NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, January 18, 2013

People Who Abuse Alcohol Often Don't Get the Help They Need

People who abuse alcohol or who are alcohol dependent frequently don't get the help they need to overcome their alcoholism for variety of reasons.  For one thing, people who abuse alcohol are often in denial about their alcoholism.  They often don't admit their problem to themselves or to others who can help them.  Shame is a major factor in their denial.  They often tell themselves, "I can stop whenever I want to," which keeps them from admitting their problem or from getting help.

People Who Abuse Alcohol Often Don't Get the Help They Need

People with Alcohol Problems Are Often Good at Hiding Their Drinking
Even when people who abuse alcohol admit to themselves that they have a problem, they're often very invested in hiding their problem from loved ones, their employers, and even their doctors.

People With Alcohol Problems Are Often Good at Hiding Their Drinking

Doctors usually don't have the time and many are not knowledgeable enough about the signs of alcoholism to ask the right questions during routine exams (see link to article below).

Families Often Collude and Enable People with Alcohol Problems
Families often, either knowingly or unknowingly collude in the problem by enabling the person who is abusing alcohol.

People Who Abuse Alcohol Often Don't Get the Help They Need:  Family Problems

More than one spouse, who was married to a husband who abused alcohol, has told me that she would rather buy him the alcohol and maintain peace in the household rather than have the husband create havoc because he's craving alcohol he doesn't have.  One person told me, "Once he has his beer, he goes in the den, drinks, and he doesn't bother anybody."  Often, this sad state of affairs can go on for many years.

Employers Often Collude and Enable People with Alcohol Problems
It's not unusual for employers, who might recognize that an employee has a drinking problem, to look the other way.  When I was a human resources manager and I asked managers why they allowed a certain employee to continue to come to work drunk, I was often told something along the lines of, "Well, Joe is a good guy.  I didn't want to get him in trouble."

Untreated Alcoholism Can Cause Serious Medical Problems
What people often don't realize, and this includes the person who is abusing alcohol and the people in his or her life, is that untreated alcoholism can cause serious medical problems.  It can even be fatal.  Late stage alcoholism can include severe memory problems and other cognitive impairments.

Alcoholism can lead to heart attack, stroke, and kidney and liver failure.  Alcoholism also often destroys families.  It is also one of the main causes of car accidents and vehicular homicide.  It costs companies millions in lost productivity.

Alcoholism is a Medical Condition--Not a Moral Issue
Even though we now know that alcoholism is a medical condition, many people, including people who abuse alcohol, still see alcoholism as a moral issue.  They think that it's a moral failure and a failure of will on the part of the person with alcohol problems.   But this couldn't be further from the truth.  We don't moralize about other medical conditions--like diabetes.  But people with alcohol problems are still blamed, and they blame themselves, for their medical condition.  This creates a great deal of shame, which keeps the person with alcohol problems from getting help.

Getting Help:  Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)
Rather than blaming themselves and trying to "white knuckle it" through, people with alcohol problems need to talk to other people who understand what they're going through.  I am a big proponent of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)

Sober people who attend A.A. understand the challenges involved with giving up alcohol and leading a sober life.  They're there to offer support when the person who is contemplating sobriety takes his or her first tentative steps to getting sober.  They know it's hard, but they also know that it can be done.

I usually recommend that people who are new to A.A. attend a beginner's meeting.  There are often people there who volunteer to be interim sponsors to people who are new to the program because they know that it's hard for newcomers to ask for help.  They can help new people to work the 12 Steps, starting with the first step, often the hardest for many people, to admit powerlessness over alcohol.

Sometimes, A.A. isn't enough and the person who wants to get sober might need to go to either an intensive outpatient program or an inpatient program.  In NYC, I've found, over the years, that both the Parallax Center, which also does outpatient detox, and Inter-Care are both very good outpatient programs.  Both of them offer intensive treatment.

If you have an alcohol problem, don't wait until you've "hit bottom" and you've lost everything.  Get the help that you need.  I've included resources below that you might find helpful.

Alcoholics Anonymous:

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.