Tag Archives: Alcohol Abuse

Four Signs That it is Time to Stage an Alcohol Intervention

It can be difficult to ignore the symptoms and effects that pop up when someone you care about abuses alcohol. Every person in the family might be touched by that addiction, and yet everyone in the family might be wondering what in the world they should do in order to make the problem stop.

While holding an intervention might seem drastic at first, it may be the absolute best way to help your loved one recover. These are four signs that indicate that it’s time for your family to take action.

Sign 1: Alcohol Use Has Become Uncontrollable or Compulsive

People with an addiction to alcohol can no longer control when, how much, or how often they drink.

As a result, they might:

  • Drink first thing in the morning
  • Bring alcohol to unreasonable places such as work, family gatherings, in the car, or at church
  • Find it impossible to stop drinking once they have started drinking
  • Attempt to cut back on alcohol and fail to achieve any kind of reduction

These signs indicate that the alcohol use has moved to a point beyond the person’s control, and an intervention might be the best way to help your loved one accept help.

>>> READ THIS NEXT: Start with Alcohol Detox


Sign 2: Alcohol-Related Health Problems Appear

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 40,000 people die each year of chronic liver disease, and alcohol abuse plays a huge role in many of these deaths. In addition, many other people lose their lives due to cancer problems caused by alcohol, and cardiovascular conditions exacerbated by the abuse of alcohol.1

People who drink heavily often begin to experience major health problems, or they might have abnormal test results when they visit their doctors for routine screenings. Any of these problems provide families with data that they can put to good use in an intervention and are strong indicators that the alcohol abuse issue has reached a dangerous level.

Sign 3: The Safety of Others Is At Risk

Those who drink are a harm to themselves, but they can also harm others. They might drive while intoxicated, for example, or they might get into physical altercations due to the influence of alcohol. Family conflicts can be fueled by alcohol, and arguments may result in injury to everyone involved.

Your loved one may have to face fines or jail sentences if alcohol misuse is not addressed. Drunk driving can result in the death of your loved one or the death of an innocent bystander — creating a situation that your loved one would have to live with the rest of his or her life.

Sign 4: Brief Conversations Haven’t Worked

Many families touched by alcohol addiction attempt to solve the problem by holding frequent, informal talks. They might discuss the behaviors they’ve seen and express the wish that their loved one would get help, and sometimes families even feel compelled to research treatment facilities before the talk, so they can outline how the treatment will progress. If families have held a number of these talks and the person still won’t enroll in treatment, it’s time to get serious and hold a planned intervention.

This might be just the sort of wake-up call your loved one needs in order to agree to get supportive help.

It isn’t easy to hold an alcohol intervention, and it’s not uncommon for families to be frightened about how the discussion might unfold. Hiring an interventionist might help. Intervention professionals can help families plan, and they can remain in the room during the talk and take action if something goes wrong. If you need the help of someone like this, please call us at 760-548-4032. Our admissions coordinators can connect you with a number of professionals who can help you.


1 U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis. 6 Oct 2016.

Children of Alcoholics Discuss Life ‘in a War Zone’

Blaire Sharpe and Phillip L. Woods know all too well about the pain that comes with growing up in an alcoholic home. But both have overcome that pain to create successful lives and enjoy the kind of peace they never had as children.

Alcoholic father threatening wife and childIn her new book, “Not Really Gone,” Sharpe (a pen name) describes the damage done to children when mom or dad, or both, depend on the bottle to get through life. “Growing up in an alcoholic family is like being raised in a war zone,” she writes in the book. “Life is, as best, unpredictable. Threats lurk; traps are set; people explode; survival becomes the goal.”1

Today Sharpe works as a mental health counselor in a Detroit suburb. She says she used a pen name for the book to spare her family the embarrassment of what occurred during her turbulent childhood into adulthood, and to protect herself, too.

Woods grew up in rural Indiana, his father an alcoholic and proprietor of a bootlegging business. He speaks many times throughout the book about wanting to kill his father, yet he eventually overcame these feelings of anger.

“To truly understand my feelings on a gut level, one would have to have lived in our home, where tension and fear were always present because of my father’s unpredictable outbursts,” he writes in the book.2

In an interview he explains, “I wanted to preserve my history for all my children and their children. I had a need for them to know they are descendants of an alcoholic, my father, and that if it is in any way genetic, that they are predisposed to the affliction.”

Genetics and Environment Both Contribute to Alcoholism

The link between genetics and alcoholism is no longer a question of “if,” but “how.” Research published in December 2014 in the academic journal Molecular Psychiatry showed how a network of genes, not just one gene, conspires inside the brain to create alcoholism. Using RNA sequencing technology, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin made this breakthrough discovery by analyzing tissue from the brains of alcoholics.3

Research also shows that children of alcoholics can grow up with a myriad of problems, including low self-esteem, helplessness, loneliness, guilt, fear of abandonment and chronic depression.4 Those factors can lead to alcoholism in and of themselves, Sharpe says.

Children of alcoholics can grow up with a myriad of problems, including low self-esteem, helplessness, loneliness, guilt, fear of abandonment and chronic depression. Those factors can lead to alcoholism in and of themselves.

“It can be difficult to extract a pure environment where alcoholism is the only causative factor with all other psychological and health issues being effects,” she explains. “Alcoholism, addiction, depression, anxiety, abuse of all types, financial distress … all these things are so interrelated—or at least often concurrently present—that it can be like a chicken and the egg scenario. Researchers like their research pure, controllable, and easily replicated. … It’s a blend of genes and environment. There is no one component that says, ‘If you’re raised in this environment, you’re doomed.’ Or ‘If you have this gene, you’re doomed.’ But there is a heightened possibility that if you choose to go down this road (of drinking), then things are dangerous.”

So how can those who grew up with alcoholics avoid the pitfalls of addiction, and further, take precaution to help their children avoid suffering the same fate?

Sharpe explains how a diabetic who loves cake would be smart to avoid eating cake. “If a diabetic thinks there even is a possibility of eating a second piece of cake because it tastes so good, then they are putting their life in danger.”

The same can happen with the child of an alcoholic who may think it is safe to be a social drinker. And that very much is Sharpe’s story. Even though she was well educated about the dangers children of alcoholics face, she found herself in the abyss of alcoholism twice in her life.

Sharpe has been sober for 15 years, but she tried to get sober 10 years before that and relapsed. She had a counselor tell her the first time around that her problem was not that she was an alcoholic, but that she was the product of an alcoholic environment. Sharpe later came to learn that she was both, she says.

When Mom or Dad Drinks: Hypervigilance and Living Life on Edge

Drunken woman with whiskey glassWhat is it about an alcoholic home that produces children who grow up fearful and tense, often turning to the bottle in an effort to slam the brakes on their anxiety?

“When you’re used to living your life on edge, as children of alcoholics do, there’s a hypervigilance (an acute awareness of your surroundings),” Sharpe says. “You’re always gauging what’s going on, scanning the crowd, analyzing micro-expressions. Once you get past using it as a protective mechanism, it can serve you well in life.”

A recovering alcoholic can prevent her own children from developing that sort of angst by providing a calm, stable environment.

A recovering alcoholic can prevent her own children from developing that sort of angst by providing a calm, stable environment.

“In our house, drinking is not a normal thing. It’s not part of our daily life and there is no ‘normalization’ of alcohol,” Sharpe says. “We go to our in-laws and everybody is drinking. The kids notice it, and they notice a difference between how those people behave and how their own mother behaves.”

Honesty about mom or dad’s problem with drinking also is a must, Sharpe adds. “We have open conversations about it all the time. They know their mom goes to meetings, and what they are all about. It’s a very eclectic group of people I hang out with. I’m sure they would wonder ‘why would she be friends with that person?’ if they didn’t know (that she was a recovering alcoholic).” That doesn’t mean coming out and saying “Mommy’s an alcoholic” when your children are in kindergarten is a good idea. There needs to be an age-appropriate progression, Sharpe says. When they are younger, maybe explain there is no beer or wine in the house because mommy doesn’t like what alcohol does to people. When they’re ready, explain how alcohol negatively impacted your own life and why you choose to abstain from it.

Cruel World: Sympathy Is Often Scarce for Alcoholics and Their Children

Being the child of an alcoholic can be very stigmatizing. In one poignant scene in Woods’ book, he describes being rejected by a girl’s father when he arrives to take her on a date.

“Alcoholics are seldom seen as sympathetic characters, even today,” he writes. “There is inequality in society’s treatment of them. Their families, even innocent children, are painted with the same broad brush and treated just as poorly. Of course, there are always kindhearted individuals who might feel sorry for the alcoholic family, but society as a whole does not. This is the discrimination that touched me directly in my childhood.”

Woods credits his grandfather, a “teetotaler,” for helping him get past the hurt and self-pity of growing up in an alcoholic home. He immersed himself in all the good, functional people in his life, even before his mother sent him to live with his granddad.

“The fear of ambiguity was replaced by love and affection,” he explains.

And that’s exactly how Sharpe has tried to rear her own children, she says—with predictability rather than the uncertainty she grew up with. “I tell them I’m sorry when I’m wrong, and as a result it’s OK for them to tell me when I’ve done something wrong. We forgive each other very quickly. That’s a very healthy relationship.”


1 Sharpe, B. (2015). Not Really Gone. (1st ed. Vol. 1). Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

2 Woods, P. (2015). Miles from Home: The Journey of a Lifetime (1st ed., Vol. 1, p. 13). Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

3 Farris, S.P., et al. (2014, December). Molecular Psychiatry. Transcriptome organization for chronic alcohol abuse in human brain.

4 Sher, K. (1997). Psychological Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics. Alcohol Health & Research World. 21, by

How to Talk to an Alcoholic

For those of us who are free of mental illness, it can be difficult to comprehend the powerful nature of addiction. As a result, interactions with a friend who is an alcoholic can feel awkward. When you speak with a recovering alcoholic, it’s normal to try to fill the conversation with unrelated topics. Here are a handful of simple guidelines to keep in mind that may help ease the uncertainty.

Talk to the Alcoholic Like You Would Anybody Else

Male friends having a serious talkYour friend is still your friend. And he is a human being, just like you. If your friend has diabetes or osteoporosis, would you feel differently around them after they returned from a four-week wellness program? Probably not. If you and your alcoholic friend John have always bonded over sports and seafood, talk about your mutual interests.

In terms of questioning the alcoholic about his stint in rehab, keep it simple. While the individual is in a rehab center, he is surrounded by other alcoholics, AA slogans, anonymous fellowship text, life lessons, and much more. When he’s free of the 24/7 emphasis on recovery, chances are he is ready to talk about normal things. However, everyone’s different in this regard.

Going forward, if you’re close with the alcoholic, consider the following:

  • Differentiate between helping and enabling.Ask yourself if the help you’re about to provide—such as paying off this month’s credit card debt—is something he could do for himself if he were sober. If the answer is yes, you are doing both yourself and the alcoholic a disservice by following through. By stepping in to “solve” the addict’s problems, the enabler takes away any motivation for the addict to take responsibility for his or her actions.[1]
  • Practice detachment. In other words, try to view the alcoholism as separate from the friend in which the disease resides. If it helps, consider the person chemically compounded with two brain hemispheres -the alcoholic brain, and the logical brain. When you hear the alcoholic brain talking, attribute the behavior to their alcoholic circuitry. This will help you keep separate it from their lucid self.
  • Don’t blow up or react emphatically to a relapseIf your loved one goes on a drunken, week-long bender, yelling at him may actually push him into isolation and social withdrawal. The stronger your reaction, the more the alcoholic will focus on your words and anger. Putting on a poker face when your friend tells you he went out and got sloshed last night forces him to analyze his part in the relapse.
  • Set healthy boundaries. There’s no need to threaten an individual about the consequences from a sobriety slip. However, you can uphold a light, congenial conversation with your alcoholic friend post-treatment as a means for highlighting your newfound boundaries. Remind him that the boundaries are not a form of punishment, they are a byproduct of healthy differentiation.

In many cases, relapse happens after rehab. The chronic nature of the disease means that relapsing to drug abuse at some point is not only possible but likely. Relapse does not mean the treatment has failed.[2]

It’s natural to want to “save” or “help” your friend, especially if you witness hardships after he falls off the wagon. Stay strong by reminding yourself of the founding principle upon which Al-Anon is based –the only behaviors you can control are your own. Focus on being a good friend without enabling alcoholic actions. Remember when you set healthy boundaries and love your friend, the two behaviors are not mutually exclusive.

If you have questions about the treatment process or would like more information about alcoholism, please feel free to call us at Michael’s House. Our admissions counselors are ready to answer your questions and will provide you with the highest quality care.

[1] Psychology Today. Khaleghi, Karen. Posted on July 11th, 2012.

[2] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.

At-Risk Alcohol Abuse Among Older People

When you think about older people drinking alcohol, so many misconceptions and stereotypes exist. A new revealing study done by the school of medicine UCLA exposes much more about risky drinking by people 60 years old and older.[1] Many people assume that drinking at an older age isn’t that much of a problem or that not much can be done if a problem exists. But a new understanding of the risks of drinking for older people can help you or a loved one get the treatment you need.

Health Risk Factors

Elderly woman drinkingAccording to the UCLA study, older drinkers are much more likely to take a variety of medication which can increase their risk of developing complications from alcohol use. Some medicines can be dangerous when combined with alcohol, and certain health conditions can significantly worsen with heavy alcohol use, especially heart and liver conditions. Some older drinkers are at risk because they drink alone, due to the recent death of a spouse or other loved one or a divorce. Older drinkers are also at great risk for injury because of more frail bones, worsened sense of balance, or weakened muscles. The National Institute on Aging lists several risk factors for older adults who drink too much over time.[2]

Drinking too much over time or as an older adult can:

  • Lead to some kinds of cancer, liver damage, immune system disorders, and brain damage.
  • Worsen some health conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure and ulcers.
  • Make some medical problems hard for doctors to find and treat because alcohol damages causes changes in the heart and blood vessels. These changes can dull pain or other symptoms that might be warning signs of a problem.
  • Increase forgetfulness and confusion in some older people which could be mistaken for signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Older Alcohol Abuse Statistics

The UCLA study found that alcohol issues were slightly different for different cultural, educational and age groups. Caucasians were more than twice as likely to have risky drinking then Asians. Persons age 60 to 64 were more than twice as likely to have a drinking problem as those 80 years or older. Graduating from high school seemed to decrease an older person’s chances for risky drinking by 2.5 times. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, adults who are 65 years of age or older and on no medication should have no more than three drinks on a given day or seven drinks in a week.[3]

Alcohol Rehab for the Mature Adult

Older people tend to be somewhat ignored when it comes to alcoholism. People often assume that the symptoms associated with alcoholism are just a normal part of aging. But too much alcohol in the older adult can have disastrous consequences. Dangerous medication and alcohol combinations, falls, and accelerated disease can all shorten or dramatically impair a person’s quality of life. No one wants this for their older relatives.

Realizing you or a loved one has a problem and asking for help is the first and most important step in alcohol recovery no matter a person’s age. For the older person struggling with alcoholism, family support is crucial for successful treatment.

The older alcoholic may doubt that he or she can change, especially after so many years. But with family participation and encouragement, older people with at-risk drinking can improve and even save their lives by getting the right treatment. For more information about helping an older loved one struggling with alcohol abuse, call our toll-free number now.

[1] University of California, Los Angeles. “High Rates of At-Risk Drinking Among Elderly Adults, Study Finds,” Science Daily, May 1, 2010. Accessed March 20, 2017. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100429092944.htm

[2] National Institute on Aging. “Alcohol Use in Older People,” March 2012. Accessed March 20, 2017. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/alcohol-use-older-people

[3] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Older Adults.” Accessed March 20, 2017.  https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/alcohol-use-older-people