Why do alcoholics drink? No doubt many of us have wrestled with this question many times, especially those of us who are close to an alcoholic. It can certainly be frustrating to sit by and watch someone self destruct.
So the question keeps popping up, over and over again. But it’s almost completely useless. Knowing why someone drinks is not going to empower you or anyone else to help them or convince them to stop.
Even the alcoholic might question why they drink, and eventually look at the reasons that they first started drinking. Even this is mostly useless. Knowing the root causes of their drinking doesn’t change the fact that they are alcoholic. Knowing the causes and addressing them still doesn’t change the alcoholism itself. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. We can stop drinking, and even find recovery, but the disease itself is not going away, even if we treat the things that originally drove us to drink. For some people, there was nothing specific that drove their disease. Alcoholism just happened to them.
So the question of why an alcoholic drinks is fairly useless. They drink because they are alcoholic. This is a circular game of logic that gets us nowhere. Instead, here are some questions that you might ask yourself instead, that can lead to real action and change in the life of an alcoholic:
1) Am I enabling the alcoholic in any way?
2) Am I letting the alcoholic experience the natural consequences of their drinking, or am I rescuing them? (hint: do not rescue them!)
3) Am I trying to deny the alcoholic of their pain? (the pain that might lead them to change one day?)
Why they drink is not important
Do not dwell on why a person drinks. This is pure self-torture. Some people blame themselves or at least wonder if they have played a part in why an alcoholic drinks like they do. This is madness. Their allergy to alcohol has nothing to do with you, and it is not driven by you or your actions.
They “why” is not important. Instead, focus on how you can move the person closer to a decision for real change. Most of your actions in doing this can be uncovered through examining the 3 questions above. Everything else you might attempt is usually going to be ineffective as far as motivating someone for change.
Ignore the question of “why” and focus on what you can do to help.