Spontaneous recovery from alcoholism not guaranteed

Q: I don’t know if there is a better way of helping you understand my long lost Uncle Fred than to see him for what he was — a hopeless drunk.

He managed to drink his way through whatever money he picked up from Grandpa’s inheritance and in the process he cuffed two really short-term marriages.

Fortunately, no one had any children throughout all of this. Not many people had a good word to say about Fred. It was bad. But then it stopped.

No one is sure what happened. All that we know is that one day Fred stopped all of it. He quit drinking, recovered his lands from the sheriff’s office and replaced his Sunday morning hangovers with regular genuflects during our early morning church services.

Fred and I had a great talk the other day. I wanted to check this whole thing out and I asked him what happened?

He couldn’t answer me. He said that he just woke up one morning and decided that enough was enough. He has not had a drink since.

Boy, would I like to follow in his footsteps. My wife thinks that I am an alcoholic, as do both her parents and my two older brothers.

I am not so sure. But probably life would be better for me if I stopped drinking. I hate to admit it but that seems to be hard to do. I can’t do it.

I was thinking about spending time at one of our AA meetings, and maybe checking into a rehab program, but then I wonder if I need to go to all of that trouble.

Why can’t I do what Fred did and just stop drinking? What does it take to simply quit drinking? Do we really need all of those programs?

A: My guess is that there are a lot of Freds in the world — people who have been like your uncle and have spontaneously dropped their addictions.

We do not know how many people spontaneously recover from alcoholism. They tend to be quiet about it and whatever is the research that has tried to explore the numbers, it has not helped us understand it.

We don’t know how many people recover on their own and we do not fully understand how they did it. All that we can do is admire them for having done so.

In your case, you need to own up to some shortcomings. The first is that it is time for you to admit that alcohol is a problem for you. It is not enough to “think maybe you might have a problem”.

You need to join the chorus led by your wife and sung clearly by your brothers that you are in trouble. It is time to stop.

The second admission is that you cannot do this alone. Think about it: if you could do what Fred did, and simply stop drinking, you probably would have done it by now.

There is no shame, no self-degradation and no brink of inadequacy to step up to the plate and say “help”. That is why we have programs to help people with their addictions and that is why so many of the programs have been successful.

The most popular program is Alcoholics Anonymous. It is popular because it is well-known and has had success. But there are other programs as well. Check with an addictions counsellor and find out what your options are for getting the support you need. Then do it.

Who knows, you might still be able to save your marriage from the journey your uncle took to the divorce courts when he was raging and out of control. And wouldn’t that be worth it?

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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