Health Care Providers.
Alcoholism is a disease that often physically affects the whole family. The spouses, children, siblings, and parents of alcoholics frequently develop an array of stress-related disorders such as colitis, ulcers, migraine headaches, depression, and obesity. The family and friends of alcoholics may also strongly deny, even to themselves, that their loved one has a drinking problem.
It is not unusual for people affected by another's alcoholism to fail to recognize the connection between their physical complaints and their endless worrying about the problem drinking and its effects on the family. The physical symptoms, the denial, and the worrying may go on indefinitely, until someone, usually a person with authority and objectivity, is able to identify the problem and offer understanding and direction. Here is where the question, "Is someone else's drinking bothering you?" is a useful one.
One AL-ANON member wrote this to her physician:
I used to have frequent appointments with you and tell you repeatedly of my tiredness. How could I tell you of the many nights spent walking the floor and watching at the window for my spouse intoxicated again--to come home? Finally, I found AL-ANON, and I felt relief. My recovery has been slow but steady. The members of this fellowship gave me hope, something I had lost long ago.
A physician who served an internship in an alcoholism abuse center shares what he learned about the disease:
The family is as deeply embedded in the pathology of alcoholism as the alcoholic is.... Many times family members do not recognize the pathology in themselves until it is pointed out to them by a physician.... In questioning a patient, it is reasonable to inquire about family stress. If the response is positive, the professional - remembering that alcoholism is a leading cause of family stress - may then inquire more directly about drinking behavior that bothers you,' rather than alcoholism per se.
If you suspect someone's drinking problem has contributed to the cause of your patient's symptoms, we urge you to recommend AL-ANON and/or ALATEEN as part of their treatment.
These materials are adapted and reprinted with permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA
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