Denial in Alcoholism
anonymous Asks ...
Can you drink enough to get stomach varices that burst open and cause you to almost bleed to death out of your rectum and from vomiting up blood if you are not an alcoholic? I knew my brother was drinking a lot but I did not think it was this bad. Nobody did. He spent 17 days in the ICU and he almost died and he still says he is not an alcoholic and he does not need any help. How can he still be in denial in this situation and if being in the ICU won’t wake him up is there anything I can do to change his point of view. It is so unbelievably sad seeing him like this. He used to be an athletic and muscular person and now he is wasted away and his skin is like paper so you can see the veins. He is only 37.
Anna Deeds Says ...
Thank you for your question. I'm sure you know that your brother is suffering from alcoholism. It is not normal to drink so much that you end up in the ICU for 17 days and nearly die. That he still does not see that his drinking is killing him shows how strong denial can be. Denial protects the alcoholic from his behavior. When you know you are doing something wrong but are unable or unwilling to stop, your mind will protect you from this inconsistency by using denial. Basically, he doesn't want to admit to himself or someone else that he has a problem because then he would have to change. Change is hard and many people don't want to face it.
It must be really hard to see your brother hurting himself and be powerless to help him. There is nothing you can do to make an alcoholic person quit drinking. But you can help yourself. Al-anon is a group for the family and friends of alcoholics. The disease of alcoholism is just as difficult, if not more so, for the family members who bear witness to it. Please consider joining a group with others who will understand what you are going through. They can also help you to be sure you are not enabling your brother in any way. Enabling is behavior that helps the alcoholic person continue drinking. It is often unintentional but damaging to the alcoholic. Examples of enabling are letting him drink around you, paying his bills, giving him money, making his appointments, etc. Enabling includes anything that you do for the alcoholic that they can do for themselves but don't because of their drinking.
You could have an intervention for your brother. An intervention is when a professional meets with the family and the alcoholic to try to make the alcoholic person go to treatment. The interventionist usually has each family member tell the alcoholic how the drinking is affecting them and that the family won't help the alcoholic (or possibly even talk to them) unless they go to treatment immediately.
The only other thing you can is to take a stance of "tough love." Point out your brother's behavior as being unacceptable. Let him how it affects you and your family. Let him know how you feel. Refuse to enable or help him until he gets treatment. While you cannot make him get help, you can let him know you believe he needs it.
I hope this helps answer your question and I hope your brother gets the help he needs.