Alcoholism is Still a Significant Health Risk in a World Full of...

Alcoholism is Still a Significant Health Risk in a World Full of Drug Problems


Even in a world filled with drug problems and the rising threat of prescription drug abuse, alcohol remains one of the leading killers. The New York Times says that “excessive drinking is the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the United States.” That is a shocking statistic in light of how much emphasis we put on other drugs as the villain in today’s society.

What is important to realize is that inpatient treatment is still the best option for the struggling alcoholic. Anyone who feels that their life has spun completely out of their control is a good candidate for inpatient treatment. There are at least three reasons that any struggling alcoholic should consider going to inpatient treatment, even if they don’t believe that rehab can help them.

One, going to inpatient treatment gives you a much needed break from your environment, and many of the triggers that alcoholics face are environmental. It doesn’t necessarily start this way, but every alcoholic has certain things that trigger them to desire alcohol. Breaking free from addiction is overwhelming enough, but being stuck in an environment where you are facing constant triggers is not going to help. So just getting this break by going into rehab can be a critical step in recovery.

Two, no alcoholic really knows how to live a sober life when they are stuck in their pattern of abuse. Going to treatment allows them to learn how to live a clean and sober life. They also learn about the various tools of recovery while they are in treatment, tools that can help them to avoid relapse once they get out of treatment.

Three, every alcoholic should consider going to inpatient rehab because it is the single best decision that they can make for their health and their happiness. How do we know this to be the case? The Valley Morning Star poses the question: “Are the alcoholic’s problems a result of the drinking, or is the drinking the result of the alcoholic’s problems?”

For the alcoholic who is still struggling and still stuck in denial, they often believe that their drinking is a result of all of their problems. They do this because they are in denial and they want to justify their use of alcohol or other drugs to themselves.

You see, our brain always has to be “okay” with our own behavior. So if we are compelled to abuse alcohol on a daily basis, then our mind will make up reasons and excuses as to why this is okay. Our mind will always justify our behavior for us, no matter how outrageous that behavior may be. This is part of our survival mechanisms. It is automatic.

So the alcoholic who is drowning in life problems and is blaming everything and everyone else for how crummy their life is, they are never putting the finger of blame on their own behavior. They never label their excessive drinking as the problem.

This is easy for the alcoholic to justify because they can think back to when they had a successful drinking episode in which no one got hurt and nothing bad happened. Every alcoholic has memories like this. They can all remember a time when they used their drug of choice successfully and nothing bad happened.

And this is where denial comes from. The alcoholic has that memory of successfully drinking alcohol, and they cling to it. They cling to that one good memory and say in their head “See? If everything else in the universe would just cooperate with me, then I could drink all the alcohol I want and be happy again!” So they are doing this thing in their mind in which they argue that they should be able to drink all they want, and if anything in the outside world interferes with that drinking then those outside factors are the problem, rather than the drinking itself.

They never consider the idea that alcoholism could be the root of all of their problems. They are so steeped in denial that they continuously point the finger of blame at anything and everyone else. They cannot conceive of the idea that alcohol could be causing all of their problems.

After much chaos and misery throughout decades and decades of abusive drinking, eventually the alcoholic may reach a point in which they suddenly realize that they may have been wrong all along. They may suddenly realize that alcohol really was the problem, that all of their struggle and all of their problems have stemmed from alcohol abuse. This moment of awakening is really a moment of surrender. And hopefully they become willing to accept the solution into their heart at this time, the solution of total and complete abstinence.

At first the mind recoils in horror at the idea of giving up alcohol completely. This is a normal reaction from an alcoholic who is essentially living a life based in fear and misery. The one thing that the alcoholic can rely on to sooth their minds is alcohol. The one thing that they can still turn to after everyone else has left them is alcohol. It is their constant companion and their one true friend, in the sense that it has always been there and it has always been available to them. It has always offered them an escape from reality. Alcohol never said “no” to them.

The problem is that eventually alcohol stops working. If you talk to alcoholics who are in recovery they will tell you their story, which is at some point it just stopped being fun. Their tolerance was such that they could drink and drink some more and eventually they would black out or pass out, but the ride in “getting there” used to be a whole night of laughter and fun. Now they just drink while being miserable until suddenly they are out. The fun part is gone. Their tolerance has taken the fun part away. Now they just drink to medicate themselves, and it doesn’t even work that well.

No, once the alcoholic has progressed to a certain point, they no longer really get “drunk” any longer. They simply drink and drink and drink, trying desperately to get the buzz that they crave, and all the while they are miserable. Then suddenly they pass out or black out and are reset for the next day of misery. The fun part is gone entirely.

It is up to the alcoholic to realize that they are miserable. It is up to the alcoholic to break through denial and realize that, even if they were miserable in sobriety, it is still worth a try, because in their addiction they are thoroughly miserable anyway. Coming to this realization and realizing that it is worth making an effort at recovery is the moment of surrender. This moment cannot be forced. It must be arrived at. It must be earned through chaos and misery. It is a blessing and a curse, in that once you reach this moment of surrender, your life turns around as you become willing to ask for help and willing to accept advice. Without this surrender, no meaningful recovery is possible.