One of the hardest barriers to break through when confronting alcoholism is that of denial. Hollywood stereotypes alcoholics as bums with no home, no job and no family. Who would want to identify themselves as a person worthy of ridicule or pity? Very few and it may be what keeps so many from seeking help.
Universal Negative Effects
The truth is that alcoholism affects people in every social, educational and professional sphere. This is a non-biased addiction. Finding the courage to admit the problem seems to be one of the greatest obstacles to turning things around. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings confront this hurdle head-on by requiring participants to stand before a group and name their problem – alcoholism. “I am an alcoholic” is a tough admission, but it represents the death of denial.
The title “alcoholic” is one no one wants to wear and people will go to great lengths to avoid accepting the label. The alcoholic is a person who is not in complete control over his or her behavior. Those being ruled by alcohol may worry that they will sink in the eyes of others if they admit it, but that embarrassment pales in comparison to the joy of regaining control over one’s life.
The good news is that a person can regain control. The American Medical Association defines alcoholism as a medical and psychiatric disease. It goes on to say that alcoholism is considered a treatable disease. This is hope. Alcoholism is a beatable disease, it can be overcome. Life can be better.
A 2010 study found that more than 60 percent of people who recognize their problem with alcohol avoid getting help because of perceived stigma. Two-thirds of the participants in the study with serious drinking issues reported believing that alcoholics were stigmatized. They did not look for a way out of alcoholism because it would mean admitting they were alcoholics and that label carried too much baggage.
Courage in Recovery
The fact is that most likely those who might look skeptically at an admission of alcoholism are probably the very people who should be avoided. Those who care about the alcoholic will applaud the courage it takes to admit the problem rather than stigmatize him or her. As the person moves forward in recovery, it will matter less and less what others may think because the confidence that comes with being in control of life makes what other people think trifling by comparison. It is a terrible shame that health and well-being should ever be captive to misplaced perception.
12-Step or “self-help” programs consist of anonymous groups of people who get together to support each other in sobriety. The most popular of these programs, Alcoholics Anonymous (“AA”), is also the oldest and serves as a template for offshoots such as Narcotics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous. Underlying AA is the belief that 12 steps need to be taken in order for an individual to remain sober. Although not associated with any particular religion, there is a spiritual aspect of the program that has been modified over the years to accommodate those participants who are adverse to the religious connotations.