When we hear the word, “alcoholism,” we think “fearful,” “unstable,” someone who wastes money.
We might hear that the person was a great father, or coach, or mother or sister. But then alcoholism took over their lives.
It is true alcoholism is a fearful word. We assume that the person is uneducated, poor or homeless. In reality they are our next door neighbors, our coaches, our friends, our teachers, loved ones, high school and college friends.
An alcoholic has a beating heart, has a voice and is loved. Alcoholics are people, but they are people with a very big problem. They are dependent on a chemical to help, or so they think it can help.
Alcoholics can be re-opened to society; they can function again, they can have jobs, be husbands, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters again.
But they need our help to get there. Alcoholism is a very scary ride. It is one of the worst rides that anyone can be on. But if you can be there for the alcoholic, and the alcoholic is willing to be sober again, they can have a meaningful life. They can come back into a family where they can love and be loved.
When a person begins to be unstable because of alcohol, people around that individual begin to take notice. Maybe the person is late to work, oversleeping, money is missing, bad checks are coming back. But when we confront the alcohol abuser, we are doing it out of love, or because we care, and we are doing it because we don’t want to lose this person forever.
Confronting the problem head-on is how we must handle it when it comes to the early stages of alcoholism. We have to express our desire for the abuser to get help, talk, share and just tell us what is going on, before we lose them to another stage.
The early stages in the game of alcoholism must be handled correctly; we can win the fight against the disease very quickly. But if we say, “Oh, it is just a few nights a week,” then it is beginning to go on to a greater stage.
The spouse or children of the alcoholic might go right along with the ride, and if we sweep the problems under the carpet, after a while it becomes noticeable to others, and we find ourselves in defensive mode about the alcoholic we know.
This is what happened with my dad and me. It was just a little here and a little there for him. My dad needed help, but because of his denial, he was unable to come to grips with his alcoholism, and we lost him for a long time.
But when he was down and out, he finally called out for help and the help was there. We were ready to help him rebuild his life.
When I say we rebuilt my dad, I mean all of the real-life engineers came from afar to help with the process: the experts at University Hospital, Alcoholics Anonymous, Mount Airy Shelter, and the Prospect House, to name just a few, as well as my family, his friends and many others.
Because we were not willing to let him go, we got him back in our family. The best advice that I can give any person or family on how to battle alcoholism is to ask yourself: How far are you willing to go to get the person help?
Call a priest, a friend, pick up the phone and call AA yourself, call Al-Anon, take the first step to fixing the problem, because people are on standby waiting to hear from you, who are willing to help you. Trust me and my dad, we had to go through it to understand it.
Jim Serger Jr. of Carmel, Ind., is a McNicholas High School and University of Cincinnati graduate and co-author with his father of “Go the Distance: A True Story of a Father and Son’s Road to Recovery”