Is Being Sober the Answer?

This may seem a strange question, as many people, seeing the destructive nature of someone’s drinking will do everything they can to try and get the alcoholic to stop.

This can include trying to get them into a rehab either through their own deliberations or possibly through some type of professional intervention.

These people, well-meaning or not, will most likely be of the view that they see the problem as being the drinking that the alcoholic demonstrates, and that that is the problem.

The obvious solution therefore is to get the alcoholic sober, by means of going into a rehab/treatment center or any other means open to them.

Whilst this may seem perfectly logical, the reality is that for many alcoholics alcohol is the solution to their problem, not the problem itself. Once sober, whether in a rehab or through Alcoholics Anonymous directly, the alcoholic may in some ways and many ways get worse.

This is simply because they are living with themselves without the anaesthetic of alcohol to dampen and take away the emotional pain or trauma that has been fuelling their drinking for probably many years.

Upon entry to a rehab/treatment center there will be quite a large degree of expectation from a number of people about what is going to happen.

The family or partner of an alcoholic will expect a rehab/treatment center to sober the alcoholic up and get them better.

The family or partner will have probably experienced a significant amount of abuse, possibly physical violence from the alcoholic when drunk or sober.

Any professional working in a rehab treatment center will be well aware that once the alcoholic gets sober there is likely to be a torrent of emotion that rises to the surface.

This may not happen immediately in a rehab, and will quite often happen once a person has left rehab and is back in so-called normal life.

In many ways it is this realisation that an alcoholic has to live with themselves in order to stay sober that will fuel their willingness to change or not.

This sense of beginning to realise their own emotional unmanageability may come very early on while in a rehab, or later once they have left.

What it really means is that there needs to be some management of expectation amongst the family of the alcoholic when admitted into a rehab.

It’s likely that the family has an expectation that a rehab will get a person sober and things will get better from then on. In one sense that will be true if the alcoholic stays sober, in that the drinking chaos will stop.

However if the alcoholic decides they do not want to change, either consciously or subconsciously, then their behaviour and their attitudes will get worse.

There are many stories within Alcoholics Anonymous of wives and husbands of alcoholics, who having stopped drinking for a while on their own prior to any type of treatment/rehab/AA meeting, where the wife or husband has pleaded with the alcoholic to start drinking again because their behaviour has become so horrific.

Sobriety is a precondition of being able to rebuild one’s life if one is an alcoholic. A rehab/treatment center can have a limited effect after the alcoholic has got sober.

Detoxifying an alcoholic if necessary, giving them a space where they can begin to be themselves, giving them some type of therapeutic intervention, taking them to AA meetings physically – these are the practical things that a rehab can do, and potentially sow the seeds of recovery.

Beyond that it is down to the alcoholic themselves as to how willing they are to own their own lives and change accordingly.