Saturday, November 19, 2011

Secrets, Lies and Promises...

Toulouse Lautrec
Museum: Toulouse-Lautrec Museum

How do you tell someone that their drinking is ruining their life, and the lives of everyone who loves them?  How do you stop pretending that no one knows and that no one is being hurt by it?  Secrets, lies and promises...  It has not been a secret for years, and now that it is progressing, people cannot continue with the lies anymore. The sad thing is, no one is being judgmental, just extremely sad ~~ and powerless to help. 

Alcoholism is not a solitary disease; it is insidious and has a long-lasting ripple effect on everyone in the alcoholic's life.  The alcoholic drinks and their loved ones suffer.  Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and as it progresses and destoys the alcoholic's life, it takes down everyone else in its path.  And, the most destructive aspects of alcoholism are the secrets, the denials and the promises, especially the promises.  When parents drink to excess, it robs children of their innocence.

Alcoholism can ~~ and does ~~ happen to anyone.  Some folks can drink socially for years and not become *hooked* on alcohol, while others can become addicted after just a few drinks.  It is easy to understand the *hows* and *whys* of why a person starts drinking.  Sometimes it's to cover pain and unhappiness; sometimes it's just the *occasional nip* to endure an otherwise unendurable situation.  Sometimes it's to bolster one's confidence when a person is feeling insecure, lonely or confused about a situation.  Sometimes it's just to get through the evening.  Unfortunately, there comes a time in the process when the little nip becomes something much more, and the alcohol takes over.  The once funny, bright, warm-hearted individual becomes irritable, angry and mean-tempered ~~ their personality changes and they are no longer themselves, but an alcohol-infused ogre.  And the sad thing is, often they are not even aware.

Trying to describe the process of becoming an alcoholic is like trying to describe air. It’s too big and mysterious and pervasive to be defined… [T]here is no simple reason it happens, no single moment, no physiological event that pushes a heavy drinker across a concrete line into alcoholism. It’s a slow, gradual, insidious, elusive becoming.  Caroline Knapp ~~ "Drinking: A Love Story"

I had a close friend who was an alcoholic, and I sat by and watched her life deteriorate, like a slow-motion train wreck.  I could not help her.  One day she came to me and said she had joined AA and was determined not to let alcohol have any more power over her life.  Since then, I have watched her life blossom in her sobriety.  To me, alcoholism is the darkness, and sobriety is the light.

The disease of alcoholism is not something to be ashamed of.  In the 21st Century, we have become enlightened about so many diseases, including the disease of alcoholism.  It no longer carries the stigma that it once did, and thank God for that, because it is in pretending the disease doesn't exist that people suffer.  Like any disease, alcoholism can be treated and cured.  The first step on that journey is removing the denial and the secrets.  The second step on the journey is to accept just how badly it is affecting one's life, and especially the lives of the people who love that person.  The third step is to do whatever it takes to stop drinking, before any more damage is done ~~ to everyone.

To anyone who has become caught in the trap of alcoholism, I say, please get help.  The life you are slowly but surely destroying is not only your own, but all of the people who love you.


Sextant said...

Great post as always Jo. My father was an alcoholic and my mother fought him tooth and nail. I can relate. While I believe that we all write our own book on the story of our life, and one can't blame one's parents for everything, our first chapters are important and heavily edited by the adults in our small lives. I know to this day I carry scars from what alcohol did to our family. I haven't seen much good come out of a bottle.

A great painting to add to your post is Absinthe by Degas:'Absinthe

It was used in temperance battles a century ago.

Jo said...

Sextant, "I know to this day I carry scars from what alcohol did to our family." That is a very powerful statement, and one that breaks my heart. And yes, I can see that happening. Our first chapters are very important. And, yes, I have seen the Absinthe by Degas. Absinthe was a very powerful drink used by many painters, and Toulouse Latrec is said to have died from it.

DJan said...

As a child of an alcoholic, I somehow managed to marry one. I now know this happens often to adult children of alcoholics. I left him and he never got well, finally dying of a bleeding ulcer, too drunk to know he was dying.

The really bad part is that when he was sober, he was one of the nicest people I ever knew.

Russell said...

Tough topic.

A person can be addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, money, power .... many things. Most things, if done in moderation, are good.

But when the pleasure or interest turns into an addiction, then the once pleasurable pursuit becomes a monster that runs your life. You are no longer in control and are at the mercy of that addiction.

Unfortunately, others cannot save the addict. Only the addict can kill the monster within and then work to keep him away (though he may be at the door for a long time if not the rest of your life).

It takes a strong person to kill the power of the addiction. Some turn to religion (which can become an addiction itself though usually more socially acceptable).

Others need a horrible tragedy to change their lives (such as killing someone while driving drunk or strung out on drugs).

In any event you are right in that not only does the addict ruin his or her life, but those around him or her.

There are not easy answers. But whatever the answer is, it can only come from the person him or herself.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Without intervention/treatment/promises that are kept, it never ends well. My ex-husband was an alcoholic and consequently, quite abusive, not the charming, witty, delightful man I thought I had married. When I finally took my children and left him for good, he developed heart disease and then cancer. I have always believed that once he had no one to take it out on, the vitriol he tried to soothe with liquor turned inward and destroyed him. He died far too young, and our daughter grew up without a father, which still grieves her.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

My present husband Flip's mother was also a raging alcoholic who beat him every day of his childhood until he learned to hide from her, and she gave him Valium, to which she was also addicted. He could never bring friends home because she was usually passed out on the floor. He left home at 18, and is the only one of her children who is not an alcoholic, too. She died at age 55, but she lived long enough to do a lifetime's worth of damage to her family.

PhilipH said...

This disease is spreading, especially in Scotland. It is so cheap, especially in supermarkets and kids are getting hooked - and young girls are some of the most addicted now.

A difficult problem, a disease that can be cured only by the drinker.

Leslie: said...

Well written as usual, Josie. You are so right in that it can only be addressed by the one else can help him/her and can only stand by and watch as the alcoholic destroys him/herself. Once the root of the problem is faced and accepted, the person can move forward in life (with help from AA or a counsellor) and rebuild the life they were destroying before. They must be careful, however, NOT to replace the crutch of alcohol with something else (constantly going to AA meetings can also act as a "high" for the alcoholic and they still never move forward.)

Cloudia said...

it's clear that you care, Jo

Aloha from Honolulu

Comfort Spiral

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joanne said...

Alcoholism runs rampant through my family and the hubs family. It is never acknowledged or spoken of in any way, shape or form. It is relentless in it's power to betray everyone involved, including those of us who sit by and watch. Sad.
It is clear dear Jo that you care much and for whom ever it is that is hurting in this way...I am sorry.

Rob-bear said...

Thanks for raising the issue. People need to be as courageous as you are.

Jo said...

Djan, tht is very sad. And yes, alcoholism plays no favourites. Most of the time, when alcoholics are sober, they are very nice people.

Russell, you're so right. Only the alcoholic can take control and responsibility for the alcoholism. Sooner or later they wake up to the idea that they are destroying their life, drop by drop.

Susan, oh goodness, yes. I don't think alcoholics realize the devastation they create for their children. It's too easy to blame someone else. When I was in high school, I had two friends whose mother's were alcoholics. My friends could never take their friends home, because their mothers were always in the bedroom *sick* or sleeping. My friends led very lonely lives.

Philip, yes, only the drinker ~~ perhaps in a moment of sobriety ~~ can realize how much they are hurting other people.

Leslie, yes, it is a fine like to walk. But the first thing a drinker has to do is to stop drinking. I think AA is a wonderful organization, and I guess at first the drinker relies on it, which is okay if it helps.

Cloudia, yes, I care very much. I want to do whatever I can to help. It breaks my heart.

JoJo, it's the silence that is the worst of all. Denial, and pretence that everything is okay, when everything is really NOT okay. Not by a long shot. The best thing people can do is to address the elephant in the room, and stop pretending it isn't there.

Rob-bear, yes, it actually did take a lot of courage for me to write this post. The journey of a thousand miles... I want so much to help the people involved.

Linda Myers said...

Lots of alcoholism in my family and my husband's. Some are sober now, some are not. Everyone knows we're there for them when the time comes to make a change. If the time comes.

Jo said...

Linda, yes, that is all we can do, just be completely supportive, and non-judgmental. I wonder, too, if parents who drink realize how much innocence they are robbing from their children?

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

This is an excellent and very important post, Jo! Alcoholism destroys so many lives. Alcoholism has been rampant in my family -- my father, his mother, my sister -- with so much grief, so much wasted potential. My sister got sober and is doing well now. It took a major health crisis to turn her around. But there were so many lost years. While we're all ultimately responsible for the direction of our lives, early years spent with an alcoholic parent do have an impact.

Jo said...

Dr. Kathy, yes, I have seen the damage alcoholism can do, and it's heartbreaking. The drinker thinks it's making things better for them, but it is actually destroying their life. It's so sad,

fiftyodd said...

Just for a little balance - although I sympathise with you all, I cannot empathise. No alcoholics in my family. We've been lucky so far.

Jo said...

Fiftyodd, yes, you are very lucky. I do hope you retain your wonderful record, too. It's no picnic.