There are many reasons why a person develops an addiction to alcohol, ranging from social pressure to inherited traits to a negative self image. This paper will not focus on the causes but rather on the alcoholic's point of view and how they may dealt with in a more positive, more effective way.
It's clear to me that telling a person to stop drinking doesn't work. My mom tried to do that for years in an understanding, logical way and I wouldn't listen. I always told myself she didn't know what she was talking about and, inside me, I had a feeling she was right. I didn't know how to escape the cycle of drinking, getting drunk and waking the next morning with a hangover, telling myself I didn't want to do it again, but the following night I always would.
I had lost control of my life. So if I am not in control, who is? My patterns of behavior? Is it a result of something traumatic in my past or an actual physical illness?
A common characteristic among alcoholics is that they are overly critical of themselves. To counteract these feelings of not being good enough they need friendship and acceptance for whom they are. Because of the drinking they are usually looked down upon (by themselves and others) and judged as less than ideal. Therefore drinking becomes a way of escape. Escaping their feelings of inadequacy and, over time, drinking takes the place of people and relationships, making alcohol the primary relationship and creating a feeling of isolation.
Psychoanalytic and behaviorist forms of psychology assume that a person has no control over his future. That who he is today is either a result of childhood or pre-conditioned patterns of behavior that he is powerless to change. As a person who has successfully quit drinking eight years ago and lost 70 pounds seven years ago, I disagree with these theories. I think a person can change if they are motivated.
In Carl Rogers' client-centered therapy, the individual has the opportunity to recognize a problem and devise an effective way of dealing with it. Instead of the counselor telling the client what to do, the responsibility lies more in the hands of the individual. This type of therapy empowers the client and gives him the sense that he does have control in his life.
If I were a therapist I think I would treat an alcoholic with as much respect and consideration as possible. I would let him know that he is a valued member of society just because he is here. That his presence here is a sign of his worth as a human being. I would listen to him and give his thoughts back to him in different words, letting him know I understand what he is going through. I would speak to him in a way that would let him know that I do care and appreciate how difficult his life has become.
I would remind him to make statements like "I feel" or "I think" rather than blaming others for his problems. And I would tell him that others may affect his decisions but, ultimately, he must accept responsibility for what his life is. I would offer feedback and offer a different way of looking at himself that he might not have thought of.
It has been my opinion that no one else could have made me quit drinking until I had a reason to quit. And when the time came for me to make the difficult choice, I am always grateful that I made the right one.
I think all anyone can do is point someone in the right direction, treat them with respect and allow them to make their own decisions.