First and foremost, fears - of being far away, the fear to face the job, the fear of rejection, the anxieties about tomorrow etc. Other reasons could be the spouse, worldly company or other factors rather than the mere love of alcohol.

Yet once one indulges in drinking, it is extremely difficult to stop, as the withdrawal symptoms are terrifying. During this time, drunkards will have difficulty in eating or drinking. The thought of food itself can cause nausea or hallucinations. In his hallucinations he may see life like creatures, the kind we see in horror movies. Sometimes, the person feels himself engaged in a scary battle with those horrible people or creatures of his hallucination. At other times it could be imaginations that defy the law of physics - for e.g. he imagines the bed springs coming apart from the mattress and tightening around his body. These hallucinations can really be terrifying.

It is best to approach such persons when they are not too under the influence of alochocl and are in a sufficiently sober mind. A simple chat in a concerned tone will convery the sense of understanding that he is looking for and will help him feel loved and assured of help. Often it it because of the lack of understanding that the drunkard hits the bottle harder. They hate it when other pass disrespectful comments or make fun of them.

There is sometimes another type of behaviour under the effect of alcohol where a person though fully drunk, acts normal and yet is under a full black-out. In this state, he may take the keys, drive the car to the liquor store, buy liquor like normal person, drive back home, consume more and pass out, but the next day he does not remember what he has done. He may even get into violent arguments with his wife if confronted but have no memory of it the next day. This in reality, is a very dangerous situation as the man cannot in anyway prove that he was acting under the influence of alcohol. Since he seemed perfectly normal, evn his wife will not believe what he say and he will be every bit responsible for his actions under the law.

As long as a drunkard does not realise the all-round damage that he is doing and make up his mind to give up alcochol, realising his family's concerns about him, he cannot be set free from the addiction to the bottle.

A person who is a good listener and is able to comfortably discuss the topic, will be a great aid in helping alcoholics kick the habit. They will be able to make them understand the damage caused by the habit and make the person feel loved, respected and wanted. The decision is not an easy one but the renunciation should be with a complete NO without justifications of any sort or the choice of lesser evils like beer or wine.

Once the habit is renounced, the person must take care to avoid all the occassions for such a sin i.e., the social gatherings and friends circles where drinks are served. Firstly, it helps to send a message across that one has given up drinking altogether and secondly to avoid the subtle pressure exerted by friends in the manner, "eh what are you saying, c'mon, have a small peg". It is the 'first drink' that enslaves a person and he will do well to avoid justifications like "I know, okay, I will have later", or "my glass is over there". These are answers that weaken ones conviction and allow evil desires to take root once again. Let the NO be a gentle but firm NO - "I have given up drinking". That's it.

Even after all this, temptation will still be there. Often one feels that though he is not drinking, he must keep some stock to serve his guests who show a preference for it. This is a fatal trap for one who has come so far. Not only does he become responsible for the sin of another but he provides himself with the opportunity to go back to this sin again. He could well take a 'quick refresher' when his wife goes for bath or to the garden. Should such a one go back to that hell again? - the total surrender to alchohol, the self pity, the helplessness, the food nausia and the hullucinations, the deathly quiet in the house as if the wife and children have deserted him leaving the house is empty.... is that the ask? If someone really wants to avoid this then let him NOT underestimate the power of alchohol.

Without prayer it may be impossible to free such a person from the grips of this deadly addiction yet human assistance is also of great value. Detox programs and medical drugs can also be of help, as long as the resolve is there. And the resolve remains the best cure - "No, Never to the 'first drink". This way the person can regain his lost respect, obtain a gainful employment, regain the confidence of the family and children, and lead a satisfying life. As an alcoholic, a person can never be confident about his control over how much and how he drinks. It is a myth that has trapped many and they've had relapses more terrifying than the ones they had first. Shouldn't they destroy the poison before it destroys them?

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