Original Content at
March 4, 2010
A Starter Conversation for Problems with Alcohol.
By Ash Rehn
When faced with an alcohol problem many people describe themselves as sick, diseased or alcoholic. This article offers an alternative way of thinking about problem drinking by considering the power of alcohol and the opportunity to change the relationship one has with alcohol.
::::::::Most adults are not strangers to Alcohol. Few would say they have never had a drink and, if asked, many could name their favourite drink whether it be a particular spirit, or cocktail, a brand of beer or a wine variety. Others would say that they do not drink for any one of a number of reasons including religious observance, health, physical intolerance or simply preference.
Alcohol has a revered and prominent place in society. People enjoy it as part of celebrations, comings of age, to relax with friends or alone and its presence has become part of happy memories for many folk.
But Alcohol also plays a role in the tragic aspects of
our society: drink driving, domestic violence, child abuse, poverty and homelessness,
cultural disintegration, serious chronic illness and accidents to name a few.
Alcohol means different things to different people. It has many faces!
So given the power that Alcohol has to contribute to the destruction of lives and factor into social problems, how is it also possible for some people to enjoy Alcohol and not succumb to its power?Everyone has A Relationship with Alcohol.
Everyone has a different relationship with Alcohol. A lot of people consider their problems with Alcohol to be about personal failure.
A man who came to counselling recently described himself as "an alcoholic". He spoke of having a "disease" and he said that he would always have this "sickness". He said he was an "Addict" and "...once an Addict, always an Addict".
Other people could drink, he said, but not him, because of his "Alcoholism". He said this sickness might have been genetic; his father had also been a drinker and the man's entire family had suffered because of alcohol related violence in their home. This man spoke of having an "Addictive Personality".
One striking thing about this story is another aspect of Alcohol's power. Alcohol has convinced this man he is sick. It has left him believing that there is something "wrong" with him.
This is, of course, a common way of looking at drinking problems and problems in general. A lot of problems these days are framed in terms of being "diseases".
But the way this man describes himself also raises a question. Has Alcohol been let off the hook?
Sometimes people arrive at counselling not wanting abstinence but seeking to reduce or limit their drinking because it is "getting out of hand". A beginning question to ask in this situation is: So what kind of relationship with Alcohol do you have now?
What Kind of Relationship with Alcohol do you Want to Have?
Perhaps Alcohol was once a great and trusted friend, who would help this person relax, or forget about his problems, or lubricate the way to a business deal. But this person has started to lose trust in himself not to embarrass himself with strangers or colleagues or even friends. Alcohol no longer serves a purpose but seems to have its own agenda. It has become like an unwelcome guest who has taken up residence in the home and even sometimes the workplace. It can no longer be trusted.
So what kind of relationship does this person want to have with Alcohol?
We would never let someone we mistrusted look after our children, or have the keys to our house or drive our car. But Alcohol has a habit of creeping into all of these roles. A starting point to dealing with drinking problems is to ask about the kind of relationship you currently have with Alcohol and, given what you know about it, what kind of relationship you would prefer to have.
For some people this might be a relationship of "moderation" (which can be quantified), or perhaps one where an association with Alcohol extends to specific times and places and not others. Some people may decide that there is no room for Alcohol in their home. Others may decide to cut all ties with Alcohol except the memory of why cutting these ties is so important.
These are decisions that will be dependant on your own history and hopes, values and commitments. They are personal decisions that take into account the knowledge and experience you have with Alcohol as well as the skills and support that you can bring into play in renegotiating a new relationship. All of these questions and answers can be explored and drawn out in conversation with a skilled counsellor or therapist.
So what kind of relationship with Alcohol do YOU want to have?