We know how it feels like to lose a loved one to alcohol. To see a loved one lose their identity and themselves to intoxication day by day. Handling an alcoholic, especially from your immediate family, can be an emotionally and physically exhausting journey. You will need external support to bring your loved one back onto the path of normalcy, where they don’t feel the need for intoxication to survive.
Normally, people reach for a drink to relax, celebrate, to forget their bad day at work, or maybe they just enjoy the taste of it. Alcohol can have a temporary positive impact on our mood. People drink alcohol for all sorts of reasons, but for the alcoholic, they drink to live. What began as a way to destress has begun to replace life itself. Why is that so?
The experience of childhood trauma is one main reason for alcoholism. As a child, not having one's needs met in an unconditionally loving and caring manner could lead the child to later seek that love in the form of chemicals. For example, parental abuse and neglect could push the alcoholic to gain relief by drinking. As an adolescent or pre-adolescent, they may be trying to gain attention from an inattentive parent or escape an abusive one by drinking alcohol. Examples of child abuse could be in the form of verbal abuse (shouting, talking down, belittling the alcoholic), physical abuse (caning - be it at school/home, violence), and sexual abuse (sexual encounters with the alcoholic loved one at an age younger than 18 years old/ non-consensual sex with the alcoholic during his/her minority). Such abuse could have happened at home, school, or among peers.
Another reason your loved one might be drinking is to manage the symptoms of an underlying mental illness. For example, a person with depression may repeatedly drink to "get high" as an escape from their depressive mood. This process is called self-medication. The depression wasn't the cause of alcoholism, but it was a contributing factor. However, not everyone with a mental illness drinks, so mental illness alone is not the cause of the addiction. This is the reason why at Solace Sabah, we try to look for co-morbidities or underlying mental disorders that could either be causing alcoholism or has occurred as a result of this addiction.
Alcoholism could be the result of being around another alcoholic (be it a family member or friends), or having the presence of alcoholic drinks, so freely available at home.
Other factors which might force your loved one to choose alcoholic drinks are as follows:
● Unstable home environment, often due to drug abuse/pathological gambling/alcoholism, or mental illness of the parent or another family member.
● Less than nurturing home environment – usually shame-based relationships with parents and other family members.
● A happy drinking culture espoused by friends / peers / family
● Behavioural problems combined with poor parenting
● Poor achievement in school
● Apparent ambivalence or approval of alcohol consumption in the school, at clubs, bars, for business, or in the community as a whole
Alcohol adds GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) to the brain. This is an inhibitory hormone, which removes negative feelings like anxiety and stress. At the same time, alcohol also increases the level of dopamine. This is the pleasure hormone. With these changes, your loved one may feel confident or less anxious by drinking as it depresses the part of their brain that is associated with anxiety. It can disrupt the chemical balance of the brain and so lead to a drastic change in a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. One might get to feel relaxed by using alcohol due to the chemical changes in the brain. Over time, as tolerance develops, the structure of the mid-brain changes to being dependant on alcohol to deliver these feelings of well-being. As a result, addiction develops as a natural consequence of the drinking. Drinking becomes a survival technique overtaking eating and sleeping. Hence, to ask an alcoholic to give up the drink is similar to asking someone to stop breathing. Thus, medical help is necessary for alcoholics to recover from their addiction.
Denial is when your loved one becomes defensive about their addiction and will justify their right to drink. If they are in the company of those, whose culture is based on alcohol, it becomes even easier for them to justify their actions. Denial is food for addiction because active addiction can only thrive in the logic of an addict’s denial. Denial has to be broken and realised in order for recovery to seep in. At Solace Sabah, we have interventions that handle specifically with denial-breaking. Usually, group therapy helps to break your loved one's denial in a loving, caring, and social setting.
To keep the denial alive, alcoholics adapt a strategy of thinking called “Euphoric Recall”, which uses the positive memories of drinking to blot any “bad” feelings like loneliness, self-pity, and fear. They avoid the reality of their addiction, by ignoring the times their life turned into a nightmare because of their using behaviour. "Euphoric Recall" makes longing for the alcoholic drink stronger as it equips the addict with only a positive regard for the drink. They only know what good happened as a result of drinking: the amount of people who liked them, the jolliness they had with the drink in hand, and the way the drink suppressed their negative feelings.
It is necessary to replace "Euphoric Recall" with "Dysphoric Recall", or negative regard for drinking. This process starts when alcoholics encounter all the damages caused by their own addictive behaviour. We are the only rehab in the world to use a graphic tool to present to your alcoholic loved ones the problems of their addiction. It's called the "Solace Flower." It's vital to replace the "Euphoric Recall" with "Dysphoric Recall" because alcoholism returns easily to those who do not see the problem in drinking.
It’s dangerous because drinking has replaced living. In denying reality through alcohol, alcoholics have slowly replaced their higher mental and emotional functions, such as their conscience and ability to love, for active addiction. When their spirit is broken, the capacity to feel human is lost. It's almost as if your loved one is over-taken by an outside force of destruction. But, with proper treatment, it's possible to gain your loved one back.
Ultimately, it will come down to only two options if your loved one is unwilling to seek help - they could either face death due to excessive drinking or go to jail for unruly behaviour while drunk, or driving under alcoholic influence (DUIs). Alcoholics will choose their drinks over all else; that includes family and friends. Ignoring all their responsibilities, their employment, hobbies, and interests, your loved one will end up dedicating all their time in trying to seek opportunities to drink. Their only friends will be those, who like them, condone the drinking behaviour and culture. This only leads to them losing out on friendship and family because of their choices. You will have to watch your loved one distance him/herself from your company, as the effects of the alcohol ravage your loved one's body and mind. It's a painful and depressing process of change, isolation, disease, and certain death.
Most alcoholics will exhibit some or all of the following symptoms when they stop drinking:
● Aggressive and reckless behavior
These withdrawal symptoms are the hallmark of an alcoholic. So, if you see such dangerous symptoms beginning to surface in your family member, he/she may already be an alcoholic. These symptoms arise because your loved one's brain, no longer knows how to function without alcohol. Thus, these symptoms are signs of an unhealthy body and brain that isn’t in contact with alcohol.
A worrisome area for a family is how their loved one would deal with withdrawal symptoms as the effects are somewhat traumatising. Without proper medical assistance, withdrawals can cause death such as in the occurrence of "Delirium Tremens" and "Alcoholic Hepatitis".
At Solace Sabah, with our extremely effective and scientific withdrawal management, the experience your loved one will go through will be extremely subtle to the mind and body. We have a host hospital with medical professionals who know how to deal with chemical detoxification, according to the latest scientific and international standards.
Before your loved one enters the treatment stage, they must let go of the physical dependence they have with alcohol in their system. Every patient undergoes a managed withdrawal procedure to be free from the physical grip of alcohol in order to understand the effects and consequences alcohol has had on their lives when they come to treatment at Solace Sabah. This is called detoxification.
To understand withdrawal management (detox) at Solace Sabah, read this:
An alcoholic can be at different stages, in order to intervene, we need to understand where the person is in their addictive journey. An alcoholic will always be in a particular stage of change, knowing where they are, gives us an opportunity to intervene correctly.
● Pre-Contemplation - I am not an alcoholic - Most difficult to help this person.
● Contemplation - I might be an alcoholic - The door is open for help.
● Preparation - I am an alcoholic and I want to stop - Provide the help that is needed.
● Action - I am going to stop now - Need of a supportive and clinical environment.
● Maintenance - I am going to stay stopped - Constant motivation and encouragement.
Mostly, if you have come searching for help and not your loved one, they are in denial of their problem. You must be wondering how you would convince your loved one to come to us. At Solace Sabah, we can perform what we call an intervention. Professionals are trained to use motivational interviewing, giving the alcoholic the ability to reason their alcoholism themselves and prepare them for treatment and recovery. We look forward at being of service to bring your alcoholic loved one into recovery and relieving you from the life and burden of living hopelessly with an alcoholic.