We have all known them. The friend or co-worker who misses appointments or work frequently, who has too many drinks at lunch, maybe a few DWIs. It starts to seem that alcohol is in control of their lives. Carefully, you suggest they might think about how alcohol is affecting their lives, and then it comes:
I’m not an alcoholic because:
- I can stop drinking any time I choose.
- I only drink after work, after lunch, on weekends
- I only drink beer
- I drink to control my nerves
- I need it to deal with the stress of work, family
- I can navigate all parts of my life so what’s the problem
And the excuses go on – and as long as people can see themselves as not controlled by alcohol they are protected from having to confront what seems a profound failure – They have lost control of their lives. With that admission comes the awful challenge to change.
You list all the impacts that drinking is having on their life – DWI, lost wages, impaired family relationships, inappropriate behavior all to no avail. The power of denial is greater than the force of your litany of observations.
So, what to do? You will likely not reason someone into recognizing their problem with alcohol, so you can try another strategy. A simple challenge, wager, bet has some potential to puncture the wall of denial. “I will wager you __________ (something of clear value) if you can not drink for x days.” For many people this simple challenge can force a recognition that they have lost control of their behavior as regards alcohol.
Be prepared to provide assistance, referral to treatment programs and support should your approach prove successful. Recovering from alcoholism is not a solitary enterprise and support of friends and family is vital.