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ALCOHOL A Curse for the Mind, Body and Spirit!

Cover Story


Born as a human being and living up to its name of being a social animal, we live, interact and settle down in our surroundings as per our comforts, needs, belief systems, and yes our whims, too. Thus, we take charge of our life and lifestyle by the choices we make. Some choices are ordinary, while some turn out to be extra-ordinary. But there are those choices that may seem attractive on the surface but have compelling and also hazardous effects on oneself and his loved ones, too. Addiction is a classic example of this.

According to Wikipedia, addiction is the continued use of a mood altering substance or behaviour despite adverse dependency consequences or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviours. Addictions include alcohol abuse, drug abuse, exercise abuse, pornography and gambling.
Among these, alcoholism is one that can have an adverse effect on one’s family life and his/her relations with their intimate partners.

If statistics is to be believed, eighty five per cent of men who were violent towards their wives were frequent or daily users of alcohol. More than half of the abusive incidents were under the influence of alcohol. An assessment showed that domestic violence reduced to one tenth of previous levels after alcoholism treatment.

No wonder, we observe that domestic violence is more dominant in a family where one or both partners have taken to the bottle. The intoxicant is the major reason for wreaking havoc in a relationship. That’s because heavy drinking keeps a couple from having a connected relationship.
Lying frequently becomes an issue for an alcoholic which breaks the basic ingredient that binds a couple – trust.  In a stable state of mind, an alcoholic may promise to abstain from liquor but he may not be able to live up to it. That’s because it’s difficult to abstain from liquor as it causes withdrawal symptoms which draw him back to his old ways. This causes further conflict and the problem gets aggravated.

Problem drinkers may also experience blackouts or loss of memory that causes conflict between the partners because the drinker does not remember what he has revealed or inflicted upon his partner during a binge.

Alcoholism severely infringes on a couple’s time together. Whether he drinks at home or at a bar, the quality time between the partners becomes limited and much time is spent by the drinker either being drunk or recovering from a binge.

Excessive alcohol consumption can significantly alter the behaviour of a person. This abnormal behaviour often leads to verbal and sometimes physical aggression against a partner. He may not acknowledge or even remember these incidents but the victim is permanently affected by the experience and may even come to fear the alcoholic partner.

Family life is affected severely when it comes to the financial aspect also. When a sizeable portion of household expenditure is spent on alcohol, it increases indebtedness and reduces the ability to pay for food and education. Alcohol costs money and the alcoholic’s partner is typically the one who has to deal with the problems created by excessive purchase and consumption of alcohol. If the non-drinking partner is the breadwinner, there may be severe feelings of resentment that she is working hard and supporting her partner’s destructive habit. Lying and money go hand in hand as the alcoholic partner often lies to cover up where the money went.

In short, alcohol abuse leads to separations and divorces and causes emotional hardship to the family. The emotional trauma cannot be translated in terms of money but the impact it has on quality of lives is significant.

This brings to mind the plight of a friend who was married to an alcoholic for 25 years. She had to bear with physical assaults, emotional trauma and financial constraints inflicted upon by her husband, all this for the sake of her two children and societal fear. Socially too, he was an embarrassment to her as he had to be carried home after his drunken brawls at family gatherings and friendly parties.  One day, he did not return home and was found dead on the roadside owing to an overdose of booze and drugs. She was probably the first wife I saw who did not shed a single tear of remorse over her dead husband. Instead she had a still calmness of one who has seen a huge storm pass by. In a private moment, she confessed “in the past 25 years, he did not give me even a day’s happiness. So why should I grieve his death?”

This is just one of the many examples that spouses of alcoholics suffer. Fights, nagging, breakdowns, fear and depressions replace laughter, happiness, peace and harmony in a man-woman relationship.
A healthy family life also takes a back-seat for an alcoholic. It is a known fact that as a parent, the things we say and do has a tremendous impact on the upbringing of a child. This is especially true when it comes to consuming alcohol or drugs. Research shows that kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use them. By simply talking to your kids about these vices can actually help them with making better choices and leading healthier lives. The effects of drinking on one’s life – hangovers, inability to concentrate, relationship problems, poor health, weight gain, etc. are better explained as a parent to a child. But if the parent himself/herself is drowning in this deadly drink, is he setting a striking example to his kids himself? The answer is an empathic NO. Instead, an alcoholic parent is doing exactly what he shouldn’t be doing as a responsible guardian to his ward:

1. When he downs a drink, he is not interacting with his children in a rational, responsible way. Instead, he may become inconsistent with how he was acting towards them earlier in the day, which can be very confusing to the young impressionable minds.

2. He may be exposing them to arguments with his partner which they might otherwise not have to see. Witnessing his parents fight bitterly is not exactly a pleasant sight for children.

3. One of the recognised effects of alcoholism on children is that they tend to find it difficult to trust others. They also often learn to suppress their feelings, because any expression of them can cause angry outbursts from the drunken parent.

4. Seeing the parent drink regularly instils in them the belief that drinking alcohol is a normal, regular thing to do. They’re learning that it’s something you do to relax if you’re upset, or tired. Eventually, they may copy the pattern of the drunkard parent.

5.  The drunkard parent’s health might deteriorate due to his drinking habit and he may be admitted to hospital. Having to see your parent suffer in hospital can have a telling effect on the young child.

6. The child can be at great risk while travelling with a drunk parent, who is prone to accidents while driving in an inebriated state.

7. Children of alcoholics and addicts can have deep-seated psychological and emotional reactions to growing up with an addicted parent.

8. Parental alcoholism may affect the foetus even before a child is born. In pregnant women, alcohol is carried to all of the mother’s organs and tissues.

These pointers stress upon one basic fact: Alcoholism doesn’t just affect you, it’s affecting those around you too, your children probably more than any one. In fact, one misconception that many alcoholics and addicts seem to have is that their drinking or substance abuse is not affecting anyone else. Many times they will make statements like, “I’m not hurting anyone but myself!”

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of research and a vast amount of anecdotal evidence that this is simply not the case. The behaviour of addicts and alcoholics can affect everyone around them, including family, friends, employers and co-workers.

Perhaps those most vulnerable to the effects of alcoholism or addiction are their children. If you have a drinking or a drug abuse problem and you have children in your home, they are being affected, sometimes so profoundly that the effects last their entire lifetimes.

Alcoholism is a curse that no person with a sane mind should inflict upon himself.  Be it happiness, sadness, peer pressure, or for networking purpose, the reasons for drinking may vary but the outcome is the same – losing control over oneself. If a beverage has the deadly effect of playing games with your senses, altering your behaviour and loosening your grip over yourself, isn’t it best to be avoided?

Furthermore, it weakens familial ties and is a major deterrent in inter-personal relationships. The need for feeling uplifted is simple – Be ‘HIGH’ on life! Live it to the hilt, live it healthy!

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