Alcoholism in the family

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The effects of alcoholism in a spouse can be devastating not only for the marriage but for the children as well. Because the alcoholic spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about and consuming alcohol, it robs the other family members of his attention and love.

How can you tell if your spouse is an alcoholic? There are several signs to look for:

* A history of alcoholism in the family. People inherit a hereditary predisposition for alcoholism. All of us can become addicted to alcohol if we drink enough of it, but those with a history of alcoholism in their families become addicted more easily than those without this history.
* A history of heavy drinking. The earlier a person began to drink, the more years he has been drinking, the more frequently he drinks and the more he consumes, the more likely it is that he has become addicted to alcohol. Any amount beyond two drinks each time alcohol is consumed suggests the potential for a problem.
* Denial about one's drinking. Alcohol has become the alcoholic's best friend because it always provides her with a high or temporary relief from stress. As a result, she will do anything to protect her use of it. Even when it is obvious to everyone else, the alcoholic will vigorously deny she has a problem. One person with a twenty year history of heavy drinking and five alcohol-related arrests told me with a straight face he didn't have a drinking problem. End of discussion. Another who admitted he had been drinking a six pack of beer every day for twenty-five years denied he was addicted to alcohol. Alcoholics show us how great is the human capacity for denial and self-delusion!
* Problems caused by drinking. DUI arrests, bad fights at home, absenteeism at work, complaints of friends, spouses and children, medical conditions caused by drinking--all are indications that alcohol has become a serious problem.
* Blackouts. Blackouts are a loss of memory, but not a loss of consciousness, which occur when a person is intoxicated. Others remember, perhaps all to painfully, what she did last night, but the alcoholic can't recall a thing.
* Preoccupation with drinking. Making sure there is an adequate supply of alcohol at a party or in the house. Also, drinking before a party.
* Gulping alcohol. Drinking quickly to get the high as soon as possible.
* Sneaking drinks. Hiding bottles in the house.
* Loss of control of drinking. If a person plans to stop at the local bar for two beers and often stays much longer until he's intoxicated, chances are he has a drinking problem. The bottom line question about alcohol is, "Do you control it or does it control you?"
* Failure to stop drinking. Let's assume a person has become concerned about her drinking and so vows to stop or control it. The fact that she can't is another sign that drinking has become a serious problem for her.

For an alcoholic to seek help, he has to decide himself he has a drinking problem. If you think your spouse is an alcoholic, I'll discuss in my next article what you can do to help him make that decision.



Anonymous said...

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