Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse
People have so many excuses for not getting help with their alcohol addiction. The excuse we hear over and over again is: “I don't need help. I can stop drinking at any time.” This is not true. When you are addicted, you have lost control. You cannot stop at any time. If you could, you would not be addicted. Make that first step and get help.
If your spouse is ambivalent about attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, offer to go with him or her. You will be welcome there, and your show of support will help your spouse. You will also learn what happens at a meeting.
A very effective treatment for alcoholism is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Two alcohol-dependent men founded it in 1935: a stockbroker and a surgeon. There are meetings all over the United States and all over the world; these meetings happen every day, and in bigger cities, many times a day. All types of people attend AA meetings, including physicians, lawyers, teachers, bank tellers, janitors, the independently wealthy, and the unemployed. There is an oath of confidentiality that members take seriously. Each Alcoholics Anonymous is a self-run group supported by donations. AA is free—anyone who wants to is welcome to attend a meeting. Alcoholics Anonymous is listed in the phone book, and you can call for meeting locations and times.
Marriage Q & A's
Q: My spouse is an alcoholic. Can I do anything to help?
A: A spouse often is an “enabler” of the alcoholic's drinking behavior. You might do things you don't even realize, such as covering up for his or her drinking or being extra nice when he or she is drunk. You will increase your spouse's chance for recovery if you attend Al-Anon meetings. If you identify and stop “enabling” behaviors, you will be doing the best thing for your spouse and your marriage.
Marriage Q & A's
Q: If my spouse and I are in couples therapy and also go to AA and Al-Anon meetings, are we spreading ourselves too thin?
A: The more ways you get help for your alcohol addiction, the better. Different treatments reinforce each other. For instance, many people in therapy receive a lot of benefit from attending Alcoholics Anonymous as well. Or a spouse of an alcoholic who attends Al-Anon also goes to couples therapy with his or her partner. Everything you do to help you get and stay sober is useful.
Marriage Q & A's
Q: How do I know where to find an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting?
A: Look up the phone number in your local white pages under “Alcoholics Anonymous” or “Narcotics Anonymous.” Call the number and ask for the time and location of the next meeting. Most locations have a 24-hour hotline available as well.
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are filled with people who are, or have been, addicted to alcohol. Guests who have never used alcohol are also welcome. Often people who have been sober for many years continue to attend meetings on a regular basis. AA gives alcoholics and ex-alcoholics a steady system of support. Initially, people often start by going to meetings several times a day, every day. When they stop drinking, the structure that AA meetings provide is invaluable. AA helps you realize that you don't have control over your drinking and believes that abstinence is the only way to control your drinking.
Al-Anon is a contraction of the words “Alcoholics Anonymous.” It's designed for the spouses of people with alcohol addiction. It works like Alcoholics Anonymous. It's a self-run group, it's listed in the phone book, and it's free. The goal of Al-Anon is to help spouses of alcoholics deal with the issues that they face. Al-Anon helps you restore your self-esteem, which is often undermined by an alcoholic spouse. It helps you break the cycle of feeling responsible for your spouse's drinking. And if your spouse (hopefully) is going through recovery, Al-Anon can help you set up a new, healthy, alcohol-free life.
There are several different types of therapy to help someone with alcoholism. Individual therapy can help you understand why you need to be intoxicated and why you might be frightened to be sober. For instance, you might feel insecure socially or hate your job and not know how to get out of it. Or you might use alcohol to avoid problems in your relationship.
Couples therapy can be extremely helpful for many reasons. It can give both of you the support you need, help you to understand behavior patterns that occur because of the drinking, and help you restart your life without alcohol. Behavior therapy can teach you alternatives to drinking, including relaxation training and assertiveness training.
In addition to groups and therapy, medications can also be effective in treating alcoholism. Antabuse (Disulfiram) is a prescription medication that is taken every day. Drinking even one drink will make you feel quite sick. It can be very useful as a deterrent to drinking and can help motivated people resist impulse drinking.
Antidepressant medication can also be useful in helping someone with alcoholism. Some people use alcohol as self-medication. They are clinically depressed and use alcohol to cover up their bad feelings. When their depression is controlled by an antidepressant, they have less of a need to drink alcohol. There is also evidence that some antidepressants reduce cravings for alcohol. It's worthwhile to have a full evaluation by an internist, family practice doctor, or psychiatrist.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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