| print this
New Help for Alcoholics
of habitual drinkers have found a novel way of dealing with
am not an alcoholic. I don’t even like to drink.
Yet I, and thousands of others in my position, have an alcoholic
problem as overwhelming as that of any man or woman who
imbibes to excess.
am the wife of an alcoholic, a member of that vast, unheralded
company of persons whose destinies are linked inextricably
with those of the intemperate.
great deal has been written recently about alcoholism. Much
of it suggests that the problem is one only for the alcoholic
himself. Actually, his problem often is overshadowed by
the supplementary problems it breeds among mothers and fathers,
wives and children, who find themselves constantly confronted
by situations demanding miracles of tact.
and help have been available increasingly of late to the
alcoholic. Doctors have grown more and more concerned with
his case; clinics have been established for his care; and,
for companionship in trouble and possible cure, he can turn
to that wonderfully understanding organization, Alcoholics
where could those who suffered indirectly from his complaint
go with their troubles? Until recently, they could depend
only on the uncertain, frequently dangerous advice of friends.
Adrift on an uncharted sea, the relatives of alcoholics
would find themselves blown one way by passion and despair
and the next minute blown just as erratically the other
way by hope.
some of them have found a new course to follow. In a number
of communities they have begun to form informal organizations
of their own, appropriately called Non-Alcoholics Anonymous.
At meetings, the members’ problems are discussed and
solutions suggested. In our town, such a group is now functioning,
and is gradually proving its worth to many people who had
almost given up in despair.
the help and solace it may offer to others whose cases are
similar to ours, I am giving a condensation of the thoughts
and experiences of members of our particular group. Since
our meetings are largely discussions of anonymously written
questions handed to the chairman, I am making my report
in question-and-answer form, covering some of the situations
which seem to be common to all of us.
Can a wife or husband “talk” an alcoholic into
giving up his drinking?
No! Nagging, or even a reasonable argument, will accomplish
nothing until the alcoholic has made the decision by himself,
uninfluenced by another.
fact is one of the bitterest which must be faced by the
mate of an alcoholic. Love does not enter into the situation,
for it has been proven innumerable times that no real and
lasting reformation can be accomplished except from within
most that a nonalcoholic can do is to maintain a detached
attitude as each episode occurs, be ready to deal intelligently
with each situation, and to cooperate with the alcoholic’s
first fumbling steps toward reform. This requires real strength
and staying power, to be sure, but it has been rewarded
in thousands of cases.
Should we allow our natural fear and worry to be seen by
the alcoholic when he is in the first stages of sobriety?
No. We must show only confidence, no matter how many times
our hopes have been shattered in the past. This is not as
dishonest as it may sound; having gone through years of
lies and subterfuges forced upon us by excessive drinking,
we must now use this strength to win and hold tolerance
How can the mate of an alcoholic stop worrying”?
First, analyze the situation, putting it on paper to clarify
it in your own mind. Then, think of the worst that could
possibly happen; accept the possibility that it might happen;
and then start constructive thinking about what, if anything,
can be done to remedy matters. Usually, this will bring
an automatic release of tension and fear.
What is the best attitude to take during the difficult times
when an alcoholic is sullen and morose, or just plain bad-tempered?
These periods usually occur during intervals between “bouts”
and indicate the poor adjustment of the personality to daily
living, which is intensified a hundredfold by the pressure
of abstinence. We have found that keeping busy with our
own affairs, leaving the offender gracefully alone and being
emotionally objective about the situation are the greatest
helps in “riding out the storm.”
Should a mate accompany the alcoholic on his rounds during
No. Many of us have done this, thinking our presence would
reduce his drinking, or protect him from possible disaster
as a result of his inability to cope with situations while
intoxicated. What we actually do is furnish a “crutch”
for him to lean upon. We also supply a basis for the ever-ready
comment that we don’t seem to mind his drinking--we
have even joined him at it. The sooner we refuse to let
ourselves be so used, the quicker his recovery.
Is it wise for the mate of an alcoholic to accept or serve
drinks while the other is trying to “stay sober”?
This is a problem which the individual must solve for himself.
In some cases, it has been possible for the mate of an alcoholic
to drink where other people are present, without having
any harmful effect on the alcoholic. It has been the consensus
of our experiences, however, that it is unwise for the non-alcoholic
mate to drink when they are alone.
the question arises during a social gathering where it might
emphasize the alcoholic’s refusal of drinks, it is
better to accept a drink than to cause the alcoholic embarrassment.
What is the best handling of the situation when children
Until a child is 12, it is preferable to minimize the situation.
Pass over it by saying that father or mother is indisposed
but will soon be better. Try to avoid contact between drinker
and child until the current storm has passed. When this
is not physically possible, be alert to act as a buffer
between them whenever necessary.
both parents are working, it is advisable to leave the child
with some member of the family or close friend until the
responsible parent has finished the day’s work and
a child has reached an age where he can absorb the knowledge,
explain briefly that this father or mother is the unfortunate
victim of a disease similar to diabetes; that these people
drink too much because they have not yet learned that they
have an ailment which can be helped.
the youngster the simple facts about alcoholism--its slowly
progressing pattern-and that it is the combined effect of
wrong thinking plus a body chemistry which does not tolerate
alcohol that makes these people act as they do.
Some readers will exclaim: “How dreadful to tell a
young child that his parent does not think rightly!”
Is that worse than having the child labor, through misunderstanding
the problem, under the shame and disillusionment of having
a “drunk” for a parent?
children are wise in the ways of this world, and any mother
or father who believes that she or he can conceal drunkenness
is acting like-the proverbial ostrich.
are only a few of the basic problems confronting every man
or woman who has an alcoholic in the family. Many more have
been discussed, each meeting bringing forward new ones or
old ones with a slightly different angle. It would be impossible
in one article to encompass the whole of our program.
to the wife or husband of an excessive drinker, our recommendation
is this: quietly, without preliminary talk with the alcoholic,
call the organization known as Alcoholics Anonymous and
learn the location of the AA group nearest you. If the organization
is not listed in your telephone directory, a discreet inquiry
of your family physician or clergyman will bring the information.
the AA member to whom you are referred what can be done
to help solve your problem. Perhaps the time is not yet
ripe for an open facing of the problem with the mate, but
in any event, the AA member will tell you whether there
is a Non-Alcoholics Anonymous group, such as ours, actively
functioning in your vicinity.
time ago, there were chapters in places as far apart as
Long Beach, California; Toronto, Ontario; Edmonton, Alberta;
Richmond, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Syracuse and Rochester,
New York. Since then the number of chapters has increased,
for many men and women, constantly seeking a solution to
the problem of alcoholism, are adopting our method of attacking
all know the powerful release from tension and worry that
comes with the opportunity to unburden ourselves to an unbiased
person. The very act of putting into words the sinister
fears besetting us brings a soothing effect which aids constructive
thinking. In our group, there has been no instance of malicious
gossip or morbid dwelling upon anyone’s past; in fact,
names are rarely heard in talking of a particular problem.
person who has an alcoholic in his or her family is eligible
for membership in our group. The name, Non-Alcoholics Anonymous,
has at times misled prospective members into thinking they
could not participate in our program unless they themselves
gave up drinking entirely. This is not true, for the obvious
reasons given above.
experience has taught us that there is definite hope for
those who face the alcoholic problem--provided we are willing
to work for “the serenity to accept the things we
cannot change; the courage to change the things we can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Coronet, July 1949)