By Danica Winberg
Michelle’s* bathroom door still has two holes in it. One hole is from her husband’s fist and the other hole is from the door hitting her head as it swung open when he punched it. After 8 hours of her texts and calls being ignored by her husband during his night out drinking with co-workers, Michelle retreated to the bathroom. She tearfully told her husband that while this wasn’t the first occurrence, it would be the last. She wouldn’t compete with his drinking problem anymore. That is when he lost it. Dave still doesn’t remember hitting the door. By all accounts, her husband Dave is a good man. He’s a military man who is well respected in their church group and the guy who all the neighborhood kids look up to. He drinks socially. He doesn’t have a problem with alcohol. This is the lie he tells himself.
This is the lie he tells himself when he passes out alone with his young children and his wife comes home to the six and three-year-old trying to toast bread at 9 pm. He forgot to feed them that night because he “just had one” while watching the game. This is the lie he tells himself when he parks his car down the street and a 5-minute errand turns into a 5-hour disappearance. This is the lie he tells himself when his newborn daughter arrives and he stays away from alcohol… for 3 whole weeks. This is the lie he tells himself while his wife is begging and pleading for him to get help.
Looking the other way
In the year 2018, of the roughly 15 million people in the U.S. over the age of 12 with an alcohol disorder, only 5% sought or received treatment. Alcoholism is widely accepted as one of the largest public health problems today. Death or hospitalization can occur from accidents, liver damage, binge drinking, or overdose, just to name a few. With the dangers of alcohol abuse so clear and undisputed, why is denial so prevalent and accepted?
Chances are someone you know and love is in denial. They may not see a problem because the thought of living without alcohol is frightening. Alcohol can have power over their life, facilitating social interactions, or helping them forget things they don’t want to remember. Perhaps they are afraid of the stigma that may accompany the term “alcoholic.” In Dave’s case, he refused to seek help because he was afraid of losing his professional standing within the military if he showed “weakness” by receiving treatment.
Hurting the people we love
When people refuse to look objectively at their drinking habits, they could be causing irreparable harm. Change comes too late: too late for themselves, too late for the people they love. Oftentimes little thought is given to the innocent victims of these situations – the children. Being in a home with an alcoholic, children are at risk of mental health, academic, and relationship problems. Children of alcoholics also have a greater likelihood of becoming alcoholics themselves. These children are four times more likely to abuse alcohol later in life.
It’s tempting to ignore warning signals. Alcohol can blind even the most rational of people. The following sites can help those examining their relationship with alcohol:
Getting, and being the right support
Loving someone with an addiction can be difficult and painful. It’s easy to feel alone, let down, or even afraid. But there is help for you too. If someone you love has alcohol addiction, you can find support and treatment even if your loved one refuses treatment. Programs like Al-Anon and A.A. offer support for family members that can help them avoid being enablers and learn how to offer addicts the right kind of love and help. If you suspect your loved one may have a problem, visit Al-Anon at al-anon.org. Remember, you are not alone.
*Names have been changed.
Danica Winberg is a wife and the mother of three children aged 8 and younger. She grew up in Southern California, though she has resided in Las Vegas, NV, for the last 8 years. She is currently an online student at Brigham Young University – Idaho and will be graduating with her Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies in the spring of 2021.