About Alcohol and Tobacco
If a person drinks 1 peg of an alcoholic drink occasionally and stops there, there is no major harm per say. But you also need to consider the following:
1) Does anyone drink out of control, and ruin his family or kill someone in an accident, by choice? Almost all addicts were responsible social drinkers initially…But gradually around 15% become addicted; and many more start binge drinking; though they actually don’t want to. Its good to keep in mind that even people who eventually get addicted, usually happen to have had a strong belief in themselves and had once believed that they would never get out of control.
2) It can happen to anyone. Its a misconception that alcohol dependence is a genetic disease or that it happens only to weak minded/ illiterate people. Some people believe that only those with some sort of vulnerability for developing dependence get addicted; eg. who have low will power or those who start drinking to deal with some pain or only those who have a family history of substance dependence, etc. This is a misconception. Having a genetic vulnerability/ family history increases the risk of getting diabetes. But this doesn’t make diabetes a genetic disease. It continues to be a predominantly lifestyle disease. Similarly, though some factors increase or decrease to some extent the probability of a person getting addicted, the most important determinant of whether one would develop alcohol addiction or not is – whether one decides to touch this addictive substance or not. Withdrawal symptoms, tolerance & craving are properties of addictive substances and they have nothing to do with your will power or genetic makeup. For some addiction will develop fast; for some it will be slow – but it can happen to anyone. There are enough number of otherwise successful doctors, engineers, businessmen, etc. who have ruined their lives just because they chose to use this addictive substance to enjoy.
3) Can you guarantee that there will never be any major stressor in your life? People who use addictions like alcohol/ tobacco to recreate gradually lose their other recreational & coping skills. So when faced with any stressor, they tend to depend more on these addictions to deals with their pain; and end up becoming addicted. There are many people who drink in control for many years; but then some stressor comes and things change forever. Why keep the door to a slippery slope open in your life?
4) Once addicted it is extremely difficult to quit. Most people keep relapsing. So it is not realistic to say that “I will stop if I become addicted to it” or that “I will drink now and stop after few years”. The best way to protect oneself from the trap, is to never touch these addictive substances even once
5) The other 85% are also not safe: Studies have shown that upto 56% of Indian drinkers end up drinking in binges. Even in Europe, 43% youth have been found to binge. And binge drinking is also extremely harmful:
a) Most accidents are not done by daily drinkers; but by party drinkers who occasionally drink in parties. And whether the drinker loses his life/ limbs or he kills someone else; the damage done by that one party is often irreversible. We all know of famous personalities like Salman Khan, Mel Gibson, etc. have landed in deep trouble because of this. The issue is do we wish to learn from others’ mistakes; or will we learn the lesson only after our life is irreversibly damaged too. There are so many examples which reveal that just 1 day of partying can ruin a person’s whole life. To quote a few:
Example 1: A particular gentleman used to drink occasionally in parties without it causing any trouble to him or his family. His family was very happy with him. One day while returning from a party, his judgement failed and he met with an accident. He was treated in ICU for 2 weeks. As he was drunk, the insurance company did not pay his bills. The family lost 10 lakhs. And after his deaths, now they have given one room on paying guest basis and his wife now runs a mess at home to manage the house finances….. No one in his family had imagined that just party drinking can have such devastating implications!
Example 2: There was a medical student in a particular college who binged in a party, vomited under intoxication, aspirated it into the lungs and died in the ICU…
Example 3: There was a person who got job in Dubai; celebrated that by drinking with friends, next day morning while driving back home misjudged at the turn, both his legs were cut à job was lost and his engagement was broken…
b) Behavioural problems: Many people, including reputed doctors, misbehave under the intoxicated state in parties. They have to keep carrying the shame of their unbecoming behavior all their lives.
c) Health hazards – Binge drinking is also associated with various health hazards.
d) Work absenteeism: Remaining absent the day after parties is common in all socio-economic strata. Even in the medical fraternity it is routine to see that residents who had binged the previous night do not turn up for duty on time. And this is excused by the unit as an acceptable consequence of the party, which they were all a part of !!
6) Drinking & smoking are unhealthy ways of recreation which actually increase your stress in the long run:They might intoxicate you and bring joy in the short run. But in the long run when a leg gets cut, or the diagnosis of cancer is made, or when a person loses his job, they can become the cause of all the stress. Eg. There was a Chief Medical Officer in my hospital who had signed my completion of casualty posting, during my internship. But few years later, I used to see him in our campus in shabby clothes, begging to various doctors for some money. He had become the laughing stock in the campus. Alcohol may have given him great joy for many years. But now it had taken away his job, his respect, his everything… Attend any stress management workshop and they will explain you that – alcohol or tobacco do not give any answers to your questions; they just makes you forget your questions!! Because you forget the question, you don’t get the answer. And the questions of your life keep getting bigger and more complicated….This ostrich mentality soon destroys your life….A loan of 1 lakh becomes of 2 lakhs; then 10 lakhs; and then ends in a suicide… Using intoxicating substances is not a symbol of one’s smartness; rather it’s a certificate of one’s stupidity that he/ she doesn’t have healthier coping skills in life !!
Most people using alcohol or tobacco are in denial about its harmfulness and often refuse to quit. People who love them find themselves to be a helpless and mute spectator to their deteriorating health; not knowing how to help their loved ones. Here are few tips that might prove useful
1) Understand that he/ she is the victim and not the culprit. The reason why an alcohol/ tobacco user resists listening to you and gets angry over your requests to quit, is that he feels criticised. So make sure that there is love, warmth and understanding in your tone, when you make the request. If the hearts get connected 1st, then nothing which you say afterwards will be misunderstood! If you talk to the person with respect and in a non-judgemental way, expressing understanding that you know he is good person; that the problem is with alcohol consumption and not with him, that you understand that he also wants to quit but is unable to do so – then he will listen to you. You may say something like, “I love you a lot and wish for you the very best that life has to offer. I am feeling very concerned for you, ever since I have heard about the adverse consequences of tobacco/ alcohol. If a person is addicted to alcohol or tobacco then there is a high likelihood of the family losing him 10 years earlier then expected. I don’t want to see you or your family get harmed; and so want to share with you what I heard/read. Please hear me out for 10 minutes…….….. Everytime I picturise you trapped in the addiction, I become very sad. I know you are not bad. But this alcohol/ tobacco is very bad. Please try to quit it for me.”
2) Your aim is to provide hope: A reason why a person doesn’t want to try quitting is that he has already tried it a dozen times and has failed. He doesn’t want to fail again. So its important to:
a) Raise his confidence – Keep reminding him of his past achievements and express your faith in his abilities to achieve whatever he decides to, including quitting.
b) Assert that it is possible – Though very difficult, everyday thousands do quit and there is no reason why he should not be able to.
c) Let him know that the withdrawal symptoms last only for about a week; but the benefits of quitting will stay with him forever.
d) Offer help – Let him know that professional help is available, which makes things easier. Empower him with few tips which help a person to quit. He will be more willing to try.
3) It’s a difficult journey and he/ she needs a lot of encouragement. No one learns to drive a cycle without falling few times. Similarly most people who eventually are successfully at quitting, do have a few failed attempts at quitting initially. During such times your taunts will do more harm than good. You need to draw their attention to the progress made, encourage them to learn from the experience and reassure them that so far as they keep trying and not repeat the same mistakes, they are bound to succeed today or tomorrow.
4) Continue positive interactions related to other aspects of life. Intermittently keep repeating the request till he quits, but not daily. Let other topics of discussion and other joint activities also continue – so that the warmth in your relationship is maintained! So far as you treat him with respect & understanding, even if he doesn’t quit, he will not distance himself from you because of your requests. Infact he will value you more because he would know that you truly care for him/ her