Why does the alcoholic choose drink over family?

Alcoholic_Jo Huey

Why does the alcoholic choose drink over family? I get asked this question a lot, or hear family talk about how their family member chooses to drink, instead of choosing them. 

This is something I can totally relate to, but as time has gone on I understand it better. For a long time I had a lot of anger and resentment around it. Like most family members do. It’s not until now, 21 years after my fathers death that I have a better understanding. I would say a more empathetic and compassionate understanding. 

The person misusing alcohol behaves in certain ways which cause complete carnage to their closest family and friends. The life for the family is extremely difficult and like any family, you don’t want to see a loved one suffering. 

Families of alcoholics want to help, support and save their family member that’s abusing alcohol. The problem is they have little to no control over it, which makes it even more difficult for the family to accept. 

AA & Al-Anon

There is so much anger and resentment with the families and for very good reason. I went into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and also I’ve been a member of Al-Anon (group that supports families) and they are so different. 

They’re different in that the AA meetings tend to be people that have a more “f**k it” attitude and can laugh at themselves, whereas the Al-Anon meetings aren’t. They tend to be more serious, lots of hurt, frustration and generally anger. 

Alcohol vs Family

It was only last year that I had a new perspective on alcoholism and about why the drinkers choose alcohol over the family. Why my Dad chose alcohol over me. The explanation I was given, which I will pass onto you is this. 

It isn’t a choice between family and alcohol, it’s a choice between pain and no pain. 

its a choice between pain and no pain for alcoholics_jo huey

This started to open my mind up to different possibilities. Because in all honesty, who wouldn’t choose no pain over pain?

I appreciate the consequences of that decision can be catastrophic, but ultimately the person making that decision isn’t of sound mind. They certainly aren’t the person you may remember.

So in answer to the question why does the alcoholic choose drink over family? They’re not choosing alcohol over the family. They’re choosing “no pain”. 

Jekyll & Hyde

Once alcohol takes hold of someone, they tend to have a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Nice when they’re off the alcohol and awful when they’re on it. I’m generalising here I appreciate that, not all drinkers are that way. 

When I say “once alcohol takes hold” this varies from person to person, my sister did more damage to herself in two years than my Dad did in 10! 

It’s a choice!

I wanted to cover this off in this blog post because it often gets raised in the workshops I do for social workers. I also hear it a lot when I speak to people that don’t fully understand alcoholism.

Initially it’s a choice, they pick up their first drink and that’s a choice. Often addicts made bad choices. In my opinion, once the physical symptoms start it’s no longer a choice. Their body needs it. 

It’s my mission to educate people about alcoholism and have more understanding and compassion for all those involved. It’s a very complex situation and the drinkers receive a lot of judgement. That doesn’t help anyone. More often than not, these people are victims of physical and/or mental abuse. 

If you’re a family member, do check out my recovery programme. I also have a closed Facebook group if you’d like to join, simply click here. It’s called “Change your mind”. 

I look forward to hearing from you soon. 

2 thoughts on “Why does the alcoholic choose drink over family?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ve struggled with this for so long. I’ve tried to explain it to my kids. No explanation of mine passes muster. But THIS does. This, I get. I’m not sure I could’ve dealt with my parent any better using the pain/no pain analogy, but I sure can use it now in these years past it all. Thanks for sharing your insight. Keep it up! You will help so many. Blessings to you

    • Thank you so much. It really helped me. We all have pain and usually we all choose to do something to take it away don’t we? Sorry to hear about your own experience. When we have a lot of anger and resentment bits hard to find compassion. Murder and any of the consequences are awful,it’s hard to see it’s not the person you love acting that way but someone in a sense posseseed. Thanks for your kind words. Jo

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