The Stigma of Alcoholism
In an era when alcohol is more of a social lubricant at the end of a day’s hard work, the idea of an alcoholic being a successful, middle-class mother-of-two is somewhat hard to believe.
Most of us realise that a lifetime of heavy drinking will lead to chronic liver disease and “wet brain” dementia, but we tend to think smugly of the “wino” in the street clutching a brown paper bag or the crazed old woman downing Sherries from 10.00 am in the morning.
Stigma is one of the meanest and most difficult aspects of addiction because it makes it harder for individuals and families to deal with their problems and get the help they need.
Society imposes stigma and its damage on alcoholics and their families because many of us still believe that addiction is a character flaw or weakness that probably can’t be cured.
The stigma against people with addictions is so deeply rooted that it continues even in the face of the scientific evidence that addiction is a treatable disease and we know people in our families and communities living wonderful lives in long-term recovery.
I have had people say to me that they would rather have cancer than alcoholism! They maintain that at least people are sympathetic to someone who has a ‘real’ illness. These alcoholics believe that they are weak and lacking in discipline and would rather have a disease that will gain sympathy and empathy.
Stigma is the reason there is so much social and legal discrimination against people with addictions. It explains why addicts and their families hide the disease. People who need the help are often afraid to speak up. What would happen if they asked their boss for time off to attend counselling for alcoholism?
Studies have found that helping employees to recover is more cost-effective than termination. However, some employers believe that sacking an employee with a drinking problem is a lot easier than providing rehabilitation. A firestorm of protest would erupt if employers treated workers with cancer or heart disease the same way.
Alcoholics take on this stigma and transform it into shame and guilt. Too often, people with alcohol and drug problems and their families begin to accept the ideas that addiction is their own fault and that maybe they are too weak to do anything about it.
In many ways, hiding an addiction problem is the rational thing to do because seeking help can mean losing a job or even losing your child when a social service agency declares you an unfit parent because you have an alcohol problem.
The stress of hiding often causes other medical and social problems for the individuals and their families. This is especially true when an adolescent has an alcohol or drug problem. Fear often prompts kids to conceal the problem from parents. Then, when parents find out, stigma makes them feel guilty and somehow negligent. Illness and family dysfunction explode as alcoholism is a family disease.
My program is unique in counselling alcoholics suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder developed during their childhood living with alcoholic parents.
I look at the big picture: brain chemistry (the Dopamine Neurotransmitter); Emotions (using Dialectical Behavioural Therapy); active meditation to change their perception of the real world and their self-worth; The 12 Step Program of Co-dependency Anonymous; visual aids (DVDs) to help my patients understand their disease and the mental illness often associated with alcoholism – like Depression.
Nutrition and supplements like Tyrosine Pure Mood Food to help them focus and achieve satisfaction without reaching for the bottle.
Magnesium Ultra Potent, to stabilise the electrical activity of the nervous system.
I also recommend Glicemic Balance to help curb sugar cravings, sometimes a legacy from long term alcohol consumption.
LivaTone Plus to support phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification pathways, ensuring optimum detoxification of toxic substances.