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Question
Posted by: Gemma | 2010/03/18

Can alcoholics change?

I was recently visiting family in Durban, when a relative, that last seen in 1991, popped in. I would never have recognized him. He was rake thin and his hands shook and he asked the same questions several times. He constantly answered his cell phone (which never actually rang) and pretended or believed he was having a conversation with a work colleague and then a female friend. I was totally shocked. He told us his friend had dropped him off as he wanted to see my aunt that was ill. He arrived at aroun 8:30pm, rather late for visitors, and when we mentioned we needed to go to bed, he pretended to call his friend to fetch him. He did this several times to see where his friend was. He then tried to distract my cousin and I by asking us to go outside as his friend, who was female was at the gate and was shy to come down and he wanted to introduce us to her.He finally left and then I discovered that the money I had left on the dining room table was missing.

My cousin then told me that our relative turned to alcohol after some personal problems. This happened a very long time ago, sometime in the late 1990s. He lost his job and basically everything. My cousin said that she thinks he went to AA and for a while was okay and then just resorted back to drinking again. I heard he now stays home and his mum try not to let him out of the house.

I am so shocked because we went to the same school and he finished a year before me. We are both in our mid 30s. He was a really intelligent and handsome guy. I can''''t believe that this is him. I heard he will even steal to pay for alcohol.

How does one help someone like this? I know what he was before and it is hard fot me to imagine he could be like this now.

I know he comes from one of those families that would rather ignore the problem than accept it and deal with it. The less people that know about it, the better.

But there must be some way to help him. It is so hard for me to accept that the person I knew has become like this.

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Our expert says:
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Dear Gemma

Thank you for writing. Yes, it is devastating to see how alcoholism can destroy a person mentally, physically and emotionally.

Your relative regrettably sounds as if he is already suffering from the early stages of Korsakoff's psychosis. One of the symptoms includes invented memories, which are then taken as true due to gaps in memory sometimes associated with blackouts.

He also sounds delirious and his imaginary phone calls and girlfriend do not sound like the responses of a sane and normal person.

Unfortunately, this where alcoholism takes you, often down the road of temporary insanity.
You mention that his mom is looking after him.

Frankly, she is enabling him and this will not contribute to his recovery from alcoholism. Many alcoholics turn their lives around when they hit rock bottom.

He is currently enjoying a roof over his head, as well as all the home comforts, such as meals, warm baths and so forth. Where is his rock bottom? His mother must understand that she is doing him no favour. She is facilitating in the progression of this disease, which will lead to his death.

Moreover, the long, slow and painful death of an active alcoholic is one of the most dreadful things to witness. Let us not beat around the bush here: What you have witnessed in that house is a man at the beginning of his demise.

My advice, as a revering alcoholic myself, is as follows. He must be told to attend a rehabilitation centre as soon as possible. Yes, he will have to go a rehab. On his own, he is not going to do this.

He‘s been to AA and he has dropped his meetings in favour of alcohol. That is not AA’s fault, but his desire to drink has forced his disease back into the open and into full swing.

If he does not want to attend a rehab, he will have to leave the house. He will try to talk his way out of this one, let me warn you. He must go and live on the streets if necessary, as that might just save his life.

Alcoholism is not a moral failing and this man is not a bad person. Sadly, he is in the grips of a deathly disease, over which he has no more control.

It must be arrested by urgent intervention. It is noble of you to be concerned over this man, but in AA they say that you can carry the message, but not the alcoholic.

If you need to talk this through please feel free to contact Taryn on Tel: 021 790 7779. Alternatively, you can email me on herman@harmonyclinic.co.za

Best of luck
Herman

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

2
Our users say:
Posted by: Gemma | 2010/03/19

Thank you Herman.

I can''t even begin to tell you how I feel after seeing my relative like this and he is 35 yrs old. He was really a good person and we went to primary and high school together. He was a year ahead of me. After we finished school, we never kept in contact at all, although I occassionally saw his mum and brother at family functions. When I asked after him, they would say he is ok. I moved to another city years ago, so I have no contact with his family at all.

Herman, when I saw him, I wondered who this skinny old guy was. When my cousin told me who it was, I couldn''t believe it. I just stared at him, trying to find some resemblence of the person I knew when we were younger. I just couldn''t see it. But he recognized me immediately, even though I have put on a lot of weight.

Herman it is sad to see this. I don''t think his family will ever throw him out or take drastic action to make him get help. I cannot believe that a once intelligent, really handsome young man has become this.

Herman, I feel so proud of you right now for realizing you needed to change your life. I have so much admiration for people like you.

When I was at varsity, my dad was an alcoholic. He made my life a misery. I got sworn, imsulted on a daily basis. He told me every day what a useless, good for nothing kid I was. I would amount to nothing. He would sometimes fetch me from varsity as there was limited public transport and there were very few lift clubs for me, and he would be so drunk. He would humiliate me in front of people. Sometimes he would make me wait until the middle of the night for him and then I would go home praying all the way for God to keep is alive as he would drive on the wrong side of the road.

It had a devastating effect on me and I became so confused. I ended up in bad relationships as I was looking for a way out of the home and was looking for some approval in a way.

Herman, I hate alcohol and have told my hubby that I don''t want it in our house, even if there is a party. I told him this years ago, when we married. He doesn''t drink. I know what it does to people, not just the alcoholics, but their loved ones.

I wish my relative could make a change. But if he is on the vertge of insanity, how can he help himself. This is so sad though. I wish his family could have him sent to a rehabilitation centre for a while.

Herman, thank you for reading my post. I appreciate it. And thank you for changing your life!

Reply to Gemma
Posted by: Addictions Expert Forum | 2010/03/18

Dear Gemma

Thank you for writing. Yes, it is devastating to see how alcoholism can destroy a person mentally, physically and emotionally.

Your relative regrettably sounds as if he is already suffering from the early stages of Korsakoff's psychosis. One of the symptoms includes invented memories, which are then taken as true due to gaps in memory sometimes associated with blackouts.

He also sounds delirious and his imaginary phone calls and girlfriend do not sound like the responses of a sane and normal person.

Unfortunately, this where alcoholism takes you, often down the road of temporary insanity.
You mention that his mom is looking after him.

Frankly, she is enabling him and this will not contribute to his recovery from alcoholism. Many alcoholics turn their lives around when they hit rock bottom.

He is currently enjoying a roof over his head, as well as all the home comforts, such as meals, warm baths and so forth. Where is his rock bottom? His mother must understand that she is doing him no favour. She is facilitating in the progression of this disease, which will lead to his death.

Moreover, the long, slow and painful death of an active alcoholic is one of the most dreadful things to witness. Let us not beat around the bush here: What you have witnessed in that house is a man at the beginning of his demise.

My advice, as a revering alcoholic myself, is as follows. He must be told to attend a rehabilitation centre as soon as possible. Yes, he will have to go a rehab. On his own, he is not going to do this.

He‘s been to AA and he has dropped his meetings in favour of alcohol. That is not AA’s fault, but his desire to drink has forced his disease back into the open and into full swing.

If he does not want to attend a rehab, he will have to leave the house. He will try to talk his way out of this one, let me warn you. He must go and live on the streets if necessary, as that might just save his life.

Alcoholism is not a moral failing and this man is not a bad person. Sadly, he is in the grips of a deathly disease, over which he has no more control.

It must be arrested by urgent intervention. It is noble of you to be concerned over this man, but in AA they say that you can carry the message, but not the alcoholic.

If you need to talk this through please feel free to contact Taryn on Tel: 021 790 7779. Alternatively, you can email me on herman@harmonyclinic.co.za

Best of luck
Herman

Reply to Addictions Expert Forum

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