Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Has a problem drinker affected your life?

My latest Addiction and Recovery column

By Bob Gaydos

There’s a one-page, two-sided flyer published by Al-Anon Family Groups that poses a question which should give pause to millions of people.

The question: “Did you grow up with a problem drinker?”

The answer is important and shouldn’t be arrived at hastily because the effects of someone else’s drinking -- a parent or other close relative, for example -- can cause numerous problems for the non-drinker. And not all of them are obvious. Furthermore, the problems can be aggravated if their cause goes undetected.

The flyer states, “Many adults question whether they have been affected by alcoholism.” That means someone else’s alcoholism. To help answer that question, Al-Anon offers 20 questions. They are worth serious attention by anyone of any age who thinks the situation may apply to him or her.

The questions:

  1. Do you constantly seek approval and affirmation?
  2. Do you fail to recognize your accomplishments?
  3. Do you fear criticism?
  4. Do you overextend yourself?
  5. Have you had problems with your own compulsive behavior?
  6. Do you have a need for perfection?
  7. Are you uneasy when your life is going smoothly, continually anticipating problems?
  8. Do you feel more alive in the midst of a crisis?
  9. Do you still feel responsible for others, as you did for the problem drinker in your life?
  10. Do you care for others easily, yet find it difficult to care for yourself?
  11. Do you isolate yourself from other people?
  12. Do you respond with anxiety to authority figures and angry people?
  13. Do you feel that individuals and society in general are taking advantage of you?
  14. Do you have trouble with intimate relationships?
  15. Do you confuse pity with love, as you did with the problem drinker?
  16. Do you attract and seek people who tend to be compulsive?
  17. Do you cling to relationships because you are afraid of being alone?
  18. Do you often mistrust your own feelings and the feelings expressed by others?
  19. Do you find it difficult to express your emotions?
  20. Do you think parental drinking may have affected you?
Alcoholism is referred to as a family disease for good reason. The effects of someone’s problem drinking can be felt for generations. Parents who do not have a problem with drinking may have had parents who did. As a result, unhealthy behaviors are learned and passed on, often with no recognition that someone’s alcoholism may have spawned them.

If you answered yes to any of the questions, Al-Anon may be able to help you. That’s because its members have experienced many of the same problems and learned healthier ways of dealing with life. If you are an adult who doesn’t drink and doesn’t have a problem drinker in your life today, yet you answered yes to any of the above questions, it’s worth reviewing: Were there any problem drinkers in your life in the past? Did you grow up with a problem drinker?

Al-Anon’s 12-step program -- adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous -- puts the emphasis on looking at one’s own actions, as opposed to being focused on the drinker’s. This helps develop an awareness of one’s own behavioral and emotional problems, which can persist whether there’s an active alcoholic in one’s life or not. This awareness, in turn, can help start the healing process from those previously unrecognized effects of living with the disease of alcoholism. 

It’s not just about the drinking. Future columns will deal with this issue in more detail.
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