An alcohlic is never out of the woods. With the help of AA hopefully he will have be able to stay sober, but it is not uncommon for them to slip back to old habits. All you can do is support him and if you would like to learn more of what you can do check out al anon, they are a great resource for anyone who has an alcoholic relative.
If he is going to an "open" AA meeting, go with him. An open meeting is a meeting where non-alcoholics are welcome. A closed meeting is for alcoholics only. In any event, go to Al Anon. When I was starting in AA my partner attended an Al Anon meeting in a different room, but the same building at the same time. We each discussed what we'd learned that day, and he was very supportive. After a few relapses (mine) he was able to keep his basic support for me, due to what he learned in Al Anon. I now have almost 4 years sobriety, we're still together, and that's thanks to Al Anon. Remember that when it comes to his drinking, you didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it. That must be his decision. Your decision is the extent to which you will continue to support him if he doesn't take positive steps to stop drinking permanently. It might help if you realize that he has a disease and that he CAN'T "just stop." We alcoholics chemically change the most basic function of our brains so that our brains tell us they need alcohol just like they tell us they need oxygen. If you tried to hold your breath to kill yourself, you'd pass out first and your brain would tell your respiratory system to begin breathing immediately. If you try not to sleep, you will eventually fall asleep no matter how hard you try -- its a primitive reaction from our past that forces us to do what it takes to live. It is a medically proven fact that alcohol works on the centers in the brain that control functions essential to life. When we stop drinking, our brains tells our body that something is horribly wrong, and that the body needs to seek out alcohol (or drugs) immediately, in order to maintain life. It is a craving to stay alive that can only be satisfied by the alcohol. When a non-alcoholic drinks, even heavily, when he stops his brain doesn't tell him that he needs alcohol or he could die. It is really that bad -- I'm the alcoholic in my family, so I know of where I speak. If he was a heavy drinker and has NO withdrawal symptoms, you've got to ask yourself if your ultimatum simply drove his drinking underground. There are a lot of people attending AA meetings while still drinking. Trust me on this. I think that if you tell him that long term sobriety is a journey you're willing to take with him, so long as he is totally honest about his drinking and his progress toward sobriety you might have better results. It sounds like he wants to please you, and that is a powerful weapon in your arsenal. But I think if you use it to your long term advantage, you'll both be better off. Make a plan and/or make a contract with him. The contract couldrequire him to go to AA -- 90 meetings in 90 days -- AND be totally honest with you the entire time. If he drinks, he must tell you; for the duration of the contract, your threat to leave him is tabled, to lower the stress level on both of you. Your end of the deal could be to go to Al Anon, or if possible, you can go to couples counseling together. I promise you that if you want him to STAY sober, you can't expect it to be a quick process. Why was he drinking so much? He could be self-medicating for depression, and need to treat the depression. He may have a job situation that he finds intolerable and may need to find another job, in time. Getting sober and staying sober takes a commitment to doing whatever it takes, including major life changes, if necessary. Personally, I didn't have to make major life changes, but that's just me. Each recovery is very personal, and no one can compare themselves to another alcoholic or addict. I wish you the best and I will be praying for you. You can do this, you know. Remember that....
I had to double check to make sure you weren't writing to me! I just started going to Alanon, and I haven't learned enough to know what's the right thing for me to do. I know I've made mistakes, and I appreciate your advice.
Being a nondrinker, I guess this is where I have some difficulty trying to understand. Perhaps it's my literal mind showing here, I take things at face value.
The oxygen analogy confuses me. I can see where an alcoholic would "need" alcohol to survive like oxygen to prevent withdrawal symptoms, but in recovery somehow alcoholics manage to survive sans the alcohol, which could never be done without oxygen as far as I know. I guess in my literal mind that would be saying that it would be impossible to live sober no matter what devices, even the religion.
In my mind I think it would it'd be more accurate to describe it as if having a really bad itch. The itch exists as well as the need to scratch it. I don't know about most people, but when I'm itching in any area I have next to no control when it comes to the hand/fingernail automatically swiping that area. People can survive without scratching an itch, but it takes a lot to prevent the scratching reflex. I would think it would take a lot of faith to be able to ignore a chronic itch without scratching it even once.
I would think that would be the more realistic way to describe it, but then again, this is me and my lack of experience showing....
Sorry to sound so naive and not understanding.
Maybe it falls somewhere in the middle? Only in extreme circumstances will someone die from withdrawal symptoms, but scratching an itch puts it too mildly. My boyfriend tells me he doesn't like drinking anymore and hates all the adverse effects that come with it, but he still doesn't know why he drinks. Sounds to me like logic goes out the window when your body is telling you that it needs a drink. Am I wrong?
I'll try it again -- long term consumption of alcohol effects all areas of the brain, including the medulla (also called the "old brain" or the "brain's brain). The phenomenon of craving, really severe craving that isn't only related to avoiding withdrawal but also the inability to stop drinking once the first drink has been taken, appears to reside in the medulla. I think the Merck Manual (MJ can look it up for us, right -- she's researcher) says that attending AA meeting appears to "rewire" our brains. Alcoholism is a biological/psychological/social condition, and the 3 really can't be separated. Due to the bio/psycho/social nature of the disease (so the theory goes) the very positive psychological and social setting of AA acts (in a synergistic way, I suppose) to rewire the brain. In the l930's, when AA was forming, what we now think of as a negative reaction associated with changes to the brain was called an "allergy." I don't think that theory is still around, but the description of craving is still very valid.
MlovesD, I'm glad you're going to Al Anon -- not that I've ever been to one, but I hear great things about them. AA meetings are fun. Keep us posted on how your family is getting along, okay?
From the AA Big Book:
All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.
Okay the "rewiring" part is what I needed to know. I was sort of wondering after I posted if perhaps the oxygen analogy applies to active drinkers and people not practicing AA, while the itch analogy would apply better to those who are practicing and recovering?
Once again I don't know... I'm sorry to sound so ignorant. I'll see if I can look up "Merck Manual" with google for the mean time.
Okay I found something, but if someone can put it into layperson terms it may make a little more sense.
Not me....I took a look but couldn't make much sense of it. What I was trying to convey when I said that our brains act as if we're going to die without alcohol was a sense of the desperation involved in "alcohol seeking behavior." A better way to explain it might be this: if you were swimming through a tunnel underwater and had to hold your breath the entire time, and there was no way to get your head out of the water until you reached a certain spot, you could begin to feel desperate to breathe, and a sense of panic could easily overtake you. When an alcoholic is experiencing a craving for alcohol, it is a very similar feeling. Long before I had any physical withdrawal symptoms I would have an overwhelming mental/emotional craving that was, for me, far worse than the physical withdrawal symptoms. It's hard to explain, but once I stopped drinking (and began taking antidepressants) in a 60 day rehab program, followed by 378 straight days of AA, I lost all desire to drink. I could be a bartender right now, and not be tempted to drink. That is NOW, however. I will always have to be very vigilant because that could change. And if I took one drink the horrible cravings would come rushing back. (I know that from experience; it's not a guess.)
I found something else that looks better but I would have to purchase the article for $31....
I found another but it stretches into alternative medicine and has an agenda (aka pushing products/programs/books etc)... But I like the description overall:
Thanks for the description. It makes it better for me to imagine. I posted the above before seeing your reply.
http://www.merck.com/mmhe/index.html It's the home version of the Merck Manual free online. I love reading it (I have some strange habits, I admit). Here's what it says about AA. (The one thing I don't like, and that makes me realize that the person who wrote this has not been to an AA meeting,is that you don't hear how from everyone how they "struggle every day" not to drink. Some people share that feeling, but there are many people more with years of sobriety -- 30 and 40 years - who no longer have the desire to drink but want to share the certainty of getting sober, if you're willing to go to any lengths to get it. Browse around in the Merck Manual -- it's interesting and totally free.....
Alcoholics Anonymous: A Path to Recovery
No approach has benefited so many alcoholics as effectively as the help they can offer themselves by participating in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA is an international fellowship of people who want to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees. The program operates on the basis of the “Twelve Steps,” which offers the alcoholic a new way of living without alcohol. Members of the fellowship typically work with a sponsor—a fellow member who is abstaining from alcohol use— who offers guidance and support. AA operates within a spiritual context but is not affiliated with any ideology or religious doctrine; however, alternative organizations, such as LifeRing Recovery (Secular Organizations for Sobriety), exist for those seeking a more secular approach.
AA helps its members in other ways as well. It provides a place where the recovering alcoholic can socialize away from the tavern with nondrinking friends who are always available for support when the urge to start drinking again becomes strong. In meetings, the alcoholic hears other people relate—to the entire group—how they are struggling every day to avoid taking a drink. Finally, by providing a means to help others, AA builds self-esteem and confidence formerly found only in drinking alcohol. Most metropolitan areas have many AA meetings available day and night, 7 days a week. An alcoholic is encouraged to try several different meetings and to attend those at which he feels most comfortable.
They also say that for those of us coping with the alcoholic, we might find benefit in going to AA meetings as well, so we can learn more about how they feel, like tremendous guilt, etc.
And since you mentioned updates, I decided to start a journal. I already have a few older entries, but this one will mostly be focused on what I learn in Alanon and any other stressful day-to-day feelings and occurances. It was suggested to me by one of the members.
Thanks for the info. I'll take a look. I have another dumb question... I can't seem to find much about it on the net, but I was wondering would it be normal for someone who's been long time sober to occasionally suffer cravings and temptation to drink, especially at times of stress? That's one thing I've tried looking for with my research but can't seem to get a conclusive answer...
I don't even know how I got here for the second time. I left my ex-husband because he drank and abused me. Then fund a wonderful man that I married who was the love of my life. He went to Iraq and I never got the same person back. Now he binge drinks when the smallest thing upsets him and if I catch him at the right moment everything falls out of control. Just last week we were getting ready to leave on vacation and he got so drunk that he past out at 10 am all because he was upset the weather was not going to be good where we were going. When I kept on packing to get out the door he put a hole in the wall, because I called him out on it. Tonight it happened again, while I ran to the store for 30 minutes. I did not call him out because I feel what is the point. He told me just yesterday that he would never quit drinking. I want my husband back and have no idea what to do anymore. If anyone has any advise as to where or what I should do from here I would appreciate it. Also I wanted to add he is in therapy but they no nothing of his drinking.