One of the biggest misconceptions about alcoholism, is that it takes a long time to affect a person. Many believe that alcoholism takes years of drinking before a full addiction and alcoholism are present, or that even serious health concerns from alcohol abuse take years to arrive.
Alcoholism in a Progressive Disease
Admitted alcoholics will tell you that they had been alcoholics since the earliest days of their drinking, it just took years to admit they were an alcoholic. Some alcoholics will even admit that from the first time they got drunk, they knew it was going to be a problem – but denial kept them from admitting to themselves just how bad it could get.
When Alcohol Begins to Control Your Life
There is a saying that goes, “alcohol creates a need for itself.” This idea is very familiar to alcoholics. With an alcohol dependence, alcohol rules everything in your life, and tells you what to do, in a sense. Your daily behaviors are controlled by the need for alcohol, therefore the alcohol is in control of your life – not you.
At this point, an alcoholic won’t engage in activities, or go out with friends and family, if it hampers their ability and access to alcohol. Their whole life revolves around the schedule set to keep an adequate level of alcohol in their bloodstream, and to keep away symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. To others it becomes obvious that alcohol is control of an alcoholic’s life, but the alcoholic feels that they are the one doing their best to keep their problem under control.
End Stage Alcoholism
Generally fatal by this point, end stage alcoholism is marked by significant health problems and the inability for a person to quit drinking – even with all of the health problems they are suffering. Heart problems, liver problems, pancreatic issues and cognitive issues are common at this point, and an alcoholic is usually given final, desperate warnings by their doctor that alcohol will kill them. At this point a decision must be made by the alcoholic – will they let the alcohol kill them, or will they fight to survive and quit drinking completely?
If an individual quits drinking, there may still be hope for them. If they cannot quit drinking, even as they near the end-stage alcoholism phase, they begin a sad and slow death.
Dying from Alcoholism is the Hardest Thing for a Family Member to have to witness
Losing a family member to a terminal, progressive disease can rip right through your soul. Seeing someone you love struggling to stay alive while their body gives out under them is heart wrenching and frightening. Many families have to watch a family member die from all types of terminal illnesses like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and leukemia. These diseases too are agonizing, but end-stage alcoholism is truly a horrendous end to the gift of life.
Families That Lose a Loved One to Alcoholism
After a loved one dies from alcoholism, families are feeling a lot of grief, and the most common things that family members say afterward are:
“If only we had acted sooner to get him help.”
“He said he had it under control; why did we believe that.”
“What more could we have done that would have saved him?”
Families often blame themselves for the death of a loved one from alcoholism, the family and friends of alcoholics should not blame themselves. As long as you do everything you can to make help accessible to the alcoholic, you have done what you can to help them to turn their lives around.
All you can do is provide a loved one who is an alcoholic with opportunity to help themselves, and the most important thing to do is make sure you are not enabling the alcoholic’s addiction, and making it easy for them to continue drinking and continue edging toward end stage alcoholism.
The Dangers of Enabling Alcoholism
Sometimes families enable their loved one’s addiction purely out of love, and wanting to help. Enabling alcohol addiction is not helping, even though your motherly and fatherly instincts tell you that you are helping. While the idea of enabling alcoholism can be difficult for families to recognize and address, it is something that MUST be addressed. If you continue to enable your loved one’s alcohol abuse, even when they are slowly killing themselves with their drinking, you are helping to contribute to their death.
Those words may sound harsh, but they are very truthful. Enabling an addiction does not benefit the welfare of your loved one, it only lessens the chance that the one you love will actively seek to change their lifestyle. With an alcohol addiction, if you don’t change your lifestyle, it can easily lead to death.
How Family First Intervention Can Help a Loved One who is in Danger of Dying from Alcohol
When we work with families on family alcoholic interventions, we look at the big question: “Why hasn’t this person gotten treatment yet.” What is the reason this person hasn’t been able to recover? What are the roadblocks that are keeping them from sobriety, and why do they feel their only choice is to continue to drink themselves to death?
When dealing with the risk of alcoholism progressing into end-stage alcoholism, we aim to remove roadblocks to recovery like enabling behaviors, guilt and shame, and underlying conditions that have prevented recovery in the past. Serious alcoholism must be dealt with as an emergency situation, and our certified interventionist professionals can help your family deal with this emergency before it is too late.