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Alcoholism 2 Essay, Research Paper

Alcoholism is a disease of epidemic proportions, affecting 9.3 to 10 million Americans, and many professionals believe the figures are closer to 20 million (Weddle and Wishon). Alcoholism is a “physiological or physiological dependence on alcohol characterized by the alcoholic s inability to control the start or termination of his drinking”(Encyclopedia Britannica 210). It consists of frequent and recurring consumption of alcohol to an extent that causes continued harm to the drinker and leads to medical and social problems. Alcoholism, however, does not merely cause harm to the alcoholic, but to the entire family as well, affecting an estimated 28 million children in this country (Weddle and Wishon). These children grow up in the unhealthy and abnormal family systems harmed by alcoholism, carrying the negative effects of this environment with them into adulthood. Consequently, adult children of alcoholics are the innocent victims of a disease which has shaped thei! r personalities and behavior as children and will, if not treated, promote their personal disintegration as adults. Most alcoholics don t fit the stereotype of the lying in the gutter drunk. Alcoholics are likely to be persons of intense, if sometimes brief, enthusiasms. They often try to do too much too fast. They tend to demand perfection in themselves and in others. Frustrated, they may become painfully depressed or overly aggressive. There is a lack of inner stability with which to face life s problems in a realistic manner (AL-Anon). As the disease of alcoholism sets in, the family is forced to make an unspoken decision to leave the alcoholic or to stay and adapt to his illness. Because they do not want to disrupt their own lives or leave a love one, they deny the problem and try to adapt to the pressures and problems that alcoholism brings. Typically, as alcoholism takes over, the alcoholic becomes increasingly preoccupied with drinking. This can lead to spending less time at home, and neglecting their responsibility to the family. The following are symptoms of alcoholism (Alateen 5): Loss of control. The loss of control is usually progressive. At first the alcoholic can control his drinking most of the time. But he sometimes gets drunk when he doesn t wants to. Eventually, he loses control more and more. Progression. The alcoholic may not drink more, but he gets drunk more often. He becomes less dependable. He becomes more and more obsessed with drinking and less and less concerned about his responsibilities. Withdrawal symptoms. When the alcoholic stops drinking he may suffer nausea and vomiting, headaches and the “shakes.” He is usually is very irritable. He may even hallucinate. This is known as the DT s (delirium tremens). Personality change. The alcoholic seems to have a Jekyll and Hyde personality. When he drinks, he is very different from the way he is when he is not drinking. Blackouts. These are a form of amnesia. The alcoholic really does not remember what has happened. Blackouts can even occur when the alcoholic isn t drunk, lasting a few minutes or entire days. At first, we may think alcoholism is called a family disease because it seems to run in families. Most Al-Anon members are spouses of alcoholics. But they are often the children of alcoholics as well. They may have brothers or sisters who have the disease or are married to alcoholics. Doctors have observed that there are often more than one alcoholic in a family; for this reason they have said that there is a family tendency to develop alcoholism, just as there is a family tendency to develop diabetes ( Alateen 6). According to a recent study, if you are raised in an alcoholic home you have one chance in four of growing up to marry an alcoholic (Porterfield 120). The reasons are simple. Children of alcoholics learned to tolerate behavior that other people consider abnormal or bizarre; they have memorized how to live with an alcoholic. Most kids of alcoholic parents do drink, even if just socially. According to Coping with an Alcoholic Parent: Ninety-three percent of high school seniors have tried alcohol. Seventy percent use it once a month. One out every five high school seniors drinks daily. Some researchers think that as many as one third of the teenagers can be classified as problem drinkers. Studies indicate that teenagers are doing more binge drinking (getting drunk) than before. Kids in their teens often take drugs and alcohol in combination. Sometimes those drug/alcohol mixtures can be killers(Porterfield 121) Not only is alcohol disrupting your entire family it presents a severe health risk as well. The most common disorder associated with alcoholism is cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the most severe form of liver disease and although it can develop in nonalcoholic individuals, it is highly correlated with alcohol abuse. Cirrhosis of the liver together with its complications, is one of the leading causes of death among adult males in the United States. The liver is especially vulnerable to toxic effects of alcohol because it is the primary site for the breakdown of alcohol in the body. The most common alcohol related causes of death outside of cirrhosis are alcohol poisoning, motor vehicle crashes, suicides, and homicides (NCADD). There are many treatment programs for the alcoholic and support groups for the family and friends of the alcoholic. The most well known treatment program is Alcoholics Anonymous. The only requirement for this 12-step program is a desire to stop drinking. The purpose of A.A. is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. This program has helped many alcoholics stop drinking and start living a healthier and more productive life (U.S. Healthcare 4). Al-Anon, a subsidiary of A.A. is a support group for the family and friends of an alcoholic. The program uses the same 12 steps as A.A. but also provides support for the family of an alcoholic. Dr. Marvin A. Block, Board Member of the National Council on Alcoholism says: “One of the most important factors in the life of the alcoholic patient is the spouse. Very few have any appreciation of the importance of their role. They fail to understand that the illness of their spouse is also an illness of the family. These people (Al-Anon) meet for the express purpose of understanding more clearly both the illness that afflicts their husbands and wives, and for understanding themselves. It has proved very effective, for they learn that their spouses drinking problems result from disease rather than purposeful misbehavior.”(Al-Anon). A fairly recent group is Alateen, a support group for the children of alcoholics. Ages of its members range from grade school children to adult children of alcoholics. The program provides support for the children by applying the 12 steps of A.A. to them and they begin to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually (Alateen 10). The twelve steps, when used as intended, give a person an emotional and mental base from which healing begins. Step1 for the person is to admit that they are powerless over alcohol and that their lives have become unmanageable. Steps 2-12 are as follows: 2. Come to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. 4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admit to God, ourselves and other human beings the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character 7. Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings. 8. Make a list of all persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. 9. Make direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continue to take personal inventory and when wrong promptly admit it. 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.(Alateen, 11) Some programs take a different approach to treatment. Health Recovery Centers focus on diet, exercise holistic healing and the behavioral consequences of alcoholism. The rational recovery method uses a non-religious behavioral approach dealing with alcoholism. A person who has an uncontrollable desire to drink is an alcoholic: he has the disease of alcoholism (Alateen 8). The alcoholic uses liquor to escape from reality or ease the pain they are feeling. Even though they may feel guilty and it is obvious that it is destroying their life it is impossible to stop. They are emotionally dependent on alcohol and truly believe it is impossible to live with out. He tries to escape from his remorse by more and more drinking until the pain he suffers as a result of the drinking is greater than the pain he s trying to get away from by drinking. Only then will he be ready to stop: the desire to stop drinking must come from within. No one can force an alcoholic to stop drinking. Because the alcoholic is sick, he hurts himself and others. Due to our close association with him, we, too, develop problems. The best way to help the compulsive drinker and ourselves, is to build our own strength, correct our own attitudes, be kind to him, and learn how to detach from the problem (Alateen 9).

AL-ANON. Living with an Alcoholic. “Alcoholism.” Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropedia. 1974 ed.


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