The Stigma of Alcoholism
A main reason why those struggling with addiction take so long or feel as though they can’t seek help for their illness is because of the stigma surrounding the subject. Alcoholics are often seen as weak, helpless people who can’t handle their drink. They are stereotyped as self-pitying, emotionally unstable, unreliable and selfish. Although many of these characteristics may be true, it is as if people assume that alcoholics choose to have these defects.
Another huge assumption is that you have to have lost everything in your life and be a homeless, park bench drinker to be an alcoholic. An assumption I used as a way to convince myself that I didn’t have a problem with drinking. In fact, it took me until going to rehab for me to fully realise that I was an alcoholic.
I am very early on in my recovery, so I still have little knowledge on how alcoholism manifests itself but I’m glad I took the first step to learn about it. The more I learn, the more I start to realise how little I knew about how much alcoholism was affecting my life from the very first moment I started drinking.
Alcoholism is as much of a disease as any other illness. It’s a critical and incurable disease that should be taken more seriously. Alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful and although it is important to be told the dangers of alcohol, there is not enough education on how the toxic substance can have a totally different effect on alcoholics. People don’t set out to be alcoholics. Some may start socially and gradually become dependent. Others realise that it reduces anxiety, makes them feel more confident, and that it is also useful for numbing problems and feelings. However, they never believe they will get addicted to it.
Being able to stop drinking is a relatively easy for most people. For alcoholics, it seems impossible. Alcoholism is as much a character defect as it is an obsession with drinking. Although we know the dangers of alcohol to our mental and physical health and that it isolates us from the rest of the world, it tricks us into believing we need it. It takes so much courage and sometimes intervention for us to seek help to stop drinking and see what alcoholism is more clearly.
There is an assumption that once a person has stopped drinking, they are no longer an alcoholic. An assumption that I certainly understood to be true. How wrong I was. The behaviours of an alcoholic, such as compulsion and recklessness still need to be worked on spiritually even when the booze has been binned, which I will talk more about in my next blog…
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