The more an alcoholic gets steeped in his ailment, the more chances of recovery ebb away

The problem with those who entertain alcoholics is that they do more harm than good when something happens to them and the alcoholic is exposed to an environment where they have to figure out how to live without them

BY JACOB OKETCH

I have a friend whose brother- in- law is an alcoholic who needs help. His problem is serious and requires urgent action before it gets completely out of hand. Sometimes, it is how soon we act that matters and not how concerned we are. The more an alcoholic gets steeped in his ailment, the more his or her chances of recovery ebbs away.

My friend’s brother in law is in deep trouble because his comfort zone has been blown away. He has had a sick mother who for all intents and purposes, has been shielding his problem in the name of protecting a son. Unfortunately, the mother has succumbed to cancer and now he is staring at a life without the one person who has gone through all manner of things to keep him afloat even at a time when he had hit rock bottom.

The problem with those who entertain alcoholics is that they do more harm than good when something happens to them and the alcoholic is exposed to an environment where they have to figure out how to live without them. My friend lives abroad and only came for his mother in law’s funeral. But now he has to contend with the fact that he cannot just go back to his station abroad and leave his in- law here without any form of support. He fears that he might not find him alive when he comes back.

Mothers are known to defend their sons who are seen to be engaging in irresponsible alcoholic behavior. That is something expected of a caring mother. However, it is irresponsible to do this because it only exacerbates the alcoholic’s behavior and cannot help him to recover. The best thing to do with such a situation is to seek and engage those who have experienced the problem. 

In dealing with an alcoholic, tough love should be the rulebook. There are certain things that will be misconstrued as cruelty but in the long run, they lead to restoration of sanity. For example being strict with the purse strings ensures that the alcoholic does not access money to fuel their drinking.

The problem is even more complicated when dealing with an alcoholic who has been to a rehab before. I cannot imagine what goes through the mind of somebody who has attempted to eradicate his drinking problem and failed. In this scenario, the patient is more despondent because they believe that the program does not work because it has not worked for them. This is a very dangerous stage of an alcoholic’s recovery journey. It therefore calls for the family members to seek other more ingenuous ways of convincing the patient to cooperate and seek treatment.

Alcoholics, in most cases are people who are very intelligent. Their lives took a turn for the worst due to some frustration arising out of their failure to achieve their ambition. My friend’s brother-in-law is in this category. He was an A student in high school but got derailed while pursuing his degree course at the university. It has become very difficult to convince him that he is wasting himself because he considers himself brilliant and hardly entertains any word of counsel from anybody. It seems it is only the humility of a fellow recovering patient or one who had recovered before that can unlock his obstinacy.

When one is recovering from alcoholism and is not entangled with other issues, it is pretty easy to design a recovery path. On the other hand, if an alcoholic has other underlying issues especially of a criminal nature, it becomes very difficult to solve his problem. My friend’s brother- in-law has issues with the law. He is among a group of young men who have been accused of gang raping a certain woman and the case is in court. So apart from getting him to go for treatment, the family has to worry about the eventual outcome of the court case.

My friend’s predicament is a pointer to the fact that, sometimes, we may mean well for someone but ultimately, their wellness is actually dependent upon them. His brother-in-law should recognize that much as self-will alone cannot guarantee recovery, it is the number one thing to cultivate in order to achieve recovery. The mother he was relying on is gone. The rape case is hanging on his neck. It is high time he pondered over this issue very seriously. His brother-in-law may have the money to pay for his treatment but he cannot force him to seek treatment. This is where his own initiative is called for.

Not long ago, I remember losing a cousin due to alcoholism. He had reached a point where he used to carry liquor in his coat pocket so he could drink any hour and anywhere. Since he was employed, everybody thought that he could get around the problem. It is this kind of assumption that can be very dangerous to an alcoholic’s life. Suffice to say that alcoholism afflicts both people who are endowed and those who are not. However, those whose support system is shaky are more vulnerable and should be keenly attended to.

Somebody should convince my friend’s brother-in-law and the many others who share in the predicament to attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings even when he is still drinking. At times, it is when we are under the influence of alcohol that we cultivate a very sharp perception of an issue. The fact that in these meetings, anybody is allowed to attend, whether drunk or not, is a pointer to the fact that one can start walking the journey to recovery even when they are still imbibing. Taking that step, to attend the meeting, may seem very difficult but at times, it takes the nudging of a fellow drunk, maybe a social one, to make it happen. It can be done because it has been done before and it will be done again. 

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