Grief and Alcohol Abuse

Many people start drinking too much when they experience a significant loss of a loved one.  Not too surprisingly with our middle-aged clients, it tends to be the loss of a parent rather than a spouse or child. Drinking goes from social or heavy social to way over the top.  For a few weeks to a couple of months, this is fairly normal and not really a huge concern. The pain is so great that many people need a little respite from it. But when this continues for several years, there is a problem.

Grief and mourning are very individual and personal things but interfering too much in the normal processing of your grief causes problems also.  As human beings, our minds have evolved over time to be able to process loss and continue on. If we were not able to do so, we as a species would die off. Drinking too much for a long period of time after a loss results in keeping the grief and pain as fresh as the day we experienced the loss, much like picking at a wound that is scabbing over never lets it heal. If we blot out the thoughts and pain – our grief, so we don’t have to feel it, our minds cannot do their jobs and let us come to terms with the loss so we can move on.

We tend to see people several years after they have lost a loved one.  Their grief and pain are palpable. Their drinking is heavy.  You would think they lost their loved one yesterday, it is that intense. The irony of it all is that they only wanted to spare themselves the normal, human pain that comes from losing somebody they dearly loved.

What they did instead was to give themselves a drinking problem and the pain of the loss remains fresh.  We cannot escape our humanity.  If our clients had just let themselves hurt and feel the pain, they would have healed.  Now, they are faced with having to learn to cope with their loss and not drink. And that is both difficult and painful but it is what must be done in order to heal and get over both the grief and the alcohol problem.

If you are medicating your way through the loss of a loved one, please let us help.  You really can feel better again.

Your Self-Image Can Make it Hard to Quit Drinking

Our clients tend to fall into one of two categories – those who are experiencing discomfort because their drinking is at odds with their self-image and those who drink too much because drinking supports their self-image. It is easier if you fall into the former category rather than the latter. Why? Because ‘heavy drinker’ is not how you see yourself. You are using alcohol to cope with something and not feeling good about it because being drunk or absent is not how you like to think of yourself. If on the other hand, you think of yourself as the life of the party, or a fabulous host or see drinking as sexy, glamorous and sophisticated, all positive attributes associated with drinking too much, you will find it harder to quit. Changing a behavior is hard enough when it is one that we don’t see as totally positive, but it is even harder when we do see it as positive. Of course, this is simplifying it a great deal, but these are among the issues many drinkers face when it comes time to quit.

If you see yourself in the description of the sexy, sophisticated drinker, you might start questioning the validity of that image in order to start a mind-shift that will make it easier for you to quit drinking. Is it really sexy to stumble around, slurring your words? Or fall and break your front teeth? Or vomit in the gutter on your way home after a party? Of course not. But you are not looking at the whole picture or the entire evening of drinking, you are keying in on the wonderful, sexy, sophisticated first moment when you pick up that pretty crystal goblet and take the first sip. Our minds trick us that way. The advertising worked its magic. But you have the capacity to be stronger than the advertisers. Give it a try. And if you need some help with that reality check, we are here to help you. Give us a call.